Obviously, as we all know, Ctrip has been growing like crazy and sees lots of room to continue those numbers - and for good reason. A few snippets in no particular order:
- Only 2% of travel in China is booked online today - and Ctrip has 50% of that market
- 80% of air travel is sold by agents - and airlines are generally happy with this "outsourced" distribution model
- High speed rail presents a minimal threat because main stations are located far from the city center, stations themselves have few amenities and the trade-off just isn't there yet on a time or money basis
- In fact, CTrip sees rail as a growth opportunity - not from selling train tickets but from selling more hotels as rail travel increases
- Ctrip feels that at least 50% of hoteliers would pay more than the average 15% commission they currently ask for but Ctrip believes this is poor for the long-term partnership
- The Shanghai World Expo is expected to be very positive because, unlike the Olympics, it is a six-month long event. The Olympics were so concentrated that many people stopped traveling to Beijing. The opposite is expected for the World Expo - business travel will continue into Shanghai and Ctrip expects large amounts of domestic tourism, particularly families with children to visit during the Expo.
- The Chinese government in general "likes travel" and has designated travel as a "pillar of economic growth" which is always nice
She said the investment has allowed Ctrip to gain access to deeper inventory and that Ctrip and Home Inns are in the early stages of connecting their systems to allow electronic distribution. She also mentioned that she saw this reservations connectivity and inventory management as a catalyst for other domestics chains - as Home Inns goes, so goes the industry.
We've known that business in China is different for a long time, but can you imagine if Expedia was to invest in Intercontinental Hotels? Or Choice? Even back when Cendant owned Wyndham and Orbitz/Cheaptickets etc, many in the supplier community thought that back door dealings were probably going on. (I've been since assured that Cendant was way too dysfunctional for that to actually happen.)
It will be interesting to watch how this relationship develops - but I'm not looking for it to be replicated here anytime soon.