Why Priceline Group Is Changing Its Name to Booking Holdings

Say goodbye to The Priceline Group and hello to Booking Holdings.

The online travel giant said Wednesday that it has changed its name to better reflect its businesses as as well as acknowledge the significance of its Booking.com service, its biggest unit. As a result of the name change, the company’s Nasdaq stock ticker will switch to BKNG from PCLN on Feb. 27.

The name change is notable considering that most Americans probably recognize Priceline.com (PCLN) as one of the top online travel sites—along with rivals like Expedia—for buying airplane tickets and hotel reservations.

But while the Priceline brand is well-known in the U.S. (and will live on as Priceline.com), it’s not the case around the world, explained Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel. Outside the U.S. in cities like Shanghai or Tokyo, people are generally unaware of Priceline.com and instead are more familiar with the Booking.com brand, Fogel said.

“We do a lot more business outside the U.S. than we do inside the U.S.,” Fogel said.

He said Booking.com is the company’s biggest business unit, larger than other services the company owns like KAYAK, agoda.com, Rentalcars.com, OpenTable, and Priceline.

Fogel declined to comment on how much revenue Booking.com brings in for the company, but a spokesperson said of the company’s 22,000 employees, 17,000 work in the Booking.com unit.

The name change “gives people a good sense that Booking.com is the biggest in the group,” Fogel said.

The Booking.com that people interact with today is actually a combination of two companies that Priceline Group bought over a decade ago. In 2004, it bought the United Kingdom-based hotel reservation service Active Hotels for $161 million, which was followed by the 2005 acquisition of Amsterdam-based online hotel service, Bookings B.V, for $133 million.

Priceline then merged the two acquired businesses and abandoned the Active Hotels brand because “Booking.com was a much better name,” Fogel said.

The Booking.com and Active Hotels purchase ended up being a smart move by the Priceline Group, and has helped it rebound after the 2001 dot-com bust.

“It was one of those things where it seemed like an overnight success,” Fogel said. “Yeah, I’ll tell you it took 13 years.”

While the idea of changing The Priceline Group’s name to Booking Holdings has been gestating for some time, Fogel said that fellow executives didn’t want to do it when he first became CEO in Dec. 2016. He had taken over as CEO from Jeffrey Boyd, the company’s chairman, who was filling in as interim CEO after Darren Huston stepped down following revelations of an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

The change to Booking Holdings is intended to emphasize the growth of Booking.com and the idea that all of the company’s business units involve some sort of online booking component.

Although Fogel and his company still face plenty of competition from online giants like Expedia, the newly named Booking Holdings also faces new players like the fast-rising Airbnb and even Google (GOOG), which has been debuting its own online travel services.

Fogel called both Airbnb and Google “great” companies, but he downplayed any concern about increased competition with them, and instead bragged about his own company’s services.

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Still, it’s likely that Fogel has these companies in mind, as he also emphasized how travel companies like his must continually grow and stay relevant in the fast-changing industry.

“If you don’t innovate and keep up with the changes, you will not survive,” Fogel said.

One way Booking Holdings is innovating, he said, is by targeting China, which he said is “by far the locomotive of the travel industry.”

“If you’re not playing in China, you play at a disadvantage,” Fogel said.

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