Alibaba's announcement marks a major investment in the online travel market and will compete with Ctrip for the rapidly increasing customer base in China.
“This independent online travel platform is a logical extension of Alibaba Group’s strategy and we are excited for the opportunity to build Alitrip into a leading platform for China’s online travel sector,” Alitrip general manager Li Shaoshua said in a statement, which erases any doubt that the new site will be a direct competitor to China’s current travel leader Ctrip.
Alitrip already has more than 10,000 vendors on its platform providing plane tickets, vacation packages, and services for hotel booking, visa applications, and tour guides. Among these are Hong Kong flagship carrier Cathay Pacific Airlines and Priceline’s Asia-focused hotel booking site Agoda.com.
Alibaba is betting on this comprehensive offering of travel products and services to differentiate it in the market, and with its recent $25 billion IPO Alibaba has plenty of resources to use to focus on travel and other initiatives.
Alitrip’s mobile app will also play a significant role in attracting customers. Its services are as granular as booking taxis and as personal as picking airline seats.
In other news, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma said at the Wall Street Journal Digital Live conference on Monday that he’s open to working with Apple on mobile payments.
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Photo credit: The home page for the new Alitrip website. Alitrip