Pivotal moments in 2014 - when Alibaba launched Alitrip.comNews / DistributionBy Martin Cowen | December 21, 2014Share This article was originally published on When a business with global aspirations such as Alibaba, currently valued at more than $270 billion, launches a separate standalone travel business, it is not only Chinese OTAs such as Ctrip, eLong and Qunar who need to pay attention.The launch of alitrip.com came at the end of October, only six weeks or so after Alibaba's blockbuster IPO raised $25 billion on the New York Stock Exchange.Alitrip.com will sell travel and services, a significant shift from the model of Taobao Travel - Alibaba's former deals-led travel offering which existed as part of the Taobao Marketplace.The mission statement at launch said: Alitrip’s core strategy will be to focus on mobile devices to enhance the user experience, create unique travel products and features, and increase the level of customer service in the industry.Share this quote This doesn't sound a million miles away from the driving forces of China's established OTAs. But while Taobao Travel might not have been seen as a big threat, alitrip.com most certainly is.Ctrip, eLong and Qunar all reported their 2014 Q3s a month or so after the alitrip launch. Their priority, to varying degrees, is growth and market share over profits, perhaps hoping to gain a collective headstart on the new market entrant.But there is an inevitability that alitrip.com will catch up eventually, if only because of the incredibly deep pockets of Alibaba Group. At the end of September, its cash, cash equivalents and short term investments were just shy of $18 billion dollars. That's more than enough to play the long game, both at home and away.