Yanolja, the only travel unicorn based in South Korea, announced that it has secured $1.7 billion in fresh funding from sole investor SoftBank Vision Fund 2, one of the world’s largest technology-focused investment funds.
The fresh investment will enable South Korea’s leading travel and leisure platform to scale and continue leading the digital transformation of the global travel and hospitality industry, which is estimated to be $3 trillion.
In a statement, Yanolja said it plans to use the funding to invest in the development of innovative technologies and expand its technology offerings in new markets.
In particular, the travel unicorn plans to build and operate more advanced global travel platform by upgrading and enhancing its automated solutions using AI and personalised offerings based on big data.
“We will accelerate digital transformation in this sector (travel and hospitality) as the global leading hospitality tech company and travel super app by fully leveraging our unique technological capabilities,” said Yanolja CEO Lee Sun Jin.
Yanolja rose to a unicorn status after securing US$200 million from Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd and Booking Holdings Inc, a US firm that operates in the hotel booking space.
Yanolja, which means “Hey, let’s play”, started as an online search portal for love hotels, guest house rooms, pensions, and small hotels. The company, however, sets its eyes on global expansion as it considers the South Korean market not big enough for the company to survive and scale-up.
In South Korea, Yanolja spearheaded the digitization of the domestic travel industry through its “Travel Super App” strategy, while globally, the company has focused on the growth and expansion of its cloud-based hospitality solutions business.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing significant decline in travel businesses globally, Yanolja achieved both net growth and gains in operating profit last year, setting a solid foundation for sustainable growth.
“Powered by AI, we believe Yanolja is a leader in transforming the travel and leisure industry in South Korea through its Travel Super App approach,” said Greg Moon, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers.