Online travel broker Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) has bought Renren’s investment in a leading Chinese travel site for $72.4 million to accelerate its expansion in the region.

Renren, China’s leading social networking site, will continue to work on a number of joint initiatives with the travel company, called eLong (NASDAQ:LONG).

“Our early investment in eLong helped us build mutually beneficial commercial ties as well as generate strong returns for our shareholders,” Renren CEO Joseph Chen said in a joint statement released on Monday.

ELong provides travel planning and hotel and flight booking, similar to Expedia.

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the investment is essential because China is seen as a “key market” in its efforts to expand globally.

Shares of eLong were up more than 12% on Monday. 

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton