Qunar.com is China’s first online travel agency. During the Amadeus Rail Innovation Forum, we spoke to Amy Wei, Rail International Business General Manager, to discuss the potential of selling international rail in Asia.
Qunar.com is the place to book for younger generations of Chinese travelers. From Generation Z to millennial travelers, cost-conscious travelers can find a wide range of competitive price options for air and rail. Talking about rail, how big is the demand for international rail in the region? 122 million Chinese tourists made outbound trips during 2016. This increase has been reflected in Qunar.com:
“We have experimented a true demand for international rail sales on our website, mostly for European rail travel."
Yet no single traveler has the same needs and there are some challenges when it comes to European rail travel for Chinese travelers.
The challenges of selling international rail in China
Although North Asia is the world’s most advanced region for rail travel, Chinese travelers might find many barriers when going on an international rail journey:
- Starting with the rail onboard experience that varies from one operator to another. It’s very difficult for Chinese travelers to understand the European seat reservation system, as rail journeys in China do not require a seat reservation.
- Boarding and security. In China, all passengers are required to pass through a very long security check at the station entrance. Also, the long distances between the security check and the platform can hold back travelers when it comes to deciding on a rail journey as they might find air quicker.
“We frequently receive questions when booking a European rail journey such as: are 10 minutes enough to switch from train A to B?. At the end, we perceive that Chinese travelers still need a lot of rail travel education”
- The language barrier. The booking process is not an issue, as most OTAs are offering their services in Chinese. However, when at the station, Chinese travelers can experiment travel frustration. The difficulty to understand the signage or even to communicate with the rail staff. Virgin Trains Explorer APP can solve such issues. It helps travelers to find their way around platforms and translate rail signage if needed.
Rail: the perfect complement to other travel products
When it comes to online rail bookings, Qunar.com is experimenting how rail is the perfect complement to create a seamless travel experience.
“15% of rail tickets are sold together with insurance products.70% of our customers are air and rail customers. And 40% are adding a hotel component when booking rail. Rail is complementing other travel options."
There is a huge opportunity for selling international rail in China. Beating today's challenges might not be an easy task. Putting the right rail technology solutions in place to distribute rail internationally and better understanding Chinese traveler’s needs will ensure international rail travel has a promising future.