For many in the travel sector, 2022 began with a sense of optimism. Having been grounded for two years, travellers the world over began rebooking at a rapid pace, keen to make the most of open borders. This incredible demand for travel services has pushed travel tech further into the spotlight in the first half of 2022.
Here's a snapshot of the travel tech news highlights for H1.
Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, continued Covid impacts and global inflation concerns, travel tech stocks remained relatively stable compared to the broader market. TNMT reports that travel investors have shown faith in the sector, with many smaller stocks weathering the poor market conditions well.
Czech start-up kiwi.com reported a private investment of €100m in June 2022, one of the largest of its size in a Czech start-up. The online travel agent (OTA), which focuses on low-cost travel, says the capital will support continued growth as kiwi.com bolsters its position in the global travel industry.
Capital secured from some of the world’s leading tech and growth investors, including Lazard Asset Management, Stack Capital Group, NEA, Temasek, and funds managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, bolstered Omio’s position by US$80m in FH2022. Omio CEO and founder, Naren Shaam, says the funds will allow the business to pursue its vision of a globally unified transportation network on a single digital platform.
Optibus has become the first unicorn dedicated to the public transportation sector, after closing USD$100m in Series D funding. Optibus provides an end-to-end software platform for public transportation planning and operations. The latest round of financing brings Optibus’ total funding to $260m and its valuation to $1.3bn.
Aviation investment firm, 777 Partners, recently acquired two travel technology companies – AeroCRS and WorldTicket – with a view to “democratize aviation”. The two companies join a growing portfolio of airlines and travel tech firms, including Air Black Box, Bonza, Flair Airlines, and the Value Alliance supported by the firm, which has committed USD$100m to “delivering disruptive travel technology solutions that create new commerce channels and improve next-generation retailing, distribution, interlining, and passenger connectivity”.
Looking to the future, Holisto, which uses artificial intelligence to allow travel agents and providers to plan trips across multiple inventory sources, announced it is planning a public listing through a business combination with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Moringa Acquisition Corp.
According to a statement, the business combination values Holisto at $405m with the deal expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022. Eran Shust, CEO and co-Founder of Holisto, said: “Our combination with Moringa and access to public markets will allow Holisto to continue to aggressively leverage our technology by scaling our platform and infrastructure and expand our customer acquisition and brand awareness.”
Southeast Asia’s biggest online travel startup, Traveloka, is rumored to be in talks for another round of funding of more than $200m. The online travel unicorn has so far raised a total of $1.2bn in funding across six rounds, the latest being the $250m led by Qatar Investment Authority in July 2020. Traveloka planned to go public through a special acquisition company last year, but pulled out of the arrangement amid speculation it was aiming for an IPO in the US later this year.
Mergers and acquisitions
In January, Clear, a private biometric screening company that lets paying members bypass certain security lines at busy areas including stadiums and airports, announced it had acquired Whyline, whose remote queueing technology is employed across a number of partners including Newark, LA World and Charleston International airports. Clear says it will leverage Whyline’s technology and platform to “bring innovation into routine but time-consuming activities, giving people more control of their day-to-day experiences.”
Hospitality management platform, Cloudbeds, has made its third acquisition in six months, acquiring LA-based Whistle. Earlier this year, Cloudbeds acquired AdsHotel from Italy-based D-Business and Odysys, an Oregon-based hospitality marketing platform. Cloudbeds says it has nearly tripled in size over the last year and will roll out more solutions in the third quarter of 2022.
Sabre Corporation announced its acquisition of Nuvola, a prominent provider of hotel service optimization and guest engagement software to hoteliers worldwide. The transaction includes Nuvola technology and guest enablement software, as well as the integration of Nuvola employees to Sabre. Sabre expects the acquisition to advance its retailing, merchandising and fulfilment capabilities.
Two of Europe’s tech platforms – Orchestra, the leading platform on the French market, and Traffics, the leading independent travel SaaS platform in Germany – confirmed they were joining forces to form a market leader on the Continent. Christian Sabbagh, founder and chairman of Orchestra, said: "The combination of the two creates a player with critical mass that will benefit from the accelerated technological transformation underway in a tourism sector that is experiencing a strong upturn momentum.”
The future value the travel industry is placing on technology can also be seen in a number of high-level appointments made in FH2022.
Booking Holdings (one of the world’s largest online travel companies) announced that Omri Morgenshtern would take up the role of Agoda CEO, effective 1 July 2022. Morgenshtern served as the Singapore-based OTA’s COO since 2018, having previously co-founded Qlika, a start-up specializing in online marketing optimization (Booking Holdings acquired Qlika in 2014).
Dan Lynn, co-founder of Zuzu Hospitality, labeled the decision to appoint a tech-heavy founder as CEO as sensible because “the pace of innovation is only increasing in online travel agencies.”
Delta Airlines is also investing in its tech future, appointing Eric Phillips to the newly created role of SVP and Chief Digital Officer in May. Delta says Phillips will lead a team focused on enhancing customer interactions with Delta’s digital tools and channels, including developing new and better capabilities on delta.com and the Fly Delta app to address customer needs before, during and after travel.
Meanwhile, after a comprehensive search, Tripadvisor co-founder and CEO, Stephen Kaufer, announced his replacement in the top job would be Matt Goldberg. Goldberg most recently served as Executive Vice President, North America and Global Operations at The Trade Desk. He's also Founding Director of Dataphilanthropy, a non-profit focused on building programs to apply data to better address and understand economic disparity.
New products and announcements
Airbus and the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at ILA Berlin 2022 to open a center of excellence for cybersecurity and trustworthy artificial intelligence in Saarland, Germany. The “CISPA-Airbus Digital Innovation Hub” will be located at the CISPA Innovation Campus in St. Ingbert and will start operations this year with the intention to grow to around 100 experts within the next three years. In the long term, Airbus and the CISPA are jointly aiming to grow the competence center to more than 500 experts.
In response to traveller concerns about trip delays and cancellation, Hopper has enhanced its fintech products with the introduction of "Standalone Trip Protection”. enabling travelers to add flight disruption or cancellation protection to bookings made outside Hopper.
In June, American Express Global Business Travel confirmed it was teaming up with energy giant, Shell, and professional services company Accenture to create Avelia, a new platform for purchasing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Utilizing blockchain, the ‘book and claim’ platform will enable travelers to pay for SAF and claim benefits for using the more eco-friendly fuel.
Finally, OTA giant, Expedia, unveiled its new Open World technology platform in May, saying the service and innovations could help anyone who wants to be in the travel business. Open World comprises an e-commerce suite of services, with business-critical functions like payments, fraud, conversations, and other services that Expedia says “anyone can use to accelerate, enhance, or even enter the travel business”.
The outlook for the travel tech industry
As we head into the next six months, we’re likely to see continued investment in tech by travel businesses, with fintech high on the priority list. How quickly the travel industry rebounds to pre-Covid levels will really depend on how it handles emerging issues such as staff shortages, hygiene-necessitated service upgrades, and the renewed need for expert support and personalization - all of which fall well within the remit of technology solutions.
To find out how Zai can help travel tech businesses integate solutions that can streamline business processes and enhance the customer experience, get in touch. And for a deep dive into how APIs are transforming the travel industry, download our guide below.