Business & Technology

ZEN Rooms, Yanolja to create future of hospitality in Southeast Asia

ZEN Rooms, Yanolja

ZEN Rooms has signed a definitive agreement with travel group Yanolja regarding additional investment, acquisition of early investors’ stakes and the signing of a wide strategic alliance. The economy and mid-range hotel franchise made the announcement on October 16, 2019.

Based in South Korea, Yanolja is backed by Booking Holdings and GIC, among others. The travel group was the lead strategic investor in the company’s US$15M funding round in 2018 with rights to invest further.

Early investor Asia Internet Holdings (Joint Venture of Rocket Internet and Ooredoo Telecom) has agreed to exit its stake to Yanolja. RedBadge Pacific and SBI Korea remain investors, and Access Ventures join as co-investors.

The alliance of ZEN and Yanolja creates the leading economy and mid-range hospitality group in Southeast Asia. It combines ZEN’s top-rated budget hotel franchise business with Yanolja’s scale, hospitality technologies and the backing by the global leader in Online Travel, Booking Holdings (behind, Agoda,, Kayak).

This grants ZEN unique competitive advantages in both hotel technology and sales distribution. The groups will work to heavily deploy automation technology to enhance customer experience, further reduce budget hotels’ operating costs and reinvent budget hospitality across Southeast Asia.

With 13,000 rooms under franchise, ZEN Rooms is one of the largest hotel franchises in Southeast Asia. Since Yanolja’s investment in mid-2018, ZEN has grown revenues 400 percent and became the largest hotel chain in the Philippines with 5,500 rooms under franchise in Q2 2019.

Today, Southeast Asia is the world’s fastest growing travel market, fueled by exponential domestic and regional demand of young travelers and millennials. For example, the number of Chinese visitors has quadrupled in the past decade, according to Economist.

Yet the value-for-money proposition of its budget hotel sector has historically been defective. It has been plagued by several issues including fragmentation, poor hygiene and safety standards, lack of training and low technology use.

Founded in 2015 by Nathan Boublil and Kiren Tanna, ZEN Rooms wanted to improve the state of budget hospitality and bring much needed operational and technological efficiency to the estimated 2 million independent economy rooms in the region. Thousands of hotel owners have since joined ZEN’s franchises to improve their revenue, optimize their cost base and increase the long-term value of their property.

These efficiency gains ultimately benefit travelers who can enjoy safer and better value-for-money stays. With a deep emphasis on customer satisfaction, ZEN franchisees have enjoyed the best average guest ratings on for two years in a row.

“We started ZEN exactly 4 years ago to make budget accommodation in Southeast Asia more affordable and safer,” Boublil stated. “We have proudly built ZEN into the top-rated budget hotel franchise in the region and were honored to be Yanolja’s first international investment. With this strategic alliance, we are joining forces with one of the most technologically innovative travel groups and its unique backers Booking Holdings to create the first full service budget and mid-range hospitality group in SEA, able to deploy world-class technology infrastructure in IoT R&D, automation, hardware and software to all hotels in Southeast Asia.”

Boublil said the alliance with Yanolja will greatly benefit their ability to serve their hotel clients and ultimately the travelers of the Southeast Asian region. Yanolja’s Online Business CEO Jongyoon Kim said, “Since first investing in ZEN, we have shared the same vision of operational excellence and customer centricity to radically improve the SE Asian hospitality market.”

“In the last 12 months, the ZEN team has taken major steps to fulfill this vision and has grown exponentially while displaying top inventory quality,” Kim continued. “With this exciting agreement, Yanolja plans to fully support ZEN to solidify its status as the market leading full-stack hospitality company in the region”.

For enquiries, contact Boublil at or PR Nika Plana at Meanwhile, here is a clip from the recent Miss Asia Pacific International 2019 welcome party held at ZEN Rooms Selah Garden Hotel in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines:

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