ChinaTravelNews Xianhao Zeng– Zaiseoul, a Korean tourism service website targeting inbound Chinese visitors, announced it received US$3 million from Korea-based NICE Group in a Series A financing round.
The Zaiseoul website specializes in offering independent travel product bookings to Chinese travelers. Besides online travel products such as its nation-wide select local tours, group buy, hotels and guesthouses, attractions and excursions, it also operates offline services such as a Seoul city bus service and a print tourist magazine.
Zaiseoul’s online guesthouse booking page
Zaiseoul was founded by Koreans Jaeyoung Jang and Kyungjun Lee, who met while traveling in Beijing in 2004. In the winter of 2010, they published the first edition of the Zaiseoul magazine that offered information, travel tips and shopping coupons for independent Chinese travelers visiting Korea.
Mr. Jang said the magazine currently has a circulation of around 35,000 copies a month and earns most of its income from advertising. In the past two years,they decided to transition the magazine from an information-based publication to an online booking platform after seeing the booming popularity of online travel websites in the last two years. They launched the Zaiseoul website in October last year.
Zaiseoul received seed funding from venture capital group Primer in the second half of 2013 and it raised US$680,000 in a Series A financing round from Korean venture capital K-Cube Ventures in August 2014. It now has over 40 Chinese and Korean staff in its Seoul and Shanghai offices.
Zaiseoul currently offers its users information and coupons for discounts ranging from 5%-20% for 150 popular stores in Seoul. Mr. Jang said: “Female visitors to Korea between the ages of 20-30 spend the most on shopping, and the biggest attraction for independent travel is to shop like a local and enjoy an authentic experience. Our coupons give users the opportunity to take trips just like any Korean would.”
Zaiseoul Seoul city tour bus
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Recent data show that Korea has become the top overseas tourism destination for Chinese. Of the 13 million foreign arrivals Korea received last year, 6.2 million arrivals were Chinese visitors, who spend an average of US$2,271 per person in Korea. The Korean Tourism Development Department estimates that this number will reach 10 million arrivals by 2018.
Mr. Jang said they will use this latest funding to open up more quality products and services in Korea and expand marketing and promotion in China. It will also set up a Korean version of Chinese popular ratings site Dianping, offering a one-stop tourism service platform with commissioned shopping services. He also said they plan to offer destinations travel services to Chinese traveling to Japan and Taiwan.
He said the majority of Zaiseoul’s sales is from its own website, and mobile bookings make up 40% of total bookings. It is also working on opening stores on external platforms like Taobao and partner OTAs.
China’s travel market is crowded with destinations travel service websites like Haiwan, Woqu and Tours for Fun, but Zaiseoul’s advantage is its specialization in creating product differentiation to penetrate a relatively large market. At the same time it has tremendous room for growth by forming partnerships with a full range of mainstream OTAs and destination travel websites in China’s travel industry.(Translation by David)