Jetbay wants to save travelers to China from boring tour packages. Launched by the founders of Wowo (also known as 55Tuan), one of the country’s largest group deals sites, Jetbay offers private itineraries that cover popular destinations, like the Great Wall of China, as well as more obscure places. The Beijing-based startup just grabbed $1.6 million in seed funding led by ChinaRock Capital Management.
Chief operating officer James Tan tells TechCrunch that the founding team behind Wowo, which held an initial public offering on Nasdaq last month decided to tackle inbound travel to China because there are a lot of tourism venues that are being overlooked.
“On the supply side, we saw many merchants that are service-oriented, eager to serve, and through our experience working with them, are able to do so at international standards. There are many attractions beyond the usual Great Wall and Pearl Tower that have not been marketed before, if at all,” says Tan.
“On the demand side, we saw how the same sights ad nauseam were being pushed to promote tourism to China. With macro indicators such as growing economic and cultural links with many countries, we see only increasing interest in visiting this country.”
The platform uses data to figure out where tourists want to go and also offers click-to-book reservations, which Tan says is missing from many travel sites for China. Many of its suppliers are merchants that have already worked with Wowo, while new partners include international distributors for services such as airline bookings.
Jetbay’s seed funding will be used on marketing, to increase the number of venues it works with, and improve its customer relations.
The startup currently focuses on customers in Korea and Japan, the U.S., Southeast Asia, and Europe. In 2014, nearly 130 million foreign tourists visited China, according to the China National Tourism Administration. That number represented a slight decline from the previous year, but visitors are spending more, with foreign currency revenue jumping 10.16 percent over 2013 to $57 billion.
Tan says package tours are just a starting point for Jetbay as it seeks to take advantage of a growing market.
“The travel industry in China is undergoing changes to customer service and marketing that we believe is just beginning. Our competitors offer run of the mill travel packages that simply do not have the breadth of offerings and the depth of quality that we have.”