It's been a while since a huge investment round has gone the way of tours and activities - but Klook has just landed a major $60 million Series C deal.
The Hong Kong-based online travel agency has lured back previous backers Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners to invest alongside Goldman Sachs in the round.
The "near $60 million" value of the investment temporarily put Klook ahead of GetYourGuide in the publicly disclosed rounds to-date, according to their respective Crunchbase entries.
We are extremely excited at the potential of AI technology in reshaping a traveler's experience when researching and booking a trip.
Eric Gnock Fah
Klook has brought in $96.5 million; GetYourGuide was just behind with $95.5 million, but its own raise last week of $85 million gives it bragging rights once more.
Although such rankings are not particularly important to the wider world, Klook's move towards the summit is noteworthy given that the proceeds of the round will be used to finance its expansion into new markets - Europe, in particular, where GetYourGuide is headquartered and has created a strong presence.
The three-year-old company says it wants to support the growth of travelers from Asia who are heading to other developed markets, including North America and Australia, by expanding its product range of almost 30,000 activities and other products in 120 countries.
Klook raised a Series B round of $30 million from Sequoia just seven months ago - 18 months on from its Series A of $5 million via Matrix.
The company is certainly ambitious - it remarked following the Series B round earlier in 2017 that its goal is "go IPO before 2020".
Another area of investment will be in technology, co-founder and president Eric Gnock Fah claims, with a focus on the "application of machine learning" to bolster its product search functionality.
Klook founders (L-R): Bernie Xiong, Ethan Lin, Eric Knock Fah
This will include both visual and vocal technology to help serve "more precise and curated options".
In an interview with PhocusWire, Gnock Fah adds: "The Series C investment was less about raising more capital but more of finding a strategic partner conducive to our global expansion plan and from this angle, Goldman Sachs was quite a match.
"Undoubtedly, there is still a lot of growth opportunities for us to capitalize on in Asia as well as expanding into western markets - whereby the capital would be for good use."
The company says it is securing over one million bookings each month from travelers of 50 nationalities, with the majority coming from countries in Asia.
Gnock Fah says:
"We expect to see growing demand with major international events attracting travelers worldwide to Asia, including 2018 Winter Olympic held in Korea and 2020 Tokyo Olympics."
As any brand devoted to in-destination web sells knows, scaling is difficult due to a complex set of challenges - some market-related, some due to technical considerations unique to tour and activities.
A number of sizeable players already exist - the aforementioned GetYourGuide, TripAdvisor's Viator, Expedia and City Discovery, for example - and only the foolhardy would rule out Booking.com's recent focus on the sector having an impact.
Gnock Fah says:
"Our focus has always centered around Asia - having the most in-depth and integrated supply in Asia as well as Asian FITs (free independent tourists) being our core user base.
"And this will remain our primary competitive edge in entering the new markets whereby we will bring our Asian customer base to these long-haul destinations as well as marketing Asian destinations, where we have a clear edge on supply, to Western travelers."
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The marketing challenge is compounded a long-standing trend in the sector that sees the majority of travelers booking attractions and tours once they are in the destination, rather than during the same phase as their flight and hotel.
Inventory management in the back-end is another hallmark of the sector's issues, with real-time availability and booking required to serve travelers in-destination but not every supplier have the capability to handle such requirements.
Sequoia has previously backed the likes of Decolar, Skyscanner and Airbnb, whilst Matrix has worked with Didi and Ola.