Skift Take

Startup founders and investors have been saying all year that funding is tighter, but travel startups still raised billions in venture capital.

Travel startups raised at least $3.7 billion in 2023. Skift tracked more than 200 travel startup fundraises through a weekly roundup article, compiled from company announcements and exclusive reporting. 

While $3.7 billion is a big number, the actual total is surely higher. That’s because some startups do not share when they raise money, and some do not disclose amounts raised. And we don’t track all global markets.  

Below is an overview of the biggest raises, funding trends, and other important developments from 2023. (Is your travel startup raising money in 2024? Let us know.)

Short-Term Rentals

The short-term rental sector was the most well-funded in 2023. Skift tracked nearly 30 startups related to short-term rentals that raised more than $676 million.

The group includes booking platforms, property-management platforms, niche websites, and more.  

The sector has exploded since the pandemic, driven in large part by the surge in remote work, and that growth is continuing

Some of the startups that raised money are focused particularly on the digital nomad market. That includes Berlin-based property manager Habyt, which raised $42.4 million for a booking platform that includes rentals in co-living spaces, homes, and hotels for locals and travelers.

There have been fundraises for even more niche platforms, as well. Germany-based Raus and Australia-based Unyoked each raised millions of dollars for vacation-rental platforms that offer high-tech cabins in remote locations.

And Vipio raised several million dollars for specialty vacation rentals with a portfolio that includes Freddie Mercury’s former vacation home. 

Unyoked cabin
All of the Unyoked cabins are within two hours from a major city.

Hotel Tech

Startups from the hotel tech sector were most likely to be funded in 2023, though the sector did not get the largest amount of funding overall.  

Skift tracked more than 30 startups related to hotel tech that raised at least $274 million, including several startups that did not disclose their funding amounts. 

This category covers a number of software products and services, such as property management, pricing and revenue, guest communications, kitchen operations, and more.  

The largest fundraise among them was $48 million by Stayntouch, a property management system owned by MCR. 

Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon
Pictured: MCR-owned Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon.

Next-Generation Aircraft

Nine startups developing next-generation aircraft and components raised more than $603 million. 

Regent Craft raised $60 million in October toward development of an electric seaglider for commercial travel along coastal routes. The first, called Viceroy, will carry 12 passengers up to 180 miles and is meant for underserved coastal communities. The company has a goal to deliver the product by mid-decade. 

And ZeroAvia raised $116 million in November to develop a hydrogen-electric jet engine, focusing first on engines that support a 300-mile range in aircrafts of nine to 19 seats by the end of 2025. 

Plane flying with ZeroAvia prototype hydrogen-electric engines
Pictured: Plane flying with ZeroAvia prototype hydrogen-electric engines.

Corporate Travel

There’s a lot of investment going toward platforms that help companies streamline corporate travel expenses. We tracked nine platforms that raised at least $445 million

Mooncard, a platform based in Paris, raised $40.6 million for an expense automation platform that includes providing Visa expense cards for employees of client companies. 

Tours and Activities

The tours and activities sector has been busy this year.

Klook, an online travel agency for tours and activities, recently raised $210 million (equity and debt) in a bid to compete with GetYourGuide and Viator. The Hong Kong-based company has now raised more than $900 million.

GetYourGuide this year raised $85 million in venture capital along with $109 million in revolving credit, pushing its total investment past the $1 billion mark.

And multiple startup platforms meant to streamline operations and sales for the sector raised millions of dollars. Historically one of most low-tech sectors in the industry, the tours and activities sector has been more focused on getting online and adopting new technology. 

  • We tracked eight startups involved with the growing sustainable aviation fuel sector, raising a total of at least $312 million.
  • There were various online travel agencies and other booking platforms, often specializing in niche markets, that raised a few hundred million dollars. Wheel the World, a booking platform for travelers with disabilities raised money in March, as did Bach, a planning and booking platform for bachelorette parties.
  • There were fundraises by multiple startups working to modernize the ground transportation industry, particularly taxi operations and airport transfer bookings. 
  • Startups with a product powered by generative AI are starting to raise money, though not large sums at the moment. 

Top 8 Single Fundraises 

  • Ramp, corporate expenses including travel: $300 million
  • Archer Aviation, flying taxi: $215 million
  • Klook, online travel agency for tours and activities: $210 million (equity and debt)
  • GetYourGuide, online travel agency for tours and activities: $194 million (equity and debt)
  • Lilium, flying taxi: $192 million
  • SkyNGR, sustainable aviation fuel: $190.9 million
  • Hostaway, short-term rental management platform: $175 million
  • DiDi Autonomous Driving, autonomous rideshare vehicle: $149 million
Lilium
Lilium is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing jet expected to begin testing in 2024.

Backed by Celebrities 

There were multiple trip planners for consumers that raised money in 2023. 

Two of them were backed by entertainment celebrities.

  • John Legend is a founder of It’s Good, an “invite-only” social media app for restaurant reviews, meant to combat negative reviews on Google and Yelp. The startup raised $5 million in October. 
  • Paris Hilton is an investor for Layla, a generative AI trip planner chatbot accessible through an app or through direct messages on Instagram. The startup raised $3.3 million in late November.
Mike Rosenthal (left) and John Legend of It's Good.
Mike Rosenthal (left) and John Legend of It’s Good.

Seven Innovative startups 

Below is a list of funded startups that stood out for being particularly unique.

  • HalalBooking is an online travel agency tailored for the Muslim market, with features meant to help users search for specific needs, such as a resort with a ladies-only beach, a hotel with halal food, or a villa with a secluded pool.
  • Scapia is a credit card for Indian travelers that offers unlimited domestic airport lounge access and 10% rewards on all purchases, which can be used to book travel through the app. 
  • Fairlyne is a platform that helps consumers resell non-refundable travel tickets, a capability that’s common for sports and concerts but not travel.
  • Autio offers more than 10,000 short audio stories based on geographic location and signed a deal with JetBlue to offer in-flight audio entertainment.
  • HotelYaari is a platform that allows investors to purchase a stake in luxury hotels. 
  • Minut provides short-term rental hosts with sensors to detect things like cigarette smoke, too many visitors, or too much outside noise. 
  • DiDi Autonomous Driving raised $149 million for an autonomous rideshare vehicle that includes a robotic arm to pick up luggage and wake up passengers. And there’s no driver’s seat. 
DiDi Neuron robotaxi
The DiDi Neuron robotaxi contains a robotic arm that can pick up luggage.

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Tags: artificial intelligence, asia newsletter, business travel, funding, online travel newsletter, startups, vcroundup

Photo credit: Archer Aviation was one of the top-funded travel startups in 2023. Archer Aviation / Archer Aviation

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