Beijing-based itinerary planner Mioji told AllChinaTech on Sunday that they are going to America to launch their product in March.
“Mioji is different from traditional OTAs (online travel agencies). We found that no one in America is doing what we have been doing in China, so we want to give it a try,” said Zhang Fan, founder and CEO of Mioji.
Zhang said that, back in 2013, he noticed that independent travelers were often troubled by choices including means of transportation, hotels and itinerary. He recalled his trip around Europe when pursuing a master’s degree in computer science in Paris. Using his knowledge and research skills, Zhang traveled to a dozen countries in one month using less than RMB 10,000 (USD 1,529). The experience inspired him to help travelers who want to travel abroad with personalized plans.
Founded in January 2014, Mioji is an online travel platform that provides users with an itinerary plan through a series of simple steps. It mainly targets independent travelers whose destinations are European cities. The company has adopted unique data collecting, search technology and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for its platform, and secured USD 20 million in Series B financing led by Bertelsmann Asia Investments in September 2015.
Mioji, with a name that evokes the Chinese words for brilliant idea (“miaoji”), aims to offer the best travel ideas to its users. Zhang said they have 85 research and development engineers and 20 product designers and operators, mainly from top-tier Chinese Internet companies including Baidu, Tencent and Qihoo 360. “They account for over 75% of the total 137 staff,” he said. Zhang has previously led technology teams for Tencent and the search engine Sogou, owned by Sohu.
Mioji claims that it differentiates from both traditional OTA giants and latecomers to the sector based on travel strategy. Unlike many of the other big names in the sector, the company does not directly sell any travel products, and only provides users with free services covering travel planning, ticket booking and other incidentals during their trip.
“There is no need for users to decide on the route, means of transportation, flights or hotels. You just need to know what you like and what you don’t,” Zhang explained. “The Mioji app comes up with the optimized plan soon after users input their destination, scenic spots, transportation preferences and accommodation requirements. And Mioji will also suggest a thoughtful travel plan if you know nothing except where you want to go.”
He said that Mioji collects real-time information and processes it with an AI-based algorithm. Increasing amounts of data on the travel industry chain such as info about buses, trains, subways and scenic spots can be connected with search technology so that the platform can ensure users have a pleasant travel experience.
China’s travel-website giants have split up the market between them. China’s “Expedia”, Ctrip, merged with its rival Qunar and Alibaba’s travel business arm, Alitrip, is dominating hotel and air ticket booking. Qyer.com, Mafengwo.com and Eueueu.com provide users with a great variety of travel strategies, but, according to Zhang, are seldom used.
“Independent travel has been the latest trend in China, but faces challenges lately. And people wonder why,” Zhang said. “I think people still have the need of travel, especially independently. Travel facilitated by online platforms will see an explosion in the coming years, and AI will be the key player.”
(Top photo from Manmankan.com)