Wednesday 23 June 2021

Booking.com to pay back €65m in Covid support following bonus outcry

The company’s Amsterdam headquarters. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Hotel booking website Booking.com is paying back the €65m it received from the Dutch government to help pay wages in the first three months of the pandemic, following the public and political outcry over a €28m bonus package for three top executives.

‘We have followed the debate in the Netherlands closely over the past few days, take it extremely seriously and understand the sensitivity,’ Booking.com said in a statement.

‘During the pandemic, we used the options available to us to help Booking.com through the crisis and to maintain employment levels as well as we could, including the NOW ruling,’ the company said. ‘Repaying the NOW subsidy was always an option for us, but was something to consider when we were in calmer waters.’

Last week the NRC revealed that Amsterdam-based Booking.com is paying three top American executives a bonus of €28m in shares, despite having received millions of euros from the Dutch state in the first months of the pandemic.

MPs voted to claw back the money, but social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees said during Wednesday’s debate that there are no legal grounds to force repayment because the first round of coronavirus support did not include the proviso that companies receiving cash could not pay bonuses or dividends.

Instead, Koolmees said, ministers would make a moral appeal to the company.

Koolmees said on Friday that the company’s decision to refund the financial support was ‘right and sensible.’

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