Tencent leads US$250 million round in Chinese travel site Mafengwo

Tencent is pouring a quarter of a billion dollars into Mafengwo. (Bloomberg pic)

HONG KONG: Tencent Holdings Ltd is leading a US$250 million investment in Chinese travel site Mafengwo, expanding its footprint in a fast-growing online travel and content sphere.

The Beijing-based company also attracted General Atlantic and Qiming Venture Partners to its latest funding round, Mafengwo said in a statement.

Nine-year-old Mafengwo – which means “hornets’ nest” – helps Chinese travellers seeking destination and sight-seeing recommendations from fellow globetrotters. Operating a model akin to TripAdvisor, it’s competing for the world’s largest population of tourists, and travel operators who want to reach a fast-growing domestic audience.

China’s online travel industry is expected to grow 18% to 988 billion yuan (US$143 billion) of transactions this year, according to consultancy iResearch. Mafengwo began letting users book hotels via its site in 2015 and has doubled transaction volumes annually over the past four years, it said. This week, the company established a partnership with Hong Kong-listed Tongcheng-Elong Holdings Ltd to build a one-stop service that helps users book hotels and flights faster after reviewing content on Mafengwo’s platform.

Officially known as Beijing Mafengwo Network Technology Co, the company counts Temasek Holdings Pte as a backer and raised US$133 million during its last round of financing in December 2017. The startup plans to use the new funds to develop artificial intelligence technology and improve user recommendations.