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Global travel sites target fast-growing China market

2014-03-28 10:49 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

One of the world's largest online travel booking sites released their official Chinese website and app earlier this month.

"We hope to show our determination on developing the Chinese market by offering online hotel booking services of high quality," said Zhuang Peifu, marketing director in China of hotels.com, at the press conference.

Hotel booking site HRS also entered the China market in July last year, offering Chinese language pages and a booking system on websites and mobile terminals. Its listings include castles and those with special services or designs, especially European destinations.

China has become the largest tourism spender in the world, according to China Tourism Academy statistics released last August.

With about 98 million person-time Chinese mainland tourists traveling overseas last year, the market has potential. The prediction for this year is 16 percent growth to 114 million.

Chinese online travel booking sites are also growing rapidly.

Two domestic online travel booking sites - ctrip.com and qunar.com - ranked 10th and 15th globally on skift.com last October.

Customized for Chinese

"There are a lot of foreign websites offering hotel booking services with different promotion styles, but some of them set up their Chinese language pages early, which means it will be easier for them to habituate Chinese customers," said Li Peng, a freelance overseas travel consultant.

Li recommended two sites under Priceline Group, booking.com and agoda.com as his first choices when booking foreign hotels for his customers.

Cooperating with China's largest online booking site ctrip.com, booking.com has explored the Chinese market since 2012.

With its customer services and Chinese language pages, the site has gained wide praise from Chinese users. Of course another reason booking.com is preferred by many Chinese customers is that most bookings can be canceled for free.

The site can also automatically form an itinerary list with details of all the hotels customers are booking, a very necessary tool for Chinese people applying for travel visas in other countries, such as the Schengen visa for European countries.

Most places can be changed or canceled for free later if they want to change their destinations or schedules.

Booking.com has taught a lesson to new arrivals. Both HRS and hotels.com announced it was free to cancel or change a booking.

"These international websites have their strong database of hotels, which means many hotels can be found on all of these sites and the discounts they offer always make a difference over time," Li said.

HRS customized services for Chinese tourists.

"China friendly" listed hotels offer special services for Chinese customers and "HRS Deals" promote half-price hotels daily.

Agoda.com attracts members with its personal purchase points.

"We can get the discount back by adding up the purchase points which means that the more we book, the more we save," Li said.

Mobile warfare

As foreign online booking sites try to access the Chinese mainland market, domestic online travel agencies are developing the mobile phone market.

Mobile phones not only search and book, but also pay and comment. Some customers even suggest apps could help them directly check in instead of waiting at the front desk of a hotel.

Some apps compare hotels nearby by shaking the phone, offering comments by customers who have already stayed there before.

Though most hotels offer Internet access, tourists want more and more Internet services for business, booking and commenting, entertainment and social media like Weibo and WeChat.

Besides optimizing apps on iOS, android and other systems, some domestic online travel agencies like tuniu.com and ctrip.com have started to improve customer experience by offering free wireless Internet services for their overseas travel groups.

Ctrip.com says the guide will bring wifi servers - one for about five people - to use online during their stay. The overseas wifi services for ctrip.com include more than 100 countries and regions around the world.

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