Exclusive Interview: James Jianzhang Liang, Co-founder, Executive Chairman of the Board, Ctrip
As the travel industry comprises nearly 10% of global GDP, huge opportunities still lie ahead, with online penetration remaining relatively low in many pockets of the world. Ctrip is positioned for not only travel opportunities in China, but also global opportunities, particularly in the Asia Pacific region. By the same token, Ctrip’s CEO Jane Sun recently spoke about the fact that travel is a “gateway to global peace and prosperity”. We asked James Jianzhang Liang, Co-founder, Executive Chairman of the Board what his thoughts are on this.
TRAVEL IS THE KEY TO BETTER UNDERSTANDING, RESPECT AND HAPPINESS, WHICH WE FEEL IS THE FOUNDATION TO PROMOTING GLOBAL PEACE AND BRINGING PROSPERITY TO ALL STAKEHOLDERS
Travelling is a natural bridge to different cultures and races. Day in and day out our teams work tirelessly to ensure travel becomes easier and safer through technologies and services. This is a passion of ours. Travel is the key to better understanding, respect and happiness, which we feel is the foundation to promoting global peace and bringing prosperity to all stakeholders.
Over the past months, you have announced a number of joint ventures and partnerships. Which of these do you feel are the most important in helping Chinese travellers have a better experience?
We continue to seek new partnerships in order to ensure and address the needs of our 300 million plus registered members. Along with all travel partners, we are constantly finding ways to boost the diversity of our travel products and assure better service, particularly for the growing Chinese outbound customer-base. I think there are a lot of areas we can improve upon to enable better experiences and services in the indestination category. We’ve been working with more and more local partners to enable local services like attractions, restaurants, trains and car services, just to name a few. These are all important links of the travel ecosystem which would greatly enhance the customer experience.
The 2017 China Outbound Tourism Travel Report came up with some very interesting findings, for example with regard to Chinese travellers’ concern for safety. How has Ctrip been able to leverage this report and consequently better meet the demands of its customers?
Service has always been a pillar of our value proposition to users. Chinese people travelling overseas require more service capabilities given language barriers and cultural differences. This is why over 50% of our employee-base are in the customer service unit, providing 24/7 support for our customers. Calls are answered within 20 seconds to ensure prompt reply and efficiency. We’ve innovated to make service even lower friction with our Virtual Tour Managers (VTM) function. Travellers visiting certain destinations can join messenger chat groups that are managed by group managers who have in-depth destination knowledge, to provide instant replies about almost anything our travellers need. We also have the Global SOS system which can provide timely information and travel arrangement options in emergency situations. With recent emergency situations such as the Las Vegas shooting, Bali volcano eruption and Hawaii earthquakes, Ctrip was really able to shine in helping our travellers through these unforeseen situations. Such information has allowed tour groups and independent traveller to avoid certain areas that might hinder the rest of their itinerary or, for those already affected, give more alternatives to safely evacuate.
What are your thoughts about ITB China which is in its second year this year?
We have a good relationship with ITB and are happy to support ITB China. It’s always great for the industry to gather and find ways to make travellers’ lives easier and safer. ITB China offers a great platform to focus on the Chinese travel market. Not only is it a great way to examine the market trends of the coming years, it also helps all partners to engage in shaping the future of Chinese tourism.
Photo: James Jianzhang Liang – Co-founder, Executive Chairman of the Board, Ctrip