South Korean unicorn Yanolja invests big in Kenya traveltech HotelOnline

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  • Yanolja, valued above US$11 billion, has made true its wish on getting hold of the African market by investing in Kenya’s HotelOnline
  • The acquisition of equity on HotelOnline for an undisclosed amount enables the Asian travel company to make sales and introduce its travel-based SaaS (Space as a service) technology in Africa
  • Yanolja is scheduled to go public on NASDAQ in 2023 and they have the backing of global travel leader Booking.com

South Korean Traveltech Company Yanolja valued above US$11 billion has made true its wish on getting hold of the African market by investing in Kenya’s HotelOnline.

This is not only their first investment in the continent but also the first by any Korean company to invest in the travel tech industry in the recent past, opening up opportunities for other Korean companies to explore opportunities in Africa.

Read: HotelOnline conquers Africa from Kenya

The acquisition of equity on HotelOnline for an undisclosed amount enables the Asian travel company to make sales and introduce its travel-based SaaS (Space as a service) technology in Africa. This is part of the $1.7 billion investment that the Korean company raised last year from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, one of the world’s largest technology-focused investment funds.

Yanolja is scheduled to go public on NASDAQ in 2023 and they have the backing of global travel leader Booking.com.

Jongyoon Kim, CEO of Yanolja Cloud has been on the record emphasizing the need to enter into a partnership with a major African travel entity and the pursuit seem to have been achieved.

“We decided on this investment, considering the synergy of two companies proved from the previous partnership with HotelOnline, the African hospitality leading company. As an AI-based SaaS company that offers the solutions for the spaces, we won’t stop cooperating for the digital transformation of African space (spatial) business including hospitality through marketing-leading AI and cloud technology.”

HotelOnline, established in 2014, is a leading e-commerce and digital marketing enabler for hotels in Africa, and a driving force in the digital transformation of the hospitality industry on the continent.  The company has helped more than 5,000 hotels in 27 African countries increase their revenue through a combination of digital marketing, distribution, and simple digitization of core operations.

“Backed by this investment, we can seize more of the present opportunities to drive the transformation of travel and hospitality in Africa,”  says Havar Bauck Co-Founder of Hotel Online. Next to Havar is Endre Opdal, the Co-Founder and current CEO of Hotel Online. 

Read Also: Kenyan travel-tech HotelOnline on major onslaught of the African market 

HotelOnline announced the partnership with co-founder Havar Bauck noting that Yanolja Cloud decided to invest in HotelOnline to accelerate its global solution business for spaces in Africa.

“Today is a great day, not just for Yanolja and HotelOnline, but for the entire travel and hospitality industry in Africa.  As travel rebounds, we are in a strong position to help our hotel partners capitalize on the recovery, by attracting more local and international travellers, increasing occupancy, and getting more revenue.”

“We have partnered with Yanolja since we started, through their subsidiary, eZee Technosys, which is now our main technology partner.”

Havar notes that 2020 presented a great challenge from the ravaging effects of Covid-19 but through resilience and re-strategizing, they managed to stay afloat.

“As a fast-growing, promising startup, we had reached profitability just months before Covid decimated the entire travel and hospitality industry.  From the sweet spot we were in, we all of a sudden faced the battle of our lives, to keep our business afloat.  Giving up was never an option, though.

Read Also: Kenyan Travel-tech introduces travel enticement in post-pandemic era

He continues, “We flipped every stone, and staked out a new course to tap into the opportunities that still existed.  Our shareholders chipped in the bare minimum it took us to keep going, and through an epic struggle, we made it through.”

Havar acknowledges that Yanolja’s investment came just as HotelOnline was about to return to profitability. “It was a long and tedious process that took almost 10 months.  By the time we concluded the process, we were already close to breaking even again.”

His fellow co-founder and CEO Endre Opdal also noted that the investments could not have come at a better time.

“This is a game-changing moment for HotelOnline.  With our operations back in break-even after the Covid crisis, this investment puts us in a unique position to scale and expand aggressively, strengthen our position in current markets, and expand our operations into more target countries.”

Havar notes this is the perfect time to expand and tap into the ever stronger recovery of the travel and hospitality sector in Africa.  “Backed by this investment, we can seize more of the present opportunities to drive the transformation of travel and hospitality in Africa. Our partner hotels are already surfing on the recovery waves.”

Read: African tourism turns to tech to survive

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