Booking.com is a travel-related metasearch engine on which users can search and book accommodations, packages, cars, cruises, and flights.
The company, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, was founded in 1996 by Geert-Jan Bruinsma.
Booking.com is part of Booking Holdings, which itself is based in Norwalk, Connecticut. The holding company claims to “world’s leading provider of online travel and related services” and owns brands such as Agoda, RentalCars.com, OpenTable, and Priceline.
Its founder Geert-Jan Bruinsma was about to graduate from university when he launched Bookings.nl. At the time, hotels in his home country of Holland were still largely booked via telephone.
However, across the pond, this way of booking already started to become a thing of the past. Bruinsma would eventually stumble upon Hilton’s newly launched website on which customers could directly reserve hotels. When he began working on Bookings.nl, he allegedly even copied portions of the Hilton.com source code.
Bruinsma would slowly grow the company over the next few years. In 2000, he merged the business with U.K.-based Bookings Online. And another five years later, in 2005, that combined company was bought out by Priceline for $133 million and merged with another acquisition (Active Hotels).
Booking.com was part of Priceline for over a decade until the mother company was renamed into Booking Holdings in 2018. The rebranding was meant to signify the holding company’s ambition as the spot for booking anything travel-related online.
The various companies under its umbrella have since expanded into a variety of verticals such as long-term stays. Booking.com itself is now available in 43 languages and boasts over 28 million accommodation listings. On top of that, the firm works together with hundreds of different airlines.
In 2021, Booking Holdings reported $11 billion in revenue and close to $77 billion in gross bookings. Unfortunately, the holding company does not detail what each of its brands makes individually. It can, nevertheless, be assumed that Booking.com makes up the bulk of those numbers.
590 million room nights were booked over the same time span. Lastly, more than 15,000 people are currently employed by Booking.com alone.
The methodology with which competitors of Booking.com are ranked is based on publicly available information. Data points such as revenue, number of listings and bookings, funding and valuation, the number of employees, and anything else that might be relevant will be considered.
This article only looks at booking site competitors who either aggregate listings from other platforms or directly work together with property owners, airlines, and such. As a result, indirect competitors, such as hotel chains (who actually own the locations they advertise on their websites), will be excluded.
We also consider Booking-owned properties, such as Agoda, as competition since they continue to operate as separate brands.
It has to be noted that this analysis should not be seen as an endorsement of either service. It is merely a summary of the competition that Booking faces as of today.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 competitors of Booking.com.
Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington Founder(s): Rich Barton, Richard Bangs Year Founded: 1996
Expedia is, without a doubt, the greatest competitor to Booking.com and its slate of other businesses. This went so far that Booking even purchased billboards that would be seen by the more than 3,000 attendees of Expedia’s partner conference in Las Vegas.
Expedia.com, just like Booking.com, is part of a larger holdings company that owns brands such as Hotels.com, trivago, or Vrbo. In 2021, that holding company generated $8.6 billion in revenue on gross bookings of $72.43 billion.
The site was initially launched as a sub-division of Microsoft with the purpose of being promoted on the firm’s MSN portal. Rich Barton, at the time, had just transferred from Microsoft’s CD-ROM division into the multimedia department, which was tasked with expanding the reach of MSN.
Three years after it launched in 1996, Expedia was spun out of Microsoft (the first time Microsoft did something like this) and went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange. In 2003, Barry Diller’s IAC acquired a controlling stake in Expedia. Two years later, the Expedia Group was spun out as a separate entity.
Exppedia.com largely offers the same types of products as Booking.com. That entails the ability to book flights, accommodations, cars, packages, and cruises. The group’s sites work together with over 500 airlines and cruises, offer 220,000+ activities, and boast more than 3 million properties.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk Year Founded: 2008
Airbnb offers the world’s largest selection of apartments, which are mostly offered by the owners themselves. On top of that, customers can also book experiences that are often hosted by locals in the city they’re traveling to.
There are now six million listings on the platform, ranging from cottages all the way to treehouses and anything else in between. On top of that, Airbnb works together with four million hosts.
Part of Airbnb’s success lies in the platform’s user-centric focus. For instance, a booking can now be completed within three or fewer clicks, which is one of the key ingredients of why platforms such as Amazon have been so successful.
Another key distinction of its success is grounded in the fact that the company spends much less on advertising compared to competitors such as Booking.com or Expedia. Many users are now directly accessing its app or website, sometimes even to just get inspired about their next destination.
On its way to global dominance, Airbnb has also been embroiled in various legal battles with cities across the world. These cities claim that property owners would run illegal hotel operations without paying the necessary tax.
Additionally, some have argued that Airbnb’s mere existence has led to higher rental costs (especially in popular destinations such as Barcelona or New York City), pricing out locals in the process. Trashed Airbnb rentals are certainly not uncommon, either.
Investors didn’t seem too worried, though. They have poured a combined $6.5 billion into the company, which went public in December 2020 and is valued at over $60 billion. In 2021, Airbnb has generated close to $6 billion in revenue. It currently employs over 6,000 people worldwide.
3. Google Travel
Headquarters: Mountain View, California Founder(s): Google Year Founded: 2011
Google Travel is the search giant’s dedicated travel product on which customers can purchase flights, hotels, and vacation rentals. Google, furthermore, provides travelers with inspiration regarding activities and destinations, which are largely informed by the data (e.g., reviews) it gathers from Maps.
The search giant officially entered the travel segment in 2010 when it purchased flight information software company ITA for $700 million. A year later, it launched both Hotel Finder and Flights, which have since grown into significant revenue streams for the company.
Google does currently not publicize any traffic or revenue figures for Travel – with good reason. Various competitors, such as TripAdvisor, have accused the company of favoring its own products over those of its competitors. For instance, a quick search of ‘flights’ on Google places its own product on top.
This, in turn, forces competitors to heavily spend on Google Ads. It is estimated that both Booking and Expedia paid almost $3 billion to advertise on Google – in 2021 alone. Meanwhile, Google can acquire all that search traffic for free, simply by featuring its Travel products more prominently.
That may soon be over, though. In June 2021, Congress passed the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, which would prohibit platforms such as Amazon or Google from promoting their “own products, services, or lines of business over” those of competitors.
Headquarters: Singapore Founder(s): Robert Rosenstein, Michael Kenny Year Founded: 2005
As previously mentioned, Agoda is currently owned by Booking Holdings. Priceline, back in 2007, paid an undisclosed sum to acquire the young travel site.
Michael Kenny has been the driving force behind the launch of the site. He first came to Thailand in 1994 to work for the Arcadia Hotel Group, which is now part of Hilton Hotels.
As the internet began to take shape, he launched various travel-related sites such as PlanetHoliday.com (1997) and PrecisionReservations.com (2003). The former, for example, became one of the region’s first-ever hotel reservation sites.
Those sites were eventually merged and led to the creation of agoda.com. To help him get the business off the ground, Kenny recruited long-time friend and experienced online entrepreneur Rosenstein as a co-founder.
Today, Agoda offers two million properties (also including hotels) in 200 countries across the globe. Additionally, users can compare prices across activities and flights as well.
It has, due to its regional presence, dominated the Southeast Asian market for the first few years of its existence. However, towards the beginning of the 2010s, new entrants began to take away its market share, which prompted Agoda to expand into other regions across the globe.
However, the firm has also been embroiled in various legal troubles. Agoda, in 2019, together with Expedia, trivago, and other sites, committed to clean up its site after it was accused of hidden fees, pressure selling, misleading discounts, and a plethora of other claims.
Booking Holdings does currently not disclose revenue numbers of Agoda, which employs over 4,000 people in 30 countries. Both Agoda and Booking.com essentially compete for the same types of customers and offer the same types of products and services.
Headquarters: Shanghai, China Founder(s): James Liang, Min Fan, Neil Shen, Travis Katz Year Founded: 1999
Trip.com Group is China’s largest travel site with close to 34,000 employees. Travelers can book anything from accommodations (hotels, houses, apartments, etc.), flights, trains, cars, tours, cruises, activities, and much more.
In fact, over 1.2 million accommodations are available on the platform on top of the 480 bookable airlines. The holding company behind Trip.com, Trip.com Group, owns and operates a variety of other web properties including Ctrip, MakeMyTrip, and Skyscanner (which it acquired for $1.6 billion).
Trip.com was initially launched as Ctrip and solely focused on the Chinese travel market. Former Oracle software engineer James Liang and three of his acquaintances launched the company as a local copycat version. Ctrip actually became the first platform in China to book hotels online.
China’s rising economic power and the thus wealthier population eventually allowed Ctrip to go public on the Nasdaq stock exchange in 2003. It, furthermore, became the first travel company to issue a joint travel card (with China Merchants Bank), which vastly increased bookings across the platform.
Decades later, in 2017, Ctrip acquired Trip.com, which at the time boasted 3.5 million registered members. Two years after, Ctrip changed its name to Trip.com Group to highlight the firm’s wider international ambitions.
In 2021, Trip.com generated $1.1 billion in revenue. Recently, the firm became the first publicly-traded company in China to implement a hybrid work-from-home policy.
Headquarters: Dallas, Texas Founder(s): David Litman, Robert Diener Year Founded: 1991
Hotels.com, as you’ve probably guessed, is primarily accessed to book hotels across the world. The site is available in 85 countries and 35 languages. Travelers, apart from accommodations, can also book cars. Hotels.com even offers a company-branded credit card with which users can collect rewards.
The company began as the Hotel Reservations Network (HRN), enabling customers to book hotels via free-of-charge phone calls. Barry Diller’s IAC acquired Hotels.com back in 2001, which means it has been part of the Expedia Group since 2005.
Hotels.com only became Hotels.com back in 2002, though. IAC allegedly poured $11 million into acquiring the valuable domain name.
These days, Hotels.com is primarily known for its Captain Obvious marketing campaign. Portrayed by actor Brandon Moynihan, the various ads have amused hundreds of millions of people by portraying Hotels.com as “the obvious choice.”
However, Hotels.com has also been embroiled in some controversies. In 2007, it was subject to a class-action lawsuit that accused the firm of discriminating against people with disabilities. The firm was later found guilty on one of those charges.
Expedia, just like all the other firms on this list, chooses to not break down revenue figures for Hotels.com. The company itself currently employs over 1,000 people, most of whom are based in the United States.
Headquarters: Aurora, Colorado Founder(s): David Clouse Year Founded: 1995
Vrbo, which stands for “vacation rentals by owner,” largely competes with Booking.com across vacation rentals. While Booking has only been offering long-term rentals since September 2020, Vrbo has been at it much longer.
Its founder, David Clouse, launched the site to rent out his ski condo in Colorado. Not long after, other property owners began to ask him whether he could open up the site and allow them to rent out their properties as well. By the mid-2000s, Vrbo boasted over 65,000 rentals.
In 2006, Vrbo was acquired by HomeAway for an undisclosed sum. Nine years later, Expedia paid $3.9 billion to purchase HomeAway. In 2020, Expedia decided to merge the HomeAway brand into Vrbo, which is now considered to be one of the holding company’s most valuable web properties.
Vrbo itself had just rebranded from ‘VRBO’ a year prior. The rebrand entailed highlighting listings with 360-degree walkthroughs, including group votes before booking a place, and changing the name, among other initiatives.
Today, there are over two million properties, such as cottages or beach houses, listed on the platform. While Expedia does not disclose exact revenue figures for Vrbo, its CEO recently announced that he expects the platform, which employs over 600 people, to generate $2 billion in annual revenue very soon.
Headquarters: Needham, Massachusetts Founder(s): Stephen Kaufer, Langley Steinert Year Founded: 2000
Most travelers know TripAdvisor as a site on which they can rate airlines, restaurants, hotels, and anything else travel related. In fact, over 1 billion reviews have been published on the platform to this date. That, however, hasn’t always been the case.
TripAdvisor actually began as a search engine for travel information that other businesses like AOL could embed into their own website. Unfortunately, 1.5 years in, its founders haven’t made any sales due to the effects of 9/11 and the bursting of the tech bubble.
Luckily, the team had created TripAdvisor.com as a demo to show those prospective clients what the search engine could look like. As time went on, more and more people began posting reviews on TripAdvisor, which eventually amassed enough traffic to become self-sustaining.
The founders began to monetize that traffic by placing ads across the platform and working with hotels and restaurants on lead generation. These days, TripAdvisor makes money via a plethora of sources including subscriptions, cost-per-click advertising, listing fees, and more.
In 2004, IAC (now Expedia) paid $210 million to acquire TripAdvisor. Seven years after, TripAdvisor spun out from Expedia and became an independent company listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
TripAdvisor actually wasn’t really competing with Booking.com until 2014. Back then, it launched its Instant Booking feature, which enables customers to directly book flights and hotels within the platform.
In 2021, TripAdvisor generated $902 million in annual revenue (most of it from advertising). The platform, which employs over 2,500 people, offers reviews on almost 9 million accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, and cruises. Ironically, both Booking and Expedia are some of the biggest spenders on the platform.
Headquarters: Düsseldorf, Germany Founder(s): Malte Siewert, Peter Vinnemeier, Rolf Schromgens Year Founded: 2005
trivago is yet another metasearch engine that works together with booking sites, travel agencies, as well as the service provider (e.g., airline or hotel) itself. Its various partnerships have allowed the company to list over five million properties on its platform.
Travelers, apart from a place to stay, can also book flights and rent cars on trivago. However, those listings are not always accurate.
In April 2022, the Australian government fined trivago $32.6 million for misleading consumers over hotel room rates on the site. trivago, despite those issues, is now Europe’s second-biggest metasearch engine, only trailing Booking.com.
trivago is currently majority-owned by Expedia, which invested $632 million in 2012 to acquire an ownership stake of 61.6 percent. Four years later, trivago became the first Germany-headquartered company to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
The firm currently generates €361 million (~ $378 million) in annual revenue and employs over 1,000 – mostly in Germany. It also sponsors some absolute heavy hitters including Chelsea FC (since 2021).
Headquarters: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Founder(s): José Eduardo Mendes, João Ricardo Rangel Mendes Year Founded: 2011
Hurb, formerly known as Hotel Urbano, is South America’s largest travel-based metasearch engine. The platform boasts over 20 million registered members and has 12 million people following it on Facebook alone.
Travelers can book activities as well as hotels via the platform, which consequently means that flights are not offered. Hurb is, furthermore, engaged in a variety of sustainability initiatives, for example by working with Squair to analyze a building’s energy consumption.
As a result, the platform is largely known for hotel bookings. In fact, one booking is made every five seconds via the platform.
Hurb is also one of the only independent firms on this list that hasn’t been scooped up by the two holding giants. Instead, it has raised $135 million in venture funding to help the firm remain independent. However, Booking Holdings has been one of its major investors after pouring $60 million into the company at a valuation of $500 million.