China’s mobile travel bookings up more than 400% in the last year

qunar smartphone plane

Chinese online travel booking service Qunar (NASDAQ:QUNR) made RMB 336 million (US$54 million) in revenue during the first quarter of this year, up 83.6 percent over the same period last year, according to its latest earnings report for Q1 2014. The figure far surpassed the company’s 65 to 70 percent guidance.

Mobile revenues were a huge boost to the numbers, up 415 percent year-on-year and representing nearly 32 percent of total revenues, compared to just 11.3 percent in Q1 2013. Qunar reports over 60 million mobile users from January to March.

Ctrip (NASDAQ:CTRP) remains the biggest player in China’s online travel industry. The company earlier this month reported RMB 1.6 billion (US$254.5 million) in revenue, up 36.3 percent year-on-year. During that quarter, over 70 percent of its total transactions were booked through online and mobile channels, also up by over 400 percent.

Tech in Asia spoke to Qunar CEO Chenchao (a.k.a. CC) Zhuang about the fast-changing online travel industry. He explains customers booking flights on mobile share the same use case as their web-based counterparts, but those booking hotels are more inclined to use the mobile app for last-minute bookings.

Travel domestically alone, internationally in flocks

Qunar’s latest earnings report also comments on the shift from packaged group tours to DIY travel. Younger Chinese travelers tend to prefer the latter, opting out of the tightly-scheduled and pre-planned trips that are popular with their parents. Zhuang says, based on Qunar’s information, domestic travel for the younger generation is almost entirely DIY these days. International travel to Southeast Asia is moving toward DIY, but bookings to Europe, the US, and Australia are still largely group-centric. Zhuang says, “Group travel for international travel still has time and space to grow.”

When we spoke to Hans Tung of GGV Capital – one of Qunar’s investors – on the sidelines of Stanford University’s China 2.0 forum last month, he mentioned Qunar would not remain a Chinese company. When we asked Zhuang about the possibility of international expansion, he replied, “”We do have an international presence, but not on a large scale. We are currently focused on domestic growth and we are going to do more on the international part.”

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