If you do any traveling around China, you’ve definitely heard of Ctrip, China’s largest booking website. The first Chinese travel website to offer English-language customer service, Ctrip became a favorite of expats and students looking for flights, hotels, trains and vacation packages around China.
Now, America’s Priceline Group, which owns Booking.com, Agoda and Kayak, has decided to invest $500 million in the Chinese travel site.
Priceline and Ctrip have had a relationship since 2012, cross-promoting each other’s products to overseas travelers. With Priceline’s new investment, it will end up with 10% of Ctrip’s shares and the right to appoint an observer to the company’s board of directors.
Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will promote one another’s hotel inventory and the economics will be more mutually advantageous.
Ctrip agrees to promote Priceline Group brands, including Rentalcars.com and OpenTable, to Ctrip customers, and the Priceline Group will promote Ctrip’s flight services and tours and activities to Priceline customers.
The Priceline Group’s Booking.com unit is already the global leader in online and mobile hotel bookings, and this deal gives it further traction with a home-grown partner in one of the largest travel markets in the world, and in an unparalleled emerging market.
But Priceline isn’t the only company looking into Chinese travel properties. Expedia has an exclusive partnership with China’s second-largest travel site, eLong, and Baidu controls a majority stake in another competitor, Qunar.
Expect to hear more from these companies because as China’s travel market heats up, so will the competition.