It’s the ultimate travel dream coming true: sitting in the comfort of your own home and experiencing the thrill of visiting fascinating and beautiful places from around the world. 10 years ago, this would have remained a dream, but travel experiences have significantly changed over the years with the advancement of technology.
Hyderabad-based startup QuaQua is actually bringing such dreams to life. Founded in 2016, QuaQua has leveraged Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology to create the world’s first virtual travel platform that maps end-to-end travel journeys.
Today’s consumers, mostly millennials are glued to their smartphones all the time, are more focused on experiences, and most want a sneak peek at a destination before travelling, to get a fair idea of what and how they're going to actually experience. What makes this possible are technologies like VR, AR, Mixed Reality (MR) and AI which offers a virtual travel experience that translates into faster decision-making, stronger customer-engagement and higher conversion rates.
“There is a dire need for a solution that gives you a digital experience that’s as good or even better than the real experience. There is so much information online that it is overwhelming to find the right information or the right experience. Moreover, all this information and experience is unorganised, unstructured and rarely curated. Why can’t there be a platform that delivers infotainment for travel and tourism? And this is where QuaQua comes in. It is built for anyone who needs the inspiration to travel or thoroughly research a destination before they go or compare attractions and activities before they book. ‘See before you go’, it is as simple as that,” says Purav Shah, Founder and CEO.
It is a single seamless platform that integrates metadata, content, bookings and community. This eliminates redundancies and caters to your ‘pre-travel’, ‘post-travel’ and ‘during-the travel’ needs. The objective is to simplify the travel research and planning and shorten the decision-making process. QuaQua shall also become an integrator for aggregators in the travel and tourism ecosystem like hotels, restaurants, events, attractions, activities and package providers who want to encourage and engage the upcoming generation of travellers.
The inspiration behind QuaQua
Prior to founding QuaQua, Purav has been a management consultant, who has travelled the globe and has always been fascinated by different cultures, traditions and destinations that various countries had to offer. He says, “There is so much to travel but only so little time. Even if we have all the means to travel, it is physically impossible to cover the globe.” He also realised that while sectors such as Fintech, Edutech, Foodtech and Healthtech have evolved over the years by leveraging advanced technologies, one could not say the same about the travel sector, be it B2B or B2C.
“I began to wonder whether there was a way for a common man to virtually experience a country or destination sitting on a couch in another country without spending a penny. How can we deliver a sporting event type experience, like the one we watch from the comfort of our living rooms – augmented with information, controls at the command of the user, and no hassle? And that’s when the idea struck,” says Purav.
He wanted to bring the concept of AR and VR to travel and tourism, integrate it in the simplest way possible and remove all the redundancies in the system, with two principles in mind - it had to be in the format of a story and with a sense of space and time. “If you're watching a video on Bali, you should get lost in the intricacies that Bali has to offer and not jump from one website to other to keep looking for the right content. Watching your friends enjoy a trip on Facebook, you probably wish you could go there too. But you'd rather stay put on that couch than go through hundreds of itineraries to actually go there,” he says.
And he’s not exaggerating about the itineraries. Research states it typically takes at least 37 touchpoints for a traveller before he or she actually takes a decision on whether or not to travel. These include browsing through multiple websites for travel destinations, comparing packages, checking prices, booking hotels and so on. And what makes decision-making even more challenging is the fact that there is no single repository for all this information. If you wanted to visually experience a location before actually visiting it, you would have to navigate multiple blogs, videos or forums before you zero in on what you are looking for. But most of these are unstructured, and not many of these actually provide an end-to-end information for your travel needs. So, while one site may offer information about a destination, it may not facilitate ticketing and hotel booking. And then there are the travel blogging sites who crowdsource endless words of wisdom from a person who has not even been to that place. Most of these are not curated, neither is it engaging. New-age itinerary sites are too complex to use where the user is often lost while on the site or it offers endless itineraries that they don't have to time to browse through.
Purav believed there was space for an end-to-end travel integrator in the market, and thus, QuaQua was born. Right from inspiration to research to planning to booking to sharing experiences, everything a travel enthusiast is looking for will be integrated under a single platform.
He wanted the platform to be user-friendly with the core principle of ‘don’t make me think’ across the board: for individual travellers, business travellers and for trips with friends and family alike. He also wanted people to experience other destinations than just the popular ones like Europe or Bali. Not many think of going to Costa Rica or a remote town in China for a holiday. According to Purav, there are a number of interesting locations which are less popular but equally worth travelling to – like the Ammochostos in Cyprus or Meteora in Greece or the Huayhuash circuit in Peru. QuaQua wants to be the inspiration for people to travel to these places.
Mapping the entire travel journey
QuaQua stands out in the market because of its core product and services which include virtual travel experiences, content creation/production, promotions and bookings. QuaQua partners with content creators and travel bloggers to create immersive stories that piques your interest. Travellers can explore unexplored destinations and stories through a variety of interesting features that augment every video on the platform.
Let's take the travel tale of Jemima who’s been keeping off her trip to London for 3 years because of the complexities of research and booking. She logs on to the QuaQua platform to help her decide if it's worth it. The immersive mixed reality centric platform powered by strong AI algorithms lets her experience a tour of London through 360-degree VR/AR/MR technology, so that she gets a sneak peak of the city before she actually decides to travel. Her virtual travel journey in London is anchored using experiential maps showing her how to travel from point A to point B. The whole experience inspires her to go ahead and book her tickets, but she has a budget in mind. Through hyper-integration, the platform connects her with diverse players in the market who provide her with the best and most affordable real-time itinerary for flights, hotels, tours that are personalised to fit her needs. She finally books her ticket and makes it to London. Now she is in the city and let’s say she is at Trafalgar Square at 3 PM. She has 6 hours to spend and what she does is, open the QuaQua app and create a personalised trail for herself. After she is back from her tour, she gets to relive the memories through storing and sharing her travel memories. QuaQua lets her connect with fellow travellers to share their experiences with each other, which in turn inspires others to explore the world.
According to the Purav, today they have no direct competitor in the market as there is no platform that integrates virtual reality, global travel ecosystem, local and international community, augmented reality and storytelling features – all in one place – structured and curated.
The revenue model
After launching their beta product on August 15, 2018, so far the platform has had organic traffic of close to 150,000 views. The company has seen traction from multiple entities across the globe and is working to refine the product and test its feasibility in various markets.
QuaQua monetises every piece of web-traffic on their website, in the form of a one-time fee as well as recurring revenues.
The way ahead – personalized visual travel at zero cost
Two years ago today, QuaQua was born to visually share with the world the tales of different places. Today, a mix of explorers, storytellers, innovators and techies who work behind the scenes celebrate what they’ve achieved in the last two years. They mostly come from consulting backgrounds and process-oriented enterprises and their undying quench for travel drives them to resolve challenges and build practical solutions in the travel industry. The company takes pride in their work culture where work accountability and fun go hand in hand. At QuaQua, every voice matters and learning never stops. The company invests in continuous training, mentoring and skill development and encourages and provides opportunities for employees to think out of the box.
The company is currently in the first phase of growth and has 50 cities on board, mostly European ones with attractions and activities mapped to that particular city and bookings available for attractions, activities, city tours, trails and more. They are looking to target 100 global cities by December 2018 and add 1,000 more points of interest globally by 2019. QuaQua also aims to aggregate majority of the travel ecosystem on the platform to provide a personalised experience to all their users.
For experience seekers bitten by the travel bug, QuaQua is available across all platforms and devices – Web, IoS, Android and on all HMDs.