Chinese online travel marketplace giant Ctrip is perhaps best known outside China as the owner of metasearch engine Skyscanner after an acquisition of the Scottish company back in 2016. The company also acquired travel recommendation service Trip.com last year. While both acquisitions made a splash with investors and industry analysts, they weren’t necessarily very surprising. Both Skyscanner and Trip.com offered services directly related to what Ctrip is trying to do both at home and abroad, and made sense in light of the company’s intensifying global expansion.
Ctrip’s latest investment may not be anywhere close to the price it paid for Skyscanner or even Trip.com, but it’s all the more surprising because of what the target of the investment was: a supersonic jet startup.
Indeed, Ctrip announced Tuesday that it has completed a strategic investment in Boom Technology, a U.S. aerospace startup headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Boom was formerly part of Y Combinator’s incubation program and has raised tens of millions of dollar since its founding in 2014.
Boom Technology is currently developing a supersonic jet with a capacity of 45-55 passengers that it hopes to introduce in 2023. The supersonic jet is by far and large a spiritual successor to the ill-fated Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde, which more than halved the flight time of transatlantic flights.
Boom’s aircraft is planned to be able to reach Mach 2.2 (2,335 km/hour or 1,451 miles/hour), which is more than double the speed regular passenger jets reach. “San Francisco to Shanghai, for example, could shrink from 11 hours to 6—and a typical round-trip itinerary can be accomplished two whole days faster,” Boom CEO Blake Scholl said in a press statement.
While it’s clear that a successful launch of the Boom supersonic jet could revolutionize transpacific business travel out of China, it’s less clear exactly why Ctrip chose to invest in the Denver startup.
“As a leading innovator in the commercial aviation industry, Boom will be positioned to provide exciting premium global flight options for Ctrip users and Ctrip is making a strategic investment in the next generation of travel,” Ctrip Co-founder and Executive Chairman James Liang said.
For Boom Technology, however, the benefits of taking on Ctrip as an investor are more obvious. First and foremost, the investment will help Boom in bringing its ambition to reality, but Ctrip could also prove a valuable ally in the Chinese tourism industry. With China already positioned as the world’s largest tourism market—and soon the world’s largest aviation market—success in China could prove vital for the viability of next-generation supersonic jets. Much like transatlantic business travel was the core of the Concorde project, transpacific business travel could become the core market for Boom in the future.
Exactly how much Ctrip is bringing to the table is unclear. Both Ctrip and Boom Technology avoided announcing an exact figure in their press release of Ctrip’s investment, and Ctrip did not disclose the size of its investment in Boom Technology when contacted by Jing Travel.
“All that I can say from my end is that Boom has raised (so far) over US$85 million, including seed investment, venture capital, and investments from strategic partners. At Ctrip, we invest in the future to ensure that our users are able to have access to futuristic experiences,” Ctrip Senior International PR Manager Wei Yuan Min told Jing Travel.
According to figures published by Crunchbase, which tracks funding rounds, Boom Technology had raised $47.3 million by December 2017 after a $10 million investment by Japan Airlines. If Ctrip is responsible for the difference between $85 million and the last recorded total funding, or if it is one of many companies that have invested in the company since December 2017 remains unclear.
After all, next to its $1.74 billion acquisition of Skyscanner, some $30-40 million seems like a small price to pay for a stake in a company that Ctrip believes may represent the future of business travel.
This story originally appeared on Jing Travel, a Skift content partner.
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