China's largest online travel agent, Ctrip.com, is partnering with software giant Microsoft Corp. to cash in on the country's growing class of young and affluent consumers looking to splash out on travel.

Shanghai-based Ctrip said it had signed an agreement to become strategic partner with Microsoft's MSN China Web site (www.msn.com.cn), allowing the Chinese travel agent to tap over 20 million MSN Messenger users in China.

MSN is Microsoft's Web portal, and Web users can send messages to each other online via the MSN Messenger instant messaging system, which was rebranded "Windows Live."

Ctrip would help MSN China to build its online travel channel where MSN users and visitors can book hotels, plane tickets and holidays through Internet-based services, Ctrip said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters on Wednesday.

Local visitors to Microsoft's MSN Web site were mainly young, affluent and highly educated professionals, which were also the target customers of Ctrip, it said in the statement.

Source: Reuters