Alibaba Group shifts to top gear as it expands travel industry services

Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba has strengthened its travel-related services after completing a string of recent strategic investments.

The company has backed Qyer, a nine-year old Chinese portal for travel deals which sources from sites such as CtripJuhuasuan (a service owned by Taobao).

The terms of the investment was not disclosed.

Florence Shih from Alibaba’s international corporate affairs says:

“We are confident that Qyer will be able to complement our travel platform, Taobao Travel, by providing our users with high quality travel-related services and content.

“The synergy between the two platforms will serve to create a one-stop shop for users to not only conduct research and socialize with other travel aficionados, but also to purchase travel packages and deals.”

Alibaba Group - China

Taobao is a group shopping service owned by Alibaba. It launched a dedicated travel portal in 2010 which is positioned in the similar business of Chinese OTA giant, Ctrip.

Earlier this month, Alibaba Group-owned Etao (a shopping search engine) launched a hotel metasearch engine. Hotel inventories in Etao are pulled from portals such as CtripeLong17U.cnMangoCityQMango and Zhuna.

the launch of Etao’s hotel search engine is essentially a competitor to Qunar, the leading travel metasearch engine which is majority owned by Baidu.

In May 2013, Alibaba invested $294 million in NASDAQ-listed firm AutoNavi, a leading provider of digital map content, navigation and location-based solutions in China.

As part of this deal, both Alibaba and AutoNavi planned to share certain data, including AutoNavi’s map data and location-related information of the merchants on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, including Taobao Marketplace.

Looks like this plan has materialised now – Asia-based TechNode reports that users will be able to book hotels directly in AutoNavi maps after performing searches in Etao’s hotel portal.

In March 2013, Alibaba invested in 117go.com, a travel journal and experience sharing app.

All four major events above are signalling that Alibaba is expanding its travel services strategically.  We will have to wait and see how all of their services are going to be blended together.

With the combined effort of Taobao and Qyer, and the shopping search engine Etao’s entry into travel industry, one can question whether Alibaba group will outpace the leading OTA Ctrip and leading meta-search engine Qunar.



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