In a somewhat surprising move, China's two leading travel portals Ctrip and Qunar have decided they can forge a strategic partnerships.
The deal is only aimed at boosting the vacation product sales between the portals, and gaining additional traffic, yet the agreement is interesting for various reasons.
In the past, Ctrip and Qunar have fought legal battles against each other, covering both an infringement lawsuit and a defamation lawsuit.
At the same time, Alibaba Group has constantly been expanding its travel offering through services such as Qyer where it made a strategic investment, and the launch of Etao's hotel search engine which is considered as a direct competitor to Qunar.
Qunar and Ctrip coming together as such, therefore, could be seen as a rearguard action against Alibaba's increasing focus on the travel sector.
Tnooz spoke to Jenna Qian, head of communications at Qunar, about the partnership. Discussion below:
What exactly is this partnership with Ctrip about? Cross selling between the two portals? Will Qunar list Ctrip products first in the search result?
Qunar serves as an open travel search platform for Chinese consumers. Our search scope has always covered Ctrip and other OTAs' quality product offerings.
However, our recent partnership with Ctrip on vacation packages marks the first time that Ctrip is willing to pay us for its product listings. We are open for any partnership that brings value to Chinese consumers.
Our search result rankings are always based on product quality, price and service quality. Ctrip’s listing on our site will be in accordance with this principle.
How both the companies (Ctrip, Qunar) will benefit from this partnership?
As with any of our business partnerships, Qunar will benefit in gaining an additional source for broader and more complete coverage of quality travel products for our consumers.
Meanwhile, Ctrip has much to gain from the tremendous amount of traffic that Qunar has the power to direct to them.
As the online travel company with the largest amount of traffic in China, Qunar can help Ctrip access a larger number of consumers, while also promoting their brand.
Is this partnership because of the growing travel business of Alibaba Group, and the other Chinese focussed travel portals like eLong?
Frankly, Qunar has always been an open platform welcoming any mutually beneficial partnerships that adds value for our consumers. This has never changed, and is not subject to strategic timing on our part.
As a vertical search platform, we are dedicated to providing consumers with the most comprehensive travel products and information, which has always included anything that might come from OTAs such as Ctrip.
Ctrip agreeing to partner with Qunar for the first time is more indicative of the importance of Qunar’s platform in the Chinese travel market than of anything else.
In China’s fragmented and opaque travel market, consumers and suppliers really need our services to connect them to one another. Ctrip has recognized that they need the help of our platform in order to continue growing. Citigroup’s analyst, Muzhi Li, commented on this last week, ascribing Ctrip’s improved Q2 performance to how "Ctrip has also been helped by its nascent cooperation with Qunar".
Our No. 1 ranking traffic volume has always shown the importance of our metasearch services in China (compared to Kayak’s ranking as no. 7 in global traffic behind Priceline, Expedia & other major OTA’s), and this collaboration is just another testament to Qunar’s value.