Baidu And Qunar Unite To Cash In On China's Travel E-Booking Boom

    As Chinese travelers turn away from travel agents in favor of booking online, Baidu hopes to profit from the trend with a major Qunar investment.
    Jing Daily
    Dennis SchaalAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    Chinese travel site Qunar boasts 65.8 million activations for its mobile apps. (Qunar)

    China’s hybrid travel site Qunar and its controlling shareholder, Baidu, the country’s largest search engine, are cooperating deeply to build Qunar’s already large travel business.

    Qunar announced yesterday that it signed a three-year $300 million revolving credit agreement with Baidu, which enables Qunar to bolster its investments in mobile, flights and hotels, and aids its liquidity.

    Qunar says it operates independently of Baidu, but consider that Qunar and Baidu recently co-developed voice recognition software for Qunar’s air and hotel search, and during its fourth quarter earnings call on February 27, Qunar CEO Chenchao Zhuang said Qunar has a team working out of Baidu’s offices on undisclosed integration efforts.

    Qunar’s CEO said the company works with “Baidu extensively.”

    “As a matter of fact, we have a team sitting at the Baidu office looking for all sorts of the product integration opportunity with Baidu,” he said. “If any significant deal is signed, we will announce that publicly.”

    Qunar previously disclosed that it gets about half of its traffic volume through Baidu.

    Having completed a U.S. IPO last year, Qunar is focused on expansion, and its losses widened in the fourth quarter.

    It notched an RMB12.16 million (around $19.8 million) net loss in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with a loss of RMB18.6 million ($3 million) a year earlier. Revenue in the fourth quarter rose around 70 percent year over year to RMB53.4 million ($8.69 million).

    A lot of Qunar’s investment is in mobile.

    In fact, Qunar saw its mobile revenue in the fourth quarter increase a whopping 390.6 percent to RMB49.6 million
    (US$8.2 million), and it counted 53.8 million mobile users in 2013. Its native app boasts 65.8 million activations through the end of 2013.

    The competitiveness of the Chinese travel market, which finds Qunar competing with Ctrip, Expedia’s eLong, and TripAdvisor’s Kuxun, among many others, can be seen through the fact that in the fourth quarter, Qunar’s revenue per room declined 7.8 percent year over year because of its couponing efforts.

    Qunar offers access through search and quasi-direct booking to around 450,000 hotels, including direct sales for 84,000 of them.

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