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Concern for 400 jobs as Cambridge office of Booking.com faces closure

There is concern over 400 jobs at the Cambridge office of Booking.com, which is under threat of closure as the business restructures.

Another victim of the Covid-19 pandemic, the travel company - the world’s number-one online hotels and accommodation website - posted a record loss of almost $700million in the first quarter of this year.

Bookings.com is one of the world's leading travel companies (42199273)
Bookings.com is one of the world's leading travel companies (42199273)

Unsurprisingly, it reported more cancellations than new bookings in March as global lockdowns took effect.

Now it is understood that the customer service centre in Cambridge could face closure.

Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, who has visited the office at the Westbrook Centre off Milton Road several times, said he was saddenned and reiterated calls for the government to offer more help to struggling parts of the economy.

He said he had worked closely with the company on concerns about the transfer of data between the UK and the EU, which remain unresolved

“Tourism has been decimated by the global pandemic. The Cambridge centre was always a productive site because of the highly skilled and trained staff with amazing language skills,” he added.

“It was fascinating visiting and hearing French, Polish, Greek and Hungarian all spoken in the blink of an eye. I am so sorry for the staff affected, some of whom have been in touch with me today.

“World-class, highly specialised staff in Cambridge and across the UK are facing a jobs crisis, as jobs that have existed for over a decade disappear.

“With many businesses still unable to get back to pre-pandemic levels of business, the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to withdrawing support is putting jobs at risk.

“I also remain concerned about the impact of Brexit - these are jobs that can be in continental Europe as well as Britain - and when the chips are down, that may feel like a better bet to company bosses.”

The Westbrook Centre, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Westbrook Centre, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

A Booking.com spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent: “We can confirm that unfortunately employees at our Cambridge customer service office are potentially affected by our global restructure announced in August, when we indicated the need to reduce our global workforce because of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 crisis.”

The spokesperson added: “Seven months since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, we continue to feel the immense impact of this unprecedented social and economic crisis.

“The entire travel industry remains under significant pressure, with travel drastically decreased. While we have done much to save as many jobs as possible, we believe we must build an organisation that is fit for purpose, based on our review of predicted volumes and with an operation to match our expectation of the future of travel.

“The UK remains a very important market for us. The changes being made are part of a global restructure announced in August when we indicated the need to reduce our global workforce because of the devastating impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on the travel industry and our business.

“With travel volumes significantly reduced across the world and unlikely to recover to pre-Covid levels for years to come, we, like so many other companies in the travel space, must restructure our global organisation to match our expectation of the future of travel and succeed in a new travel environment.”

Last month, Booking Holdings, the owner of Booking.com and other travel businesses including Kayak and priceline.com, reported gross travel bookings of $2.3 billion - a decrease of 91 per cent from a year ago. Room nights booked in the second quarter of the year were down 87 per cent from a year ago, while revenue was down 83 per cent to $630 million.

Its adjusted loss for the second quarter of 2020 was $376million, compared with adjusted earnings of $1.4billion in the same period a year ago.

Announcing the results on August 6, Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, who is also CEO of Bookings.com, said: “We faced a challenging second quarter and continue to face challenges due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel demand. However, we have witnessed improvement in booking trends since April, which is encouraging.

“Looking forward, we continue to execute on our operating plans to navigate the company through these challenging times and enable us to emerge from this crisis in a position of strength.”

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