Crisis fades star of online booking site

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A employee in the French premises of the Dutch reservation company, in Tourcoing, on October 4, 2019. Before the crisis, the site’s workforce was expected to reach 850 employees by the end of the year . DENIS CHARLET / AFP

The party is over: for the first time in its history, is considering a social plan and, perhaps, layoffs. Caught up by the coronavirus pandemic, the young and flourishing accommodation reservation company, world leader in its sector, saw, during the last month, its activity fall by 85% compared to the same period in 2019, year during which the site had recorded 850 million overnight stays. Public authorities were called to help in the Netherlands, the cradle of the company founded in 1996, in Enschede (East), by Geert-Jan Bruinsma, a 28-year-old entrepreneur.

On April 10, Glenn Fogel, the company’s CEO, announced in a video conference that layoffs were “Likely”. This was a first and a shock for a company which has gone from the rank of start-up to that of multinational in a few years. It currently has 17,500 employees, including 5,500 at the group’s headquarters in Amsterdam. In France, its customer service, based in Tourcoing, was to have 850 by the end of the year.

The controversy swells

Boasting, so far, of being one of the few players in the tourism sector not to have deleted jobs, Booking asked for help in order to maintain the income of its employees. In the Netherlands, we do not know the amount that the State has allocated to it, but the controversy is swelling: recognized for its creativity and its sense of innovation, Booking is also renowned for its ability to use the tricks of fiscal engineering .

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Coronavirus: government at the bedside of tourism

The Dutch state offers very favorable status to multinationals and, moreover, to innovative companies. The reservations company is estimated to have benefited from some 2.2 billion euros in total reductions so far. ” We are not here for tax benefits, we are from Amsterdam “, However, Mr. Fogel recently said in the daily NRC Handelsblad, the author of an extensive investigation into the situation of the company. According to the CEO, his company has paid a total of 3.7 billion taxes in Europe so far, much of it in the Netherlands. “More than Shell”, he emphasizes. For the latter, it would be a question of studying now “Shape and size” of the future Booking.

The image of a “cool”, connected, and very profitable society may be quite different at the end of the crisis

The image of the cool, connected and very profitable company – an annual turnover of around 10 billion and a profit close to 3.5 billion – is therefore likely to be quite different at the end of the crisis. A blow for its employees, accustomed to a corporate culture known as non-directive, substantial bonuses and obvious well-being: the “Booking evenings” and the trips on the canals in the boat marked with the name of the company are famous in Amsterdam.

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