Fresh off a $5.7 million seed funding round in recent weeks, lodging distribution and fintech startup Katanox is working to build partnerships with hotels and “the new generation” of travel management companies to facilitate connections between the two.
Investors in the Amsterdam-based company include Juan Pablo Ortega, cofounder of Colombia-based home delivery app Rappi and payment app Yuno; Jan Joost Kalff, cofounder of Dutch payment processor Dimebox; and Bas Blommaart, founder of hotel IT platform Itesso, which Amadeus acquired in 2015. Katanox also has brought on Expedia executive Rob Torres as a non-executive director, and he will help to establish partnerships with global hotel brands.
Katanox is building integrations with hotel property management systems and central reservation systems as well as payment service providers, so availability, rates, inventory and payment can all be handled through a single API rather than through global distribution systems, co-founder Mendel Senf said. Current inventory providers include Mexico-based short-term rental provider Casai, and Katanox also is onboarding inventory from a large UK hotel chain, he said.
To date, Katanox has not announced any partnerships with travel management companies, but it’s targeting newer, growing platforms such as TripActions, TravelPerk and BizAway, according to Senf. “They’re all growing really fast, and they’re all integrating the expense management part and travel policy into one platform,” he said.
However, Senf said the timing is right for a challenger for GDSs to emerge in lodging, as hotels are seeking to control distribution costs as revenues from the Covid-19 pandemic. At some point, a chain could make a bold move, such as Lufthansa’s 2015 introduction of a surcharge on GDS bookings, which several other airlines followed over the following years.
“That’s not something the hotels really dare to do at this point, but obviously that will come,” Senf said. “In today’s landscape, as hotels are getting out of Covid, why pay $5 to $10 per transaction and then another fee when you have to change or cancel something?”
Like airline New Distribution Capability fares, the connection also lets travel sellers bundle together services with ancillaries—breakfast and Wi-Fi, for example—into a single offer. Katanox has recently completed a test of bundling with a small hotel chain in the Netherlands, Senf said.
Katanox also plans to introduce services for hotels to offer similar payment solutions to airlines, such as freezing prices or “buy now, pay later” options as well as giving hotels the option to cancel and change fees, according to the company.