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Qunar is already partnered up with the Google of China, Baidu, and will differentiate itself from Expedia’s eLong and the Priceline-Ctrip partnership by eschewing investment from a foreign online travel agency — for now, at least.
In the wake of the Priceline Group’s $500 million investment in Ctrip, an official at China’s Qunar, which trades on Nasdaq, says the metasearch and booking site doesn’t need a foreign strategic partner and downplays any impact from Priceline’s closer ties with Ctrip.
“We remain very confident about our international business, our outbound business,” says Qunar chief strategy officer Yilu Zhao, adding that Qunar’s hotel coverage is strong and the site doesn’t need to partner with a foreign online travel agency.
Since 2011, Chinese general search engine Baidu has controlled more than 50% of Qunar’s voting power and the relationship is unlikely to change in the wake of the Ctrip-Priceline relationship.
Yilu calls Baidu a “staunch supporter” of Qunar, which is China’s largest travel site in terms of traffic, although Ctrip attracts the greatest revenue among travel sites in the country.
Jenna Qian, a Qunar spokesperson adds that the company “doesn’t see any specific impact on us,” referring to the Priceline-Ctrip deal. “We are keen on international expansion, as well.”
Qunar isn’t a typical online travel company. For its international hotel business, when it services outbound Chinese travelers, it acts as a metasearch site, sending leads to partners including Ctrip, Booking.com, Priceline, Agoda, Expedia, Hotels.com and many others.
On the domestic side of the equation, Qunar actually handles bookings for hotel partners.
Yilu says she doesn’t expect Ctrip or Priceline Group brands to “disfavor” Qunar because of the new Ctrip-Priceline deal because for outbound travel Qunar acts merely as a switch site.
And, Zhao points out, the Priceline Group and Ctrip already were partners, although Priceline hadn’t invested previously in Ctrip.
While various travel sites may have unique hotel inventory when it comes to independent hotels or the “long tail,” as Yilu describes it, when it comes to outbound travel, there isn’t much differentiation in travel sites regarding the major chains and rates that Chinese international travelers favor.
“Consumer behavior for Chinese traveling abroad is that they go for brands they have heard about,” Yilu says, adding that Qunar has broad coverage of these hotel chains.
In their deal announcement, Ctrip and the Priceline Group indicated that in addition to sharing hotel inventory and promoting each others’ brands, they will also begin to cooperate on OpenTable dining reservations and attractions tickets.
Qunar has been working on tours and activities, as well, although Yilu says these are very early days in terms of revenue generation.
“We are looking at these areas, too,” Yilu says. “It is a very interesting field. It is much longer term for both Ctrip and us.”