Skyscanner to subsidise staff travel to China

Skyscanner to subsidise staff travel to China

Skyscanner staff are being offered subsidised travel to China to come up with ideas on how the online travel search specialist can grow its presence in the country.

Co-founder and chief executive Gareth Williams said the initiative has been well received and he hopes several people will take it up over 2018.

The Edinburgh-based company was founded in 2001 by three friends who were frustrated at by the difficulty in finding the cheapest flights to go skiing.

It was acquired by Ctrip, the Chinese travel company, for $1.7 billion in 2016 and employs more than 900 people in the UK, Europe, the US and Asia.

The apps and website are used by more than 60 million people a month searching for flights, airport transfers and hotels.

Williams said one attraction of the Ctrip deal was that it allowed Skyscanner to stay autonomous but have access to greater resources to grow.

“I think staff would say the acquisition has helped us move faster as a business and has helped them do similarly in their role, whether that’s through resource, talent or knowledge sharing,” he told The Times. “It’s also proved an opportunity for learning and greater understanding of the unique Chinese travel market.

“We’re encouraging our staff to visit China in 2018, subsidised by Skyscanner, and come back with ideas for our product. This had a great reception.”

The amount of subsidy will be arranged with staff keen on taking a trip.

Skyscanner has had a presence in China since 2012 when it opened an office in Beijing and had a partnership with Baidu, the search engine. In 2014 it acquired Youbibi, a travel search engine firm based in Shenzhen.

Williams believes there is potential in China as the country’s expanding middle class becomes more interested in and able to afford overseas travel.

The company does not reveal its user numbers for countries but said that China grew 67% in 2015, the last year for which it provided a breakdown.

“The challenge of making something complex like travel search simple is a problem yet to be solved,” he said. “For me, there’s great motivation in that. Skyscanner’s journey has a very long way to go yet.”

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