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Travel & Leisure

Investors give $200m boost to Hong Kong travel startup Klook

SoftBank and Sequoia signal confidence in post-COVID tourism recovery

Hong Kong-based investment fund Aspex Management, a new backer, led Klook's latest fundraising.

HONG KONG -- Travel booking platform Klook has raised $200 million in a new funding round, underscoring investor confidence in the ability of the tourism industry to eventually recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest fundraising was led by new investor Aspex Management, a Hong Kong-based investment fund, with participation from existing backers SoftBank Vision Fund 1, Chinese private equity fund Boyu Capital and the China arms of U.S. groups Matrix Partners and Sequoia Capital.

"The travel industry has undoubtedly been hit hard by the pandemic, but Klook has shown resilience and adaptability despite the market headwinds," said Hermes Li, chief investment officer and founder of Aspex, in a statement released by Klook. Li added that he remains confident about post-COVID demand for digital bookings and Klook's ability to maintain a leading market position in travel experiences and services.

In some key markets, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, bookings for local activities, staycations and car rentals are "reaching near pre-COVID levels," Klook company said. Founded in 2014, the Hong Kong-based company has 28 offices worldwide, mainly in Asia.

"We have observed over the past year that consumers have a pent-up desire to explore and enjoy themselves, despite international travel being paused," said Ethan Lin, co-founder and chief executive. "Instead, they are turning inwards -- exploring new and unique experiences right in their backyard."

Chief Operating Officer Eric Gnock Fah, left, with CEO Ethan Lin and Chief Technology Officer Bernie Xiong. (Courtesy Klook)

The latest financing round lifts Klook's total funding to date to $720 million but the company declined to reveal the valuation basis of the new investments. Startup data service CB Insights valued the company at $1.35 billion before the latest infusion.

Klook said it "remains in strong financial health" and that it has not pared back its growth ambitions. The fresh funding will be used to accelerate development of software-based services to help travel experience providers with managing ticketing, distribution, inventory management and marketing.

"With this new funding, we have additional ammunition to accelerate our technology innovation and truly transform and empower this space for future growth," said Eric Gnock Fah, Klook co-founder and chief operating officer, who added that the company already had more than 2,500 global clients for its "software as a service" offerings.

"We are confident that our industry is a resilient one," said a spokesperson. "Recovery is certain, but it would boil down to a matter of when. There is good news on our horizon with the vaccine rollout across multiple countries. [But] so while we are optimistic, it is prudent for us to enter the year with some caution."

Despite general pessimism over the tourism sector amid the pandemic, investors have given new backing to a number of travel startups. Taipei-based KKday, Klook's major regional rival, closed a $75 million funding last September to fund development of a new booking management platform.

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