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Startups

Indonesia's Traveloka raises $250m to counter plunging demand

Qatar fund joins as backer of struggling travel booking unicorn

Indonesian travel startup Traveloka, one of the country's five unicorns with a value of $1 billion or more, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Rie Ishii)

JAKARTA -- Travel booking service Traveloka, one of Indonesia's most valuable startups, said on Tuesday it received $250 million in funding from international investors, as it looks to survive plummeting demand for travel due to the new coronavirus.

The funding round was led by Qatar Investment Authority, a source familiar with the matter said, while Indonesian venture capital and existing investor East Ventures also participated.

The source said the company was now valued at around $3 billion, slightly lower than its pre-COVID valuation.

In a statement, the startup said the new capital "is expected to further strengthen Traveloka's balance sheet and boost efforts to deepen Traveloka's offerings in select priority areas," including its portfolio of travel and lifestyle services.

Traveloka's other existing investors include Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and U.S. online travel player Expedia. The startup operates in neighboring markets, including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. It expanded beyond Southeast Asia for the first time in 2019 when it launched services in Australia.

Like many companies in the tourism sector, Traveloka -- Indonesia's answer to Expedia -- has been battered by the pandemic, with co-founder and CEO Ferry Unardi saying it "experienced the lowest business rate that we have ever seen since our inception" in 2012.

The company was forced to lay off 10% of its workforce, or about 100 people, in early April as it needed to slash overheads after seeing a "massive amount" of requests for refunds from customers whose travel plans had been affected by the pandemic.

But as domestic travel restrictions start to ease in the region, Unardi says the tide is slowly changing. "We are seeing an encouraging recovery across all of our key markets. Our business in Vietnam is approaching steady pre-COVID-19 levels and the Thailand business is on its way to surpass 50% [of its pre-COVID levels]," he said. "Indonesia and Malaysia are still in the early stage, but they continue to demonstrate promising momentum with strong week-to-week improvement, especially in accommodation."

Established as a flight aggregator in 2012, the startup -- one of five Indonesian unicorns, or private companies valued at over $1 billion -- quickly shifted to offering airline and hotel bookings and grew rapidly on the back of rising incomes and growing travel demand among Indonesians.

Traveloka has branched out into financial services and is also offering lifestyle activities on its platform.

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