For an average Chinese person, preparing for outbound trips can be a daunting task. They are faced with issues such as visas, language, and even differing climates. This is how QYER, “China’s largest one-stop outbound travel platform”, is making a difference by making these tasks much easier for its users.
From travel community to one-stop platform
QYER, founded in Germany in 2004 and now headquartered in Beijing, was originally a travel community of overseas Chinese sharing their experiences and tips on travelling around Europe.
Chinese tourists have a reputation for travelling in tour groups and spending massive amounts of money, but the proportion of independent Chinese travellers has been continuously rising. The Chinese name of QYER implies the concept of travel on a shoestring, representing the company initial focus of facilitating independent travel in an economical way.
“Unlike Westerners, Chinese people face more obstacles when preparing for their first overseas trip. Meanwhile, they prefer to get well-prepared, for example, they like to book hotels in advance,” said Bryan Xiao, the founder and CEO of QYER.
Over the years, the online community has evolved into a “one-stop outbound travel platform”. Its products now include everything a traveller needs, from a travel community, to a big data based trip planning tool, to an e-commerce platform. Its three main products are:
1. An online community: It is where QYER started in the very beginning, and remains a major product in the new QYER ecosystem.
Posts on the online community mainly fall into two parts: articles on travelling in various destinations, and themed articles, such as family trips, dedicated photography trips, and cruises. Different destinations are divided by continent – Asia, Europe, Africa, and so on.
One post can have as many as 500 comments that express gratitude for sharing, encourage the writer to travel and share more, or even ask to travel with the writer.
2. The trip planning site and app: Users can spend as little as one minute to get a trip plan, by simply inputting basic factors – cities of departure and return, destinations, length of the trip, and preferences for variables like the mode of transportation and the pace of travel.
3. An e-commerce platform: The platform is designed to facilitate independent overseas travel, offering flight tickets, tickets to scenic spots and other tourist attractions, visa services, and so on.
The value of QYER
The value of QYER lies in its millions of moderately wealthy users and the high-quality user-generated content that has accumulated on the site over the past years.
So far it has attracted 80 million registered users. According to the company, typical QYER users are the middle class in China’s first-and-second-tier cities, whose monthly income is RMB 12,000 (USD 1,799).
China’s online travel agent industry is dominated by three giants – Ctrip, its holding company Qunar, and eLong. Altogether, transactions through these companies account for over 70% of the entire hotel market and 51.7% of the flights market in 2015, according to research site chyxx.com.
QYER’s user growth is fuelled by China outbound travel boom.
China saw its outbound trips spike during the past decades, reaching 120 million in 2015, making China the source of the most outbound trips in the world for three consecutive years, according to the China National Tourism Administration.
QYER community features user generated content (UGC) and sees more than 6000 new articles added to it every day by its traveller users.
The road not taken
So far, QYER has closed a USD 57 million Series D financing in January, with backers including Alibaba Group, Trust Bridge Partners, and U-Tour over its four rounds of financing.
Injections of capital, as well as the rash atmosphere and overwhelming worship of speed in the tech industry, has not changed QYER’s pace and strategy.
“We will not be dragged into wars with competitors. Instead, the capital will be used to strengthen our advantages, including brand, team, and R&D,” said Xiao.
Xiao also told AllChinaTech that QYER currently incubates outbound travel related projects so that they won’t miss the next big thing that will alter the industry.
Q-Homes, offline information centres created by QYER, offer knowledge about local scenic spots, and offer basic services like luggage storage. They are a part of QYER’s efforts to promote its brand and encourage its users to engage with QYER offline.
In August last year, the first Q-Home was launched in Chiangmai, Thailand. The second was launched in Kyoto, Japan in August this year. The third one is scheduled to be open in Queenstown, New Zealand in the second half of 2016.
The CEO listed talent as one of the company’s advantages.
All the staff are travel savvy and QYER users themselves, and they know what users need.
He also did a lot of work in building a corporate culture where talent matters.
“I meet every employee-to-be in person, to talk with them,” said Xiao, who is in charge of the 400-odd staff in his company.
Other management team members are also experienced in the industry.
Cai Jinghui, the president of QYER, is a hardcore traveller, who had brought Lonely Planet guidebooks to millions of Chinese before he joined the company in 2011.
Han Zhe, the chief operation officer, is a seasoned entrepreneur. He cofounded a hotel booking app, which was acquired by JD.com in 2014. After the acquisition, he began to work for QYER.
Besides offline Q-Homes, QYER partnered with ride-hailing company Uber in 2014 in an effort to go global and make travel better and more convenient.
“We have a vast user base and the user generated content has been accumulated for 12 years, covering every corner of the world,” said Xiao.
He also expressed that he is glad to see cross-cultural communication and cooperation.
For QYER, steady expansion and its focus on outbound travel have been the secret to their evolution into the byword for Chinese outbound travel.
(Top photo from Qyer.com)