Even as the global tourism sector is staring at big losses due to the outbreak of the novel COVID-19, China’s largest online travel agency Trip.com Group CEO Jane Jie Sun is rather optimistic about the future of the industry.
According to estimates available with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), there will be as many as 1.8 billion tourists globally a year by 2030.
“Undoubtedly, the global tourism industry has suffered because of the coronavirus. However, the industry does have a future…. there is still room for growth for our group and all players,” said Sun in an interview with DealStreetAsia.
Going forward, the company (earlier known as Ctrip) will continue to work with international groups to extend business developments through novel products and services. “We have remained optimistic about the industry in China and internationally since we are sure that demands are still there,” said Sun.
Established in 1999, the Nasdaq-listed Trip.com has adopted the inorganic route in the past to expand its operations. It acquired the UK travel search site Skyscanner for $1.7 billion in 2016, and the US travel discovery app Trip.com in 2017 for an undisclosed amount. In India, it increased its stake to 49 per cent in MakeMyTrip, paving the exit for early investor South Africa-based global internet group Naspers Limited.
More recently, Trip.com made headlines for forging a joint venture with global travel platform TripAdvisor. Back home, it announced a tie-up with rival Qunar Cayman Islands Ltd in 2015 to tap the rising number of Chinese travelers heading overseas.
The primary challenge for the company at the moment is to ensure cash flows this year. “It was challenging when the pandemic hit the country at the beginning of 2020. Tens of millions of orders have been cancelled,” said Sun. However, she added that the industry in China has begun to show signs of a pickup. “A good sign is that the bookings are soaring among domestic trips. The next stage is to work with travel bureaus to discover more destinations in China and foreign countries where COVID-19 is controlled.”