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How Booking.com is building an inclusive customer experience

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The work that Booking.com employees are doing behind the scenes to make it easier for everyone to experience the world - and how you can join them as an LGBTQ+ ally

Booking.com is committed to offering an inclusive travel experience to the millions of people around the globe who use our platform every day. That inclusiveness starts with its employees, who represent over 140 nationalities and a wide range of ethnic and social backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations. 

Many of these employees have come together to form internal groups, which have become important resources for gathering ideas and offering feedback around the words we use and the attitudes we promote on our platform to make sure all travellers feel safe and comfortable to be themselves when they travel. 

The recent launch of the Travel Proud programme is one aspect of this drive towards inclusion, but it’s only one step in the process of fulfilling Booking.com’s mission of “making it easier for everyone to experience the world”, which recently underwent some important changes.

The mission: making room for everyone

“This past year, we refreshed our mission, which included the change of the word 'people' to 'everyone.' " says Amon Versteeg, Marketing Director of Supplier & Industry at Booking.com. "This provided the perfect foundation for the rollout of our Travel Proud Programme.” 

This change represents an ongoing commitment by both the leadership and the employees of the company, who work together to support a growing number of internal advocacy groups that are devoted to finding new ways of raising awareness around issues of diversity and inclusion in the travel industry. 

“Booking.com is a place that values diversity of thought, diversity of opinion and diversity of how you get things done. It’s at the core of the company,” says Versteeg. “My belief is that if you want diversity, it starts with building a culture of inclusion.” 

Fostering an inclusive culture

The range of employee groups who contribute to this inclusive culture includes B.proud, where LGBTQ+ employees and their allies gather to celebrate and support. The group traces its roots to 2015 and a hackathon where employees came together to create a logo and a sticker to represent LGBTQ+ employees. This led to the formation of the group itself, which has grown over time to include over 2,700 employees globally. 

More groups have grown up alongside B.proud to create a Proud Unity alliance. “We have B.able for physically disabled and neuro-diverse colleagues. B.bold works towards empowering black employees and B.equal, for women and their allies,” says Milo Convery, Global Service Integration Specialist at Booking.com, and B.proud Global Chair. “We are all collaborating and sharing ideas with the same end goal of achieving a culture of inclusiveness.” 

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Travel Proud
The range of employee groups who contribute to Booking.com's inclusive culture includes B.proud. Image: credit to Stavrialena Gontzou, Unsplash

 

Other employees work in tandem with B.proud, like a group of the company’s copywriters who turned their attention to eliminating words that identify gender on the platform. They created copywriting guidelines to help promote the use of non-gendered language in website and app interfaces. 

“Inclusivity guidelines provide a framework for writing for a diverse audience to ensure we’re not excluding or alienating anyone with our content,” says Jess Sanders, UX Copywriter at Booking.com. “The goal is to make sure all content uses gender-neutral language.”

The project began with a review of the use of honourifics like “Mr” and “Mrs” during account creation, in addition to a review of the forms bookers might fill out during the booking process. From there, they expanded their scope to tackle gendered language, which is an ongoing process that also includes a customer-service training component. 

Building up confidence by subtracting gender

While removing gendered pronouns may seem like a small change in a language like English, in which words and sentences don’t change based on a person’s gender, some languages are heavily gendered and don’t offer the same flexibility. This difficulty is compounded when you consider that Booking.com is available and supported in 44 languages and dialects. 

“There are definitely challenges, but the truth is, these can be overcome by working with our language teams to find a localised solution,” says Sanders. “After all, empathy, open-mindedness and respect are concepts that exist in every language.”

Guidelines like these encourage the company to become more aware of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travellers and provide a structure for overcoming unconscious bias. Sanders suggests partners who create their own marketing materials consider adjusting their own processes and procedures. “Creating inclusivity guidelines is not something to be afraid of. It’s as simple as making sure all users are treated with equal care and respect.”

“Ask yourself if you’re okay with the alternative,” she continues, “which is to keep making certain parts of your audience feel like your products or services are not meant for them.”

 

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Travel Proud
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Photo credit to AllGo via Unsplash
Takeaway
  • An important change in Booking.com’s mission statement accompanies a commitment to promote diversity and inclusion with programmes like Travel Proud 
  • Internal employee groups like B.Proud work hand-in-hand with product and programme designers to share insights that will make LGBTQ+ travellers feel safe and secure to show up as themselves 
  • Booking.com copywriters have created inclusivity guidelines to promote the use of non-gendered language in interfaces and apps