Sunday, October 26, 2008

WebInTravel: Ctrip has more than 50% of the Chinese online travel market. But is Qunar the bigger online business?

At the WebInTravel conference last week Siew Hoon hosted a panel with ctrip Director of Biz Dev Alfred Chang and meta-search company Qunar's CEO Fritz Demopoulos.

Chang of ctrip dropped some very impressive numbers into his presentation including:
  • 8,000 employees (4,000 in call centres)
  • 28,000 hotels in 134 countries
  • 6,000 hotels direct contracted (90% of volume)
  • 1mm room nights monthly, 1mm air reservations monthly, 30,000 passenger trips in packages monthly; and
  • (most impressively) 54% market share of online in China (see pie chart below copied from his slide

But (and this is a comment I have made before), online in the China market does not have the same definition as we would use elsewhere. Online should mean "no touch". Where the transaction is completed without the interaction between the customer and the intermediary at a people level. In the case of ctrip - 80% of there transactions are conducted purely through the call centre. This is not even web referred (ie search online but complete by phone). This pure offline call centre stuff - where the consumer dials ctrip and completes the whole transaction via the phone. There is nothing wrong with this, ctrip is a highly profitable and growing company. It is just important to know what it means to be online in China.

Next to ctrip's Chang was Fritz Demopoulos of Qunar. They are Chinese largest travel meta-search and content company- claiming more than 20 million montly users. The qustion I posed and we dont have a clear answer for is "if Qunar is 100% online and ctrip is only 20% online, then doesn't that make Qunar the largest online travel player in China?". We don't have an answer because clearly ctrip is a bigger company and Qunar is in the less mature business of online media. But it again highlights the interesting nature of the online/offline travel market in China. The bigger website (Qunar) is the smaller business.

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