Casey, Bossert join China travel venture
The group aims to profit from expected growth in the China travel market
THE former chief executive of Hawaiian Airlines is teaming with a former state technology development chief, a former China hotel industry executive and a local venture investor to create a company aimed at capitalizing on travel to and from China.
Paul Casey, former chief executive of Hawaiian Airlines and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, will act as interim chief executive of the fledgling Yoee US Inc., which aims to position itself as the Expedia.com of China travel.
Yoee US' co-founders are Philip Bossert, former chief executive of the Hawaii High Technology Development Corp., and Liwei Kimura, a native of Beijing who was Starwood Hotels & Resorts' first business development specialist in China. Bossert will act as Yoee US's chief operating officer; Kimura as executive vice president.
Yoee US executives plan to meet next week with potential investors in Silicon Valley, said Barry Weinman, a principal of DragonBridge Capital LLC, a Honolulu merchant bank established to help finance Chinese companies. The company is seeking to raise $6 million in its first round of financing.
"We'll have an indication of whether this is going to be hard or easy next Friday," Weinman said.
Yoee is seeking to exploit a market poised for explosive growth.
The company is a joint venture of two firms: Yoee.com, which is a provider of online air-ticket booking services in China, and Panda Group, a Hawaii-based travel agency that focuses mainly on Hawaii, Las Vegas and the West Coast. By joining the assets of the two companies, Yoee US hopes to create "a seamless online inquiry and booking experience for any type of China inbound and outbound travel," according to a description on DragonBridge's Web site.
An executive summary of Yoee's business plan highlights the opportunities the company sees in China.
"The travel services industry in China is fragmented, lacks standards and is still at a nascent stage of development," the summary says. "For most travel agents in the U.S., organizing individual or group travel to China is a complex and time-consuming process. This is particularly true when such travel involves multiple international and domestic segments."
Yoee.com now serves domestic travelers in China and limited international travelers, primarily to and from Hong Kong and Japan, Weinman said. One service missing, he said, is one that provides links for travelers wanting to fly into China gateway cities, such as Beijing, and then on to a smaller city. With China preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, demand for such services will mushroom in the next several years, Weinman said.
Meanwhile, outbound travel from China also is expected to surge. By 2010, Weinman said, the number of outbound trips from China is projected to reach 100 million, Weinman said.
"That's why this could be a very big company," he said.