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Last fall, HNA Group unveiled it’s $7.5 billion-backed HiApp. However, it wasn’t clear at the time what the app actually did. In its initial announcement, HNA said that the new app will “bring together HNA’s offerings in the hospitality, aviation, and financial sectors.” Now, we have a clearer idea of the app’s purpose as the company is rolling out new membership benefits for users of the app and customers of its various hospitality and travel services.
Users of the app and HNA Hospitality Group’s customers will be able to exchange reward points to take advantage of HiApp’s and HNA Hospitality Group’s membership benefits. HiApp reward points can be used to redeem free room upgrades or free stays at HNA Hospitality Group’s hotels around the world.
While HNA does offer some benefits for customers of both its hospitality offerings and aviation offerings, such as Hainan Airlines, HiApp’s users, for the most part, will still not be able to transfer benefits and points for use on these airlines. However, HNA does provide some cross-promotions between its airline and hospitality offerings, such as Hainan Airlines and its Tangla Brussels hotel.
This latest move seems like a logical next step for the app. When the application was announced, HNA executives touted the usefulness of the app in facilitating travel and the streamlining of services and said that the app will provide “one-stop service” for users. Specifically, they cited the ability of users to transfer their luggage directly from flights to their hotel rooms.
A single, dedicated mobile application seems like the best opportunity for HNA to consolidate its various travel offerings. If the conglomerate’s offerings can compete in price with online travel agencies, HNA could ensure that some of its customers utilize HNA air travel and accommodation at every step of their journeys and cut out online travel agencies (OTAs), potentially boosting profits from sales. It could even open opportunities for HNA to offer more services for its customers, like car rentals and local transportation ticketing.
Still, details surrounding the app are scarce and ultimately it’s still unclear why it received $7.5 billion in backing. In our initial coverage of the app, Jing Travel speculated the strong financial backing of HiApp was in part an attempt to reorient HNA’s investment strategy towards China itself.
HNA and other firms have come under scrutiny for the past year or so because of large overseas investments and acquisitions. The Chinese government has been particularly concerned about the risks of capital outflows from China and has cracked down on such moves. For HNA, at least, some of these concerned are clearly well-founded as the company’s debt appears to be spiraling out of control.
The conglomerate has also come under scrutiny from regulators and politicians in Switzerland, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand over its ownership structure and its ties with the Chinese Communist Party. HNA has even been sued over a botched $325 million deal by New Jersey-based software firm Ness Technologies S.A.R.L. HNA has also seen a push-back from some of the firms it has stakes in, like Spain’s NH Hotels.
This story originally appeared on Jing Travel, a Skift content partner.
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