Skyscanner swoops for Youbibi to take on Baidu in China

Flight search company Skyscanner aims to challenge Baidu, the dominant Chinese web search engine, with the acquisition of Youbibi, a local domestic travel price comparison start-up.

The deal will see Youbibi’s 20-strong team, based in Shenzen, come under the control of Skyscanner’s existing Chinese operation in Beijing, The Telegraph reported.

Edinbugh-based Skyscanner said the acquisition will provide mostly expertise in product development and domestic travel.

Youbibi’s search receives only 100,000 visitors per month, roughly a tenth of Skyscanner’s Chinese website.

Gareth Williams, Skyscanner’s Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Since we established our China team in 2012, the number of visitors to our site and apps across the country has grown tenfold, yet we’re still only at the start of the growth opportunity we see here.

“This acquisition brings the best of both worlds with Skyscanner’s international coverage and Youbibi’s domestic travel search and intimate knowledge of the Chinese traveller.

“The acquisition takes us from being a strong international travel specialist in China to a truly global travel service provider for Chinese nationals, domestically and internationally.

“We have been incredibly impressed by the talented team at Youbibi. They share our dedication to both mobile and web innovation and we have some exciting plans for how we can develop products that make the travel planning journey even easier for travellers in China and further afield.”

Youbibi Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Steven Pang, added: “We built our website and app with the goal of making it as easy as possible for travellers across China to find their ideal holiday.

“We are proud of the technology that we have developed and, by bringing this together on our platform with Skyscanner’s global flight expertise, we believe we can create a really exciting travel search tool for all Chinese travellers.

“Our team is thrilled to become a part of Skyscanner and join their global travel journey.”

Andy Sleigh, Skyscanner’s general manager for Asia, said: “It’s primarily and engineering workforce. Our team in Beijing is primarily a sales and marketing workforce.”

Skyscanner declined to disclose the financial terms of the acquisition. Like Skyscanner, Youbibi specialises in ‘metasearch’, or searching comparison sites.

It is focused on the Chinese domestic tourism market, which the central government last year said it would make a development priority over the next seven years. Chinese travellers will spend $75 billion online in 2017, according to estimates by iResearch.

Skyscanner established its Beijing operation in 2012 via a deal with Baidu, which controls about four fifths of the Chinese web search market. The British company provides Baidu with international flight price comparison data.

Its push into the domestic market with Youbibi will put it in direct competition with Qunar, Baidu’s own domestic travel search tool, the newspaper reported.

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