Travelabs Insights: April 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
Is Asia the next battleground for tours and activities sector? There is exactly where some of the biggest developments in tours and activities have been happening pushed by the rising demand for traveling and overseas experiences among Asian middle-class.

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Following the economic growth, investments in the travel industry are booming to address the demands of Asian travelers eager to spend their growing earnings on new experiences, as observed in the Klook's total funding overcoming $500 million.

And why Asia is relevant for startups? The answer is on the young Asian travelers that break any stereotype of a group travel package. Young Asians prefer to travel independently, to plan and book their trips online.

MakeMyTrip from India, Klook from Hong Kong, Traveloka from Indonesia, KKDay from Taiwan, LokaLocal from Malaysia, MyRealTrip from South Korea, Xplore from Singapore, the WeChat and AliPay expanding all over the world by the flow of Chinese travelers. Just some examples of how the Asian markets have impacted the travel tech industry.

But how to get into the Asian markets? Since Asia translates to multiple markets divided by countries, languages, religion, ethnic groups, and more, foreign companies struggle to understand the local markets and on how to adapt their contents to Asian travelers, as shown by the success of Traveloka in Southeast Asia.

Another region to pay attention is the Middle East, and when it comes to startups, the outlier in this region is Israel, home to a thriving tech startup scene. A travel tech community is being organized by Israel Travel Tech Startups (ITTS), and the country is a big global player for investments, technology, and R&D., for example, has opened in 2018 a development center in Tel Aviv.

In the Arab world, Uber's acquisition of Dubai-based ride-hailing Careem has helped to open the eyes of investors, as well as local governments, to the possibility of successful exits. As the majority of search and booking still takes place offline, there are opportunities for modernization across every sector from airs and accommodations to tours and activities: payment platforms, mobile booking interfaces, back-end systems, personalized travel.

Another interesting example is Iran, where local startups thrive on domestic travel market for transportation, hotels, and tours and activities in the middle of the political restrictions Iranian travelers face for overseas vacations. Ideas like the Tourist Card by IranbyBit propose to make possible foreign travelers in Iran using banking services, solving the pain of carrying only cash. In Pakistan, the startup FindMyAdventure is offering booking tours, accommodations, and activities for travelers visiting the country; and was highlighted in March's newsletter for a six-figure US dollar funding.

Tours & Activities

Traveloka has consolidated as one of the big names in tours and activities in Asia, and transportation app Grab is expanding to the travel industry.

Southeast Asia's OTA Traveloka has introduced tours and activities on its platform including food, beauty, spas, and movies. Lifestyle offerings sound the big trend in Southeast Asia's travel industry.

Grab data from 2018 shows that Singapore residents are the most well-traveled in Southeast Asia, Four out of 10 overseas Grab bookings were made by users from Singapore.

Can Google Maps become a do-it-all restaurant app? As Google shows a loud interest in restaurants, the app could be on its way to become a one-stop shop for consumers online interaction with restaurants, and other services.

Hospitality Industry and Transportation

Marriot and Expedia advanced on the partnership, GuestReady is becoming Europe's largest vacation rental management company, and Uber's dominance in airport services bringing up insecurities for competitors.

Marriot and Expedia Group have signed a new multi-year deal that gives the hotel and its owners more control over their distribution relationship with the OTA. The deal positions both companies as more of a partner while leveraging Expedia as a tech solution provider for Marriot distributing room rates and inventory.

Vacation-rental management GuestReady is acquiring Paris-based home-sharing company BnbLord to become Europe's largest provider of services to property owners, agents, and developers.

Airbnb is getting into the TV game, looking into building its own TV studio to produce short films, documentaries, and shows to promote travel so as its platform. Given the regulatory environment on short-term rentals, it makes sense Airbnb grow large enough to become part of the traditional travel industry.

Fears about Uber's dominance in airport service are overblown since the airport market is growing for the company, 15% of Uber's ridesharing gross bookings from trips that drivers either started or completed at an airport.

Startups, funding, and investments

GetYourGuide and Klook have raised funding again, as Tripoto surfing the wave of the booming travel segment in India.
For travel startups with a product in the market and with early funding, navigating the investment landscape is challenging. While founding team and potential of an idea to go big might seem obvious, startups need to understand the motivations of the investors, and the customer segements in travel as the difficulty to convert them.

Aiming to bring hotels closer to new-age business ideas, the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels (HCH) presented its initiative named CapsuleT, the first travel hospitality accelerator in Greece to accelerate the launch of tourism startups.

The Delhi-based online global community of travelers Tripoto has raised $3.6 million in funding to scale up the community and marketplace while travel segment in India is booming.

Klook has raised $225 million and aims to deepen its investments in Japan for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

GetYourGuide has raised $175.5 million in funding, challenging conventional wisdom on how tours and activities acquire customers, drive their margins, and manage inventories.

Eight Indian startups have been chosen for the first group under Sequoia India's accelerator program Surge, including travel startups.


On 15-16 May, Phocuswright Europe takes place in Amsterdam. The event will set the stage on the online travel market, travel tech and innovation in the European market.

EyeforTravel's Digital Strategy Summit happens in London on May 21-22. A conference and exhibition gathering leaders from hotels, airlines, OTAs and tour operators, and case studies using digital technologies.

Voyager HQ Disruption Summit, happens in New York, on May 22. The event is dedicated for leaders and technologists in the travel industry.

With lots of love, yours truly,
Valentin Dombrovsky, Chief Alchemist at Travelabs, Andre Fernandes and Travel Tech Newsletter Team

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Valentin Dombrovsky
Chief Alchemist