Qunar Fueled By Chinese Wealth

Tickers in this article: BIDU QUNR

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With the rich getting richer in China and the middle class still in rapid expansion mode, rising disposable incomes in the country is affording Chinese travelers the ability to embark on more and more unique travel adventures than ever.

Beijing-based e-commerce travel site Qunar has managed to work itself into a strong position of being able to serve these travelers by giving them the tools they need to research, explore and buy highly customized travel experiences through the convenience of the web and mobile devices.

A record 168 billionaires made it to Forbes' China Rich List this year, up from 113 last year. According to Bloomberg, China's per-capita disposable income has accelerated four-fold since 2000.

Even with strong travel demand in China, the overall infrastructure of the Chinese travel industry remains surprisingly underserved and disjointed. The total market is divided between state-owned companies, offline agencies and a number of online services. In the U.S., consumers can easily choose between a vast number of online travel services sites to pull up all the comprehensive bookings information they need with a quick search of the Internet. Such an option still isn't as prevalent in China, despite the country having already exceeded the U.S. on the population of web and mobile phone users.

Qunar has recognized this services gap, and as a strong strategic ally of China's second-largest Internet company Baidu , which holds 58.8% of Qunar's voting power, has been building up its online travel services business since 2005. The company aggregates and processes highly fragmented travel product information from tens of thousands of travel service providers into an organized and user-friendly display through its proprietary technology. It ranked number one among all non-state-owned online travel companies in China based on monthly unique visitors since 2010, according to Internet consultant iResearch. According to Nielsen, Qunar was the most visited travel website in China as of June 2012.

The company, which has drawn comparisons with Priceline.com -owned Kayak, has seen revenues increase to RMB 501.7 million ($81.7 million) in 2012, up from RMB 123.9 million in 2010, as the online travel market in China grew at a compound annual growth rate of 36.9% in the 2008 to 2012 period. Qunar's active web users grew to 29.7 million in 2012 from 12.6 million in 2010, and active mobile user ship increased to 10.4 million in 2012 from 80,000 in 2010. Active web user and active mobile user figures stood at 31.4 million and 17.6 million, respectively for the 12-month period ended June 30. The company estimates that as of June 30, there were more than 100 million downloads of its mobile apps.

Qunar, which means "Where to go" in Mandarin Chinese, went public on the Nasdaq last week to help fuel investments into Qunar's technology, infrastructure, and services. In reflection of the robust confidence in Qunar's business proposition, shares soared by as much as 133% to an intraday high of $34.99. The company had priced about 11.1 million American depositary shares at $15 a share the evening before, above the expected range of $12 to $14.