Marriott launches a new Chinese online storefront – but still lacks direct booking feature on its own website

Cina Giorno Otto – Shanghai The Bund by Dorli Photography – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In a previous blog post, we reviewed how after the January 2018 incident in which Marriott sent out a customer survey listing Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau as countries separate from China, Marriott complied with a Chinese government request to shut down its Chinese websites and apps. We have also tracked in a separate post the status of Marriott’s Chinese language webpage since the January shutdown.

Marriott’s website directed to a maintenance message on 1/30/18 (archived screenshot via Internet Archive)

Although Marriott’s Chinese website (marriott.com.cn) was restored by March, the restored website did not offer a search bar to search for hotel availability, unlike the original version of the site.

On April 18th, 2018, China Daily reported that the joint-venture formed by Marriott and Alibaba, which will be responsible for Marriott’s Chinese-language website, app, and Fliggy storefront (see our post on the Marriott Alibaba deal), planned to launch an exclusive booking portal online in the following week.[1] One week later, on April 27th, 2018, Marriott announced the redesign of Marriott’s Fliggy storefront, marriottcn.fliggy.com.[2]

Marriott’s Fliggy’s storefront was previously under the address marriott.fliggy.com.[3] A search on the Internet Archive shows that marriott.fliggy.com was offline in the aftermath of the January incident, redirecting visitors to an error page on Taobao.com (Taobao is one of Alibaba’s shopping websites).[4] The relaunch of Marriott’s Fliggy storefront came only a week before Marriott’s annual shareholder meeting on May 4th.[5]

Marriott’s former Fliggy storefront unavailable on 3/16/18 (archived by Wayback Machine)[6]

Marriott’s own Chinese-language website does not have a direct booking feature: Chinese customers visiting the site looking to book a hotel room must click on a ‘reservation’ page, which forwards visitors to Marriott’s smartphone app, Fliggy storefront, and English-language international website.[7]

According to Arne Sorenson, the company is seeking to lower the commissions it pays to online travel agencies, starting with Expedia.[8] Yet Marriott’s official Chinese webpage still does not have its own direct-booking portal. Investors of Marriott might want to ask:

  • As Marriott seeks to cut the commission fees to online agencies, what will happen to its relationship with Alibaba? (We will explore this in our future discussion of the Ctrip partnership.)
  • Does this new Fliggy storefront signal that Alibaba has begun – or is on its way towards – taking over Marriott’s Chinese-language websites and app, as CCO Stephanie Linnartz said would eventually happen? [9]

 

[1] China Daily (2018, April 18th), Marriott, Alibaba to launch new booking portal, retrieved April 30th, 2018, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201804/18/WS5ad6a8f1a3105cdcf6518fee.html

[2] Marriott Interntional (2018, April 27th), Marriott International Elevates Travel Experience For Chinese Consumers With Enhanced Mobile Functionality And Global Wallet-Free Travel, retrieved April 30th, 2018, http://news.marriott.com/2018/04/marriott-international-elevates-travel-experience-for-chinese-consumers-with-enhanced-mobile-functionality-and-global-wallet-free-travel/

[3] Wayback Machine, August 13th, 2017 Snapshot: marriott.fliggy.com, retrieved April 30th, 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20170813070528/marriott.fliggy.com/

[4] Wayback Machine, March 16, 2018 Snapshot: marriott.fliggy.com, retrieved April 30th, 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20180316121612/marriott.fliggy.com/

[5] Annual Meeting, Marriott Investor Relations, retrieved 4/30/18. https://marriott.gcs-web.com/annual-meeting

[6] Wayback Machine, March 16, 2018 Snapshot: marriott.fliggy.com, retrieved April 30th, 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20180316121612/marriott.fliggy.com/

[7] Marriott International, retrieved April 30th, 2018, http://www.marriott.com.cn/reservation.html

[8] Reuters (2018, April 3rd), Marriott aims to cut commissions for online agencies: CEO, retrieved April 30th, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-marriott-intnl-india-onlinetravel/marriott-aims-to-cut-commissions-for-online-agencies-ceo-idUSKCN1HA1U3

[9] Reuters (2017, August 7th), Marriott set to woo Chinese tourists with Alibaba deal, retrieved April 17th, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-marriott-intnl-alibaba/marriott-set-to-woo-chinese-tourists-with-alibaba-deal-idUSKBN1AN1JN