ZEN Rooms bags US$15m funding from Korea-based Yanolja

Southeast Asian hotel chain and bookings platform ZEN Rooms has bagged US$15million in funding from Korean leisure platform company Yanolja. The strategic stake comes with the right to fully acquire ZEN Rooms in the future.

The move comes as Yanolja turns its focus to the Southeast Asia market. In a statement, the company said that Southeast Asia is a favourite tourist destination for Korean travellers, and 17% of foreign travellers to Korea come from Southeast Asia.

Currently, ZEN Rooms has a presence in five markets in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonedia, Philippines and Thailand. It was first founded in 2015 by former Foodpanda co-founder Kiren Tanna and Nathan Boublil. It has over 1,000 economy hotel franchisees and over 7,000 room inventory.

Jong-yoon Kim, vice president of Yanolja, explained that through the investment, the company aims to expand to become the most affordable hotel chain and first fully integrated booking platform for leisure activities. This includes hotels, going beyond the domestic domain to around the globe.

“In the future, we shall strengthen our leadership as a tech start-up by providing unprecedented and distinguished services to domestic and foreign travelers by applying innovative technologies including IoT and AI,” Kim said.

Tanna added that Southeast Asia is still at the beginning of both the hotel franchising revolution and its travel demand surge.

“Through its leadership in the Korean market, Yanolja has unparalleled hospitality knowledge and has built a highly refined and innovative business model and best-in-class R.E.S.T platform that we are looking forward to bringing to the Southeast Asian market,” Tanna said.

In 2016, ZEN Rooms was focusing on larger growth in the Southeast Asia budget hotel sector by expanding operations into countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Philippines.

This followed its success within Indonesia by assisting thousands of travellers on short and long stays within the country, the company said at the time. In Singapore, following months of carefully selecting hotel partners, it now has a presence Little India, East Coast and the Central Business District.

At the time, the company also viewed Sri Lanka as one of the fastest growing tourist destinations worldwide, and revealed that it was targeting locations such as Colombo, Kandy and Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia.