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Korea's No. 1 Hotel App Cuts a Deal to Reach Global Clients

Sohee Kim and Sam Kim

(Bloomberg) -- The creator of South Korea’s most popular hotel app has acquired Indian lodgings management platform eZee Technosys, quickening an expansion beyond its home country.

Yanolja Co. will pick up 21,000-plus global clients from the Surat, India-based company, which helps hotels and other customers manage room bookings and loyalty programs online. The Korean company hopes to extend that automation technology to its other businesses across the region.

Backed by Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte. and Booking Holdings Inc., Yanolja is expanding beyond the love motels that made its name to accommodate families and business travelers across Asia. In 2018, the Seoul-based startup announced an investment in Southeast Asian budget hotel chain Zen Rooms, tapping one of the world’s fastest-growing travel arenas.

eZee “will help Yanolja develop the fully automated hotel management platform to not only substantially enhance customer experience but also lower hotels’ operational costs,” Kim Jong Yoon, head of Yanolja’s online business, said in a statement.

Yanolja -- Korean for “hey, let’s play” -- became in the span of a few years the country’s most popular app for booking love motels. But founder Lee Su-jin is trying to persuade their owners to jettison a long-held image of sleaze and upgrade facilities to appeal more to business travelers, families and tourists. Yanolja now manages more than 10,000 rooms in Korea and Southeast Asia.

Read more: Love Hotel Janitor Turns Tycoon With Plans to Sweep Away Sleaze

To contact the reporters on this story: Sohee Kim in Seoul at skim847@bloomberg.net;Sam Kim in Seoul at skim609@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Colum Murphy

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