China On-Demand Services Giant Meituan-Dianping Launches Travel Unit

China’s largest on-demand local services firm Meituan-Dianping has announced the official launch of Meituan Travel, a new travel and leisure platform consolidating the company’s existing offerings in accommodation, domestic travel, outbound travel, and transportation.

Today’s move, following the company’s entrance into the travel market in 2013, is designed to create a unified platform to continue grow the US$18 billion company’s travel business and compete with industry leader Ctrip.

"China’s travel industry is rapidly growing and constantly evolving as Chinese travelers seek new, dynamic, and high-quality experiences," said Liang Chen, senior vice president of Meituan-Dianping and president of its Travel and Leisure Business Group. "With Meituan Travel, we are going to be able to gradually direct our hundreds of millions of consumers to this new segment by providing them with a convenient, efficient, high-quality service encompassing every aspect of a successful travel experience."

China’s domestic travel market continues to expand and is expected to reach RMB7 trillion (US$1 trillion) and 6.7 billion individual trips by 2020. As of the third quarter of 2016, Ctrip is the absolute market leader with a 35.9% share of China’s online travel market, followed by Alibaba’s Fei Zhu, which had 14.6% of market share, according to Chinese data firm Analysys.

With 240 million active users, Meituan-Dianping is trying to grab a bigger share of the fast-growing online travel market by leveraging its existing 240 million active users.

The company said it sold more than 17 million hotel room nights in April and 67 million domestic sightseeing attraction tickets in 2016. The company also launched its Hazelnut bed & breakfast service last month, after it rolled out a ride sharing service in February.

Meituan-Dianping says its platform covers nearly 400 cities and more than 20,000 attractions across China, as well as 215 countries and regions globally.

Among all customers booking hotel rooms on Meituan-Dianping’s platform, 32% also place dining or catering orders and 17% purchase tickets for recreational activities. Bundled sales of hotel room nights and sightseeing attraction tickets are growing at an annual rate of 20%, the company said.