South Korea’s Yanolja makes first investment in Africa through HotelOnline

KENYA – Yanolja, a South Korean travel technology company, has realized its ambition to enter the African market by investing in Kenya’s HotelOnline.

This is not only their first investment on the continent, but also the first investment in the travel technology business by a Korean corporation in recent years, paving the way for other Korean companies to investigate potential in Africa.

“This is a game-changing moment for HotelOnline. With our operations back in break-even after the Covid crisis, this investment puts us in a unique position to scale and expand aggressively, strengthen our position in current markets, and expand our operations into more target countries,” co-founder and CEO Endre Opdal of Yanolja said in a statement.

“Backed by this investment, we can seize more of the present opportunities to drive the transformation of travel and hospitality in Africa. Our partner hotels are already surfing on the recovery waves.”

The acquisition of shares in HotelOnline for an unknown sum enables the Asian travel company to conduct business in Africa and implement its travel-related SaaS (Space as a service) technology.

This investment is part of the US$1.7 billion raised last year by the Korean startup from SoftBank Vision Fund 2, one of the largest technology-focused investment funds in the world.

Yanolja is slated to list on the NASDAQ in 2023 and is backed by, the world’s largest travel company.

Jongyoon Kim, CEO of Yanolja Cloud, has been vocal about the importance of partnering with a large African travel company, and the effort appears to have been successful.

“We decided on this investment, considering the synergy of two companies proved from the previous partnership with HotelOnline, the African hospitality leading company,” he said.

“As an AI-based SaaS company that offers the solutions for the spaces, we won’t stop cooperating for the digital transformation of African space (spatial) business including hospitality through marketing-leading AI and cloud technology.”

HotelOnline, founded in 2014, is Africa’s foremost e-commerce and digital marketing facilitator for hotels, and a catalyst for the continent’s hospitality industry’s digital transformation.

Through a combination of digital marketing, distribution, and simple digitization of fundamental operations, the company has assisted over 5,000 hotels in 27 African nations in increasing their revenue.

HotelOnline announced the cooperation with Yanolja, with co-founder Havar Bauck remarking that Yanolja Cloud chose to invest in HotelOnline in order to accelerate the growth of its worldwide solution business for spaces in Africa.

“Today is a great day, not just for Yanolja and HotelOnline, but for the entire travel and hospitality industry in Africa,” Havar Bauck said.

“As travel rebounds, we are in a strong position to help our hotel partners capitalize on the recovery, by attracting more local and international travellers, increasing occupancy, and getting more revenue. We have partnered with Yanolja since we started, through their subsidiary, eZee Technosys, which is now our main technology partner.”

Havar agrees that Yanolja’s investment occurred at a critical point in HotelOnline’s turnaround. “It was a lengthy and arduous procedure that lasted over ten months. By the time the process was complete, we were already on the verge of breaking even.”

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