Ctrip's 2014 earning call reveals a business which is growing not only its revenues but also the number of travel verticals it operates in, and which aims for a 30% share of the Chinese market by 2020.
Headline figures from 2014 released yesterday show full-year net revenues of US$1.2 billion, up 36% year-on-year.
Hotels and air make up the bulk of its business - accommodation volumes for the year were up 63% with revenues ahead 45% to $516 million; air is included in its transportation figures which saw volumes increasing by 90% and revenues by 36% to US$475 million.
On the call, management explained that a lot of the transportation volume growth was from train and bus bookings with the revenues mostly from air.
Rail and bus were highlighted as "new, small businesses" which Ctrip is working on. Train booking volumes grew by 300% year-on-year, with Ctrip claiming that its rail and bus volumes are market leading in China.
Other small businesses mentioned included:
- content - it has 30 million reviews on its site
- local attractions - including 3m restaurants
- car rentals
- travel and internet finance
- cruise - its JV with Royal Caribbean
Management explained that these small businesses - which are being managed to grow share but also the bottom line - were helping Ctrip to broaden its product range for existing customers while also helping it acquire new ones.
Ctrip also talked up its international business, which is still relatively small part of the business with more than 20m outbound passengers last year, accounting for 5% of the hotel volumes and between 15-20% of its air bookings. Its international air business is "the clear market leader, three times at least our nearest competitor."
No mention was made about its move to expand its international footprint via a deal with Amadeus.
It did mention Travelfusion, acquired this January, describing it as a "leading GDS for low-cost carriers."
"It's a pure technology company, very small, very lean, very efficient. Its strength is low-cost carriers and we forecast that for our international business low-cost carriers will drive the volumes so Travelfusion will help our competitive position in air."
Elsewhere, Ctrip did note the potential "internationalisation" of its corporate travel unit after the site was designed earlier this year to work in English as well as Chinese.
During the year it has more than doubled the number of corporates who use the site to 5000 and also has 20,000 SMEs signed up.
Another under-the-radar part of the Ctrip business is the recently formed "Joint Wisdom" business, made up from merging several of its subsidiaries including brandwisdom.cn. It is being positioned as a standalone "hotel IT" unit, offering a cloud-based data-driven PMS product to hotels, 60,000 of which are already on its books.
Mobile is a clear priority, with Ctrip saying it has been mobile-first since 2012. Nearly 40% of its new customers come directly to app, which has 200 million active users from 600 million downloads.
In the fourth quarter of 2014, 55% of air and 70% of hotels were booked on mobile.
Interestingly, management admitted that its call centre "remains the most profitable sales channel" with revenues per ticket on average 20% higher than other channels. At the same time, costs and headcounts have declined, increasing margins. Call centre bookings are also not discounted to the same extent as other channels.
"Strong investment in technology has lead to greater efficiency in our call centre operations," it explained.
Looking ahead, it expects net revenues to grow 40-50% in the first three months of this year, with the same growth tipped for Q2.
Longer-term, management referred to its 2012 statement that it wanted to grow revenues by 10 times and hit a total transaction value of 700 billion RMB - $112 billion - by 2020. And it's going well - 2014's TTV came in at 152 billion RMB, double what it was in 2012.
"We're on the fast track to achieve this goal earlier than expected," it said.
Ctrip believes that by 2020 it could have market share of 30%, with net margins "20, 30%, probably higher."