July 20, 2024
Residency members of the KTSC in Singapore and local travel industry stakeholders participate in a networking event during Demo Day in Singapore in this  October 2023 photo. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

Residency members of the KTSC in Singapore and local travel industry stakeholders participate in a networking event during Demo Day in Singapore in this October 2023 photo. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

118 travel tech startups benefit from global incubator program

By Lee Hae-rin

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is ramping up efforts to discover and support the global expansion of local startups in the tourism industry.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the KTO launched the Korea Tourism Startup Center (KTSC) in Singapore in August 2022, followed by another in Tokyo in December 2023. These centers aim to assist Korean tourism tech ventures expand into the global market.

Through its annual startup incubator program, the KTSC offers business development opportunities and access to a local network that is essential to the regional ecosystem. This network includes selected venture capital firms, investment experts, local tourism offices and major corporations.

Additionally, the centers provide marketing strategies and localization consulting and facilitate meetings to promote startup growth.

In the two existing centers in Singapore and Japan, 396 overseas business matchings were made last year, along with approximately 80 cases of global expansion. These include the establishment of local corporations, attraction of foreign investment and signing of partnerships.

Residency members of the KTSC in Tokyo and Japanese travel industry stakeholders participate in a networking event in Tokyo, Dec. 5, 2023. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

Residency members of the KTSC in Tokyo and Japanese travel industry stakeholders participate in a networking event in Tokyo, Dec. 5, 2023. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

The KTO launched its Tourism Startup Global Challenge Program in 2020, and since then, a total of 118 Korean tourism startups have participated in the initiative aimed at empowering them to enter overseas markets, receive grants and gain industry support to access business partners.

As a result, 67 startups have achieved a combined turnover of over 236 billion won ($170 million), created 737 jobs and secured 69.2 billion won in foreign investment.

One of the most notable among these startups is Lordsystem, the first company in the world to introduce a mobile passport identification system linked to a payment service.

Established in 2015, Lordsystem provides a mobile passport and payment service called Trip PASS. The company won the CES 2024 Innovation Award for Fintech BOI and Cybersecurity. Additionally, it has registered 11 domestic patents and six overseas patents in the United States, China and Japan.

Notably, the company introduced “Jamboree Pay” during the World Scout Jamboree event in Korea last year, which brought together over 43,000 young Scouts from 159 countries around the world.

It was the first integrated payment service in Jamboree history, allowing users to pay without cash or credit cards anywhere in the hosting country. Jamboree participants could pay with their Jamboree ID by linking the ID card to online and offline payment services.

Another key player is Globaleur, an AI-based trip planning and itinerary management solution for airlines and global travel agencies. Since the company’s participation in the KTSC Singapore, it has won Singapore Airlines’ annual AppChallenge open innovation competition twice and has signed partnerships with global aviation companies.

This incubator project comes amid an ongoing tourism trend in which demands for “smart tourism” through mobile services in small-sized independent groups have spread rapidly.

According to a government survey, a growing number of inbound travelers aged from their teens to 30s who encountered Korean content and traditional Korean culture come to visit Korea individually or in small groups. Their overall satisfaction rate is high.

Residency members of the KTSC in Singapore and local travel industry stakeholders participate in a networking event in Singapore in this March 2023 photo. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

Residency members of the KTSC in Singapore and local travel industry stakeholders participate in a networking event in Singapore in this March 2023 photo. Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization

However, the survey also showed that traffic information and language barriers remained obstacles to their experiences, raising the need to make travel-related information more available in several languages.

In response, Korea announced a set of plans, June 17, to revitalize inbound tourism during an interministerial meeting.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism plan to ultimately draw 30 million tourists annually and reap $30 billion in tourism revenues by 2027.

From airport departure to regional tours, every step, including luggage delivery, post-translation of map applications and rental car services in major cities, the government will strive to enhance foreign nationals’ travel experience in Korea from A to Z, with potential contributions from startups.

For instance, Goodlugg and Zim Carry provide luggage delivery services at train stations and airports to hotels, helping visitors to travel more conveniently.

Moreover, foreign tourists currently can only charge their transportation cards with cash in Korea for buses and subways, while most cities lack any short-term public transportation pass like in other global cities. Thus, the government plans to promote a foreigner-only prepaid mobile transportation card service Lordsystem’s Trip PASS upon their arrival in the country to make their travel easier.

Foreign visitors dressed in Korean traditional hanbok pose in front of Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, June 13. Korea received more inbound tourists from the United States, Taiwan, Indonesia and Singapore during the first four months of 2024, compared to the pre-pandemic record-high from 2019, according to Korea Tourism Organization data. Yonhap

Foreign visitors dressed in Korean traditional hanbok pose in front of Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, June 13. Korea received more inbound tourists from the United States, Taiwan, Indonesia and Singapore during the first four months of 2024, compared to the pre-pandemic record-high from 2019, according to Korea Tourism Organization data. Yonhap

Additionally, the country plans to revitalize local tour programs using small vehicles for visitors traveling in small groups with the help of tourism tech startups such as Movv, short for “Move as a VIP.”

According to the government survey of inbound tourists, several foreign visitors traveling in small groups with 15 or fewer people require tour programs using rental cars due to difficulties in using public transportation. Conversely, travel agencies have expressed concerns about being restricted from using buses in planning tour programs for foreigners.

In response, the government plans to simplify the rental car contract process to revitalize local tour programs with small rental cars, which have seen growing demands among foreign visitors. Additionally, it will promote small vehicle services available for foreigners, such as mobility services Movv and GroundK.

Regarding tax refunds, the government plans to allow foreigners to check duty-free products on their mobile phones and receive tax refund services when they leave the country with the help of companies like Success Mode, which offers foreign visitor-only tax-free service via mobile application dubbed Korea Tax-free Payments.

“As the possibility of overseas expansion has grown for the tourism industry, the KTO will do its utmost to foster the next generation of global travel tech companies, providing opportunities to enter markets and creating new business models,” said Kim Dong-il, the executive vice president of the KTO.

 

 

This article was planned in collaboration with the Korea Tourism Organization.


link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *