With over 1 million transactions everyday makes Ctrip the largest OTA in China and a serious player in the online travel sector. But with the latest news of Expedia selling its stake in eLong, China’s second largest OTA, shows that even a global giant is no match for the mighty regional online player.
Last week, Expedia announced that it is selling off its entire stake in Chinese online travel company eLong to rival Ctrip.com International Ltd and other interested parties. With Expedia’s share in eLong being 64%, this acquisition means Ctrip will have over 37.6% stake in eLong, making it the majority shareholder in the second largest OTA in China after CTrip.
In picture Fan Man (left), Co-founder, Vice Chairman and President of Ctrip; in a discussion with Vincent Lo, Chairman, Shui On Group at Fortune Global Forum 2013
To put things in perspective, Ctrip has a market share more than 6 times the size of eLong. After the acquisition, Ctrip with eLong will control over 60% of the Chinese online travel market, which according to PhoCusWrightestimates is pegged to be over USD 30 billion in 2015 excluding call center bookings. With online travel expected to grow in double digits, and accounting for only a quarter of total travel bookings, the scope of growth, needless to say, is enormous.
With Priceline’s$500m investment into Ctrip, the focus for Ctrip now shifts to newer and fast-growing rivals such as Qunar, Tuniu, and Alitrip, the travel arm of China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba. Meta-search engines continue to be the greatest lead generator for Chinese OTAs and this causes concern even for Ctrip. Qunar - owned by China’s largest online search engine Baidu Inc – is considered the market leader in meta-search and the fastest growing travel channel and in 2014, Ctrip ended its strategic relationship with Qunar and prompting a price war between them.
For Ctrip, a strategic partnership with both Expedia and Priceline means access to broader inventories, which will help the channel to meet its objective of having wider product coverage. Already Ctrip has seen over 200 million downloads of its mobile application so far. Ctrip’s aim at the broader market has been quite visible for a while now. Earlier this year they entered into an agreement with Amadeus, whereby the GDS will provide content to Ctrip in international markets outside of China. With Chinese outbound travel growing at 20-30% buoyed by an increase in disposable income by the Chinese traveller and more flight routes and hotel inventory in new destinations will all help Ctrip capture the majority of these outbound bookings.
Over 100 million cash rich Chinese travelers are set to travel aboard this year in 2015. As more Chinese travelers travel beyond Asia, with strong branding and being a well-established online and offline channel make Ctrip best poised to benefit from the growing travel demand in China. For the hotel industry trying to capture a piece this high growth Chinese market makes working with Ctrip a must.