Voyager HQ is launching in London! We’re kicking off the .events chapter in Europe with a Travel Pitch Night powered by JetBlue Technology Ventures on September 10, 2019. Register here to attend. Working on an innovative new travel product? Apply here to pitch for our expert panel and audience!
In general, Europe boasts a landscape and legacy around travel and tourism that creates an appealing backdrop for travel startups. The continent is home to around 741 million residents, many of whom travel often, and the close proximity of countries lends itself to frequent travel.
Railways became Europe’s the primary driver of tourism by taking advantage of the shorter distances required to country-hop. Over time, those distances have been even further reduced, as low-cost airlines have come on the scene to make more destinations accessible for shorter periods of time.
As more Europeans began to take to the skies for weekend city breaks abroad, that same low-cost carrier model led to global brands like Norwegian Air bringing tourists to Europe from all over the world. At the same time, river cruises also exploded with popularity in European destinations.
Today, Europe — a continent synonymous with a thriving tourism industry — grapples with both the advantages and challenges of a dominant travel and tourism ecosystem.
In modern European markets, homegrown companies can leverage their regional knowledge into a globally-relevant product for the travel industry. Beyond that insider knowledge for startups launching in Europe, there’s also a strong support system for entrepreneurs in many European countries.
According to Startup Europe’s ecosystem analysis, there are 828,982 companies that have received a total of EUR 36 billion in funding. The cities that capture most of this funding include London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, and Amsterdam -- one of the reasons we’ve identified them as some of the most beneficial places in Europe to base travel startups.
As a compendium to our prior post on the Best Cities for Travel Startups in the U.S., here’s a look at our picks for the top cities for travel startups in Europe. We shaped this list by looking not just at the amount raised across all industries (which is a helpful barometer for the quality of talent and innovation activity in a given city), but also on the city’s prominent travel startups. While other factors such as cost of living and accessibility also matter, it’s access to a broad base of talent, lively funding landscape, and depth of travel industry expertise in the area that combine to make for an especially appealing home to travel startups in these cities.
For the past 13 years, GetYourGuide has been steadily building itself into a global powerhouse. The company recently raised a mammoth $484 million fundraising round, led by Softbank, grabbing headlines worldwide. The team has set the scene for a burgeoning travel startup scene, which mirrors the impressive growth of Berlin as a top startup city in Europe.
The area’s reputation is also bolstered by the long-time presence of ITB, the world’s largest travel trade and destination show. The event continues to expand its footprint, solidifying its spot on the “must attend” list for most travel, tourism, and hospitality companies around the world. The company recently partnered to launch the Berlin Travel Festival, held concurrently for a more youthful vibe with a greater focus on startups and new technology.
Berlin is also, put simply, a lot of fun, and maintains a fairly affordable cost of living which makes it a draw for founders looking to live and work in a city without sacrificing the quality of life. The potent combination of industry expertise, cultural lifestyle and affordability make Berlin an appealing spot for startups.
Local resources: Berlin Startup Scene Twitter list, Startup Grind Berlin, Techstars’ Startup Digest calendar of events, Travel Massive Berlin, SiliconCanals (covers all of Europe), Berlin Travel Club.
Notable local startups: GetYourGuide (tours and activities), Medigo (medical tourism), Comtravo (business travel management), Flyiin (flights API), Gogoro (mobility), Metaplanner (calendar based trip planning), Customer Alliance (reputation management solution for hotels).
Paris has made a large public commitment to travel and tourism with Welcome City Lab. The public/private partnership aims to leverage Paris’ position as a global tourism magnet and “invent the future of tourism and be the capital of tourism innovation.” The organization calls its unique combination of coworking space, incubation, and community connections a Tourism Innovation Platform.
As far as local talent, global hospitality brand Accor is based just south of Paris. The company is quite active on the acquisitions front. It also makes a strong statement with its “Open Innovation” program, where it collaborates directly with startups on disruptive ideas and new concepts. A result of this “augmented hospitality strategy” is Accor’s emerging Jo&Joe brand, as well as its partnership with co-working brand WOJO to become a leading co-working brand by 2022.
Notable local startups: Mindsay (AI customer care for travel), BlaBlaCar (rideshare), MisterFly (OTA), PerfectStay (B2B travel packages), DayUse (accommodations), leCollectionist (vacation rentals), HopStay (digital assistants for destinations), WeClaim (travel disruptions solution), ShopnGo (smart offers on the airport’s shops), Flywallet (fintech for travel).
According to Startup Europe, Amsterdam’s share of Europe’s total funding was EUR 1.67 billion. While these investments are driven across industries, Amsterdam has an especially strong place in the travel ecosystem: it’s the global headquarters of Booking.com. Over the years (especially after its acquisition by Priceline), the company has become a massive operation with outposts in nearly every city worldwide. The company’s reputation, both for its profitability and its mindset, gives Amsterdam a foundation of expertise and capital unrivalled by most cities.
Notable local startups: HotelChamp (hotel martech), Bidroom (hotel-only OTA), Tiqets (tours and activities), Viggo Smart Hotel (hotel tech), Booking Manager (vacation rental tech), TripGems (tours and activities), Olery (reputation management) , TRVL (hotel OTA, Polarsteps (journey tracker) FlyMya (OTA for the SEA market)
Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, London is a great place for startups. The close proximity to the rest of Europe, as well as its six airports, gives London an ideal location for startups looking to bridge themselves between North American and European markets.
London already has a dedicated space for travel technology startups. Based out of the Trampery, the Traveltech Lab is a “community that aims to foster innovation, collaboration, and creativity, and bring together technology startups with big corporates within the travel industry.”
Starting in September, Voyager HQ will also be landing in London, kicking off the first European city in our .events expansion. Every month, our London .events team will assemble travel entrepreneurs, technologists and corporate partners in the UK for breakfasts, Pitch Nights and Happy Hours that enable collaboration and thought leadership between changemakers in the travel industry.
We’re starting the chapter off with the first Travel Pitch Night on September 10th, powered by JetBlue Technology Ventures! At Travel Pitch Night, the Voyager HQ community in London will welcome travel startups from all over Europe to pitch to investors, enterprise travel companies and the local community. The panel will provide live feedback to those pitching, and the judges and audience will vote on its favorites to help us select a winning startup. Register here to save your spot in the audience and apply here to pitch your innovative travel company!
Having these community hubs make London an especially appealing place to work and live as a travel startup, as an industry-focused community can provide networking and support that helps startups navigate new markets and secure funding.
Local resources: SiliconCanals (covers all of Europe), London Startups List, Techstars’ Startup Digest calendar of events, Startup Grind London, Travel Massive London, Traveltech Lab @ the Trampery, London Startup Scene Twitter list,
Notable local startups: onefinestay (luxury vacation rentals), Snaptrip (members-only lodging), Hostmaker (vacation rental management), HouseTrip (vacation rental OTA), winerist (food/wine travel), Stasher (luggage storage),Loco2 (overland OTA), Triptease (hotel martech), OTA Insight (hotel martech), xCheck (Ad-tech for airlines), Flexitech (SaaS B2B solutions for the travel industry), CultureTrip (curated experiences), Selina (digital nomads community),Duffel (seamless travelling software), Nightly.travel (hotel switching platform), Impala (hotel data), Mitty (all-in-one travel app), Landmrk (location-based experiences platform), Firef.ly (intelligent pocket travel companion).
Another excellent hub of travel and technology in Europe is Dublin. There are reported to be over 100 travel tech companies based in Ireland, and those are mostly focused around the capital city. Enterprise Ireland has invested heavily in travel tech companies, such as
Travel giants such as Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Travelport Digital, and Google have all established their European Headquarters there, and there’s also no shortage of innovation labs in Ireland, such as those run by Uber, SITA and Ryanair.
There is also a particularly large Travel Massive chapter in the city—their most recent event featured the CTO of Ryanair, the Innovation team from American Airlines, and former CEO of Emirates).
Dublin also hosts a Travel Tech Summit annually, with key executives from around the world who meet with Irish based startups. This year the Summit hosted key executives from IHG, Radisson Hotels, Jet Blue Ventures, Thayer Ventures, 500 Startups, American Airlines, IAG, Hanger 51, SITA, Aer Lingus, and Mastercard.
Madrid is the home to Amadeus, the travel technology company that reaches across all aspects of travel, lodging, and aviation. As such, there’s a vibrant community of travel industry veterans to act as advisors and early employees. This type of in-built community really sets Madrid apart -- and actually, also extends to Barcelona, which also acts as a home base for an impressive number of tourism-focused startups.
For travel startups looking towards aviation, Hangar51 is one to consider. The incubator is run by IAG, so participants are able to work directly with teams at IAG Cargo, Vuelings, and Iberia. The 10-week program brings startups to co-work with company stakeholders in either Barcelona or Madrid. The access to real-world operational environments gives travel startups a leg-up in finding product-market fit and delivering an exceptional product that solves an actual business need.
Notable local startups: Spotahome (online home rentals), Pangea (OTA), Cabify (rideshare), OnTruck (on-demand logistics), Alma (urban mobility), Traity (online reputation), eccocar (carshare), Smartvel (destination martech),Minube (OTA), Triporate (B2B travel management).
Did we overlook any essential resources in these cities? Please share with the community in the comments!