TravelFlan raising $12m to expand, buys OTA in Beijing, lining up Seoul

Following its Collection A increase of US$7m previous December, Hong Kong-based mostly TravelFlan, a travel and lifestyle AI-digital alternative startup, is in the midst of raising an added US$12m to develop throughout Asia. To date, the business has lifted more than $nine.nine million.

Said Abel Zhao, who  co-established the business in 2016 with Kenneth Lee, “Our new spherical is progressing as prepared in comparison to preceding rounds, the most significant obstacle is that it is complicated to fulfill likely investors deal with-to-deal with.”

Hence much, it has obtained an OTA in Beijing, termed Beijing JuXingZiZai International Travels Ltd, and it is in talks to acquire an OTA in South Korea. “One of the major explanations for our new spherical is to acquire and/or devote in more strategic companions to assistance us to develop faster.”

Questioned if
Beijing and Seoul have been opportunistic acquisitions, he stated,  “Many travel providers, if not all, are
struggling. However very a number of might be going through bankruptcy. Some of them
are our present companions or providers have been accomplishing excellent prior to Covid. As a result,
they are absolutely worthy of conserving.

“In conditions of pricing/business valuation, it depends on a variety of elements to decide a excellent selling price or not. For case in point, the goal OTA in Korea was at first hotel solution targeted in Korea marketplace only. Their business has dropped very a bit because the breakout, we have been encouraging them to discover other distribution channels, new partnerships outside Korea and generate diverse bundled products (hotel+nearby products+dining places) for incremental profits. Other than travel, we are also looking into other likely acquisitions like eCom and logistic companions.”

It is also organizing to open an place of work in Singapore by this September, for business development as very well as property a nearby IT crew to help South-east Asia tasks.

Abel Zhao: “One of the major explanations for our new spherical is to acquire and/or devote in more strategic companions to assistance us to develop faster.”

TravelFlan started
as an OTA but learnt the difficult way how complicated that was in China, and
transitioned to a B2B2C design in 2018. “We have been promoting attraction tickets but
observed it so aggressive. Everyone was seeking to market but nobody was presenting
company. Buyers put in a good deal of time to get ready and investigate, but products
have been not personalised.

“We noticed that providers desired that more than anything at all else and so we begun building our personal AI tech and huge information,” stated Zhao, who employed to get the job done with Amadeus and Travelport. Its concierge chatbot serves as a travel scheduling platform that gives recommendations and activities for buyers. At the finish of 2019, its goal was to serve a total of fifty million customers.

In the course of Covid, it has grow to be much less about travel, more about lifestyle, for noticeable explanations. Its most significant customers have grow to be Samsung in South Korea and China Mobile and its alternative allows these providers market a array of companies and products to their large purchaser foundation.

“Our business design is superapp empowerment. We empower providers to do more with their purchaser foundation – for airlines and accommodations to market other products, for case in point,” stated Zhao. “During this time, it is about enabling them to market non-travel relevant products.”

It is experienced to
make a number of pivots throughout this time. “One of the travel businesses we experienced signed
in Singapore closed down. We signed with seven airlines in South Korea – all
tasks have been set on keep and we experienced to discover a way to keep rolling.”

It signed
up duty free of charge outlets and retail malls and supplied them with e-commerce alternatives
to help them to keep promoting via this time period. It signed up the 2nd
premier coffee chain in South Korea and it is encouraging Samsung market splendor products,
for case in point.

The 5
prime-promoting categories at this time are cosmetics, drinks, coffee, bakeries
and food supply, stated Zhao.

All these
adaptations to the business indicate that, submit-Covid, it will have a substantially wider
array of products to give its companions. “We can hook up accommodations and flights to
duty free of charge centres, and we can distribute their products to wider audiences. This
signifies customers do not require to leap from 1 platform to another, with our
meta-look for function.”

In 2019,
fifty five% of its customers have been from China and 35% from South Korea. It is expecting
will increase from South Korea. This year, it is doing the job with Samsung for its good
fridges to grow to be e-commerce-enabled.

The silver lining in this crisis is that providers have been adopting engineering faster to minimize expenditures and improve efficiencies. And Zhao stated its alternative was not only encouraging huge providers like Samsung or China Mobile but small enterprises as very well.

For small enterprises like ryokans and dining places, for case in point, it does not cost an implementation cost but works by using profits share. For case in point, in Hong Kong, it has connected 60 dining places to a telco business for its nearby cafe promotions. “We are only having a reduce from the telco, not from the dining places.”