Hubs1 to refine mainland travel booking system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 January, 2009, 12:00am

Hubs1, a Shanghai-based technology company that secured its first round of financing recently, believes its efforts to streamline hotel-booking practices will bring great changes to the mainland's travel market.

Admitting the unfolding global financial crisis was taking a toll on the mainland's tourism sector, Teddy Zhang, the chief executive of the company, said he was counting on the 2010 World Expo to cushion the slowdown.

'The World Expo is different from the Olympics because it's six months long,' Mr Zhang said. 'It is expected to attract 70 million visitors and at least 40 to 50 million of them will need accommodation services.'

Hubs1, which provides real-time Web-based hotel booking information, received millions of US dollars from venture-capital groups GGV Capital and Matrix Partners late last year as it upgraded technology and expanded its network to profit from the country's growing tourism sector.

According to the latest data by the National Tourism Administration, the industry generated US$41.9 billion from overseas travellers in 2007, up 23.5 per cent from a year earlier. Domestic travellers spent a combined 777.1 billion yuan (HK$881.8 billion) in the same period, a 24.7 per cent increase year on year.

Mr Zhang said his company was distinct from Ctrip.com, a popular mainland hotel and air ticket reservation website listed on the Nasdaq market, because Hubs1 was more a technology firm than an online agent.

'We are in the business-to-business model while other travel sites offer services directly to consumers,' he said.

Hubs1 allows travellers to connect to its hotel and travel agency clients so that they can find their ideal hotel rooms. It has a central reservation system for hotels to attract travellers.

'We want to transform the travel industry by using the most advanced technologies to help consumers buy travel products more efficiently and smoothly,' Mr Zhang said.

Early last year, Hubs1 was appointed as the official hotel reservations service provider and an official sponsor for the World Expo.

Mr Zhang said the exposition would provide a catalyst to Hubs1's development as online booking became increasingly popular on the mainland.

'The hotel booking market in China is fragmented,' he said. 'For the exposition, the demand is there. And we want to create a 'command centre' so that travellers can benefit.'

Asked how the financial squeeze around the world would affect the exposition, Mr Zhang said he believed the central and Shanghai governments would do their utmost to make the event successful.

As of December last year, 183 countries and 45 international organisations had confirmed they would take part in the World Expo, which starts on May 1 next year.