In Ctrip’s seemingly unending quest to be the indispensable travel app for virtually every kind of traveler, the company recently revealed the 2018 version of what has been dubbed its “Michelin style” travel food guide. Ctrip’s “Gourmet List” has been around since 2016, but made its international debut when the 2018 list recently launched in Thailand. It’s hard to gauge the success of the project since its inception, although Ctrip notes that ratings for 15,000 restaurants in 120 destinations around the world are available on the platform. By the end of the year, Ctrip plans on having eatery ratings for 150 destinations.

Ctrip’s Gourmet List plans to have restaurant information for 150 destinations by the end of the year

While comparisons to Michelin are common when it comes to Ctrip’s Gourmet List, it’s clear that it will never be able to fully complete with the authoritative reputation of Michelin. Of course, that’s also not the point. The point of the list is seemingly less about making Ctrip a global authoritative food rating resource, but rather making it authoritative for mainstream Chinese tourists. The list has a much larger variety of restaurants, not all of them necessarily carry the price tag associated with “gourmet dining.”

Indeed, Ctrip has made it clear that the list’s purpose is appealing to the culinary tastes of virtually every type of Chinese traveler. Becoming a competitor with Michelin for being a global food authority is not on the table, and comparisons between the two are clearly more than a little overblown.

Much like the Ctrip app itself, Gourmet List is designed to appeal to virtually every kind of Chinese tourist

This is something Gourmet List CEO Kimi Liu was quick to point out in a recent interview with Travel Daily Media. When Liu was asked if the comparison to Michelin was appropriate, he responded by saying, “Not exactly. We try to cater for all different levels and Ctrip Gourmet List is divided into three different segments: Ctrip Stars, which is more like Michelin and is focused on fine dining restaurants; Ctrip Select, which looks at affordable but still high quality eateries; and Ctrip Flavour which features regional, less well known locations serving authentic regional food.”

Ctrip has also partnered its Gourmet List with Booking Holdings’ OpenTable to drive restaurant bookings through its platform. While this route may prove lucrative for Ctrip, it’s not clear if the primary goals of the platform are in fact revenue-oriented. Arguably, the main benchmarks of success for the list likely have more to do with rates of usage rather than sales. With competition from other online travel agencies (OTAs) for sales and other digital platforms competing for the attention of Chinese travelers, making Ctrip’s digital travel ecosystem useful at every step of a trip is still paramount.

The eatery rating platform is just another way Ctrip is trying to make its platform part of every segment of a trip for Chinese tourists, from planning and booking to the trip itself

Many of the Ctrip app’s most ambitious features have very little with driving sales. Ctrip’s VTM platform, for example, is focused on turning Ctrip into a travel guide for solo and groups of independent travelers, a digital emergency assistant, and social networking platform for travelers as well. These features help ensure that users are less likely to stray from the Ctrip ecosystem for social travel, information, or booking tickets and rooms.


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