Chinese travellers prefer OTAs says EyeforTravel

EyeforTravel’s latest consumer research, the Chinese Travel Consumer Report 2017-2018 has identified that Chinese travellers prefer the online travel agent (OTA) experience.

The report surveyed over 2,000 consumers, and found that 77.5% of web bookings are made through an online travel agent website, rising to 81.2% for app bookings. Only 17.6% of travellers booked direct through a website, and 12.9% used the airline app.

Already China is the world’s largest outbound travel market in terms of trips and spending, accounting for more than 140 million outbound trips and over 4 billion domestic journeys.  China also accounts for the highest international per trip spending in the world, numbers which are being forecasted will continue to grow at approximately 6% compound annual growth rate between 2017 and 2020.

Recently there has been pressure from the Chinese government on airlines to drive more direct bookings, however according to results, this does not seem to be making a difference, with the majority of digital bookings in China are still made through OTAs.

Chinese Flight Booking Channels when using Apps

Source: EyeforTravel’s Chinese Travel Consumer Report 2017-2018


Chinese Flight Booking Channels when using Websites

Source: EyeforTravel’s Chinese Travel Consumer Report 2017-2018

This trend in China is in contrast to Western markets where airlines have been able to hold their market share or in some cases grow it. EyeforTravel head of research Alex Hadwick said: “This outlines the unique dynamics at play in China, where smartphones and apps play a much larger role in the travel booking process.”

The report found a similar pattern for accommodation bookings, with seven out of 10 Chinese travel consumers booking through OTAs versus around one in 10 using a hotel’s website or apps.

The two main challenges include:

  1. OTA concentration: There are just a handful of OTAs in China, with Ctrip, Qunar and Meituan-Dianping being the main ones. Ctrip and Qunar are particularly popular with app users, a growing segment of the market.
  2. Price sensitivity: Price is a major issue for Chinese travellers with more than nine in 10 turning to price comparison sites during research.