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Feature: Twenty Years On, From Ctrip to Trip: From China Power to 'Global' Giant
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Friday, 1st November 2019
 

It felt like I was going to a rock concert, the night before, on a cruise on the Huangpu river, the city lights were in full blaze but one illumination stood out, the Pearl Tower lights announcing that Ctrip was turning 20 – a city paying homage to its homegrown Internet giant.

This morning, there were queues outside the Shanghai Expo centre. Security lines were long. Inside the cavernous hall, dozens of strobe lights danced around and a huge curved LED screen showed continuous videos of travel leaders from around the world congratulating the travel giant’s coming of age.

From Poland to Portugal, from Singapore to Spain, they spoke of the change Ctrip had brought to their destination.

Dazzling the audience with bright lights and bold statements (Photo credit: Trip.com)

The hall was full of anticipation as we waited for the proceedings to begin – it takes a while for 3,000 people to be seated. After all, this is a big moment not only for Ctrip which began in a restaurant somewhere in Shanghai two decades ago when four friends decided to get together to start an Internet travel business but also for China’s travel industry.

This is a company that’s gone from four founders to over 40,000 staff (5,000 outside China), from a business that was purely local to one whose income from global business now accounts for 36% of volume, and from one with US$400,000 in sales in the early years to one which reported $1.3b net revenue in Q2 2019, a 19% year on year growth. Trip.com Group now includes the following brands – Trip.com, Ctrip, Skyscanner and Qunar – as well as has a majority stake in India’s leading OTA MakeMyTrip.

In an elaborate and well-executed ceremony, lasting three hours, it changed its name to Trip.com Group, announced its intentions to be the leading travel brand in Asia in three years and to be the leading international travel brand globally by 2025, and to be the undisputed, most valuable and respected leader in online travel by 2030 with the best technology, best service and largest market share and most recognised brand.

Said James Liang, chairman and co-founder: “We are not old. Our future starts now.”

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