Chinese online travel agency Ctrip has extended its partnership with the Australian Open, which makes it the tennis grand slam’s exclusive online stadium ticket sales provider in China.

The Australian Open and Ctrip, said to be the second largest online travel agency in the world, first joined forces in December 2017, with a one-year extension to the deal signed yesterday (Wednesday).

China is a strategically important market for the Melbourne tournament and organisers have made concerted efforts in recent years to engage with Chinese fans. Thousands of Chinese visitors attended this year’s Australian Open with visitation up 38 per cent from China, and 20 per cent for the wider Asian region.

Tourism Australia statistics outline that a total of 1.4 million Chinese tourists visited Australia over the past 12 months, an increase of 8.8 per cent. For Chinese outbound visitors, 36 per cent had cited sports as one of the reasons for their trip.

Ctrip’s chief executive of destination marketing, Jenna Qian, said: “Tennis has increasingly become popular among the Chinese community, particularly the affluent population that matches Ctrip’s user profile quite well.

“Given the scale of the Ctrip platform, membership and data, we will provide integrated and precise marketing solutions for the tournament, and as a result, bring more Chinese visitors to the Australian Open in 2019.”

The Australian Open has also been courting the Chinese sponsorship market and yesterday signed bedding company DeRUCCI as its new official home furniture and bedding partner.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said: “China has 330 million tennis fans; there are 220 million Australian Open fans in China; 14 million regular tennis players and 30,000 tennis courts – a number that’s increasing all the time.

“With a forecast for Chinese tourism numbers to hit four million a year within 10 years, representing a quarter of Australia’s inbound tourism market, it’s a natural fit for the Australian Open to focus on the travel industry, and make it as easy as possible for fans to buy tickets and access events for years to come.”

Image: Elizabeth Bai/Tennis Australia