February 21, 2024

priceA travel technology company that helps travelers get more out of duty-free shopping announced today that it has raised a $35 million Series B round led by SC Ventures. Part of the funds was used to acquire CardsPal, a Singapore-based fintech company that provides users with nearby deals and promotions.

During the travel disruption caused by the pandemic, utu is committed to partnering with travel, hotel chains and retail brands.The company noted that despite a pick-up in tourism, only About 1% of venture capital The past 15 years have been mostly traveling, mostly short-term rentals for hospitality. Utu aims to innovate in the field of duty-free shopping, allowing tourists to get VAT back on their purchases.

Utu offers customers a Tax Free Card, which has two main products. First, duty-free shoppers can opt for frequent flyer miles or hotel points in lieu of a VAT refund. Alternatively, they can opt for an instant store voucher worth 120% of the VAT or GST they pay when shopping overseas. Retailers, airlines, hotels and other organizations that partner with them can not only increase customer loyalty, but also increase tourist shopping revenue by up to 40 percent, Utu said.

Utu’s partners include 10 global airlines including Air France-KLM, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, as well as AccorHotels, one of Europe’s largest hotel brands. To facilitate payments, utu works with fintech partners such as Nium and uses its own proprietary technology. It plans to announce more partnerships later this year.

Customers pay VAT upfront and can reclaim it through operators such as Planet or Global Blue. But they can’t get the full VAT back, and that’s where utu comes into play.

Utu co-founder Asad Jumabhoy spent 8 years in the duty free business and then 25 years in duty free shopping. Jumabhoy started as a tax free business in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it ran a fashion and fragrance store at Singapore’s Changi Airport, which has since grown into Global Blue. After selling Global Blue in 2012, Jumabhoy decided to use his knowledge of retail margins, VAT and customer shopping habits to develop utu.

“The way we look at our work is that we are building a new product layer on top of the existing tax-free shopping infrastructure, unlocking value,” he said.

Jumabhoy said that while duty-free shopping was a common practice, there were still two problems. Firstly, the tax refund process is more difficult, and secondly, tourists can only refund part of the value-added tax expenditure. Utu focuses on the second question, hoping to bring more value to tourists when they shop. For example, they can get more than 90% of the refund amount through airline frequent flyer miles.

The acquisition of CardsPal will provide utu with a digital marketplace, a promotions engine and self-service merchant registration portal. It will also accelerate the rollout of utu in markets such as France and Italy, as well as an additional 50 countries where VAT and GST refunds are available.

Utu’s funds will be used to expand its product distribution in all countries where the VAT refund service is available, invest in technology and new products, and strengthen management to execute its growth plans.