Singapore’s GIC invests in Korean love hotels platform Yanolja

June 12, 2019 16:33
South Korean hotel booking platform Yanolja completed a funding round led by GIC and Booking Holdings. Photo: Yanolja

South Korean hotel booking platform Yanolja said it has closed a US$180 million Series D funding round, taking its valuation to more than US$1 billion and making it a member of the "unicorn" club.

Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and US-based travel giant Booking Holdings, which owns, and more, were the leading investors.

Yanolja had raised around US$60 million in the previous round, Crunchbase reported.

Founded by Lee Su-jin in 2005, Yanolja, meaning “Hey, let’s play” in Korean, began as an online search portal for love hotels, before adding its own hotel booking app.

It became well-known for reinventing the concept of love hotels in Korea, turning them into short-term, well-lit modern franchised rental options to target millennial couples and budget tourists.

Offering over 200 hotels across the country, Yanolja has seen its sales growth accelerate to an annual rate of more than 70 percent over the past five years, the company said in a press statement.

It said it processes US$100 million of transactions on a monthly basis and has so far handled 20 million reservations.

According to Reuters, Yanolja reported a revenue of 188.5 billion won (US$160 million) last year, nearly doubling from the previous year. But the company is not profitable yet.

Last year, the company invested US$15 million in ZEN Rooms, a Rocket Internet-backed budget hotel network which has more than 1,000 hotels across Southeast Asia.

Yanolja said the new funds will be used to further develop hospitality-related technology, such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things, to automate hotel operations, achieve more pervasive connectivity across the value chain, accelerate digitalization, and achieve growth potential in the global travel and leisure market.

Along with the deal, Yanolja and Booking Holdings have entered into a strategic partnership, which enables the latter’s brand Agoda to list its customers in Yanolja’s hotel accommodations via its platform. In return, Yanolja will host inventory from Agoda and on its own service.

In an earlier interview with Channel News Asia, Yanolja’s chief executive Kim Jong-yoon said the company aims to launch an initial public offering as early as next year.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 12

Translation by Ben Ng

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal