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Is Baidu Changing Chinese Travel Search in China

  |  November 10, 2011   |  Comments   |  

Following Baidu's acquisition of Qunar in June, Qunar's search traffic has overtaken Ctrip as the top online travel site.

The online travel industry has over a decade of history dating back to when one of the most popular travel sites, Expedia.com, was first founded in the U.S.

In China, travel demand by the Chinese has been growing considerably in recent years. Travel is currently one of the largest online industries in the country with great growing potential.

Baidu Invested in Chinese Online Travel

Baidu, China's number one search engine, has been aggressively building an Internet empire and monetising through ads that appear all over Baidu's web properties and Chinese online travel is one of the industries that Baidu doesn't want to miss.

Within a year, Baidu launched microblogging/social site t.baidu.com and then shut it down, as both major microblogging competitors have grown too fast in acquiring users - Sina Weibo has grown into China's most popular 'Weibo' in about two years and t.qq.com (a product from Tencent) rolled out lots of existing QQ users.

While not especially good at creating social traction, Baidu made a bold move by launching lvyou.baidu.com, a Chinese social/user-generated content travel site.

Still keen to get a big slice in the Chinese online travel industry, Baidu made a bolder move by acquiring Chinese travel comparison site Qunar.com for U.S. $306 million in June.

The 3 Big Sites in Chinese Travel

In recent years, the top three online travel sites in China are Ctrip.com, Qunar.com and eLong.com. According to Alexa data, these local travel sites are usually ranked with Ctrip first, followed by Qunar and eLong for quite some years. However, after Baidu bought Qunar in June, Qunar has started to overtake Ctrip in terms of user reach and website page views.

Alexa data below shows user reach for Ctrip, Qunar, and eLong:

These are the website page views for Ctrip, Qunar, and eLong from Alexa:

Qunar's sudden boost in traffic is partly because of Baidu's acquisition, but has even more to do with this:

Baidu as a search engine has given some exclusive treatment to its newly acquired web property Qunar.com on its search results pages.

Many Qunar search ads have been shown high up in prominent positions on Baidu's search results pages for a number of high search traffic hotel keywords.

Baidu has even exclusively placed Qunar's search box at other prominent spots for high search traffic hotel keywords on Baidu's search results pages.

All these additional search traffic would have considerably boosted Qunar's overall search traffic, regardless how much additional revenue Qunar could have gained from the given advantages.

So my final question: Are Baidu and Qunar both making significant changes to the Chinese online travel industry?

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Gordon  Choi

Gordon Choi is the co-founder of E-Bizcamp.com, a Shanghai-based firm specializing in data analytics and data integration solutions. Gordon also volunteers at Web Analytics Wednesday China, assisting in the conference and content operations, and volunteer recruitment. Gordon's previous experience includes leading in-house teams at Ctrip.com and Alibaba. His areas of expertise include strategy, solutions and workshops for multi-screen data integration and mobile SEO for the local Chinese market.  

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