Southeast Asian budget hospitality company ZEN Rooms is deploying new automation technology after striking a deal with Korean travel group Yanolja for an additional investment and strategic alliance.
Yanolja - a self-appointed “unicorn” after Booking Holdings and GIC invested $180 million in the platform in June - is doubling down on the $15 million it invested in ZEN Rooms last year, adding to its previous total of $23 million in equity funding.
Financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed.
As part of the agreement, Yanolja will acquire stakes from early investor Asia Internet Holdings (a joint venture between Rocket Internet and Ooredoo Telecom).
With the capital, ZEN Rooms says it will invest in Internet of Things research and development, as well as automation tools, to optimize hotel operations and strengthen customer service.
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The company says the backing of Yanolja by Booking Holdings will give ZEN Rooms a “unique competitive advantage in both hotel technology and sales distribution.”
"Yanolja is heavily investing in hospitality R&D to build the budget hotel of the future, by automating more and more functions within hotels (self check-ins, robotics, voice controls, sensors, etc.) and improving cost efficiency through smart connections between hotel software and hardware (electric system, etc.),” says ZEN Rooms co-founder and CEO Nathan Boublil.
“ZEN and Yanolja are planning to introduce these new technologies into ZEN locations starting Q1 2020, enhancing customer experience and optimizing operating costs, thus allowing value-for-money improvements.”
ZEN Rooms was created in 2015 to address operational and technological challenges among hotels in Southeast Asia, as well as to make budget accommodation in the region more affordable and safer.
With 13,000 rooms under franchise, it’s one of the top three hotel franchises in the region and is the largest hotel chain in the Philippines.
Says Jongyoon Kim, CEO of online business at Yanolja: “Since first investing in ZEN, we have shared the same vision of operational excellence and customer centricity to radically improve the Southeast Asian hospitality market. In the last 12 months, the ZEN team has taken major steps to fulfill this vision and has grown exponentially while displaying top inventory quality. With this exciting agreement, Yanolja plans to fully support ZEN to solidify its status as the market leading full‐stack hospitality company in the region."