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The backstory: Founded in 2014, Klook, a travel platform based in Hong Kong, has become a major player in booking tours, hotels, transportation and restaurants across more than 2,300 locations worldwide. Klook hit unicorn status in 2018 after a US$200 million funding round toward its expansion into the US and Europe. Before that, the company secured millions from backers like SoftBank and Sequoia Capital China, now called HongShan.
Over the past few years, Hong Kong has weathered some economic storms, mainly due to the pandemic and a zero-COVID policy. This year brought a noteworthy shift when the government decided to relax COVID restrictions and reopen its borders with mainland China.
More recently: Klook, which started making an overall profit for the first time this year, is adjusting to a post-COVID travel rebound. The company is as also tapping into the artificial intelligence (AI) wave, using Google's PaLM 2 for translations and is considering using AI for chatbots and content creation to bring in cutting-edge travel ideas.
The development: Klook just raised US$210 million in a funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, marking a crucial step in its growth after the pandemic. According to Klook’s official statement, the platform's bookings hit US$3 billion in 2023, triple the amount from 2019. This new funding sets it up for more growth, pulling in twice as many new customers from four years ago, and over half of its bookings are from repeat customers. With this fresh capital, Klook plans to expand, boost digital marketing and amp up AI innovation in its operations, according to statements from Klook's leaders, including CEO and co-founder Ethan Lin, who highlighted these moves as part of the platform’s post-pandemic strategy to catch new travel trends as the industry bounces back.
"We take great pride in being in-destination experts, from the moment our travelers begin their discovery of their dream holiday to the moment they book with Klook and ultimately throughout their in-destination experience. We are committed to make this entire journey seamless, effortless and in the language that best suits our travelers' preferences," said Bernie Xiong, Klook CTO and co-founder, last month in a statement.
"Klook's use of generative AI has the potential to significantly boost both internal productivity and customer engagement, enhancing the uniqueness of their brand and value proposition while also strengthening trust and security for their customers," said Kathy Lee, managing director of Google Cloud in North Asia, in a statement.
"Asia is on an upward trend," said Klook co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Eric Gnock Fah. "There's still so much market growth that will still be happening in Asia. It could see double the growth of the West."