Southeast Asia is known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant cities, attracting millions of travellers annually. Post-pandemic, people are beginning to explore the world with a renewed vigour and desire to experience everything they missed during extended global lockdowns and movement restrictions. In fact, Southeast Asia’s internet travel and tourism industry is estimated to be worth roughly $43 billion USD by 2025, up from $13 billion USD in 2021. Business travel is again back on the agenda, but it has changed due to the impact of COVID-19.
With an uneven recovery, what’s next for travel and tourism tech in Southeast Asia?
As travel becomes more accessible than before, the competition between companies in the travel industry is also heating up. With the rise of digital technology, travel startups in Southeast Asia have been utilising various platforms to offer unique and innovative services to travellers, making their travel experience easier and more enjoyable. The following travel startups are leveraging the power of technology to make travelling smoother and more enjoyable.
LokaLocal, founded in 2016, is Malaysia’s top platform for experience-based activities and travel. Its network of 700 local hosts offers travellers over 800 unique tours and workshops, providing economic and social benefits. It aims to support local communities by enabling locals to share their culture and experiences with visitors from around the world.
In 2018, BonAngels Venture Partners, a South Korean venture capital firm, announced its investment in LokaLocal. The funding was to assist in accelerating LokaLocal’s growth through developing an integrated tech solution, acquiring new products, and expanding into new regions. During the pandemic, the company pivoted to offer virtual tours of Malaysia. The startup now plans to collaborate with cultural space owners and event organisers to digitally promote Malaysia’s culture and art scene.
Singaporean startup, Hmlet, founded in 2016, is a co-living company offering rooms and apartments for young professionals. It caters to international talent, providing them with a community to connect and collaborate with while in a new country. The startup has locations in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Sydney and is coming soon to Melbourne. It has over 1,000 apartments on its platform in Malaysia, and over 2,500 in Thailand, with an additional 1,000 listings in Singapore.
While its last funding was in July 2019, when it raised USD 40 million, bringing its valuation to around USD 154.4 million, in 2022, German co-living startup Habyt acquired it as part of its expansion into Asia. The company plans to expand its team to include senior executives for its new property listing marketplace, Hmlet Listed.
RedDoorz, a travel startup based in Singapore, offers affordable and reliable accommodation options for budget-conscious travellers. The 2015-founded company operates in more than 120 cities across Southeast Asia, providing access to budget hotels, guesthouses, and hostels. With a user-friendly website and mobile app, RedDoorz enables travellers to search for and book accommodations that meet their preferences, ensuring a comfortable stay at an affordable price.
In August 2019, RedDoorz raised USD 70 million in a Series C funding round led by Asia Partners Fund Management, bringing the total funding raised by the company to USD 134.4 million across seven rounds. The funding round also saw the addition of new investors, Rakuten Capital and Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund.
Jakarta-based Travelio is an online platform that allows tenants to rent accommodation on daily, monthly and yearly contracts. The company has expanded its product line to include unfurnished apartments and houses, and it exclusively manages over 15,000 properties in 12 Indonesian cities.
Recently, Travelio raised an undisclosed sum in a Series C extension round led by a Korean financial group bringing its total funding up to USD 24 million. DAOL Ventures, Orzon Ventures, and Appworks also participated in the funding round, along with the existing backer Pavilion Capital. The funds will aid expansion plans into new cities in Indonesia and launch a new vertical in the rent-to-own sector.
Trambellir is an online marketplace for wellness holidays powered by ChatGPT. It introduces cutting-edge medical care and wellness/beauty treatments as additional activities at global travel destinations. The company aims to make the world of medical tourism more accessible to everyone around the world.
While Trambellir operates out of Malaysia, the platform lists wellness services on a global scale with providers in Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and Argentina. It may not have raised any funding since the late 2019’s Pre-Seed round brought in a total of USD 110K, but its innovative use of AI and the increased interest in wellness holidays and corporate travel perks will likely see it thrive.
A promising future
These travel startups in Southeast Asia are leveraging technology and focusing on customer needs to make travelling more manageable, enjoyable, and accessible to a broader audience. The innovation of these companies is a testament to the exciting future of travel in the region, and their success can inspire other startups.
As the tourism industry returns to pre-COVID-19 levels and continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more groundbreaking solutions from travel startups in the region, further enhancing how we explore and experience the world.