Ctrip plans to tap inbound travel
Ctrip.com International, the largest online travel agent in the mainland, plans to branch out to inbound travel this year to tap an expected tourism boom in the next few years, chief executive Fan Min says.
'With the Olympic Games in Beijing [next year] and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, there will be great demand for overseas visitors to come to China,' Mr Fan said.
Last year, overseas travel, generated by mainland travellers taking trips abroad, accounted for about 5 per cent of Ctrip's revenue.
Mr Fan said the company was considering offering services for overseas tourists visiting the mainland but declined to give further details.
Founded in 1999, Ctrip started by helping mainland businessmen book accommodation for trips around the country. Now its network covers 5,000 hotels.
The company later added air ticket reservations to its services, as well as overseas destinations, such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia and the United States.
Recently, the company began offering limousine services for business travellers as a transport alternative to taxis at a reasonable cost, the company said.
It targets primarily independent business and leisure travellers in the mainland, a fast-growing market that has been underserved by traditional travel agents.
Last year, Ctrip's revenue reached 834 million yuan, up 49 per cent year on year.
The company has also shown greater interest in developing overseas markets in recent years. It formed alliances with international hotels and travel distributors, such as Pegasus, and added 25,000 overseas hotels to its reservation platform.
It took a minority stake in Taiwan-based travel agent ezTravel in March last year, a move that will give it a potential growth driver once scheduled direct flights are allowed between the island and the mainland.
The company was developing its branch in Hong Kong as well, Mr Fan said.
Ctrip was also looking for acquisition targets in the travel business, he added.
'We have enough hotels. We would like companies that are strong in travel. That would help us to develop inbound business.'
Shares of Ctrip closed at US$70.28 on Thursday on the Nasdaq stock market in New York. They have risen 66 per cent from a year ago.