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Flush with pandemic profit success, South Korean travel firm Yanolja eyes rapid expansion

Flush with pandemic profit success, South Korean travel firm Yanolja eyes rapid expansion
Flush with pandemic profit success, South Korean travel firm Yanolja eyes rapid expansion   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021
By Reuters

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL – Yanolja, a South Korean firm that provides cloud-based booking and other systems for hotels and travel companies, said it is aiming to expand its client base 16 times by 2025, building on rapid pandemic-induced growth in Southeast Asia, India and Africa.

Demand for its systems has jumped as the spread of COVID-19 put companies under intense pressure to introduce contactless services and cut costs. That in turn has made Yanolja a rare beast in the travel industry over the past year – a company which has seen earnings spike.

Founded as an online booking agency in 2005, Yanolja only launched its cloud business in 2019. The business, which competes with Oracle Corp in a highly fragmented sector, now has some 30,000 licensees and that client base should reach 500,000 by 2025, Chief Executive Kim Jong-yoon told Reuters in an interview.

“Our sales and profits are bound to improve when COVID-19 travel constraints end,” he said.

Last year Yanolja swung to a 16.1 billion won ($14 million) operating profit from a loss of 6.2 billion won, while revenue soared 44% to 192 billion won.

Its performance has stoked investor interest and in the over-the-counter market where a limited number of its shares are traded, Yanolja was valued at 8.7 trillion won ($7.6 billion) on Wednesday. That represents a massive increase over its valuation of more than $1 billion in 2019 when Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and U.S. firm Booking Holdings invested $180 million.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund is in talks to invest in Yanolja, the Financial Times reported last week. Kim declined to comment as did a SoftBank representative.

Yanolja has previously said it was pursuing an IPO but Kim also declined to comment on those plans.

The company’s systems allow hotels to manage bookings, accept contactless check-ins, and track when guests are not in their rooms so that electricity is not wasted and rooms can be cleaned more efficiently. It also offers systems that allow hotels and travel agencies to connect their data more easily.

In addition to some 9,000 hotels as clients in South Korea, Yanolja has signed up some 6,000 hotels in Southeast Asia where it has a presence in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. It also plans to enter Vietnam shortly having partnered with VNTravel, the online travel unit of VNLIFE.

In India, Yanolja has some 6,000 hotels as customers, while in Africa at least 3,000 hotels are using its services after it entered the market in September last year.

($1 = 1,149.2000 won)