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Qunar, the Chinese search and booking site, is downplaying the impact of rival Ctrip’s decision to remove its hotel inventory from Qunar’s listings.

Ctrip’s hotel offerings went missing from Qunar’s search results a few weeks ago, according to a WIT story that cites Ctrip’s contention that Qunar is preferencing its own hotel booking options over those of certain online travel agency participants.

Jenna Qian, a Qunar spokesperson, confirms that Ctrip removed its hotel inventory from Qunar and points to the competitive climate as an obvious factor.

“Our hotel inventory covers almost everything on Ctrip’s list and the ‘freed up’ volume has been picked up by our own hotel direct business,” Qian says. “This portion of our hotel direct business keeps trending up.”

Ctrip is considered the largest online travel agency in China in terms of revenue while Qunar, which is allied with China search site Baidu, has the largest traffic.

The China marketplace is highly competitive with all of the online players being aggressive in offering coupons and discounts on their hotel offerings in various cities.

As is true virtually everywhere in the travel industry, alliances and partnerships can be tangled.

The Priceline Group recently announced it would expand its partnership and invest $500 million in Ctrip and at the same time Priceline Group brands and Agoda are heavy participants in Ctrip rival Qunar.

After the Priceline Group announced its investment in Ctrip, Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston said he feels the two companies are such kindred spirits that he feels as though they are second cousins.

Asked whether and Agoda would follow Ctrip’s lead and withdraw from Qunar, Qian of Qunar said she doesn’t think so.

“We serve as a traffic-generating metasearch platform for Booking, Agoda and the like,” Qian said. “Ctrp may be Priceline’s ‘second cousin, but Booking and Agoda are Priceline’s ‘son and daughter.’ Driving more traffic to their own sites is Booking’s and Agoda’s priority.”

Photo Credit: Qunar's iPhone app no long shows any hotel inventory from competitor Ctrip. Qunar