Amy Wei, group general manager of international train ticketing at Ctrip’s trip.com, told tnooz that the long-term vision for the app is as a one-stop shop for global rail bookings, allowing users in any geography the chance to book rail anywhere in the world.
She said that Ctrip decided to debut the app in the UK “because it is the most complicated rail market in the world.”
It is available on Android and iOS
The back-end for the app is Evolvi, which provides inventory, availability and fares for TrainPal. Evolvi feeds into Ctrip’s “centralized platform for all our rail partners.” Evolvi currently powers the UK rail offer across Ctrip’s other points of sale.
The consumer proposition is that TrainPal is able to find the cheapest fares for users, and one way of doing this is by “split ticketing.” Wei said that TrainPal is the only consumer-facing brand to offer split tickets as e-tickets. She also mentioned no booking fees and the fact that there will be a very strong customer service component to the app.
“Ctrip is very dedicated to customer service across all its brands and in all markets. We set up a call centre in Edinburgh as part of our network and this will serve our UK TrainPal users.”
Wei is also looking at the long game in terms of customer acquisition, and is not currently planning any big above-the-line campaigns. “We soft-launched TrainPal a few months ago and we’ve got some great comments on the app stores, people like it. We think that the best product will speak for itself – and we’re investing in building a best in class tool rather than just buying users.”
The project came out of Ctrip’s in-house innovation programme, which came to light at the start of 2015. Baby Tigers are discrete business units within Ctrip, which have their own teams and balance sheets. The idea is to allow new ideas – such as TrainPal – to grow in a structured way, with discipline around the financials so that when they come to market the business case has been validated.
Wei said that TrainPal was one of the first international baby tigers. While the app is currently UK based, the long-term plan is to launch in other markets leveraging the rail inventory providers hosted within Ctrip’s centralised platform.
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