Luo Jun, founder of China’s answer to Airbnb, Tujia, has stepped down from his CEO role at the Ctrip-backed company, although he will continue to act as a director of the company he co-founded in 2011.
Luo was replaced at the helm of the $1.5 billion online vacation rental platform by Tujia’s COO, Yang Changle, with immediate effect, according to an internal memo penned by Ctrip chairman James Liang on February 26th. The online travel service provider is a major shareholder and partner of Tujia.
The deposed founder will be staying on with Tujia as the CEO of Sweetome, the company’s offline property management spinoff.
Change of Command at a Mainland Unicorn
Liang wrote in the memo this week that, “on behalf of the board of directors, I sincerely thank Luo Jun for his great contribution in Tujia since its founding. I also congratulate Yang Changle on his promotion.”
According to public information, Yang joined the Chinese travel site Qunar.com in 2010 and subsequently held a number of senior positions with the travel platform. Qunar.com ended a long period of rivalry with Ctrip in 2015 by agreeing to a share swap and business alliance, which brought the smaller firm under the control of China’s online travel pioneer.
In October 2016, when Tujia was losing money, Yang was appointed as the company’s COO and within one year, the vacation rental platform’s business had grown five-folds — an improvement widely attributed to Yang’s leadership. In late 2017, Tujia, often dubbed the Airbnb of China, completed a $300 million Ctrip-led series E fund raising at a valuation of over $1.5 billion.
Reaching 1.2M Listings in 2018
Tujia’s booking volume grew further in 2018 as it reached more than 1.2 million online listings around the world. The company said its daily room nights reached 160,000 last year, the highest in China’s short-term property rental sector.
According to the local media, Luo Jun and Tujia’s founding team have not been involved in the company’s online business for some time as the founder and serial entrepreneur switched his focus to Sweetome.
In October 2016, at the same time Yang joined the company as COO, Tujia.com entered into a strategic agreement with Ctrip and Qunar to acquire their homestay businesses.
Through this acquisition, the homestay channels of both Ctrip and Qunar’s websites and apps, along with their operation teams and the entire business, would be merged into Tujia.
Ctrip has long had strong ties to Tujia with the two companies having agreed to a strategic partnership which was announced just one week after Tujia’s launch on December 1, 2011.
The online travel service giant took part in almost every round of fund raising for Tujia since then including in 2017 leading a consortium which invested $300 million in the vacation home platform at a $1.5 billion valuation.
Developing a Property Management Division
A year before the Tujia-Ctrip-Qunar partnership, Tujia’s then four-year old Sweetome division was officially separated from Tujia to develop the company’s offline property management business. The group, headed by Luo Jun, said on its website that it currently manages more than 40,000 apartments and villas in over 200 destinations in China.
Since 2018, the company has also sped up its international expansion effort with its rental management services being operated in the USA, Greece, Australia and Cambodia.
In March 2018, Sweetome announced that it has attracted China Poly Group as a strategic investor in its latest round of fund raising, which was conducted independently of Tujia. Sweethome, however, did not reveal the exact amount Poly has agreed to invest.