A new unicorn—a startup valued at over $1 billion—has been born. Klook, a Hong Kong-based travel startup founded in 2014, raised $200 million in its latest funding run—bringing its total valuation in excess of $1 billion.

In many ways, Klook’s newfound status as a unicorn is a major sign of approval by investors on the growing travel activities space. The entire premise of Klook’s business model is to sell in-destination activities to travelers, and the company describes itself as a destination services company.

Klook’s new unicorn label is a illustration of the growing importance of independent travel in the Asian travel market

With Chinese tourism on the rise, and even more importantly, independent travel on the rise, it’s perhaps no surprise that Asia-based pioneers in the activities space such as Klook and Taiwan-based competitor KKday are on the rise.

Klook’s focus on independent travel was emphasized by Ethan Lin, CEO and Co-Founder of Klook, “Our mission is to empower travelers to build their own unique journey. This round of funding marks an important milestone for us. The funding and extensive experience from our new investors will let us to further solidify our merchant portfolio and provide travelers with even more activities and destinations to explore around the world.”

And while Klook is aggressively expanding with new offices in Europe and, soon, an office in the United States, it’s clear that it’s still a primarily Asian affair. The continent represents both its core customer base and the foremost destination for its customers. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Japan is the leading destination for Klook’s customers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan also ranks as one of the top destinations for Chinese independent travelers.

The travel activities space has become increasingly crowded in recent years, but that has only encouraged new takes on the space from the world’s biggest travel companies

Klook is up against a more crowded field internationally. Stakeholders in the activities space include TripAdvisor and its subsidiary Viator, Airbnb, and Expedia. In China, it also needs to stay one step ahead of China’s myriad of online travel agencies such as Ctrip and Alibaba’s Fliggy, as well as other travel booking hopefuls such as Tencent-backed Meituan-Dianping and even Airbnb China.

Fortunately, independent travel is on the rise, and particularly so in Asia where Klook has its base. Perhaps more critical to its international expansion isn’t to add American or European customers but to add exciting activities and other products in both continents. Asia is both the continent where Klook has most of its customers and offers the most products. Looking forward, it may very well need to offer more products beyond Asia to satisfy even its Asian base, not least since Chinese travelers are traveling more independently and farther than ever.

Of course, the $200 million the company raised will most certainly be of help in realizing that goal.


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