18 Startups Revitalizing Travel in 2021

by Josh Howarth - April 12, 2021

The travel industry was one of the hardest hit industries in 2020.

In the first half of 2020, global tourism decreased by 65% compared to 2019. And spending on global business travel fell by more than half.

Despite that, some travel startups are still growing.

Check out this list of companies that are looking to revitalize the travel industry in 2021 and beyond.

1. Roadsurfer

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5-year search growth: 5800%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2017

Location: Bayern, Germany

Funding: $2.8M (Series A)

What they do: Roadsurfer rents out customized camper vans in 13 countries in Europe. Besides the core rental service, the startup also offers a number of optional add-ons for each trip, like kitchen cutlery. Each plan also includes an insurance policy.

2. PickYourTrail

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5-year search growth: 6800%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Chennai, India

Funding: $3M (Series A)

What they do: PickYourTrail is a platform for booking entire trips online (including flight, road transportation and lodging). The startup reports that 46,000 people have used the service to date.

3. Very Local Trip

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5-year search growth: 6600%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Central Region, Singapore

Funding: None disclosed

What they do: Very Local Trip connects travelers with local tour guides. In other words, the startup is a focused version of Airbnb's "Experiences" feature.

4. SafetyWing

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5-year search growth: 5600%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2017

Location: Palo Alto, California

Funding: $12.1M (Series A)

What they do: SafetyWing is an insurtech company that focuses on digital nomads. Their flagship "Nomad Insurance" is accepted across several different countries (ideal for travel). SafetyWing also offers a B2B "Remote Health" product that provides coverage for remote teams.

5. Airalo

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5-year search growth: 2400%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2019

Location: Central Region, Singapore

Funding: $1.9M (Seed)

What they do: Airalo is an alternative to using multiple SIM cards while traveling. Specifically, the company offers over 190 affordable "eSIMs" that can be switched over with a few clicks. eSIMs aren't supported by all smartphones. But are becoming an increasingly-common feature in newer models.

6. Harvest Hosts

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5-year search growth: 2800%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2010

Location: Vail, Colorado

Funding: $37M (Series unknown)

What they do: Harvest Hosts is a membership-based community of RV enthusiasts. Membership includes the ability to stay overnight at 2,132 locations in the US and Canada. Pricing ranges from $80-$119/year.

7. Vacasa

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5-year search growth: 592%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2009

Location: Portland, Oregon

Funding: $634.5M (Series D)

What they do: Vacasa is a vacation rental company that manages over 14,000 vacation homes worldwide. Unlike Airbnb, Vacasa specializes in property management services, including interior design services, smart locks, and housekeeping.

8. YouLi (YouLive to Travel)

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5-year search growth: 254%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2016

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Funding: $200K (Angel)

What they do: YouLi is an all-in-one travel management software for organizing group trips and company retreats. The software includes a number templates for different types of travel itineraries. The software also has a member's area  that travelers can use to manage and pay for their trips.

9. Tentrr

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5-year search growth: 525%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2015

Location: New York, New York

Funding: $17.9M (Series unknown)

What they do: Tentrr is an online portal for booking traditional campsites, along with "glamping" options. Users can filter and sort camp site options based on amenities (fishing, biking etc.) and user ratings. The service also includes an option to book events and experiences, like horseback riding).

10. Away

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5-year search growth: 150%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2015

Location: New York, New York

Funding: $181M (Series D)

What they do: Away is a DTC travel brand. Often called the “Warby Parker for suitcases,” the company keeps overhead costs low by selling direct-to-consumer. Away's product line includes sleep masks, travel pillows and compression socks.

11. Sonder

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5-year search growth: 118%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2012

Location: San Francisco, California

Funding: $529.6M (Series E)

What they do: Sonder leases fully furnished hotel-style apartments with flexible timelines. Last year, Sonder adapted to COVID-19 by focusing on the needs of long-term guests, resulting in a 70% occupancy rate during the height of the pandemic.

12. Lodgify

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5-year search growth: 66%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2012

Location: Catalonia, Spain

Funding: $6.6M (Series A)

What they do: Lodgify develops software that help property owners manage their vacation rental properties. The all-in-one website includes features to manage bookings, accept reservations, and synchronize across different platforms, including Airbnb, Vrrbo, and Expedia.

13. Pilota

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5-year search growth: 16%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2019

Location: New York, New York

Funding: None disclosed

What they do: Pilota uses AI to predict flight disruptions in advance. The travel startup developed a “FlySafe” feature last year to help travelers’ compare the health and safety precautions of different flights, including whether each flight offers capacity limits, air filtration, and flexible change policies.

14. Questo

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5-year search growth: 17%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2017

Location: București, Romania

Funding: $1.8M (Seed)

What they do: Questo is a mobile app for iPhone and Android that gamifies city exploration. Users embark on "quests" in order discover interesting spots and learn about local lore. Each quest is designed by a local "creator". The app currently offers quests in over 100 cities.

15. Bespoke

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5-year search growth: 16%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Funding: $3.3M (Series B)

What they do: Bespoke has developed an AI-powered chatbot designed for multilingual guest services. Their software provides hotel guests with answers to hotel-specific questions, local recommendations, and restaurant reservations. Bespoke was used by the Japanese government during COVID-19 to communicate critical health and safety updates to residents and travelers.

16. Maidbot

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5-year search growth: 3%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Austin, Texas

Funding: $50K (Series B)

What they do: Maidbot manufacturers a housekeeping robot (named Rosie) designed to clean hotels and commercial buildings. Rosie takes on "dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks", in order to reduce injuries to staff while increasing productivity and consistency.

17. OYO Rooms

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5-year search growth: 169%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2012

Location: Gurgaon, India

Funding: $3.4B (Debt Financing)

What they do: OYO Rooms is a global hotel chain that mimics the restaurant franchise model. Every hotel in lists is renovated according to a checklist of standardized features. That way, each location has a consistent look, feel, and experience.

18. youtravel.me

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2018

Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Funding: None disclosed

What they do: YouTravel.me helps small groups book multi-day tours led by local experts. Each booking includes full online payments. And over 12,000 tours include guaranteed "departures" (in other words, the tour is guaranteed to happen on time).

Conclusion

That wraps up our list of travel startups growing despite the hardships of 2020.

The trend away from traditional hotels and towards short-term rental properties, RVs, and campsites accelerated this year as more people work remotely and seek a change of scenery.

There is also a notable shift towards AI and automation, as hotels seek to cut costs and increase efficiency.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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