I posted last week on the Chinese market, particularly the dominance of Ctrip in "online" travel sales. A complementary story appeared this week in Hotelmarketing.com (add to your RSS feed immediately if not already there) on Rakuten Travel's plans for China.
Rakuten Travel is the number one online travel company in Japan. This makes them a big player globally. With gross bookings in excess of $1 billion in hotels, Rakuten is easily a top ten online hotel company, maybe even sneaks in as number 5 behind the "big four" of Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and Priceline (in terms of hotel sales online).
China is big play for Rakuten as it is the natural largest next market for them. It is also a market they have a lot of knowledge about. Up until August last year Rakuten was one of Ctrip's largest shareholders, owning some 20% of the company. At the time Rakuten disposed of their Ctrip stake I said that there was probably two reasons for the sale: the profit on the sale; and to free up Rakuten to take on the Chinese market all by themselves.
There is a lot more background in the Hotelmarketing article which I suggest you read. If you are sitting in Europe dismissing this as another Asia story by Tim I urge you to reconsider and keep a little eye on Rakuten and the number two Japanese palyer Jalan/Recruit. Why? Because both are billion dollar plus players that are looking outside of Japan for places to expand and grow.