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A look behind Ctrip’s new hotel price comparing function

12/03/2014| 5:54:28 PM|

Ctrip introduced a hotel price comparing function that displays other OTAs’ hotel room rates and booking links on its search results page and enables users to click through to complete bookings.

TravelDaily – TravelDaily has discovered that Ctrip has quietly introduced a hotel price comparing function that displays other OTAs’ hotel room rates and booking links on its search results page and enables users to click through to complete bookings without having to reenter the city or date. This “secret weapon” comes at a time when Ctrip’s share prices have taken a hit amid low earning forecasts for Q4.

Our reporter tested the new function by doing a Guangzhou hotel search and found that a “compare prices” button appeared below the displayed lowest price of every property.

Ctrip’s search results

On clicking the “compare prices” button, a new price-comparison window opened with a “Powered by Brandwisdom” tag displayed on the upper right corner. Brandwisdom is a hotel rating and assessment data service company recently acquired by Ctrip.

Ctrip’s price-comparison window

The screenshot shows that Ctrip’s price is listed along with the prices of five other third-party vendors’ for the exactly same room. Intriguingly, the price of Ctrip’s long-standing rival eLong is also listed and it links to its booking page, whereas all the other listed prices link users to Ctrip’s booking page with an indication of Ctrip’s authorization and warranty for transactions.

The majority of bookings are on Ctrip’s website

Besides the prices of domestic OTAs, the prices of international players like Agoda and Booking.com are also listed with links to those platforms, but some listed vendors are virtually unknown – one vendor called “Fabulous Travel” has no related information on Baidu, and other vendors have no official websites.

Another important point to note is whether Ctrip is displaying other vendors’ prices that are lower or if it’s using the function merely as a ploy to attract more sales for itself. Our reporter found that Ctrip did not always have the lowest listed price, and in some cases eLong’s prices were the lowest.

An industry observer interprets that Ctrip’s platform model will make a huge leap forward if it doesn’t deliberately hide competitors’ prices on its price comparing function but instead offers users a complete product and experience as a one-stop shopping platform.

It is understood that Ctrip has not yet engaged the third parties in partnership talks and so it's too soon to talk about the revenue model or whether it will use a CPC or a CPS model. But it is beyond question that Ctrip has already surpassed the original OTA business structure with this function and is offering its own customer base a second sales point by opening up to third-party vendors.

US OTA Orbitz pioneered this model when it launched a price comparing function called Meta Experience with the help of mega-data marketing company Intent Media. Like Ctrip’s price comparing function, Meta Experience also shows the prices and booking links to other OTAs in the search results.

Orbitz’s Meta Experience

However, there is more to this move by Ctrip than just expanding its services. Now the world’s major OTAs are wrestling for control of user traffic at the entry point by integrating meta-search – evident by Priceline’s acquisition of Kayak, Expedia’s takeover of German meta-search Trivago and major European OTA eDreams acquisition of French meta-search Liligo – Ctrip as China’s largest OTA must respond to the challenge of price comparing rivals such as Qunar by introducing its own online hotel price comparing function. Qunar is attempting to directly sign-on hotels and with eat away at Ctrip’s business share with their amassed force so Ctrip is countering with this aggressive move to divert the traffic flow from Qunar’s travel search portal and put up impede Qunar’s rise in the OTA sector.  

 (Report by Jianjun Yao)

(Translation by David)

TAGS: Ctrip | price comparing | meta-search
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