Expedia and Amazon Double Down on Britain

  • London office space to double at Expedia with long-term lease
  • Amazon plans to increase headcount in voice, drone business

As politicians and businesses wrestle with potential changes to U.K. border controls, one of the world’s largest online travel booking companies has decided to add hundreds of new staff in London, and it’s not alone in looking to expand.

Expedia Inc. will expand its U.K. office by 138,000 square feet, or to roughly twice the size of its existing space, and has signed a new lease that runs until 2030, according to a company statement. The company currently has about 1,400 staff at its London hub.

“We see a lot of opportunity in London given the continued growth of e-commerce and technology industries and the strong pool of talent in the city,” said Johan Svanstrom, president of Expedia-owned Hotels.com.

Amazon.com Inc. is also hiring for its U.K.-based voice-recognition technology, cloud computing centers and Prime Air division, it said in a statement.

The moves come as the U.K technology industry frets about the fallout from the nation’s decision to leave the European Union by 2019, even as global tech companies continue to consider London the region’s major hub. 

Leaving Britain

A poll of 940 startup executives in the U.K. and other countries by the London unit of Silicon Valley Bank, a Santa Clara, California-based investment bank, found that following Brexit, one in 10 are considering moving their headquarters across the English Channel.

Some companies have brushed aside domestic U.K. concerns, though. Large U.S. tech firms including Snap Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google all have announced plans to expand in London in recent months, and the $100 billion technology fund of SoftBank Group Corp. has chosen the U.K. capital as its headquarters.

Expedia also bases its “usability lab” in London. In the lab, the travel company tests innovations that measure tiny muscle movements in attempts to improve its booking process. The company’s expansion “offers further proof that London remains open for business, talent and investment,” said Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Amazon, meanwhile, made its first drone delivery to a customer in December, dropping off one of its Fire TV streaming devices and a bag of popcorn to a house in the English countryside, 13 minutes after receiving an online order.

Amazon is conducting the drone testing in the U.K. because regulations in the U.S. are too strict. Doug Gurr, the head of Amazon’s U.K. operations, says the company is “hiring for all types of roles,” from flight-test engineers and software engineers to corporate managers in its development centers and head office.

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