US$179 billion. That’s how much the online travel booking industry was worth last year. That’s set to expand to US$288 billion by 2021.
Amid all that growth, travel startups are finding their niches, where they can avoid being massacred by the Expedias and Kayaks of this world.
Eric Gnock Fah started Klook in early 2014 to focus on the bits not covered by all the flight, hotel, and rental-booking sites – the actual fun part of the holiday. Like activities and days out – amusement park tickets, guided tours, a day of skydiving.
Today the Hong Kong-based startup is announcing its biggest ever round of funding – a US$60 million series C investment co-led by Goldman Sachs and existing investors Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners. That’s on top of the US$37 million it has raised since launching.
“We will use the fund to accelerate our global expansion for inbound and outbound Asia travel,” Fah tells Tech in Asia.
Eyeing US, Europe
“We’ve rapidly established offices across all key Southeast Asian markets: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Singapore, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur,” says Fah, explaining how they spent part of the last investment in March. “We’ve also added Vietnamese and Thai local languages on our platform with bahasa Indonesia to follow later this month”
Klook connects with tour and activity providers around the world, giving holidaymakers an easy way to see what’s available in their locale. Covering more than 30,000 travel activities in over 120 destinations, it sees 1 million monthly bookings from around 50 countries, with most of its users in Asia. The startup now has 400 staffers – double its headcount at the start of the year.
The co-founder and COO is leading the company’s expansion with 13 offices across the continent. He’s also establishing new bases in the US and Europe, which will become operational early next year. Goldman Sachs will play a role in guiding this expansion to Western markets.
“We expect to see growing demand with major international events attracting travelers worldwide to Asia, including the 2018 Winter Olympics held in Korea and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” Fah adds.
Even well ahead of the next Summer Olympics, the startup sees that Japan’s sun is rising. “Hong Kong and Taiwan travelers have always been very fond of visiting Japan – but we are seeing inbound Japan growth picking up from mainland China and many Southeast Asian countries, despite language remaining a major inconvenience,” explains Fah.
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