China's second-largest online travel service provider, eLong Inc, is focusing on online marketing to compete with market leader Ctrip.com.

The NASDAQ-listed Chinese firm said it is working closely with US-based giant Expedia, which holds more than half of eLong's shares, to boost the number of transactions made on its website. This, eLong said, will help it reduce the costs of running its 800-person call centre.

In the United States, 30 per cent of users of online services book hotels and rooms on the Web, but in China, only 5 per cent do so. Both eLong and Ctrip need to employ hundreds of operators at call centres to handle orders or answer inquiries, which pushes up costs.

"Internationalization should be the one thing that differentiates us from anyone else in this market," said Richard Xu, chief marketing officer of eLong.

ELong, unlike its rival Ctrip, allows English-language users to book international flights online, rather than having to call.

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