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China technology

Hong Kong travel start-up Klook lands US$200 million funding to expand to US, Europe

Klook started out as a local platform selling discounted attraction tickets to Hongkongers, but has since expanded regionally across Asia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 8:51pm

Hong Kong online travel agency Klook said on Tuesday that it has landed US$200 million in funding, with plans to expand to the US and Europe as it looks set to hit US$1 billion in bookings this year.

The company, which operates a platform that sells travel experiences and tickets for a variety of attractions, will use the fresh funds to expand its operations in the US and Europe, adding more services and activities in the region to its Klook platform as well as opening a US office by the end of the year.

Klook started out as a local platform selling discounted attraction tickets to Hongkongers, but has since expanded regionally across Asia and now offers items like SIM cards, tours, and even transportation and food deals in major cities across the region.

“In the travel space … we don’t do flights, we don’t do hotels, and despite being in a seemingly small niche [offering bookings for attractions and experiences] at the beginning, this niche has proven to be a very big market. We’re the first travel company from Asia to really grow onto the global stage,” said Eric Gnock Fah, chief operating officer and co-founder of Klook to reporters in a press event on Tuesday.

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“[Going global] is a new kind of trend and phenomenon happening in Asia … where we can be at the same kind of level and growth as the likes of Netflix, Airbnb, Spotify and so forth.”

New investors in its latest Series D round include Boyu Capital and TCV, and existing investors such as Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs and OurCrowd have participated as well, Gnock Fah said. The company declined to reveal its current valuation.

“If we’re going global and going into bigger markets then we will require more bullets,” he said, referring to the capital that Klook will require to become a global operation.

With plans to expand into the West, Klook will be going up against US-based Viator, a marketplace for curated tours and activities that was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014, as well as Airbnb’s Experiences feature that allow users to book tours and experiences offered by Airbnb hosts.

Currently, Klook’s largest market is in Greater China, which comprises of mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its travel products are mostly geared towards Asian tourists travelling in other Asian destinations, although it is currently looking to increase the offerings it has in the US and Europe and eventually cater to outbound Western tourists.

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The Asia travel market is one of the fastest growth markets for online travel, with bookings in 2017 amounting to over US$567 billion, according to a travel report by Phocuswright and Expedia Affiliate Network last year. Much of that growth is driven by China, which has seen a boom in outbound travel thanks to a rising middle-class of consumers.

The rise of the independent traveller who prefers to plan their own itinerary rather than follow a tour group has also come through thanks to the availability of low-cost airfares, mobile internet and the preference for customised experiences during trips. For Klook, this group of independent travellers are its main users and its focus, with many of them in their 20s to late-thirties, Gnock Fah said.