Heard of SaaS? Try TaaS


Lani Te Hennepe knows Bali like the back of her hand. Sharing the details is paving the way in a relatively new industry: travel-as-a-service.
Key Takeaways
  • Since its inception, TRAVLR has raised more than $11.5 million in capital to expand its travel-as-a-service offering
  • Globally, the SaaS market is predicted to top US$187 billion this year
  • Te Hennepe says TRAVLR is on the path to profitability
Lani Te Hennepe and Simon Te Hennepe, co-founders of TRAVLR | Image source: Supplied

Lani te Hennepe knows Bali like the back of her hand. The best beach clubs, nicest hotels and most relaxing villas. The hidden gems and the secret spots. And when she took her now-husband, Simon te Hennepe, there on a holiday almost 13 years ago, she wanted him to experience Bali like she had.

“She documented it all in a detailed PDF, all designed just to make sure we both went over there and had the best time ever,” Simon Te Hennepe tells Forbes Australia. “We had the most incredible trip.”

That was the beginning of The Bali Bible, a piece-of-paper-turned-PDF-doc-turned-digital-content-platform for travellers headed to Bali. Simon, who had worked in the tech industry before, even built the website himself, and leveraged social media to generate a cult-like following.

“There are significant opportunities ahead of us, but It is more around picking and choosing which partners, and also when we want to do that next capital raise.”

– Simon te Hennepe, co-founder TRAVLR

“I was just hacking code, which the team are still deleting to this day, and still getting angry about,” he jokes.

Te Hennepe says The Bali Bible started generating significant revenue from affiliate links around seven years ago, but the feedback from customers began to turn negative.

“They didn’t like being farmed off to 50 or 60 different sites,” he recalls. “We looked for different partners that would help bring that booking functionality into our own ecosystem. We wanted to actually retain users in our own environment – own the customer, own the data, and also build a user experience that we were really proud of.”

That led the founders to switch the model. In 2017, the te Hennepes raised $5 million from New Zealand investors in the tourism industry to launch TRAVLR, a travel-as-a-service (TaaS) company.

The idea was to power all bookings on The Bali Bible in-house – from flights to restaurants to beach clubs – retaining users and their data, and providing a seamless experience.

“We plugged it into The Bali Bible and it worked. Our customers were delighted, and we improved the travel experience,” he says. It’s worth noting that today, The Bali Bible is still one of the world’s most comprehensive Bali guides, and boasts nearly 1 million followers on its Instagram page.

But the te Hennepes once again found themselves at a revenue crossroad: they could either create replicas of The Bali Bible for other destinations (like Fiji), or partner with other Bali Bible-lookalikes.

“We just didn’t have the war chest – Booking.com was spending US$2.69 billion on advertising, Airbnb was also spending billions. So we thought, let’s just go find more Bali Bibles.” They did.

Even before covid, TRAVLR had inked deals with Webjet to launch Webject Bali Buddy and Paramount Group to launch10Travlr. MTV, BBC and Nickelodeon came on board, too. The company went on to raise a further $6.7 million in October last year, and this year has partnered with Concrete Playground to launch e-commerce travel platform Concrete Playground Trips.

Concrete Playground has partnered with TRAVLR to launch Concrete Playground Trips | Image source: Supplied

TRAVLR also exclusively revealed to Forbes Australia that it recently partnered with Adelaide Airport to launch Your Travels, a way for South Australian travellers to book holidays, flights and experiences. Each month, new, curated experiences called Your Holidays will also launch on the platform. Adelaide Airport is the first tourism industry partner to adopt TRAVLR’s model.

Being a TaaS model, TRAVLR makes its money in a similar manner to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company. It charges a licensing fee to customers and provides a fully-managed travel solution. TRAVLR’s customers retain and own the user data and the email database.

Globally, the SaaS market is predicted to top US$187 billion this year, according to Grand View Research. It’s a little more difficult to pinpoint the extent of the TaaS market, given it is relatively nascent.

However, the online travel market, which TaaS certainly plays into, is worth around US$433 billion globally, led primarily by players like Expedia and Tripadvisor. These key players bring in around US$11 billion and US$9 billion in revenue annually, respectively. In Australia, the online travel booking market is worth nearly $1 billion in Australia alone, Ibis World research shows.’

After the company’s October capital raise, te Hennepe says TRAVLR is on the path to profitability. Once it reaches that, Simon says it’ll look at whether another capital raise is due.

“We’ve got some exciting conversations taking place in the US,” he says, but adds that given the macroenvironment, “it isn’t the most ideal period right now to raise capital”.

“There are significant opportunities ahead of us, but It is more around picking and choosing which partners, and also when we want to do that next capital raise.”