China’s online travel market is evolving at a quick pace and the industry is all the better for it. Traditional brick and mortar travel agencies are still popular but the convenience of OTAs is catching on and changing the way travelers see the world. The focus is on personalized planning through mobile-focused services giving both business and leisure travelers a new and exciting way to book direct. Here are four of the top-visited Chinese online travel agencies.
Ctrip is one of China’s most comprehensive travel websites providing a variety of global services including airline ticketing, accommodations, organized tours, and corporate travel management. The Shanghai-based company collects data to take the pulse of consumer travel trends staying one step ahead of the competition. Their network operation centre keeps track of where
Ctrip didn’t waste any time expanding on its success. The company acquired the San Francisco-based start-up, Trip.com, in 2017 and turned it into an English language version of its own model. This evolution broadened the OTA’s reach beyond the outbound Chinese travelling market to a more international base. It’s a win/win for business and corporate entities who find the convenience of easy mobile applications and information a time-saver. It’s a one-stop solution for busy business travellers since Ctrip’s innovative incentives serve them well.
Mafengwo stands out as a platform where user-generated content is both encouraged and inherent to its model. Chinese travellers share their travel experiences, photos, and journals and are able to ask and answer questions of other users. This interactivity has propelled Mafengwo’s popularity to soar to over 100 million members and growing. Mafengwo targets a younger generation of travellers whose familiarity with social media-type platforms and enthusiasm for sharing experiences make it a natural choice.
Mafengwo, in fact, began as an online travel community set up for sharing purposes by Chen Gang and LV Gang because of their own interest in international travel. They decided to monetize the popular social site in 2012 by integrating booking services like Agoda, Ctrip, and Booking. Now members have easy access to information about flights, hotels, insurance, and travel routes. Mafengwo also provides resources contributed by visitors to create travel advice ebooks covering various global destinations. Over 100 million books have been downloaded to date.
Qyer is similar to Mafengwo in its use of community social sharing though its focus is mainly on travel abroad rather than domestically. Founder Bryan Xiao started Qyer in 2004 while he was an international student in Hamburg, Germany. His goal was to provide an online forum where overseas students like himself could gather to discuss their experiences and offer useful tips. The platform quickly gained popularity in China prompting Xiao to move his home base there in 2008. Qyer received substantial financial backing from Alibaba in 2013.
Qyer attracts young moderately wealthy travellers who both appreciate and contribute to the high-quality content provided on the site. Its users add over 6000 new articles daily highlighting destinations, trip planning, and photo essays. The platform caters to independent travellers who are able to take advantage of its many services including flight tickets, visa assistance, and passes to tourist attractions around the world. Qyer now boasts over 80 million registered users and is recognized as a creative innovator of Chinese outbound travel.
Lvmama concentrates its efforts on those who want to travel alone. Founder Hong Qinghua launched the platform in 2008 in Shanghai with the sole purpose of catering to independent travellers. Lvmama entered the market as a DIY tour service offering comprehensive tips and transportation sources for self-drive travel around China. The company is known for scouting out the best discounts on tickets to attractions and specializes in finding the most affordable resort hotel stays.
Lvmama has expanded through the years as China continues to experience a boom in the industry. Though the platform remains focused on DIY travel mostly in Asia, it has broadened its list of services to include long-distance and outbound destinations as well as procuring access to commercial entertainment venues across the globe. Qinghua’s forward-thinking vision of providing consumers with easy digital and mobile travel options with just a touch sets Lvmama apart from competitors.
The competitive world of China’s online travel agencies is a plus for consumers planning to take to the skies or the seas. The burgeoning market of young travellers seeking leisure vacation opportunities also opens the door to smart innovation and creative entrepreneurship. Chinese social media sites like WeChat and, to a lesser degree, Weibo, are powerful platforms for image-sharing and blogging. But OTA sites like Mafengwo and Qyer are managing to blur the lines between an active travel forum and popular social media platforms.
The Chinese tourist in search of information while planning a trip often seeks out both travel reviews and niche marketplaces. Finding them in one location has revolutionized the industry and presented advertisers with a new and distinctive demographic. OTAs attract a sophisticated client base most frequently in the 25-44 age group, a winning trend for most business outreach. Tech-savvy millennials are driving the industry to new heights and progressive possibilities.
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