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February 20, 2014

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Websites lock horns over discount tickets

TWO travel and tourism websites are locked in a fierce promotional battle to secure market share.

Ticket agent said it now pays out cash rewards on tickets for more than 8,000 tourist attractions, while said it offers discounts on tickets to 95 percent of the more than 5,000 scenic spots it features.

Both companies said they are bearing the full financial burden of the promotions, rather than sharing it with attraction owners.

The two are currently offering tickets for the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, a famous landmark in Shanghai, for just 145 yuan (US$23.86), or 15 yuan cheaper than the regular price.

In both cases, customers can apply for a 15 yuan refund if they purchase their tickets online or via a mobile phone app, and make a comment about the attraction within a set time period. 17U also awards a further 6 yuan refund for comments made via mobile phone apps.

Customers who share product information with their friends via Tencent’s WeChat can get a further 10 yuan off each ticket.

Based in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, 17U began selling tickets for tourist attractions in 2011 and quickly became the market leader.

Shanghai-based Ctrip, a major player in the tourism market, expanded into ticket sales at the end of last year in direct competition with 17U.

Their rivalry reached a peak over the Spring Festival, when both companies provided free tickets for various attractions. And despite 17U selling twice as many tickets as Ctrip over the holiday period, the latter said the gap between the two companies was closing.

An unnamed Ctrip employee said yesterday that the company’s rate of growth was 40 times that of 17U.

“Attraction tickets are not the most profitable line for Ctrip, but it might influence customer loyalty. In order to overtake 17U as the leading ticket agent, Ctrip is prepared to put profit second,” the person said.

Both companies said they were keen to exploit the potential for ticket sales through mobile phone apps.

Despite the best efforts of the ticketing firms, some consumers have said they can get better deals and faster service elsewhere.

“I can find cheaper tickets on Taobao and don’t have to wait ages to claim my discount,” a woman surnamed Ni said.



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