Gas Prices Are High, But VC Interest in Travel-Related Startups Is Still Strong

With gas prices at multi-year highs, long-distance travel is getting less affordable than it’s been for a while. But that apparently hasn’t lessened venture interest in startups in the space.

There were two travel-related funding announcements so far this week., an online hotel booking service for Russians traveling abroad, raised $5 million from Mangrove Capital Partners, ABRT and French fund Ventech VC. Meanwhile, London-based HouseTrip, which specializes in short-term apartment bookings for travelers, raised $2.7 million in a Series A funding round from Index Ventures. (See a list of half a dozen other recent fundings on the jump.)

Those were smaller deals. But with vacation home rental site HomeAway in the pipeline for an IPO, it’s now possible to get a glimpse of larger numbers in a fast-growing space. (HomeAway, which is seeking to raise $230 million in its public offering, had revenue of $153 million and net income of $17 million last year.)  Additionally, the recent viral growth of Airbnb, a site for arranging short-term stays in accommodations, ranging from living room futons to luxury pads, shows that there’s still room for newcomers. The company raised a $7.2 million Series A round in November from Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners.

A quick dig through Thomson Reuters’ venture funding archives unearthed several more travel-related startups that have raised funding in recent months from Austin ventures, Battery Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, KPG Ventures, and more:

CruiseCompare, a site which does pretty much what the name implies, raised $160,000 in March from The Proof of Concept Fund, managed by North East Finance. The U.K.-based site aggregates more than 10,000 cruise offers.

DerbySoft, a Shanghai-based provider of hotel reservation systems, raised an undisclosed sum in a February round backed by Keytone Capital Partners and Northern Light Venture Capital.

Gogobot, an operator of an online travel website that enables people to tap into their social networks to easily get and share travel advice, raised $3.85 million last year. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is backed by Battery Ventures, Innovation Endeavors (an investment vehicle for former Google CEO Eric Schmidt) and MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe.

LeisureLink, which connects travelers with vacation rental suppliers, raised $4 million in November, bringing total funding to $25.6 million from backers including Clearstone Venture Partners, Mission Ventures and Tech Coast Angels.

Nile Project, which runs a site with information on vacation destinations provided by local contributors, raised $3.5 million last year. That San Francisco-based startup has raised a total of $11.5 million in VC to date. Backers include Austin ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Draper Richards, KPG Ventures, Tenaya Capital, and MMV Financial.

Wanderfly raised $1 million in February with backing from Charles River Ventures. The New York-based company operates a travel recommendation search engine with a focus on planning activities.