Yanolja out to revolutionize Korea’s travel scene: CEO

2021.07.22 13:10:42 | 2021.07.22 13:11:14

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One-stop booking from rooms to dining and leisure activity in travel destination is not just what Yanolja is about as it assists hospitality locations to accelerate to full digitalization with connectivity to transportation means and must-eat, must-see sites, according to its CEO.

The Korean platform’s big vision to be the likes of Amazon.com that transformed the retail scene through ceaseless pioneering initiatives has impressed Softbank’s Vision Fund to recently put up 2 trillion won ($1.75 billion) and push the corporate valuation to $10 billion.

“Amazon broke out of its role as a simple mediator and established a meta platform in which data constantly flows from distribution to payment process, allowing vendors and consumers to experience innovation,” said Kim Jong-yoon, chief executive of Yanolja, in an interview with Maeil Business Newspaper on Wednesday.

“Like Amazon, Yanolja will become a company that allows everyone to experience benefits of technology like Internet of Things artificial intelligence, and blockchain, through a platform that embraces accommodation, leisure, and restaurant operators, reservation site, and travelers in tourism sector,” he said.

The interview came after the travel platform operator attracted the second largest investment to a Korean unlisted venture after Coupang Inc.

Kim presented an ambitious goal of becoming a global tech platform by offering not only travel-related application that includes accommodation, leisure, transportation, restaurant, and shopping, but also linking offline operators online.

The CEO noted that digital innovation was possible through technology companies in e-commerce, delivery, and mobility sectors but transformation was slow in travel industry related to “space.”

“Yanolja will allow data to flow as one in all procedures in travel industry from reservation, operation, sale, and consumption to make everything work both online and offline,” Kim said.

For example, its business may include data platform that involves software cloud solution and IoT hardware device that supports an unmanned kiosk and room automation.

Yanolja’s clients not only include accommodation vendors like hotels but also online travel agencies. A majority of Yanolja’s 130 cloud solution customers are online travel agencies. The platform operator boasts offering integrated solution from hotel operation, website reservation registration, and price automation set up.

During the interview, Kim said that constant flow of data from offline to online will lead to “automation, individualization, and environmental, social, and corporation governance.”

For instance, an accommodation operator will put up several hundreds of vacant rooms on reservation service sites and sales and all procedures will be automated. Smaller operators that lack online experience will also be able to benefit from digital transformation. Travelers that reserve accommodation will also receive customized information from transportation to must-eat restaurants. Travel industry as a whole will be able to reduce carbon dioxide emission and paper and plastic use.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund also took note of Yanolja’s Tech-All-in vision. Kim said that the latest investment is a strategy to expand into overseas markets, enhance technology capacity, and invite professional workforce.

“Many think of Yanolja as a simple reservation service provider but the Vision Fund investment has officially acknowledged it as a global tech company like Uber and DoorDash,” Kim said. “We are receiving more business proposals.”

The investment will allow Yanolja to spend hefty amounts in securing R&D talents and hardware and software development, he said.

Kim underscored the goal of becoming a company that helps realize ESG in travel sector.

Enhanced ESG regulation is changing industries from A to Z. It will become a must for travel industry players to seek efficient and environmentally-friendly management, Kim said.

By Oh Dae-seok and Lee Eun-joo

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]