- Leading the round were Gobi Partners and Axiata’s digital fund
- Originally founded as LagiSatu, aims to be ‘TripAdvisor for Muslim travellers’
MALAYSIAN online travel agency and hotel review platform Tripfez, which is focused on halal travel and stay experiences for Muslims, has raised US$750,000 in a seed round led by Gobi Partners and Intres Capital, the latter through the Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF) it manages.
Also participating were “several prominent angel investors in the travel industry” including Douglas Khoo, cofounder of China-based online travel platform Qunar, according to an official statement.
ADIF is a collaboration between Kuala Lumpur-headquartered regional telco Axiata Group Bhd and Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd (Mavcap), the Malaysian Government’s venture capital arm.
Its participation in this round of funding was first announced last December, part of a cumulative RM12.5 million (US$2.9 million at the time) it invested in six startups then.
Tripfez, operated by Lagisatu Travel Sdn Bhd, will use this investment to expand its offerings, enhance its marketing efforts, upgrade its technological capabilities – including developing an application programming interface (API) for partners – and hire more people, it said in its joint statement with Gobi Partners.
It was originally founded as Muslim-focused hotel meta-search engine Lagisatu.com in July 2012, before being rebranded. In mid-2013, it was shortlisted for the Star Accelerator Fund operated by Malaysian media powerhouse Star Media Group, but no agreement was reached.
“We started Lagisatu as a meta search engine for Muslim-friendly hotels – it was the right positioning at the time because it differentiated us from other meta searches,” Lagisatu cofounder and chief executive officer Faeez Fadhlillah (pic) told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
“Then we saw the full potential of the Muslim travel market and realised we could be more than that, given the expertise we¹d built up in the market, and that we could expand into reviews and experiences.
“So on the advice of our coaches and mentors, we decided to broaden our scope but stay focused on our domain of expertise.
“Hence we relaunched as Tripfez and we want to be like the TripAdvisor for Muslim travellers,” added Faeez, whose cofounder is long-time friend Juergen Gallistl, also Tripfez chief operating officer.
Currently, over 23% of the world’s population identifies as Muslim, according to Tripfez. In 2014, Muslim travellers accounted for US$142 billion in global outbound tourism revenue. This figure is expected to rise to US$233 billion by 2020.
Tripfez said it takes a dual approach, offering a portal for Muslim consumers to complete bookings, while also assisting service providers become more Muslim-friendly.
To help users find the right accommodations and experiences, the website enables travellers to discover, compare and complete bookings that fit their needs, while offering tips for a wide range of destinations around the world.
Tripfez also operates the Salam Standard membership programme, which helps hotels become more Muslim-friendly through information and training.
Salam Standard offers branding, online and offline promotion and marketing services to participating hotels. Certified facilities are then included in the Tripfez directory – which currently features over 200,000 properties worldwide, of which more than 20,000 are Salam Standard certified.
“Muslim consumers represent a highly underserved market segment,” Gobi Partners managing partner Thomas G. Tsao said in an official statement.
“With Tripfez and Salam Standard’s halal friendly travel offerings, we believe that Muslim travellers will feel more comfortable to explore the world,” he added.
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