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The online travel industry had a bumpy ride in 2010. American (AMR, Fortune 500) and Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) pulled their flights from some travel websites following disagreements over fees. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) purchased a firm called ITA Software, the proprietor of a much-coveted search algorithm, provoking outrage and an antitrust case filed by the titans of the online travel industry. As if to highlight the stakes of this showdown, Priceline (PCLN) was recognized in 2010 for being the single best-performing stock in the S&P 500 over the past five years.

As industry players adjust their strategies for the next decade -- forging new partnerships, leveraging social media and mobile technology, exploring new business lines -- one thing seems clear: the fragmented and largely untapped Asian market is a golden opportunity. Online travel bookings accounted for just 22% of the Asian market in 2010, well below the 32% in Europe or the 38% in the United States, according to PhoCusWright, a travel consultancy. And analysts predict that while online travel in the West is leveling off, Asia's industry is just taking off -- particularly in India and China.

The trend is already evident on the ground. The temples of Siem Reap, Cambodia, and the beaches of Phuket, Thailand, now welcome busloads of Chinese and Indian tourists every day. Louis Vuitton and Chanel stores around the world report hordes of visiting Chinese, who pay almost a third less if they buy luxury goods outside Mainland China. The World Tourism Organization predicts that the global tourism industry will add 66 million jobs by 2020, 50 million of which will be in Asia. The online travel industry stands ready to capitalize on this boom -- but who will reap the rewards?

A prosperous and well-traveled Chinese New Year

On average, each of China's 1.3 billion people takes just one trip per year. The figure is projected to quadruple by 2015 as the Chinese government rolls out its "national tourism plan." Yet despite all the stories about China's Internet boom, only 2% of travel is booked online. While Chinese consumers have been slow to adopt Internet booking, iResearch, a consultancy, predicts that 30% of Chinese air tickets will be sold online by 2013.

Two firms appear to be the most likely beneficiaries of this increase. CTrip (CTRP), an online travel company that was just added in December to the NASDAQ-100's top-performing companies, accounts for half of the online travel market in China. Launched just over a decade ago and now worth $6.7 billion, CTrip mainly serves the Chinese domestic market, though it recently acquired leading travel companies in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Unlike Expedia and Priceline, CTrip's core business model is all about service. The firm's employees are known to personally meet customers in third-tier Chinese cities, and about half of its 12,000 workers sit in call-centers, ready to help the frazzled traveler. The company just started making acquisitions in the domestic hotel space in China -- a first in the online travel world -- and many insiders say that this strategy, too, is geared toward service, to ensure smooth functioning between CTrip agents and its hotel partners, and to dominate the technology platform between them.

The second company to watch is, the top travel site in China. Similar to Kayak, Qunar is a meta-search engine co-founded by American entrepreneur Fritz Demopoulos. (Demopoulos is frequently at the top of the short-list of foreign entrepreneurs in the Internet industry in China.) Much of its success is attributed to the fact that it developed its own search technology that gives users real-time results from the latest Chinese travel deals. Like Kayak, the company makes most of its money by selling advertising. Boasting 30-40 million unique visitors per month (compared to around 12 million at Kayak), Qunar is a top IPO candidate for 2011.

Expedia, the U.S.-based online travel giant, is also in the picture, with a stake in eLong, China's second-largest travel company. In June, Expedia sunk more money into the firm, buying 16.9% of eLong's shares. The company has also expanded its footprint with TripAdvisor, introducing two equivalent hotel ranking services in China, daodao and Kuxun.

Priceline, on the other hand, has a different strategy. Instead of partnering with local Asian brands, it acquired the hotel bookings website in 2007, serving mainly Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Priceline revealed in November that its Asia business, which includes partnerships with large Western hotel chains operating in China, had almost topped $1billion dollars.

But the industry is far from saturated. "Anybody who manages to bring some structure to the market has huge potential," Nicolas Berbigier, CEO of Xandu, a Beijing-based travel agency, told the New York Times in December. Douglas Quinby of PhoCusWright echoed this sentiment: "I would have expected by this time to have seen some more acquisitions."

Go India!

Despite setbacks to the tourism industry from the 2008 terrorist attacks in India, both Indian and foreign tourists are traveling around South Asia again. Not only is travel the largest e-commerce category in India, the market for online bookings is now worth about $6 billion, compared to $295 million in 2005. And with reports from McKinsey predicting that 70% of the average Indian's income will be spent on discretionary items by 2025, investor interest in the Indian travel market is piqued.

India's market is dominated by three companies, which are all backed mainly by U.S.-based venture capital firms. MakeMyTrip (MMYT), India's top travel website with around 40% of the market, filed an IPO in August -- the first Indian IPO in the U.S. since 2006 -- raising $80.5 million. The company is now valued at around $1 billion, making it the first Indian tech firm to have been a big win for U.S. private equity firm Tiger Global Private Investment Partners. MakeMyTrip focuses mainly on selling travel within India and between India and the U.S., and it just launched websites in the United Arab Emirates and Canada, aiming to target the large Indian populations in both those countries.

India's other major travel websites, Yatra and Cleartrip, are also backed by high-powered Western VC firms (among the firms are Norwest for Yatra and Kleiner Perkins for Cleartrip), and are coming under pressure to post similarly heady results. But there are hurdles in the Indian marketplace -- many say more than there are in China. For one, there is a deep culture of bargaining, and many Indians believe the best deals can be obtained in person or over the phone. Due to India's rich culture of entrepreneuriship, there are many independent travel agents operating in Indian cities. Many Indians prefer those relationships and the perks they offer, like paying in cash.

Expedia, Agoda, and Travelocity's Zuji also operate in India -- and there are rumors that Expedia plans to expand its presence in the next few years -- but the market remains fragmented. "Eventually Expedia will turn more attention there, same with Priceline," says Brett Henry of Abacus, a travel technology firm. "It's a big market and in 10 years from now, it will be really meaningful. But the aviation market is still not that big. As companies prioritize opportunities, China is coming first."

The Skies Ahead

Online travel is a tough business. As U.S. sites know all too well, profit margins are razor-thin, particularly in the arena of airline ticket sales. Customers gravitate toward sites with the best hotel deals -- but getting the best deals requires carefully crafting relationships with hotels in order to secure uniquely negotiated rates. This is true in Asia as it is in the States. So too must Asian companies create easy-to-navigate sites with strong customer service support.

Add those requirements to the impulse of clients to price shop around, then go and book directly on the website of an airline or hotel, and a formidable task awaits Asia's would-be travel giants. But obstacles aside, the firm that cracks the code and capitalizes on the region's new travelers will have a good holiday indeed.

在线旅行业在坎坷中走过了2010年。由于在费用问题上谈不拢,美国航空公司和三角洲航空公司从一些旅行网站上撤下了自己的航班。谷歌(Google)则收购了一家名为ITA软件(ITA Software)的公司,这家公司拥有一种让许多公司垂涎不已的搜索算法。这桩收购点燃了业界的怒火,一些在线旅行业的巨头甚至对谷歌提起了反垄断诉讼。似乎是为了强调一下业界已经到了一决胜负的要紧关头,2010年,美国的在线旅行企业Priceline公司被公认为是过去五年里,标准普尔500指数中表现最好的个股。


这种趋势已经表现得十分明显。比如柬埔寨暹粒市的寺庙和泰国的普吉岛海滩每天都会迎来大量的中印游客。世界各地的路易威登(Louis Vuitton)和香奈儿(Chanel)专卖店也总是挤满了中国游客,因为如果他们在中国大陆境外购买奢侈品的话,价格会便宜近三分之一。据世界旅游组织(World Tourism Organization)测算,到2020年,全球旅游业将会增加6600万个工作岗位,其中有5000万个工作会落在亚洲。在线旅游业已经做好了乘上这股东风的准备——不过究竟谁将摘得胜利果实?





第二家值得关注的网站是“去哪儿网”(,它是中国顶级的旅行网站。去哪儿网是一个元搜索引擎,与Kayak网站的功能差不多。它是由美国企业家戴福瑞(Fritz Demopoulos)共同参与建立的。(在中国,说起互联网行业的外国企业家,戴福瑞的名字经常高居榜首。)去哪儿网的成功大部分要归功于它建立了自己的搜索技术,使用户可以实时了解到中国旅行业务的最新动态。该公司的大部分收入来自广告。去哪儿网的独立访问量已达到平均每月3000万到4000万人次(而Kayak只有1200万),因此去哪儿网也是2011年最有可能进行首次公开募股的企业之一。



但是这个行业还远远没有饱和。爱嘉途(Xanadu)是一家位于北京的旅行社,该公司的首席执行官尼古拉斯?比尔比吉尔去年12月对《纽约时报》(New York Times)表示:“无论是谁为市场带来了某种架构,都有巨大的成功可能性。” PhoCusWright公司的道格拉斯?昆比也附和道:“我早该预计到现在会出现更多的并购。”



印度市场被三家大公司主宰,这三家公司背后都有美国的风投机构撑腰。去年八月,印度最大的旅行网站MakeMyTrip在美国进行了首次公开募股。MakeMyTrip在印度市场上的占有率高达40%。这也是自2006年以来,印度公司首次在美国进行首次公开募股。通过此次募股,MakeMyTrip募集了8050万美元的资金。该公司目前的市值已经达到10亿美元左右。对于该公司背后的美国私募基金——老虎全球私人投资伙伴公司(Tiger Global Private Investment Partners)来说,MakeMyTrip也是它投资的第一家大获全盛的印度科技公司。MakeMyTrip主要销售印度国内以及印度和美国之间的旅行服务。不久前,该公司刚刚在阿联酋和加拿大推出了网站,瞄准了这两个国家里庞大的印度移民人口。

印度其他两家主要的旅行网站Yatra和Cleartrip也是由强大的西方风投机构支持的,比如诺威斯特公司(Norwest)就资助了Yatra,克雷纳-珀金斯公司(Kleiner Perkins)资助了Cleartrip。为了像MakeMyTrip公司一样获得丰厚的成果,Yatra和Ceartrip也顶着很大的压力。而且印度市场上还存在着一些障碍,许多人表示,印度市场上的障碍要多于中国市场。例如印度存在着根深蒂固的砍价文化,而且许多印度人相信,只有面对面交易,或者通过电话,才能做出最实惠的交易。而且由于印度的企业家文化盛行,在印度的各大城市里还有许多独立的旅行社。许多印度人喜欢与这些小旅行社打交道,也喜欢他们提供的一些特别待遇,例如可以用现金付款。




2011-02-14 15:14 编辑:kuaileyingyu
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