Online travel sites diversifying and positioning for upcoming holiday
Online travel operators in China are exploring new businesses and hoping to cash in on the potential tourism boom from upcoming holidays.
Travel site Tongcheng-Elong is venturing into the hospitality industry, eying opportunities from the recovery of the domestic tourism market.
It released two series of multiple hotel brands on Thursday, catering to a range of demands from business travelers, tourists and younger people.
The first flagship Elong Hotel opened on Thursday on Jiujiang Road, close to the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, a landmark tourist attraction in the city.
As a hotel management service provider, the newly established Elong Hotel Management Company will provide partners services related to branding, marketing, operations, talent and finance.
The company has signed up more than 200 hotels with nearly 10,000 rooms.
Its flagship hotels are under construction in many cities across China and scheduled to open this year.
Diversity will be the trend for China's hospitality industry, and intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data will play an increasingly important role in hotel management, experts said.
Investing in the hospitality industry is part of Tongcheng-Elong's tourism industry chain strategy, as its businesses already cover online tourism, offline travel agencies, airline tickets and lifestyle, said Zhao Huanyan, a tourism analyst with Huamei Consulting Agency.
However, the industry is fiercely competitive. On Thursday, lHuazhu and Jinjiang and Betterwood and New Century Hotels & Resorts, both major chain-hotel operators, created a partnership to explore the high-end hotel and resorts market.
"The competition is fierce in China's hospitality industry, but the hotel business can increase the overall asset scale and value of the company," said Zhao.
As the upcoming May Day holiday is predicted to bring about the biggest travel boom in the holiday's history — due to rebounding travel demand and the longer five-day duration — about 200 million visits by tourists are forecast in the domestic tourism market.
Major online tourism service providers such as Trip.com and Fliggy have launched novel tour products, including airline ticket and hotel "blind box" promotions to lure younger travelers. In this promotion, people state their departure cities, but the destinations and departure times are both unknown. If they do not like the "content" after opening the box, they can get a full refund.