When Melissa Yang cofounded Tujia, in 2011, her business inspiration was undeniable. Airbnb had been established three years earlier and had revolutionized the online marketplace for vacation rentals. But the company would not enter China until 2016.
Tujia was ready to step in. Over the past nine years the company has become the dominant player in the market with an estimated 60% share. Even today Airbnb has only a fraction of Tujia’s business in the county.
But while Airbnb may have been an inspiration for Tujia, Yang is adamant that the business model is entirely different because of the huge differences between travelers in China and the US.
In the beginning, Tujia curated and managed all its properties, guaranteeing the consistent service quality Chinese tourists were looking for. Only later, once the platform had built trust and credibility, were privately owned and run rentals added.
For future growth, Yang is not only targeting the domestic market. Tujia says it plans to triple bookings for outbound travelers on the website over the next three years. The company has said it will expand its listings in Japan, South Korea, and Thailand.
“We all have curiosity about the world,” Yang tells Business Insider. “By experiencing different places and cultures, traveling helps us get connected with more empathy and creativity. We end up enjoying more freedom physically and spiritually, especially in the current isolated circumstance.”