Amidst an exodus of city-dwellers during the Labor Day weekend, China online travel sites are fighting to secure a slice of the burgeoning individual travel market. On April 20, online tourism ordering service website, Yeex.cn. launched. Yeex.cn provides a platform for individual tourism and comprehensive route solutions by offering a variety of tourist resort products and promoting high quality group/individual travel routines and packages.

That came after the launch of Ctrip’s subsidiary site Lvping.com in early 2011, 17u.com rebranding in March, Tuniu‘s Series C funding and LvMama launching a “travel strategy” section. According to a report on Chinese Travel-related E-commerce from EnTravel Group, the online travel market has reached Rmb 39 billion in 2010, up 42% from 2009. It is expected to double to Rmb 68 billion or over US$10 billion by end 2012. Amongst these sites, which can capture the increasingly savvy and sophisticated Chinese travelers?

Tuniu active users 500,000, revenue reached $61.6mn (Rmb400mn) in 2010

On April 12, Tuniu.com completed a US$50 million Series C funding from Sequoia Capital, the Lotte Group, DCM, and Highland Capital Partners. Tuniu.com CEO Yu Dunde said, Tuniu has transferred from its original role of “platform” to a “whole journey companion”. Tuniu is speeding up to set points of the enclosure and entering into the buildup track.

Founded in October 2006, Tuniu has offered online travel booking services and has now expanded into 16 cities. A key differentiator from other similar sites is that Tuniu deeply engage in all the procedures of customer’s traveling to ensure the best for customer’s whole travel experience. Relying on this “whole journey companion” model, current number of Tuniu’s active users keeps around 500,000, and revenue reached Rmb400mn in 2010.

Tuniu also started to target corporates and group travels as their chief clients to provide considerate cloth-custom-tailor-like customized service. Corporate travels currently represent around 25% of Tuniu’s customer base.

Daodao.com – from TripAdvisor translation to travel online media company

When first launched, Daodao’s strategy was to translate some of the reviews on TripAdvisor into Chinese, and based on that foundation slowly built up reviews from Chinese members. The company sold 30% stake to Tencent at Rmb 50 million to 60 million in January 2011. Currently with over 45 million reviews, Daodao has evolved into a travel media company, which does not directly sell travel services or products.

However, Daodao currently faces the issue of neutrality of content due to its relationship with eLong.com (elong is the first recommended booking engine of Daodao) and advertisers. Its CEO has been actively clarifying and setting up internal scrutiny units.

Lvping – Ctrip’s protege?

Launched early 2011, Lvping (“Donkey Review”)’s Alexa ranking has risen from sub 1million to within 1000. There has been concerns over Ctrip’s monopoly playing a negative role on the trajectory of the site, yet it seems that Lvping is off to a strong start.

YiQiYou (17u.com): China’s first real-name travel blog

Considered a late comer to the online travel space, YiQiYou (“Travel Together”), formerly rebranded from similar meaning but more seriously sounding name TongCheng, is mired by the lack of Daodao’s early mover advantage and Lvping’s strong backing. However, its innovative marketing campaign, such as the blogging contest in late 2009, was well recevied. And its recent move to a real name based (versus Daodao’s alias based) review system has enforced accountability of comments.

Yeex: the latest addition to the pool

How can Yeex fit itself in the market and get a piece from the cake? Yeex’s parent company, etpass was founded in 2005 and initially focused on e-tickets online booking, online check-in, hotel booking, and business travel consulting. For Yeex, the company has secured funding of US$30 million from financial companies including JTB,  Nomura and Marubeni. With the strong financial backing, it is yet to be seen what will differentiate Yeex from its competitors.