Scuba startup ZuBlu nets $1m seed funding ahead of post-lockdown travel boom

By Lucy Ingham

ZuBlu, a travel startup focusing on the scuba diving industry, has announced that it has secured $1m in a seed funding round, with investors anticipating a surge in interest once the coronavirus lockdowns have been lifted.

The founding round was led southeast Asian early stage venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners, with additional funding coming from Mana Impact, She1k and several angel investors.

Launched in Hong Kong in 2017 by seasoned divers Matthew Oldfield and Adam Broadbent, ZuBlu is a digital platform serving the dive travel industry that is designed to make it easier to arrange dives that are sustainable and supportive of ocean conservation.

There are numerous moving parts to a typical scuba diving trip, including verifying the operator is acting responsibly, finding the right destination and the right time of year and arranging suitable local accommodation, which can make arranging them very complex.

“Scuba divers are typically very passionate, high-value travellers,” said Paul Santos, Managing Partner of Wavemaker Partners.

“We were surprised to learn how inconvenient it is for them to find good information to plan and book their trips.”

ZuBlu is designed to simplify this process, making it easy for users to plan trips in a wide variety of destinations with responsible operators. As part of this, every operator listed on the platform is vetted for compliance with the Green Fins code of conduct, a UN-backed scheme to ensure sustainable marine tourism.

It is focused primarily on the Asian scuba diving travel sector, which is currently valued at $4.5bn.

ZuBlu funding to see startup ride post-lockdown travel wave

The seed funding for ZuBlu comes ahead of a projected boom in travel, as many in lockdown are planning trips that they intend to take once the coronavirus-related restricted have been lifted.

ZuBlu has seen this occur particularly in the scuba travel sector, with the company seeing a 425% growth in its community and 46% growth in its resort partner network since the start of 2020.

“Through this pandemic, ZuBlu has experienced strong traction from divers already planning their trips despite the current global slowdown in travel,” said Santos.

“This combined with the company’s high capital efficiency means they can spend time building and refining their platform and onboarding more high-quality travel partners. We are confident they will benefit from unlocking pent-up demand as soon as travel restrictions ease.”

“We have enjoyed an incredible few years since starting ZuBlu and I have never been more excited for the future of travel. It is no doubt that the industry as a whole is currently undergoing a drastic transformation,” added Adam Broadbent, co-founder of ZuBlu.

“Scuba diving and underwater adventure travel – in particular, to remote destinations home to incredible experiences – are uniquely positioned to flourish in a post-coronavirus market. More than ever, we expect people to seek out memorable encounters, to want to escape the crowds, experience new cultures and support sustainable business practices – all of which are central to ZuBlu’s ethos.”

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