“It’s not unlike spreading of Korean culture that’s going round the world,” says new marketing chief Solomito
Just as South Korea has given the world K-pop and K-drama, Yanolja Cloud, which started as part of Yanolja, the country’s leading travel app, wants to bring its brand of K-tech to transform the hospitality and leisure industry.
Since 2019, after a fund raise of US$1,7 billion from Softbank and other investors such as Booking Holdings, Yanolja Cloud, which is positioning itself as a global provider of AI-based SaaS solutions for the hospitality and leisure industries, has been making strategic acquisitions and investments around the world.
It is for this exciting challenge of scaling a South Korean brand into a global giant that lured David Solomito from Amazon Web Services (where he was head of global marketing, travel & hospitality for two years before taking on a broader management role there) to become its global chief marketing officer in December 2022.
Solomito, who has also worked at KAYAK and the NBA, said, “I became aware of Yanolja Cloud when it was highlighted as a technologically-advanced customer building on AWS. The fact that it started as part of Yanolja, the number one travel platform in Korea, means it has access to lots of customer insights and relationships, so I thought it’d be an exciting challenge with lots of opportunities to make an impact.”
“It’s not unlike spreading of Korean culture that’s going around the world – from food like bibimbap to music like BTS – in fact, there was a K-pop concert this weekend in New York and it was packed – and shows like Squid Game. There’s lots of interest in Korean culture and I’m excited to help Yanolja Cloud be the next export.”
Taking on the US market through Innsoft
Its latest acquisition was Innsoft to secure a foothold in the US market and while Solomito acknowledges the challenges of penetrating North America – some might say that North America is as impenetrable to Asian brands as China and Korea are to Western brands, he said, “Our strength is our diversity – a global software-as-a-service company for the hospitality and leisure industries made up of different companies around the world which are specialised in their areas and markets. So we have a breadth of solutions that we can offer to different markets to answer specific needs.”
The Innsoft acquisition was clearly made for its customer base, with Solomito saying, “Innsoft is a 30+-year-old company with a loyal following and it gives us an opportunity to help their customers better use technology to transform their business. Of course, it’s early days in the US, and it will take time, but we have a few unique assets we can deploy.”
Solomito said that in 2019, Yanolja Cloud had 39,000 solution licences and that has grown to the current 80,000+ solution licenses in 170+ countries, in more than 60 languages.
It has also been a strong engine of growth for the parent company, Yanolja, which reported consolidated revenue of KRW 604.5 billion in 2022, an 83% increase from KRW 330.2 billion in 2021.
“Only 10% of hospitality is digitised” – huge potential, huge challenges
Said the company at the time of the release of the financial results, “Since its establishment in 2020, Yanolja Cloud has grown 92 times in 2 years (based on simple sum of sales), and has grown seven times in 2022 compared to 2021, achieving sales of KRW 114.6 billion. Considering the potential of the global market where Yanolja Cloud operates, the goal is to grow more than 10 times in the mid-term to become a leading global cloud solution company.”
Said Solomito, “We want to create technology for hospitality companies to achieve transformation. Sometimes we build it ourselves from scratch, sometimes we bring existing tech offered by one company in one region to another, sometimes it may make sense for an acquisition.”
Bold ambitions such as these come with huge challenges. It is trying to transform a segment of the market that is notoriously fragmented with low adoption of technology and different specifications needed for each market – but therein lies the growth opportunity.
Solomito observed that it has been estimated that only 10% of the hospitality industry is digitsed. “There’s so much room for growth. Of course, it’s complex and it takes time to put the pieces together and it’s been slower than we wish at times, but we are working hard to close the gap and offer a holistic offering to customers.”
With its headquarters in Singapore, one key region identified for expansion is South-east Asia. Its acquisition of Zen Rooms in 2018 seems to have petered out and now it’s serving the market with solutions from eZee, the Indian hospitality tech company it acquired in 2019, and Sanha IT. “We have teams in Thailand and Indonesia to spread the solutions to target local customers including SMEs and premium hotel chains.”
Its eZee acquisition is paying off, said Solomito, with the company recently recognized by Expedia for achieving elite connectivity status and Booking.com for premier connectivity. “To be recognized by these two leading OTAs is a huge achievement and Yanolja Cloud can learn a lot from the eZee team.”
With all the acquisitions it has made, one key lesson learnt has been to “think globally, act locally”.
“You got to have a global view on things – like what are the trends, which direction are customers going – and act locally – different customers have different needs. It’s not like selling soda.
“At the end of the day, across hospitality, everyone is looking for similar things – to run their business more efficiently and delight customers. Sometimes people have a tendency to complicate the tech – what it does, how it does it – but what’s important is to explain the business impact of the solution and understand the local nuances. Keep it simple.”
With such an array of solutions, Solomito said among its top in-demand solutions are its PMS, revenue management and booking engine.
“Yanolja started with small motels and so has full understanding of how technology has democratized the landscape for small properties – both in PMS systems and revenue management. It used to be harder for smaller hotels to deploy revenue management but now software makes it possible for everyone to have access to the same tech.”
And of course, there’s a huge focus on AI with “lots of projects going on”, said Solomito. “Most aspects of Yanolja Cloud will be touched by it and one of the most interesting applications will be in revenue management where there will be ways to predict future demand that weren’t possible before.”
Back home, Yanolja superapp sees rebound in South Korean travel
A key strength of Yanolja Cloud too is its link to the Yanolja superapp in South Korea, which has 18m monthly users and over 50m downloads. Although it positions itself independently from the app, it is undeniable that for some customers, this pipeline to customers in the second largest outbound market in Asia Pacific must be an attractive proposition.
Said Solomito, “It is definitely an advantage. However Yanolja Cloud was set up as a separate entity because of the need for a dedicated focus to the business.”
The South Korean outbound market is rebounding healthily. Yanolja saw a 2,900% increase in bookings and 2,259% increase in transaction value year on year between January and April 2023.
The popular domestic destinations this summer (June-August) are Jeju, Gangwon, Seoul, Busan and Gyeonggi respectively while the most popular overseas destinations are Japan, Vietnam, Guam, Singapore and the Philippines, in that order.
“We have benefitted from the re-opening of travel, but what makes us most bullish is that this is an industry that has doubled every 15 years and the future of travel demand is bright.”
On a lighter note, Solomito said, as a marketer, he’d be pleased if “we could get the global audience to pronounce Yanolja properly (pronounced: Ya-nol-Ja). It’s not that hard after you say it twice — and if you can say Samsung and Hyundai, you should be able to say Yanolja.”
Looks like Yanolja Cloud is ready to teach the world to say, “Hey, let’s play”, in more than 60 languages, and counting.
This article is an excerpt from an article by WiT. Please refer to the source link for the original article. (Note: The photo accompanying this article has been modified from its original version. )
Yeoh Shiew Hoon (2023, May 8). YANOLJA CLOUD WANTS TO BRING K-TECH TO THE HOSPITALITY AND LEISURE WORLD. Wit. Retrieved from https://www.webintravel.com/yanolja-cloud-wants-to-bring-k-tech-to-the-hospitality-and-leisure-world/