Booking.com’s strategic partner in China Ctrip is showing the way when it comes to providing customers products and services covering their entire trip.
Bryan Batista, vice president of corporate development at Booking.com, told last week’s Rentalcars Connect partner conference in Edinburgh he was full of admiration for its Chinese partner.
Booking.com parent Priceline, now Booking Group, has a 4% stake in Ctrip, which owns Skyscanner, a rival meta-search site to Booking’s KAYAK’s and Momondo, and the pair share hotel inventory.
Having rebranded as Booking Group and integrated ground transport division Rentalcars into the group, the global travel giant is now focussed on becoming a one-stop-shop for travellers with a keen focus on the in-trip experience.
Batista said travellers do not want to be opening six or seven different apps but want to use one they trust and that has their payment details filed.
“This does not exist today,” he said. “It’s about building a product that’s able to serve in trip needs so we can remain relevant to consumers build loyalty over time and make everyone’s experience better.
“It’s building products in a thoughtful way and not doing too much at once. Booking has been really good at being focussed on a few things and doing those things well.”
Batista said this is something that Ctrip has taken a leading position on. “Ctrip went on this full trip focus years and years ago with a one-app shopping mall-type experience.
“They have shown consumers do want that. You can drive great experience across different verticals at once.”
Batista said Ctrip it a “fantastic” partner in China because it has “access to an audience that Booking.com simply struggles to find”.
But he said the same is true in reverse – when Ctrip looks to diversify away from China it needs a strong partnership.
“I see that partnership being very fruitful. There is a lot of space for not just one or two but many large global players,” Batista said.
Chris Dell, director content agency at Booking.com, said Ctrip had the advantage of its domestic market being 1.4 billion people.
He said this gives it the potential to grow for many, many years and is a very different prospect to starting in a country you can drive across in just two-and-a-half hours.
“Ctrip is interested in growing internationally and we are interested in growing into different verticals. These are super-parallel growth paths,” he said.
Ripsy Bandourian, senior director of product for business bookers at Booking.com, said she admires how fast Ctrip has moved and singled out payments as an area it has acted to solve customer problems in in a way that’s not be tackled in the west.
She said competition improves things for customers and said she also likes what Google is doing in the upper funnel of the customer journey to improve the experience for travellers.
Batista also praised Google but added: “Look at the amount of data they have, it’s scary.
“They know exactly what you are going to do from a travel perspective. They are going to be able to serve up experiences to you whether it’s a hotel, cruise, sell car or cross sell a restaurant.
“They have been amassing that content in the background, they just have not deployed that yet. The data part is, to me, scary but also amazing because they may be able to do something unique.”