Navigating the future with Group

Yudong Tan on evolving travel trends, sustainability, and global expansion

In an exclusive interview with ITB China News, Yudong Tan, CEO of the Flight Business Group and Vice President of Group, delves into the company’s strategies in a post-pandemic world, their commitment to sustainability, and their vision for global growth. Group has been a major player in the travel industry for years. Could you highlight some of the key factors that have contributed to the company’s success and growth, especially in recent years?

Over the past few years, we have remained committed to pushing forward with our strategy to augment our supply chain, content offerings, and service quality, enabling us to develop new products and use cases. All of these ways empower us to better capture pent-up travel demands and lay a solid foundation for overall long-term growth.

We focus on building an online and mobile-first offering suited to users’ demand and changing consumption habits, particularly generation Z and millennials, who are best positioned to share travel inspiration in the digital age. Our app-first strategy has steadily driven installs growing to more than 6.2 million downloads, and it was named among the Top 10 most downloaded online travel agent apps globally in 2022. As a result, the mobile share of the overall bookings on our platform has exceeded 50%.

On top of products, we also invest in and develop the latest tools to enhance our content marketing offerings, ultimately improving the booking experience for our customers and providing diverse growth opportunities for our partners. For example, in March 2020, we launched the “BOSS Live” series of livestream sessions, an initiative led by our chairman Mr James Liang. Since then, the livestream have generated a cumulative transaction volume of more than USD 1.48 billion and attracted a total audience of over 1 billion global viewers to our platform.

Thirdly, we have constantly invested in AI and technology. In the post-pandemic era, tourism should not be seen as a monolith. And it is key to understand that individual travellers have their own demands and behaviour patterns. They often seek efficient and personalised solutions to plan their trips in today’s fast-paced world. Seeing the potential to drive a wave of disruption and displacement in the industry, we responded with the launch of TripGenie, the AI-generative travel assistant that can interpret demand, answer questions, and directly link the relevant information to the right page, ultimately shortening the booking process.

What trends do you see emerging in the post-pandemic travel landscape, and how is Group adapting to these changes to continue providing exceptional services to travellers?

Tourists are exploring more off-the-beaten-track destinations. Rural tourism is also booming as city dwellers seek natural landscapes and traditional local cultures. Many customers, especially the young, travel for outdoor activities such as camping and music festivals. On our platform, the category of“event ticket+hotel” is one of summer’s most popular products. 

Therefore, to serve the evolving needs of our customers and create value for our partners, we remain focused on diversifying our product and service offerings to match a broader range of use case scenarios. Our high-value package deals offer more than 8,000 high-end hotels with the best value for the price for customers to choose from.

Meanwhile, our lower-tier city penetration strategy in previous years continues to pay off as we enhance our product coverage, pricing, and customer acquisition. Our efforts have been gaining traction with many new customers, successfully expanding our user base.

Secondly, wellness tourism is gaining popularity. An increasing number of travellers are looking for wellness-type vacations to enhance or maintain their physical, mental or spiritual wellbeing. We have also seen trends in consumption behaviour – more travellers like customised travel products and seek higher quality, unique experiences. 

As a result, it’s very important to us to continue to invest in content marketing. We have upgraded our curated travel lists, such as Trip.Best, to meet travellers’ evolving needs. We are also continually improving Trip Moments, an immersive UGC platform that connects our traveller community with recommendations, reviews and useful travel information, including popular hacks. The variety of travel platforms helps us connect to an audience looking to break away from traditional travel norms and seek authentic encounters.

As the CEO of the Flight Business Group at, could you share some insights into the current state of the aviation sector and how Group is working with airlines to ensure smooth travel experiences?

According to published data, the global airline industry has already rebounded almost to the same level as 2019. Both overall profit and revenue have surpassed the pre-pandemic levels by a large margin.

The recovery of Asian flight market remains slightly behind, partly because cross-border flights of the Chinese mainland market still needs more time to pick up. The overall outbound flight capacity recovered to about 50% to 60% of 2019 level. And we remain very positive about the future. If we take a look at the demand side –Chinese customers are still very keen on travel. The search volume for China outbound flights has exceeded pre-pandemic level. So, one of the biggest challenges we face right now is to steadily boost supply to keep up with increasing demand. 

As a leading online travel agency, we work closely with airlines, suppliers, GDS and other partners to provide high quality products and great services to our global customers. For example, we source flight contents not only from GDS, but also from airlines directly and consolidators. The diversity of supply chain allows us to provide competitive products for our customers. Also, we collaborate with partners to automate services, which improves customer satisfactions significantly. Group is an official partner of ITB China this year. Could you tell us about the significance of this partnership?

ITB China is a very important platform for the global travel industry. We get to meet our customers, partners, and investors, and also exchange ideas, industry observations, and learnings of local markets. 

This year’s event is particularly meaningful, because it has been four years since we gathered together in China. The industry too, has changed dramatically after the pandemic. 

As one of the largest travel markets in the world, the consumption of Chinese tourists counted for 17% of global outbound travel market before the pandemic. The returning of Chinese tourists in great numbers is expected to be a major catalyst for the recovery and development of global travel markets.

As a global company with deep roots in China, we are very excited to welcome this amazing destination to international travellers and reconnect China with the rest of the world.

Sustainability and responsible travel have become important factors for today’s travellers. How is Group incorporating sustainable practices and eco-friendly options into its services, and what role do you see sustainability playing in the future of the travel industry?

As a travel service provider, we see ourselves as a vital link between supply and demand. This presents us with a unique and profound opportunity to advocate the concept of sustainable travel to our users and partners. 

According to our Sustainable Travel Consumer Report, almost eight in 10 (78.7%) travellers recognise the importance of sustainable travel. The Report also found that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major driver behind increased consumer awareness of their travels’ impact on the planet, with 67.7% of travellers now open to paying more for sustainable options. So, we believe sustainability is very important for travel industry, not only to fulfill the needs of our customers, but also to create a better and greener future for the next generations. 

In 2022, Group announced its long-term goal to build green tourism, covering three key areas, including: working with partners to launch over 10,000 low-carbon travel products; promoting sustainable travel concepts and engaging 100 million travellers in low-carbon practices; and aiming to further reduce carbon emissions across its own operations. We’re also one of the members at the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) global network.

One year after launching our green tourism goals, sustainable travel products have been incorporated into multiple business lines, including, flights, car rentals, and business travel. More than 16 million people have chosen sustainable travel options, with the generation Z exhibiting the highest preference for sustainable products compared to other age groups.’s low-carbon products have stronger commercial value, with the conversion rate of low-carbon flights 15% higher than regular flights.

To better explore Industry Low-Carbon practices and sustainable pathways, Group recently became the first travel company in the Asia-Pacific region to join the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). 

For the next step, our accommodation business line will incorporate its own Low-Carbon Hotel standard. Through quantifiable and verifiable standards, we aim to encourage low-carbon practices among hotels and drive the sustainable development of the tourism industry.

Going forward, Group aims to extend the reach of this model to international hotels in Southeast Asia and beyond. 

What technological innovations is Group embracing to enhance the user experience and stay ahead in a competitive market? Group actively embraces technological development and uses advanced AI-driven services to improve the travel process and overall experience. 

We launched our first AI assistant, TripGen, in February this year. TripGenie is an upgraded version we recently rolled out in July. Unlike traditional conversation-based AI tools, it can interpret text and voice commands and not only answers questions but shortens the booking process – taking users directly to relevant in-app pages, streamlining the journey from inquiry to action and delivering a hassle-free and customised travel experience.

In the post-pandemic era, tourism should not be seen as a homogenous industry. Understanding that individual travellers have their own demands and behaviour patterns is critical. They often seek efficient and personalised solutions to plan their trips in today’s fast-paced world.

So, to fuel the travellers’ passion and fulfil their evolved needs for unique and personalised experiences, we have launched an array of AI-powered tools, including TripGenie. Other tools, such as our AI-empowered curated lists,Trip Best, caters to users’ diverse needs and preferences by capturing real-time information. We hope it will inspire customers and help them select the best experiences from various travel products.

So, we will keep investing in our all-in-one app offering and AI led technology developments. At the same time, we understand that travel is an industry built on a personal touch. This is why we are consistently expanding our customer service reach, so every traveller is looked out for from start-to-end. Group is known for its global reach and diverse portfolio of services. Can you provide some insights into the company’s international expansion strategy and how it aims to cater to the needs of travellers across different regions?

One thing that has worked very successfully for us is bringing attention to various destinations. Since the start of this year, we have hosted our Super World Trip series of livestream sessions in different destinations, including Singapore, Thailand, Korea, and many others. Our team would travel to these destinations and promote the various offerings to our customers in China. Through our collaborations with our partners in these destinations, including the tourism boards, we have achieved great success and millions in terms of GMV. 

Additionally, with global travel momentum on the rise, we continue to fortify our supply chain and strengthen our synergy among business units, while remaining focused on strengthening our brand on global markets. We have successfully captured a substantial increase in market share in key areas such as Hong Kong, Korea and Southeast Asia, and will continue to scale up tactical investment in these top markets. The DAU of our global OTA platform has also showed a strong upward trend and has hit new record highs. 

We believe the widening reach for our global OTA platform will also help strengthen our visibility among international travellers, and gain traction with potential inbound travellers, empowering us to exploit the potential of the untapped inbound market.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Changing travel trends: Group has observed a shift in travel habits, with tourists preferring smaller groups and unique experiences. Their mobile-first strategy has resulted in over 6.2 million app downloads.
  2. Sustainability commitment: The company’s green tourism initiatives, launched in 2022, focus on low-carbon travel products. Over 16 million travellers have chosen sustainable options, with Gen Z showing the highest preference.
  3. Global expansion: Group continues to strengthen its brand on global markets, capturing significant market share in regions like Hong Kong, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Their participation in ITB China emphasises the importance of reconnecting in the post-pandemic era.

Spotlight on Yudong Tan

Yudong Tan, the dynamic CEO of the Flight Business Group at Group, has been instrumental in steering the company’s aviation sector to new heights. Beginning his journey with Ctrip in 2014 as a director of engineering, he quickly ascended the ranks, becoming the CTO in 2016 and COO in 2019. By 2021, he had taken the helm as CEO. Prior to his tenure at Ctrip, Mr Tan spent a decade in the tech world, working with industry giants like Microsoft, Yelp, and Nvidia in the US. He holds a PhD in Computer Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Navigating the future with Group
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