The company behind a travel booking platform has accused Trip.com of exerting monopolistic control of web-based travel services. In a WeChat post published on September 29, hotel reservation portal Zhoumo Jiudian (“Weekend Hotel”) said that it has received notifications from multiple hotels that they will remove their listings from the platform. The hotels specifically cited possible penalties levied by Trip.com as their motivation to abandon Zhoumo Jiudian.
Specifically, the hotels claimed that Trip.com may revoke the hotels’ special status or limit traffic to their listings if they do not delete their accounts on other travel booking platforms.
This development took place ahead of the Golden Week, a seven-day public holiday that marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China. During this period, domestic tourism typically spikes. However, this year’s travel numbers are unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels, given restrictions in some provinces due to COVID-19 and ongoing power cuts.
Trip.com issued a statement to say the situation was a “misunderstanding.” Zhoumo Jiudian then indicated that hotels have been delisting from its site since March, with many saying that they were under pressure from Trip.com to leave other bookings portals. Zhoumo Jiudian then said it holds “large quantities of evidence” to back up its claims.
Since April, major tech companies have been warned to heed antitrust laws and avoid monopolistic behaviors. The warning in April was specifically for 34 companies and followed a USD 2.8 billion fine for Alibaba. The companies were given a month to remedy their business practices.
Zhoumo Jiudian’s claim that Trip.com forces hotels off competitors’ sites invoked a term that is used to describe similar situations in other contexts, “choose one from two.” Two of the most high-profile companies that perpetuated this practice were Alibaba and Meituan. Aside from Alibaba’s hefty financial penalty, Meituan was also being investigated for antitrust practices and may face a USD 1 billion fine.
This monopolistic strategy has been a particular focus of Chinese regulators, which seek to eliminate it completely.