Holding strong: How these two European travel startups not only survived the COVID-19 crisis but raised funding

Naren Shaam, founder and CEO of Omio

As the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Here goes the popular saying. And in the current scenario, it is the most palpable in the travel industry. Despite of being hit hard and being brought to a complete standstill by the ongoing pandemic, there are start-ups that are holding strong and raising fresh round of investments, too.

The total value of transactions of these travel startups might be lower compared to last year. However, a recent rise in the size of funding rounds had been related to businesses requiring either a lot of investment in AI and customer service. Investors are still demonstrating confidence in management team and business model in midst of unprecedented crisis in global travel. These are clear signs of market recovery as Europeans plan last-minute summer vacations and return to travelling locally.

This week we speak to two European start ups which are still going strong amid the downturn and have raised money in the last one week.

Omio strengthens position as global travel platform

Omio (formerly GoEuro), Europe’s leading multi-modal travel booking platform, announced it has secured USD 100 million in investments from existing and new investors including Temasek, Kinnevik, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, NEA and Kleiner Perkins last week. This funding has been one of Europe’s biggest travel round of 2020 till now.

The funding will allow the company to pursue its vision of unifying global transport with end to end consumer experiences. The investments will be directed at fuelling continued organic growth and opportunistic M&A activities while strengthening the company’s unique product and service offering: All transport options (including rail, bus, flights, ferries, rental cars and car sharing) diversified across 37 countries in Europe and Northern America under the Omio brand, combined with global reach through the planning engine Rome2Rio, which offers search and discovery of transport to and from more than 10 million locations worldwide.

Talking about the new development, Naren Shaam, founder and CEO of Omio, said: “We have seen a very promising recovery of our business over the past weeks, based on the unique strength of our product which includes all modes of transport across multiple markets. Especially in Germany and France, we are already above 50% of our pre-Covid-19 bookings despite marginal marketing spend. However, consumer expectations are changing and the industry will need to evolve to new standards and provide new products with a strong focus on sustainability. We will use the fresh capital to drive this change.”

Omio has already experienced a stronger bounce-back in travel bookings than expected. This has been driven by a clear change in consumer behaviour towards more ground transportation, combined with an accelerating shift towards app usage as consumers prefer to avoid kiosks and long queues. It actively supported this shift by continuing to improve and expand its services, for example through the launch of its Open Travel Index (OTI) to help travellers easily understand where they can travel to within Europe and Northern America.

The Trip Boutique to drive personalisation in travel

Fernanda Barrence Mutz, CEO and co-founder of The Trip Boutique

Swiss travel-tech company focused on AI-based personalisation of travel experiences, The Trip Boutique, closed its first financing round with high-profile investors.

“The commitment from the investors amidst challenging times for the travel industry shows that they strongly believe in our value proposition and growth potential. They are convinced that the service that we are building has an even higher relevance in the new context of tourism,” said Fernanda Barrence Mutz, CEO and co-founder of The Trip Boutique.

Founded in 2017 and with offices in Zurich (Switzerland) and Kiev (Ukraine), The Trip Boutique is a modern travel advisory platform, leveraging technology to create a better way of traveling. By innovatively combining AI with human expertise, it has built a suite of proprietary tools and a matching technology to identify the hotels, restaurants, bars, cafés, activities, attractions and experiences in a destination that best fit each client’s interests, lifestyle and tastes.

A custom-made and bookable travel itinerary is designed and delivered to each traveller, so they can enjoy the luxury of a personal travel advisory service at their fingertips, at an accessible price. The proceeds of the funding round will take the company well into 2021 and will be utilised to expand its portfolio of destinations, further develop its technology, and cultivate its growing customer base by establishing additional alliances with industry partners.

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