Travelabs Insights: March 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
For the first time, ITB Berlin is devoting an international platform for tours & activities technologies, which is the most exciting part for the travelers. What do you remember and tell everyone about your trips? It's more likely to be what you did or ate than the airport, the flight, the train or the hotel room.

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As described in a session during ITB Berlin led by Milena Nikolova, the human brain has two systems for decision-making: one is for the spontaneous ("What will we do tomorrow?") and other for a more considered decision ("Where will we go on holiday?"). Tours & activities need to recognize that travelers mostly decide to purchase on the spontaneous mode and gear up their business accordingly.

For tours & activities, business models require partnerships among tech suppliers, tour operators, sellers, and destinations, bringing for everyone new commercial possibilities. An essential part of partnerships and customer acquisition is where your customers are, being on social media or on offline channels, or even beyond the traditional travel industry.

Following the technology for tours & activities, the travel specialist Peter Syme pointed out from discussions on Arival the growing gap between the most technologically developed tour operators and the rest is getting wider, while there are operators moving into dynamic pricing and yield management, the majority of the industry is still offline. The industry tech landscape is like a mangrove swamp so collaboration is useful to fix the current challenges of tour operators, but where will the industry shaking innovation come from?

Based on a comprehensive survey of European travelers, the report The Arival Guide to Tour & Activity Booking in Europe reveals how changes in technology, marketplace dynamics, and consumer booking patterns are pushing tours and activities operators to move online - ready or not. Some of the main insights from the last Arival event in Berlin is that attractions can lead the distribution debate, as on the case of The Van Gogh Museum. And operators from all over Europe are redefining tours and activities alongside new consumer demands.

Airbnb-HotelTonight Deal

Continuing on tours and experiences, Airbnb has acquired HotelTonight to broaden its range of offerings as a travel platform on all kinds of trips, including last-minute travel experiences as the home-sharing platform has noted that same-day bookings are growing 2x year over year.

This acquisition could accelerate Airbnb's expansion and preparation for an IPO, and an alternative for the short-term regulation battles around the world that threatens its core business. So how much did Airbnb pay to acquire HotelTonight? The deal price was on $400 million, with half in cash and half in stock. While landing the HotelTonight deal, Airbnb is leveraging a potentially rich valuable stock and putting it to work, according to Skift senior research analyst Seth Borko.

One reason Airbnb may want to make more time before it goes public is to sort through its hotel strategy, particularly after the acquisition of HotelTonight. Executives may want to work through a key strategic initiative, without the public glare of an anticipated IPO.


Google expanding for hotels and alternative accommodations, Bing giving sign to buid their own travel guide, Despegar moving to mobile, Klook pushing global growth. March was an exciting month for the OTAs segment.

Google has added a full-fledged destination site for hotels, with potential implications for booking sites and Airbnb, offering now a clear index for prices, reviews, and photos, making the hotel's content stand out more prominently. In some markets, a tab for flights is available, so customers having booked hotels can simply move on to book flights and vice versa.

After revamping its hotel platform, Google has expanded into alternative accommodations and mobile users have the option to book entire lodgings. The rentals encompass whole units such as apartments, villas, cabins, and houses.

Is Bing about to launch its own travel guide to compete with Google? Bing's XML Sitemap includes references accessible on the link

The largest OTA in Latin America Despegar has been riding the trend of mobile transactions investing heavily in its mobile offering to skip the economic crisis in its home market Argentina. Mobile accounted for 36& of all the company's 10.4 million transactions in 2018.

Two new partnerships, one with TUI Group's Musement and the other with Rezdy, underscore the Ctrip's strategy to strengthen its fast-growing international business.

A question that many people in the travel industry have asked: who is winning the direct booking wars? The hotels or the OTAs?

AirAsia is becoming a richer online travel platform and it's increasing efforts to sell additional travel-related services such as hotels, tours, insurance and more to their customers.

TripAdvisor's restaurant reservation subsidiary, TheFork, has acquired South American competitor Restorando, which has a platform with more than 4.5 million annual users.

Indonesia's unicorn Traveloka ventures beyond Southeast Asia for the first time into Australia, with a partnership with Indonesia's tourism ministry.

Klook aims to push global growth to expand offerings for its rapidly growing Asian customer base, which is looking for a greater host of destinations and opportunities. And the company has also invested in bringing Westerners to Asia.

Startups, Funding & Acquisitions

The highlights of March for funding and partnerships on travel tech, including startups from Asia.

TechCrunch notes that the travel industry had in the last five years it has raised more than $1 billion in venture capital funding that includes short-term rental startups, travel and tourism apps, marketplaces for experiences and other travel platforms.

AirAsia announced a partnership with the accelerator and venture capital firm 500 Startups, in conjunction with RedBeatVentures, the company's digital venture arm, to expand their presence in Southeast Asia.

The property management platform for short-term rental Guesty has raised $35 million in a series C round of funding.

The New York City-based travel startup community Voyager HQ acquired ATX Travel Tech, the most popular travel technology meetup group in Austin.

Dutch travel marketplace Withlocals raised €8 million in a Series B funding, aiming to grow in new cities, strengthen its community of local hosts and offer more experiences.

The Vietnamese travel startup Triip is challenging established rivals by offering customers the chance to monetize their personal data with cryptocurrencyrewards by using blockchain technology.

Karachi-based OTA FindMyAdventure has raised seed funding from a Middle East-based investor. The startup claims to be the first Pakistani OTA that enables users to discover, search, compare and book trips, tours, and activities all over Pakistan.

Indian startup Guiddoo has raised an undisclosed amount to expand its footprint in China and to strengthen its operations and product development. Offering in-destination experiences to travelers in 15 destinations, they also want to add new destinations in the Middle East and Africa.

The US-based software Ebix has offered $336 million to acquire Indian startup Yatra Online. The startup provides travel-related services such as air ticketing, hotel booking, rail ticketing, tours and activities, and more services.

Taiwanese Airbnb-like platform AsiaYo will be launching its services in Singapore and Malaysia in the second quarter of 2019.

South Korean OTA Tidesquare has taken an investment of $44.3 million to fend off global OTAs in the home market.


Skift Forum Europe will happen in London on April 30. The event is focused on the top marketers, strategists, and technologists in the travel industry.

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