Novacap, Plusgrade | September 18, 2021
Gaining a foothold into the highly lucrative ancillary revenue market, leading Canadian private equity firm Novacap, announced today that it acquired a substantial equity interest in Montreal-based Plusgrade, the global market leader in upgrade technology and a key ancillary revenue partner for their more than 70 partners in air, cruise, and rail.
Founded in 2009, Plusgrade helps airlines, cruise lines and rail operators manage and optimize revenue generated from seat upgrades and other premium services. Through the company's proprietary software-as-a-service platform, travel suppliers are able to capture incremental, high margin revenue from unsold inventory and enhance the passenger travel experience. Plusgrade's products are fully white labeled and integrated into existing reservation systems. Since its inception, Plusgrade has been responsible for generating billions of dollars of new revenue opportunity for leading travel suppliers in more than 50 countries.
"This new partnership is a testimony to Novacap's continued commitment to entrepreneurs and founders of innovative companies and to our desire to enable them to scale up and achieve significant growth," said Pascal Tremblay, President and CEO of Novacap. ''I am delighted to embark on this new phase of growth with our long-time partners at CDPQ, who have been instrumental in the success of Plusgrade over the last several years.''
"Plusgrade is a unique income generator that creates significant incremental revenue from missed opportunities, making it an ideal solution for a wide range of businesses, especially in today's transformed post Covid-19 market,'' said David Lewin, Senior Partner at Novacap. "Ken's leadership in creating and growing a new billion-dollar category positions Plusgrade as an incredible solution for its customers, able to meet demand on a global scale and assert the company's leadership in a niche industry with inherent long-term growth.''
"Our partnership with Novacap brings together their experience and industry insights with our hunger to strengthen our core and create new categories that drive meaningful ancillary revenue through incredible customer experiences," said Ken Harris, Founder and CEO of Plusgrade. "We look forward to Novacap joining our Board as we expand into exciting new products and verticals in the next year."
Founded in 1981, Novacap is a leading Canadian private equity firm with more than C$8B of AUM that has invested in more than 100 platform companies and completed more than 150 add-on acquisitions. Applying its sector-focused approach since 2007 in TMT, Industries and now Financial Services, Novacap's deep domain expertise can accelerate company growth and create long-term value. With experienced, dedicated investment and operations teams as well as substantial funding, Novacap has the resources and knowledge to build world-class businesses. Novacap has offices in Brossard, Québec and Toronto, Ontario. www.novacap.ca
Plusgrade provides innovative revenue-generating solutions for the global travel industry. As the recognized leader in a key segment of the ancillary revenue and merchandising space, Plusgrade helps travel providers worldwide manage, optimize, and capture high-margin revenue generated from upgrades, unsold inventory, and other premium services. Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, with offices in New York and Singapore, Plusgrade has created billions of dollars of new revenue opportunities for the more than 70 premier airlines, cruise lines and rail operators it serves across 50 countries. www.plusgrade.com
DESTINATION AND TOURISM
Town of Pictou. | August 23, 2021
PICTOU, N.S, After two seasons of cancelled cruise ship visits, the local tourism industry is showing signs of a rebound after COVID.
Michelle Young, Manager of Recreation Services for Pictou Recreation and Parks, says that while cruise ship visits may have been on pause since 2020, work has continued behind the scenes to prepare for an eventual return of tourists. Now, bookings are beginning to ramp up again with ships scheduled to visit in 2022 and 2023.
“We're very optimistic,” says Young. “There's a lot of preparation, though, to get to that point. Over this past year-and-a-half, the cruise sector has been highly impacted with COVID. So, in the meantime, there's been a lot of preparation going on at the higher levels. When the reopening happens, there will be protocols in place and guidelines that will be given to us that we will have to follow. There's also preparation on the community side as well.”
Since 2012, the local cruise ship business has grown by partnering with companies operating smaller-sized vessels – an ideal fit for the primarily American tourists looking for a unique tourist experience.
“We've had some great successes,” says Young. “There's a company that is regularly calling on Pictou every year – Pearl Seas. We've always aligned, what we have here according to the cruise company and what their brand is all about and what their client is looking for.”
According to Young, the appeal to Pictou for U.S. visitors is a mixture of local features, including the connection to Scotland, local architecture and music. For some, the draw is a tie to family.
“There's been a number of times that passengers on the ship actually get off and visit friends and family here, or they have come through another time while traveling and had a desire to come back by ship,” says Young. “We have one family that was researching family history and they needed to find a graveyard here. So that was very, very specific- they had their own agenda for that cruise.”
The return of the cruise ships in a boon to the entire local economy, say Young, with not just tourism-related businesses benefiting.
“Impact is in the local economy here is, you know who comes through your front door,” says Young. “By cruise passengers and crews locally walking through a gift shop or a pharmacy looking for either a souvenir or supplies, those are the direct things that local business community feel.”
Adam Coulter, the UK Managing Editor for cruisecritic.com, predicts that smaller vessels to more unique locations will be a rising trend for the cruise ship industry in the future. “Expedition ships also focus on outdoor exploration in more remote places, which has become a priority during the pandemic,” says Coulter in a recent article.
For Pictou, getting on the map for the cruise industry at this moment might be ideal as companies look for smaller, safer destinations that are off the beaten path.
Skift | July 29, 2021
Brazil is proving to be a fertile ground for travel tech companies. According to a recent study, the country has 219 companies that provide corporate travel, online travel, distribution, and business intelligence. Entrepreneurs established the majority of these businesses in the last seven years.
The country is positioning itself to become a Latin American travel tech hub comparable to Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina. These companies are investing now to gain a competitive edge in the post-pandemic period, and they are playing the long game.
According to the So Paulo consultancy Loureiro Consultores, Brazil’s travel tech businesses are expected to generate or service about $6 billion (35 billion reals) in gross travel volume in 2022. The report expands on a rough version published a year ago by business travel company Onfly.
The “agency and online reservations” area seems to be Brazil’s most robust category of travel IT firms, accounting for 29% of the total.
To be sure, global brands like Booking.com, Expedia, and the Despegar-owned brand Decolar are major online travel sellers in Brazil. In addition, Hurb (formerly Hotel Urbano) is a local player, although it is backed in parts by Booking Holdings. Finally, Submarinoviagens is the online brand of CVC Corp, the established travel giant that claims itself as the largest group of travel and tourist businesses in the Americas.
Nonetheless, despite these well-capitalized brands, smaller local competitors seem to be gaining momentum. 123milhas and Viajanet are among the agencies that have maintained or increased their market share throughout the crisis, thanks in part to smart marketing on Lusophone social media.
Voopter has maintained its share of the travel price-comparison search, or metasearch, market, despite competition from Mundi, a brand purchased by Booking Holdings, Skyscanner, Trip.com Group, and Google’s travel search.
YouVisa is a travel company that provides an adjacent service by digitizing and simplifying the still enigmatic process of obtaining visas for international travel.
Just as Oyo Rooms and Ayenda Hoteles in Colombia have generated buzz with their branded hospitality franchise models, Brazil has its own similar tech-forward hospitality startup: Voa Hotéis.
Housi in Brazil, like Sonder in the United States and Casai in Mexico, operates on similar business models. It sometimes signs master leases from property managers, creates short-term rentals, and markets them through online agencies. In addition, it sometimes owns the property itself. In December, the startup raised $11 million in funding.
Optimized for Brazilian Travel
The rise of domestic travel tech and trends in internet use and flight expansion is laying the foundation for a rebound.
Millions of Brazilians moved from offline to online due to pandemic restrictions, similar to how China experienced a spike in digitization after the SARS epidemic in 2003. An estimated 150 million Brazilians use the internet, with the recent expansion of mobile broadband benefitting them.
The success of the new airline Azul in introducing flights to places that other carriers had overlooked is also benefiting the growing middle class.
Investors have mostly ignored the Portuguese-speaking country because they believe its middle-class has not yet reached “the inflection points” at which it would substantially increase travel spending, to use language from a Boston Consulting Group report.
Investors have also been cautious about the country, which had only attracted around 5 million international visitors each year on average before the pandemic.
However, the relative lack of foreign investor activity has made room for newer homegrown players to take and solidify positions in the long term.
Strength in corporate travel tech
Brazil’s travel tech scene seems to be doing particularly well in corporate travel.
Brazil currently lacks a competitor to Barcelona-based TravelPerk or Palo Alto-based TripActions.
Onfly, Paytrack, and Voll are three of the most promising businesses that could follow in their steps. However, it is still early on in the game.
B2B Reservas is another promising company. It handles corporate travel distribution, reservations, and payments by connecting hotels to the biggest travel agencies, similar to HRS’s corporate travel marketplace.
In an economy dominated by family-owned or state-backed conglomerates, the growth of these stand-alone companies is remarkable. However, it seems that many legacy companies in Brazil’s travel industry have left gaps that can be exploited by entrants, as Azul has shown in the face of established airlines like LATAM and Gol.
Enterprise or business-to-business technology vendors are another intriguing categories in Brazil’s travel tech scene.
Sensys Travel, for instance, is a business intelligence company that assists travel brands in tracking the rates that their competitors are placing on the market in “real-time.”
Any effort to capture a travel company ecosystem should consider whether or not to include so-called mobility players, including ride-hailing companies, ground transportation operators, and next-generation aircraft manufacturers. Some analysts, such as Lufthansa Innovation Hub, include mobility players in their assessments.
Brazil may offer a more compelling case for adding mobility players than other markets.
The line between IT players providing tourism, business travel, and mobility in Brazil is often more hazy than in other markets. Much of the country’s leisure and business travel occurs outside of aircraft (almost no rail). WiiMove, like Berlin-based Omio, aims to capture multi-modal choices for travelers.
The little cruise industry in Brazil is one of the country’s travel mysteries.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the country’s Economic growth is expected to expand by more than 4.3 percent this year. In addition, a gradual easing of the pandemic should lead to a recovery in leisure and business travel.