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Travel Tech, A Lost Opportunity for Thai Startup ?

In Thailand, the FIT group (Fully Independent Travelers) is one that has steadily increased the most over 10 years from 56% of all arrivals in 2006 to 82% in 2016




Increase funding, successful IPOs and active M&A deals are signs that the travel tech startup industry is expanding.

However, despite the volume of global travel spend that occurs online, CB Insights has found that there are very few travel tech startups in Thailand – based on their data, only 6 out of 601 tech startups. Nearly all of them are Online Travel Agencies or OTAs.



  • Globally, travel tech startups have raised over USD 3.92 billion.Many have made successful IPOs or been acquired by other companies.The future for these startups looks bright with high growth potential coming from the increasing number of FITs (Fully Independent Travelers) and online spending growth.
  • EIC views that Thailand’s booming travel industry leaves plenty of room for its travel tech startups to grow, especially those businesses targeting luxury travelers.
  • Some of the highest potential for growth lies in platforms with tailored individual travel packages that offer outstanding, niche or luxury experiences.
  • This broad opportunity for growth follows on the heels of growing middle-income paychecks, which has led to higher travel budgets and a new group of travelers that dares to spend more money to purchase unique travel experiences such as Exclusive Personalized Vacations and Extraordinary Travel Experiences.


Travel tech startups can be divided into five categories based on services offered:

1) Travel inspiration and travel planning – startups that seek out the best locations for travel and help travelers lay out their travel schedules;

2) Accommodation and flight-related search and booking services;

3) Other booking platforms, including ticket booking services for activities such as theme parks, shows and entertainment, and ground transportation;

4) Travel-specific social networks such as Travello and Wayn; and

5) Other travel services.

The travel tech startup industry has grown steadily, particularly since it has been the target of much global investment money flow. CB Insight data illustrates that between 2013-2017, investment in travel tech startups increased by 53% from USD 709 million to USD 3.92 billion (Figure 1).

If we measure the success of travel tech startups by successful IPOs and active M&A deals the numbers have also increased consistently from 11 in 2013 to 20 within the first three quarters of 2017 (Figure 2).

Travel tech startups still have opportunities to expand in the travel market due to explosive growth of global tourism industry, Fully Independent Travelers (FIT) and online travel spend.

Yet despite the growing travel market, there are still very few travel tech startups in Thailand.

The major contributing factor to the rise of travel tech startups is the growing number of tourists. UNWTO expects that the number of tourists will increase from 1.2 billion in 2016 to 1.8 billion by 2030, with the FIT travel group (vs. group travel) experiencing significant growth.

According to the Department of Tourism, out of all the foreign tourist arrivals in Thailand, the FIT group is one that has steadily increased the most over 10 years from 56% of all arrivals in 2006 to 82% in 2016.

This group of travelers demonstrates high online travel spend and is likely to gravitate even more towards the use of travel applications in the future to facilitate their travel experiences. Also, eMarketeer reports that the value of online travel spending worldwide is projected to grow from USD 564.9 billion in 2016 to USD 817.5 billion by 2020 (Figure 3), a growth of 11% per year.

On the global scale, Thailand’s travel tech startups represent only 0.3% of the global travel tech startup industry, which is around 2,039 startups out of 177,685 startups around the world, reflecting a significant business opportunity since the market competition is not too overcrowded.

Since it has higher growth than mass segment, luxury travel segment is more attractive for business because luxury traveler are willing to spend money buying superior travel experience. …

Author: Pharadon Heemmuden

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