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China's leading online travel agency eyes bridging the world

CHINA'S leading online travel agency Ctrip is confident that it is capable of catering to the growing travel demands in China and beyond.

Tourism is all about economic and cultural exchanges, and we would like to link the world with our services, Ctrip CEO Jane Sun said in a recent interview, stressing that internationalization is the company's key future strategy.

International business now accounts for about 20 percent of the company's revenue and is expected to grow bigger.

During the Spring Festival holiday, about 6.15 million Chinese traveled abroad.

"A lot of Chinese now have more disposable income, so they can afford to travel abroad. Also, visa restrictions for Chinese are being lifted, and that offers many new opportunities," Sun said.

In the past 12 months alone, Ctrip acquired U.K. travel search site  Skyscanner; earlier last year, it made strategic investment in three U.S. tour operators to support the demand by Chinese for trips to the U.S., and in January 2016, Ctrip invested in India's travel search site MakeMyTrip.

Although Ctrip is the leading player in China's online travel business, when bricks-and-mortar travel agencies are included, Ctrip only accounts for 5 percent to 7 percent of the country's tourism market, according to Sun.

"Domestically, Ctrip has a lot of room to penetrate into second and third tier cities. The majority of people in these cities are still using traditional travel agents," she said.

Ctrip's tourism business revenue grew by 37 percent year on year in the third quarter of 2016.

"We once planned for total gross merchandise volume (GMV) surpassing one trillion yuan by 2020, but now the target could be met two years earlier and by 2021, the GMV might reach two trillion yuan," according to Sun, who was recently rated by Forbes China as one of China's most powerful business women.

"To achieve this target, we should put customers first, partners second and ourselves last," Sun added.


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