As it prepares to grow its presence in the U.S. market selling both outbound and inbound travel, Alitrip two weeks ago unfolded its new strategic direction by staging a promotional conference and meeting in Los Angeles as it begins to develop closer relations with the tour and travel trade. The online travel agency has huge support in its endeavor, as it is part of the Alibaba Group, the largest online commercial enterprise in the world.
Alitrip used its Los Angeles event to sign partnership agreements with a number of U.S. tourism-related companies and launched the U.S. National Pavilion on its platform to mark 2016’s China-U.S. Tourism Year. Alitrip will also make equity investments in U.S. travel trade companies this year to form deeper partnerships.
Alitrip’s vice president, Zheng Zhou, told journalists that the travel platform’s turnover had grown over 100 percent in 2014 and even more in 2015. Unlike its competitors, Alitrip’s goal is to link up a series of basic infrastructure in the online tourism industry instead of doing direct management and direct procurement.
“We think that high-quality do-it-yourself travel is a new frontier. Right now it’s very easy for Chinese travelers to visit Thailand and Japan on a tour,” Zhou said, “but bigger destinations like America are a lot more difficult for them to navigate. So in the future we will invest in partnerships with local ground operators in this segment.”
He said that Alitrip will focus its investments on two directions – to gain traffic and improve its service quality. “Up until now Alibaba has gained an excellent source of traffic and in the future we will search for ways to leverage this to boost Alitrip’s operations,” he noted, “as well as our positioning in the travel plus area.”
Facing the fact that rival Ctrip is the acknowledged leader of China’s online travel industry, Alitrip aims for a breakthrough by specializing in a single market. In the past various reasons the U.S. was difficult for Chinese visitors to access, yet it is sought after for Chinese travelers.
According to a report of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The number of Chinese visitors applying for a US visa has gone up by 52.6 percent within a year, to 2.5 million, since the US extended its visa validity period from one to 10 years, according to a report of the Tourism Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. (This comports with what visa officials at the U.S. State Department have told the Inbound Report.)
Meanwhile, China’s OTAs have gone through a year in 2015 during which the tourism industry has experienced a number of acquisitions, mergers and realignments and mergers that led to out-and-out subsidy wars. Alitrip’s president Xiaohua Li said that Alitrip would not be drawn into the price wars. Instead it hopes to leverage its Alibaba family members and partners such as Ant Financial, Aliyun and big data as the basis of decision-making for destination service and break away from the old model of operations.