Government’s top innovation agency backs flight-free travel by funding Byway alongside industry leaders
Byway closes £1.1 million in funding from Innovate UK and angel investors to drive growth in sustainable, flight-free holidays
London, 6th July 2021 – While the travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, traveltech startup Byway is growing fast thanks to a surge in appetite for unique and environmentally-friendly travel. Following a successful first year, Byway, the world’s first flight-free holiday platform, has announced £1.1 million of funding from an Innovate UK SMART grant as well as Founders Factory and angel investors. Angels include founder/CEO of Viator and Rome2Rio, Rod Cuthbert, slow travel guru Ed Gillespie, and former Chair of Visit Britain, Christopher Rodrigues CBE.
Byway is building a new type of holiday focussed on slowing down the journey, personalising the experience and keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum. Its mission is to bring sustainable leisure travel to the mainstream, building a vibrant travel ecosystem away from tourist hotspots and boosting local economies.
Byway offers hyper-personalised flight-free holidays that take travellers away from the crowds by train, bus and boat, built in just a few clicks. This funding will accelerate Byway’s growth, expanding the technical, customer experience and marketing teams (there are currently five open roles) and extending its groundbreaking flight-free dynamic packaging technology, which allows holiday makers to instantly create slow travel holidays built to their preferences.
Since launching in mid 2020, over 7,500 trips have been built with Byway’s dynamic trip builder, a technology that allows flight-free travel to scale in a way that’s not been possible before. As travel opens back up, the business, certified a Pending B Corporation, is scaling rapidly with customers more than happy to take the scenic route, evidenced by a 100% five star review record to date.
Cat Jones, Founder and CEO of Byway, said:
“Our tech-driven approach to slow travel is not just about providing holiday experiences grounded in travelling through, rather than flying over, but about accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable travel. The past year saw the world forced to slow right down. Emerging from lockdown, many people are now choosing slower, more sustainable holidays that take them away from the crowds and help them enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
We’re taking the time, and the work, out of planning and booking off the beaten path trips by train, boat and bike – and the reception we’ve had has been glowing. Our personalised, experience-based approach and on-demand WhatsApp support means holidaymakers get to spend a whole lot of time enjoying their trip and none at all managing multiple tickets, complicated timetables, and changing travel restrictions.”
Angel investor Ed Gillespie said:
“Our investment in Byway is not just about a great bet on a company with a superb founding team and obvious traction, but also about supporting a future of reducing carbon emissions. Aviation is a massive contributor to climate change, and over-tourism is a huge ecological issue. Tourism can be restorative to both the people on the trip, and the places they visit. That’s a future I want to invest in.”
Byway packages up complete ABTA-protected holidays, built by matching an intricate understanding of each traveller’s wants and needs with its deep knowledge of slow travel gems across its destinations in the UK, France, and Italy.
Nicky Borasinski, who travelled with Byway to the Isle of Mull, Scotland and has booked a second trip later this year, added:
“We originally booked with Byway because the pandemic meant we couldn’t travel internationally and we’d been looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint, but we had such a great time that slow travel holidays will now be firmly part of our lives for years to come.”
Byway is the first of its kind slow travel planner for flight-free trips. Each multi-stop trip is fully personalised for the holidaymaker, and optimised for quality of experience instead of speed.
The company was founded in 2020 by Cat Jones, who’s never owned a car and whose annual family holiday is by train and bike, whatever the weather. As a start-up coach and investor with degrees in Sustainable Development and Physics, she jumped at the opportunity to make environmentally friendly travel more accessible as Covid sent travel as we knew it into free-fall.
Trips are currently available across the UK, France, and Italy for all dates in 2021 and beyond. All bookings include customised transport, hand-picked accommodation and experiences, on-demand expert advice, and a low carbon footprint.
About Innovate UK
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. It connects businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. Innovate UK funds business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Its support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org.
About slow travel
The carbon impact of rail travel is 14g of CO2 per passenger mile, compared to 285g for air: you could get the train from London to Edinburgh and back five times and your carbon footprint would still be lower than if you flew there. Giving up meat for a year saves 2.7 tonnes of carbon, but giving up one return flight from London to Bangkok saves 3.3 tonnes.
Slow travel is not just about more carbon friendly ways to travel, but the wider benefits of slowing down and taking the scenic route. It’s about taking the time to get to know a place – its food, its landscapes, its people, its histories – and enjoying the freedom and unexpectedness of travelling overland.