“Ctrip is world’s top-three travel platform by gross transaction volume, but still we are only at the tip of the iceberg. China’s travel expenditure is around $800 billion, including various verticals like flight, hotels, in-destination, and more. As for the global market, it’s a massive $5 trillion market – 10% of GDP. We are only a small part of the industry in China and globally,” said Victor Tseng, Vice President of Chinese online travel giant Ctrip, at TechCrunch Hangzhou.

“With more than 180 million active users, Ctrip does have a lot of travel related data that’s accumulated over 20 years. We also cooperate with a lot of partners to see how we can present information and travel to personalize the service to each traveler’s needs.”

People’s rising passion for travel and the complexity in travel itinerary, especially those involve multiple stops and countries, is making online travel an increasingly successful business. With the help of emerging technologies like AI and big data, we are enjoying more convenient and affordable services that past travelers didn’t have.

Tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent are also expanding aggressively to the smart travel industry. Alibaba’s travel service Fliggy, or Feizhu, is growing rapidly. What’s more, the platform launched a short-term home rental channel in partnership with home rental service Xiaozhu, bringing fiercer competition to Tujia, which Ctrip has a stake in.

“We do have certain advantages,” said Victor when commenting on competitions. “Ctrip’s advantage in flights booking has given us an early access to users’ travel demands. Based on a flight reservation, we have a mental advantage to know which kinds of follow-up recommendations are more relevant. Obviously, when it’s book a family flight package we are going to book a kid-friendly place. The service is becoming more and more personalized.”

China’s increasing number of outbound tourists drives the internalization of big tech companies such as Alibaba and Tencent. Unsurprisingly, Ctrip is also capitalizing on the trend.

“We are introducing the infrastructure alongside our globalization efforts to educate more and more local hotel partners, More of the opportunities coming from outbound customers when they are in destination. Ctrip partners with local suppliers, whether be it restaurants, local attraction, shopping centers.”

Inbound travel from Asia-Pacific area is offering a great opportunity for Chinese travel companies “This would take certain efforts from industry players to help educate the users about that China’s is such a dynamic place for the global audience. It’s also about enabling the travel infrastructure, direct flights, VISA applications, etc.”

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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