Travel News and Trends Headlines Update on December 19, 2021

Mews just announced that Salesforce Ventures has made a strategic investment and that they will be expanding in Europe and in the US, increasing their headcount by over 90% in 2022. Well, I guess it’s safe to say that Mews has big ambitions for next year.

Norse Atlantic Airways is definitely building up some momentum about their official take-off in the first semester of 2022. Forbes put together an article with “what we know so far” about the Norwegian startup and we are curious to see how things unfold for them.

The airport-shopping experience is about to change for travelers with the announcement of a partnership between Servy and Inflyter. Their platform will showcase all retailers, brands and products available at the airport, letting travelers browse all offers even before starting to get to the airport.

Emerging from the pandemic, Virgin Atlantic’s owners strengthen the company’s financial position with an investment of more than 460 million euros. The big investment has been funded by Virgin Group and Delta Air Lines, which retain their 51% and 49% stakes in the company, respectively.

Can you imagine booking an electric vehicle that is delivered to the pick-up location by a driver steering the car remotely? Genau. This is what Vay, the German mobility startup, aims to launch with the $95 million investment they just raised.

Easol has raised $25 million to continue building their one-stop shop for experiences organizers. The innovative company has built event and experiences software that third-party companies can use to market and sell bookings.

The all-in-one hotel operations platform Life House announced raising $60 million. Through their solutions, the startup makes back-office easier for hotels and had an impressive growth during the pandemic.

The Mexican startup Casai is expanding in the Brazilian market through the strategic acquisition of Roomin. I guess they really are on their way to establish themselves as a major player in the region. Well done!

Founded in 2018, the Singaporean travel payments startup YouTrip has landed $30 million, which they aim to invest on boosting their tech capabilities – with a special focus on B2B payment solutions.

Interesting findings on this report from IdeaWorks and CarTrawler on six ways COVID has changed the airline industry. And it keeps on changing…

Hotel Engine has just secured $65 million in a Series B round. The startup offers a bookings management for corporate lodging, According to Elia Wallen “this capital infusion will allow us to innovate faster, grow our global network of lodging partners, and add more world-class talent to our team.”

Fundraising rounds

  • Hotel Engine raised a $65 million Series B round at a $1.3 billion valuation, nearly 9x higher than the $150 million valuation it achieved when it raised $16 million in a Series A round in 2019. Hotel Engine provides companies access to better lodging rates as well as tools and insights designed to “optimize their travel programs”.
  • Life House, a boutique hotel operator that builds software aimed at helping independent hotel owners and operators, raised $60 million in a Series C round led by Kayak. Other investors include Tiger Global, Derive Ventures and Thayer Ventures.
  • Convious, an Amsterdam-based startup that offers an AI-driven ecommerce platform to improve attractions guest experience raised a $12 million round.
  • The Australian accommodations booking platform Riparide announced a $4 million capital raise backed by iMacdoch Ventures and Upswell Ventures to help power global expansion.

Should you go solo or get co-founders?

You have a great idea, now how do you realize that idea? You need people to do that with you. Do you get a co-founder or do you go solo? If you are going solo, how can you get work done without doing it all yourself? Further, how do you ensure your chosen fellow travelers and you work well together and scale up the startup together for many years? These are some of the questions that Narayan Thammaiah from Accel addresses in this post.

And if you’re looking for a co-founder…

YC launched a co-founder matching platform 4 months ago. There are now 16,000 co-founder profiles on the platform. Potential co-founders have sent 130,000 matching invites through the platform, and, with a 25% acceptance rate, there has been total of 33,000 matches. In this post, you can find out who are founders looking for, what skills they’re interested in and what do they care about. It seems that founders on the platform are extremely active: 75% of all matches are accepted within 4.5 days of the initial invitation, and 50% of matches are accepted within 22 hours. Of the matches where founders indicate having met up either online or in person, 50% met within 6.2 days.

How Thailand is finding ways to support its travel industry

Thailand’s economy is heavily reliant on international tourism. International tourist spend was estimated at $61 billion in 2019. That year, Thailand recorded a record of 40 million visitors and ranked eighth globally in international tourist arrivals, with China being a key source market. And then Covid hit. This McKinsey article shows how the measures that the Thai government put in place to boost domestic tourism and support returning international demand. Even as the world addresses emerging variants of the virus, Thailand’s lessons can act as a guide for other tourism-dependent countries facing similar dilemmas as they prepare for the resurgence of international travel.

The near future of work

Tech companies have announced a wide range of policies concerning work: “work from home forever”, “remote first”, “digital by default”, “office-only”, etc… In any case though, remote work is here to stay, and every company will be remote (at least sometimes). Instead of debating whether any one form of hybrid work is superior, this article in a16z traces the evolution of remote work itself, paying particular attention to how the nature of work — with an emphasis on presence and collaboration — has been changing. These changes present greater challenges in hybrid models than in fully remote ones; overcoming them will open up a future of work that connects us seamlessly, no matter where we are.

Selina plans IPO via SPAC merger

Another data point of the growing confluence of travel, work and play: Selina, the fast-growing hospitality and experiential brand targeting Millennial and Gen Z travelers, will merge with SPAC company Boa at a $1.2 billion valuation. The transaction is expected to close mid-year 2022, after which the combined company will operate as Selina Hospitality, and its ordinary shares will be listed on the NYSE under the ticker symbol “SLNA.” More information here. And here is Selina’s deck detailing its financials, strategy and positioning.

Meet Derive Ventures, the new early-stage travel venture capital firm

Derive Ventures is a new venture capital fund spun out of Thayer Ventures and built to advance the Travel, Hospitality and Leisure industry. The two founders, Tyler Carrico and Mike Scott come from Thayer Ventures and KSL Capital Partners, two leading travel and hospitality investment firms. They are targeting companies raising early-stage capital in core travel sectors as well as sectors tangential to travel with innovative business concepts, ideas and technology that would support and gain from the global travel industry. Life House’s $60 million Series C round (led by Kakak) marked Derive Ventures’ first investment.

Giant Online Travel Agency consolidation

While flight specialist OTAs like eDreams were posting $600 million in yearly revenue and $140 million EBITDA, many trade commentators and pundits had been opining for decades that there was no business in being a flight specialist. It turns out that there is indeed value in being a flight specialist. ETraveli Group was just acquired by Booking Holdings for $1.84 billion. Air travel is Booking’s fastest growing product, up 131% in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2019. This is the second major acquisition for Booking Holdings in the space of two weeks, after it bought hotel distributor Getaroom for $1.6 billion. ETraveli and its consumer brands will remain independent and the existing management will continue to operations.

Why the future of work is the future of travel

Nilay Patel had a great interview with Brian Chesky, founder/CEO of Airbnb. One of the significant advantages that Airbnb has over other large travel companies is that it is still founder-led. This generally leads to more innovation and a higher likelihood to take risks and make bold investments. It also translates into more focus and less internal politicking. This is reflected in this interview.

Connect&GO has just closed a $3 million funding round and will use the capital to expand internationally. The startup’s ambition is to become “the preferred operations management partner to the attractions industry by 2025.”

Jongyoon Kim, the CEO of Yanolja, has a big ambition to innovate the African market, and he talked about this and more in this great interview with WiT.

Airbahn is one of the newest startup airlines in the US, and just announced that they will start operating their first flights from March 1st, 2022.

Very interesting to read about the findings from Google’s latest research on what are three main travel trends that will shape the recovery of the industry as well as what we can expect for 2022.