Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and investment activity always speaks volumes about an industry, and the travel sector in 2018 was no different.
Growing segments like mobility, experiential travel, and travel technology saw significant activity as newer players proved their business models. Mobility saw large investment, with high-profile companies in bike and scooter transportation (OFO, HelloBike, LimeBike..) securing lucrative venture capital dollars. OTAs were keen to take a slice of the pie; Booking Holdings invested $200m into ridehailing giant Grab, as well as Grab’s Chinese rival Didi,whose platforms they intend to leverage to offer services to travellers.
There were also notable acquisitions from OTAs capitalising on the experiential travel trend and strengthening their reach as full-service travel providers, by integrating tools designed for booking tours and activities. Booking Holdings bought FareHarbour for $250 million and TripAdvisor acquired Bokun for a smaller, undisclosed amount.
However, the largest value M&A deals were dominated by hospitality asset transfers. In a complex deal that reached around $5.65billion, the largest in travel in 2018, AccorHotels cededcontrol of its property unit, AccorInvest Group, to sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms. Minor International also bought NH Hotel Group for$3.1 billion, Wyndham Worldwide acquired La Quinta Holdings for$2.68 billion, LVMH announced a $2.6billion deal to buy Belmond, and AccorHotels acquired Movenpick Hotels for $565 million.
And on the technology infrastructure side, market-dominating giants Amadeus and Sable continued to gobble up smaller innovative players,with Amadeus buying hospitality tech firm TravelClick for $1.52billion, and Sabrebuying Farelogix for $360 million.
Many are saying 2019 could be the year of the IPO, with unicorns Uber, Lyft and Airbnb having all hinted at a float. Despite uncertainty over a potential economic downturn, global travel and tourism remains one of the most valuable industries, worth $7 trillion.Watch this space.