The Berlin-based online language learning app, well known to learners in Europe, announced today that it sold more than one million subscriptions in the US in 2018. Babbel is now moving into language travel.
Language travel is popular with Europeans - traveling to other countries specifically to learn another language - but to Americans, it remains a peculiar concept. Babbel thinks it can sell the idea in the US though, and if it can, the returns will be huge. In 2017, market revenue for language travel in Germany alone was €220 million (around $250 million), with more than 150,000 bookings made across various language travel companies.
Now, Babbel wants a piece of the action. Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in Berlin today, CEO Markus Witte announced the move. He didn’t say what the service will be called, but those on the show floor seem to think Babbel Travel is a safe bet.
Florian Oberleithner, Corporate Strategy Manager at Babbel, said: “The language travel market today looks a lot like travel market in the early 2000s where you would book your trip via a travel office or directly with a hotel. It’s still very fragmented.”
Babbel’s US CEO, Julie Hansen, said of the US language travel market: “It’s not zero, but I think in due course, we’ll discover if there’s a place for us. In a way, you can serve a market better that is so fragmented and ill-defined.”
Babbel’s language travel service will work with others in the industry, rather than operate its own programs - either through partnerships or acquisitions. The company has already bought Lingo Ventura, another Berlin startup that partners with international language schools to offer a language travel booking platform. Babbel COO, Martin Kütter, said of the acquisition: “Moving into this new market it is important for us to keep with our philosophy of strengthening the already-existing language learning market instead of trying to disrupt it.”
Founded in 2007, Babbel is the world’s top-grossing language learning app. It employs more than 700 people from more than 50 nations.
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