Skip to content

World Tourism Day special: UK startups that are making a difference to the travel scene

On this World Tourism Day, let’s celebrate startups that have given a fillip to the UK’s tourism by making travel hassle-free and affordable and encouraged Brits to embrace travelling within home turf.

We bring you an eclectic mix of travel startups that have emerged post the pandemic to cover a range of bases, from flight-free holidays, rental apartments for corporate workers in the hybrid era as well as keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.


Founded: 2017

Founder names: Ben Stephenson and Charlie Cowley

Headquarters: London

Funding raised: $32.9M

Connecting hotels to businesses that want to sell hotel rooms and create new guest experiences, Impala takes away costly integrations and lengthy negotiation cycles for corporate travel companies and tour operators so that companies can focus on guest experiences.

“One thing that’s clear as the travel market starts to recover, and that’s proving difficult for hotels and room sellers, is that we can no longer rely on the typical predictable customer behaviours. Restriction anxiety, changes to holiday patterns, and remote working are some of the things that are driving shorter booking windows and changes in destination trends,” Ben Stephenson, Founder, Impala said.

In this unpredictable world, properties need to be able to adapt their distribution strategy quickly – and room sellers are looking for supply that gives customers what they want. “That’s why the startup created Contracting by Impala, to dramatically simplify and accelerate the process of signing new agreements and getting properties on sale. With Contracting by Impala, sellers and properties can request, manage and review contracts in one simple dashboard. Agreeing to new deals takes just a few short clicks, so you can get a property on sale in just days. And when it comes to reviewing contracts, you can see all your existing agreements at a glance and easily agree to any changes,” he added.


Founded: 2018

Founder name: Alexa-Maria Rathbone Barker

Headquarters: London

Funding raised: £1M

The startup has unveiled a virtual family travel assistant and AI-driven travel platform to revolutionise the way families book holidays to help families book travel in the post-Covid world,

“As a travel startup during Covid, we knew we needed to pivot our approach from selling holiday accommodation, to supporting parents in our community over these trying times. To do this, during the pandemic, we created virtual activity pack resources aimed at primary school children. These were designed to keep children occupied over the long lockdown days and to help children dream of a world beyond their four walls. Thousands of children all around the UK downloaded these resources and the feedback from parents was phenomenal,” said Alexa-Maria Rathbone Barker, CEO and Founder, tripAbrood.

As the lockdowns eased and travel picked up, the company soft launched into the UK market and quickly had customers staying on a daily basis in tripAbrood properties initially in the UK and then as markets opened up, abroad as well.

“We had so much positive feedback on our lockdown country activity packs, that we decided to make this a core part of our brand going forward, developing ‘Arrive Like A Local’ activity packs for booked destinations, helping children to explore the destinations they are visiting and arrive like a local. These resources are free to everyone who books on the platform and we’ve had children visiting places like York and becoming mini historians in their own rights! We can’t wait to help more families all over the UK to start travelling again and to experience culture as a whole family,” she added.


Founded: 2020

Founder: Cat Jones

Headquarters: London

Funding raised: £1.1M

Building a new type of holiday focussed on slowing down the journey, personalising the experience and keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum, the ‘world-first’ flight-free holiday platform brings sustainable leisure travel to the mainstream.

This has certainly been the summer of slow travel! We sent six times more people on slow holidays in September than when lockdown lifted in April and have added seven new team members (we still have three open roles). Our dynamic packaging technology now allows us to automatically plan and book multi-stop train/boat/bus trips around customer preferences across the UK, and with European trips booming again, we’ve recently added cross-channel ferry connections as a Eurostar alternative for those travelling with pets. Our brand-new internal editor allows our customer experience team to interact with our tech to fully customise trips based on their WhatsApp/phone/email conversations with customers,” said Cat Jones, founder, Byway.

Love Home Swap

Founded: 2011

Founder: Debbie Wosskow

Headquarters: London

Now owned by Travel + Leisure Co, as US-listed business who bought the startup in 2017, the award-winning, members-only global home swapping platform, Love Home Swap allows travellers to explore the world through the power of sharing. From city pads to chateaux, the site features thousands of stunning homes in 100 countries worldwide. Founded in the UK in 2011, it was inspired by the movie ‘The Holiday’. Helping members swap properties for 10 years, the service offers authentic, original and unique holiday accommodation for travel-lovers looking for somewhere to truly write home about.

“Travelling in the current climate obviously comes with its own unique challenges but at Love Home Swap we’ve put a few measures in place to make it easier and safer for our members to swap their homes. At the very beginning of the pandemic, we offered our community the chance to freeze their memberships, so that they could start travelling again when they felt confident to do so. We also offered new members a ‘Swap Guarantee’ in which they had a second year of membership for free if they didn’t manage to arrange a home swap in their first year with us. Quite simply, we want everyone to share our opinion that home swapping is the most cost-effective and desirable way to travel,” said Célia Pronto, Managing Director, Love Home Swap.

As the world continues to reopen, the company has been delighted to see so many conversations between its members, with many of them planning staycations for this year, and long-distance travel for next year. “We’re playing our part in ensuring Covid-safe travel by encouraging our members to meet our enhanced cleaning guidelines, and we’re making it easier than ever for our community to arrange home swaps,” she added.

The startup has also enhanced its ‘Response Rates’ so that members know how quickly someone is likely to agree to their swap request, alongside introducing a new online folder system – so that home swappers can easily keep track of the messages they’re sending and receiving – and they have gifted new members with some free Points (which is its virtual currency) to encourage them to plan a break.


Founded: 2018

Founder names: Vivi Cahyadi Himmel (CEO) and Karolina Saviova (COO)

Headquarters: London

The flexible furnished housing specialist delivers cloud-based and duty of care compliant accommodation, including private and serviced apartments, villas and homes worldwide.

“Softwares that streamline guest experience and operations have become extremely key this year (during pandemic) to address not only health, safety and security heightened standards but also labour shortages. The innovations which include smart locks, automated guest screening, smart thermostats, noise monitoring, housekeeping and maintenance, allow hospitality sectors to operate more efficiently and enable their staff to deliver higher value of work, truly eliminating any manual work,” said Vivi Cahyadi Himmel, CEO and Co-Founder, AltoVita.


Founded: 2014

Founder names: Raj Patel and Elena Lopez

Headquarters: London

Funding raised: £450K

The London-based travel tech startup offers affordable, self-catered, city centre stays over the summer months by making use of vacant high-end student accommodation.

“Post Covid, we can see strong demand from families and other groups for good quality multiple bedroom apartments in city centre locations and we’ve partnered with high-end student accommodation operators, whose rooms are often vacant during the peak summer period, to let rooms out to tourists. Flat sizes go up to 8 bed flats – all en-suite – so very rare to find anywhere else,” said Raj Patel, Founder, Zeni.


Founded: 2019

Founder names: Jay Olenicz, Henry Popiolek, Dustin Silk

Headquarters: London

Funding raised: £0.5M

The last-minute booking app for staycations in the UK is sort of like a mix between Airbnb and

“As COVID and lockdown restrictions end, Staze will be focusing on reducing the environmental impact of travel across business. We’ll do this by not just offsetting any carbon impact but by being net negative and positively impacting the environment per trip booked through our platform. The travel industry has historically had a negative impact on the environment and we are committed to reversing this,” said Jay Olenicz, Founder, Staze.