London-based travel tech startup Impala has raised £15.3m just four months after raising £8.4m, to speed up its expansion.
Impala intends to revolutionise the enormous hotel booking industry, one of the first mass-sectors to use the internet but one which has barely moved on since.
Impala is building a product that will democratise the availability of hotel data and enable businesses other than hotels and booking platforms – such as airlines and search engines – to sell hotel rooms by plugging into Impala’s API (application programming interface).
The hotel booking industry is vast. Globally, 6.3 billion hotel booking are made every year accounting for £460bn in revenue during 2018. But the software used is out-of-date and clunky and hoteliers across the world dislike how much inventory and commission (25-30%) they have to give to Booking.com and Expedia.
Instead, by plugging into Impala’s interface, businesses would have access to hotel data and be able to sell room nights on behalf of hotels for a charge much closer to a typical credit card fee of 3%.
For years, hoteliers have been trying to encourage more of their customers to book directly with them, but it has been, by and large, a losing battle.
The cost to acquire loyal customers is high and younger generations do not have much time for brand loyalty; booking with one of the big platforms gives consumers far greater choice. Therefore it is easy to see how attractive Impala’s solution will be for hoteliers.
Joined-up digital thinking
Impala is doing for hotel booking what Plaid – recently bought by Visa for £4.06 billion – is doing for finance: creating a set of digital ‘pipes’ or ‘rails’ that seamlessly link businesses’ internal software to a wider ecosystem of products and apps.
Impala’s current customers include Phillips and TripAdvisor; it is also working with more than 300 hotels, including Accor Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt, and has a pipeline of 3,500 hotels awaiting connection to its platform.
Phillips supplies TVs and in-room entertainment packages to hotels. It needs to connect to the hotel’s systems to know when a room is occupied and who the guest is so that it can make recommendations about what films to watch etc. It also has to erase the viewing history once the guest has checked out. Impala makes all of these processes much simpler.
Hotel booking revolution
Ben Stephenson, Impala CEO and co-founder, who has a background in engineering, said: “Just like the trend towards open banking, the hospitality sector needs solutions that are smart, responsive and can ‘talk’ to the world outside – unlike the siloed, old-school operating systems they’re saddled with at the moment.”
Within the next two years, Impala’s goal is that 25% of hotel bookings worldwide will flow through its technology and the product it is building now will support the entire ecosystem of travel technology.
The startup is looking at hiring another 45-50 people and although it has a London office, most of its employees work remotely from locations around the UK and Ireland.
Impala’s newest round of funding came from Zurich-based Lakestar, that has previously invested in AirBnb and Spotify, and Latitude Ventures, known for investments in Transferwise, Zoopla and TravelPerk.
Impala is not the only London-based startup intent on opening up the travel industry. Duffel, which secured £23m in funding last October, has plans to make life easier for travel agents to sell flights by plugging them into its new travel management application which has 18 major airlines already on board.