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Where top VCs are investing in travel, tourism and hospitality tech

The venture community has been fixated on travel and hospitality since the dot-com era and early-2000s, when mainstays like Kayak and Airbnb were still Silicon Valley darlings. As the multi-trillion-dollar global travel and hospitality market continues to grow, VCs are still foaming at the mouth for the opportunity to redefine the ways we move and stay around the world.

Despite the cyclical nature of the travel sector, deal flow in travel and hospitality has remained strong and largely stable over the last half-decade, according to data from Crunchbase and PitchBook. Over the same period, we’ve seen more than a handful of startups in the space reach unicorn status, including companies like Klook, Sonder, Flixbus, Vacasa, Wheels Up, TripActions and others.

High-profile funding rounds also appear to be popping up across travel and hospitality’s various sub-sectors, including bookings, activity marketplaces, short-term rental, tourism and hotel platforms. And companies are continuing to pull in funding rounds in the hundreds of millions to billion-dollar range, such as India hotel network company Oyo, which raised $1.5 billion in funding as recently as December.

While VC investment in the space has remained resilient, some investors are predicting it’s only a matter of time before the travel startup world hits a downturn. To get a temperature check on the state of the travel market, the outlook for fundraising and which sub-sectors might present the most attractive opportunities for startups today, we asked five leading VCs at firms spanning early to growth stages to share what’s exciting them most and where they see opportunity in travel, tourism and hospitality tech:

Placer.ai, a location data analytics startup, raises $12 million Series A

Placer.ai, a startup that analyzes location and foot traffic analytics for retailers and other businesses, announced today that it has closed a $12 million Series A. The round was led by JBV Capital, with participation from investors including Aleph, Reciprocal Ventures and OCA Ventures.

The funding will be used on research and development of new features and to expand Placer.ai’s operation in the United States.

Launched in 2016, Placer.ai’s SaaS platform gives its clients to real-time data that helps them make decisions like where to rent or buy properties, when to hold sales and promotions and how to manage assets.

Placer.ai analyzes foot traffic and also creates consumer profiles to help clients make marketing and ad spending decisions. It does this by collecting geolocation and proximity data from devices that are enabled to share that information. Placer.ai’s co-founder and CEO Noam Ben-Zvi says the company protects privacy and follows regulation by displaying aggregated, anonymous data and does not collect personally identifiable data. It also does not sell advertising or raw data.

The company currently serves clients in the retail (including large shopping centers), commercial real estate and hospitality verticals, including JLL, Regency, SRS, Brixmor, Verizon* and Caesars Entertainment.

“Up until now, we’ve been heavily focused on the commercial real estate sector, but this has very organically led us into retail, hospitality, municipalities and even [consumer packaged goods],” Ben-Zvi told TechCrunch in an email. “This presents us with a massive market, so we’re just focused on building out the types of features that will directly address the different needs of our core audience.”

He adds that lack of data has hurt retail businesses with major offline operations, but that “by effectively addressing this gap, we’re helpiong drive more sustainable growth or larger players or minimizing the risk for smaller companies to drive expansion plans that are strategically aggressive.”

Others startups in the same space include Dor, Aislelabs, RetailNext, ShopperTrak and Density. Ben-Zvi says Placer. ai wants to differentiate by providing more types of real-time data analysis.

While there are a lot of companies touching the location analytics space, we’re in a unique situation as the only company providing these deep and actionable insights for any location in the country in a real-time platform with a wide array of functionality,” he said.

*Disclosure: Verizon Media is the parent company of TechCrunch.

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