Skift Take

Travel startups focusing on contactless tech at airports built in Australia, branded budget hotels in India, software and hardware to run cultural villages in China, auction-style hotel booking in Korea, and private tours in Japan have announced more than $28 million in funding collectively. Asia-Pacific is where it's at.

Series: Startups This Week

Travel Startup Funding This Week

Each week we round up travel startups that have recently received or announced funding. Please email Travel Tech Reporter Justin Dawes at [email protected] if you have funding news.

This week, travel startups announced more than $28 million in funding.

>>Elenium Automation, which makes self-service kiosks for airports, has raised an undisclosed round of Series B funding.

NRMA (the National Roads and Motorists’ Association) in Australia led the round, which was about $21 million ($30 million Australian) according to a report in Insurance Business.

Elenium last year raised $10.5 million ($15 million Australian) in Series A funding.

The startup, based near Melbourne, launched in 2015. It has since deployed 700 self-service kiosks and bag-drop technology in 13 airports worldwide, supporting 250 million passengers, with eight more airports to become operational this year.

Elenium has a cornerstone client in Etihad Airways, which white-labels some of the startup’s mobile services for the airport portion of a trip. Earlier this year, Etihad began using the startup’s self-service kiosks that check the temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate of passengers in Abu Dhabi.

Using biometrics, voice recognition, artificial intelligence delivered via Amazon Web Services, Elenium’s solutions aim to reduce the need for a carrier’s crew to scan boarding passes or enter data manually.

The pandemic has sped up its expansion into new markets across health, care for the elderly, workplaces, and event venues.

>>Treebo Hotels, a budget hotel brand based in India, said said it has raised $6 million (around 45 crore rupees) in a new round of investment from its existing investors.

Matrix Partners India, SAIF Partners, Ward Ferry, and Bertelsmann India Investments participated.

Treebo has more than 600 hotels in 100 cities. It faces competition from brands like Oyo and Fab.

“Before the pandemic unfolded, Treebo had a strong growth trajectory, and we were well on our way to hit EBITDA {earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] profitability within this calendar year,” Treebo Hotels co-founder Sidharth Gupta said in a statement.

>>Zhongzhiyou Group, a smart travel system developer, has received about $1.4 million (about 10 million renminbi) in a Series A round of investment.

Zhonghai Investment led the investment.

The company sells information technology products to support the cultural tourism industry in China. The tools help to manage digital marketing, ticketing, online e-commerce, and gate systems at China’s cultural or folk villages, where village life is typically simulated and re-created for tourists.

The company was founded in 2013 by West Lake in Hangzhou.

>>Dr. Trip, a hotel booking mobile app, has raised about $400,000 (500 million Korean won) in seed investment.

Nice Investment Partners, which runs a tourism fund funded by Korea Parent Fund, took part in this investment.

Remember the original Priceline model of booking hotels via an auction? Dr. Trip revives it with an auction-like booking agency. The mobile app lets travelers bid for rooms at discounted rates at 40,000 hotels via sites like Trivago and HotelsCombined. More than 30,000 people have downloaded Dr.Trip since its launch in December of last year. The company will start offering golf-themed travel this month.

>>Otomo, a service offering private tours of Japan, has raised an undisclosed sum of seed investment.

Japan revised its regulations for tour guides in 2018, making it possible to work as a guide without a national license. Otomo has taken advantage of that. It plays matchmaker between people with foreign language skills and people who need private tours.

In September, the startup published a whitepaper summarizing the results of surveys and considerations about guide qualifications and certification systems in eight countries and regions with many travelers. The idea is to learn from what works abroad to help improve Japanese tourism. CEO Yuki Hiratsuka leads the Tokyo-based company.

Skift Cheat Sheet:
We define a startup as a company formed to test and build a repeatable and scalable business model. Few companies meet that definition. The rare ones that do often attract venture capital. Their funding rounds come in waves.

Seed capital is money used to start a business, often led by angel investors and friends or family.

Series A financing is typically drawn from venture capitalists. The round aims to help a startup’s founders make sure that their product is something that customers truly want to buy.

Series B financing is mainly about venture capitalist firms helping a company grow faster. These fundraising rounds can assist in recruiting skilled workers and developing cost-effective marketing.

Series C financing is ordinarily about helping a company expand, such as through acquisitions. In addition to VCs, hedge funds, investment banks, and private equity firms often participate.

Series D, E and beyond These mainly mature businesses and the funding round may help a company prepare to go public or be acquired. A variety of types of private investors might participate.


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Tags: contactless technology, funding, startups, vcroundup

Photo credit: A person demonstrates a self-service kiosk from Elenium Automation that aims to help identify travelers with medical conditions. Elenium

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