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WIT Start-Up: Discover, share and plan trips with QIITO

Posted on 26 Feb 2013 at 20:06 pm
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Quick, Interesting & Interactive Travel Organiser or QIITO for short – that’s the name of a new online travel community that allows users to discover and share destinations. And it is growing via partnerships with brands such as Nikon, Taiwan Tourism Board, TransAsia with more to come. Founder Pei-Han Chuang (pictured below) shares his idea with WIT.

Q: Describe the business, core products and services in one paragraph
QIITO, which stands for Quick, Interesting & Interactive Travel Organiser, is an online travel community that allows users to discover and share travel destinations among each other. As an online social media platform, QIITO not only encourages users to explore new places to travel to, but also facilitates the sharing experience. Users can also plan personalised itineraries and collaborate with friends to create these trips. These itineraries can be referenced by other users and help inspire their own trips as well.

Q: Who are your key customers?
Travellers who enjoy planning their own trips (free & easy) and embrace social media in discovering and sharing travel destinations with friends. People who want to travel but do not have enough information or are undecided on which place to go. Users can make reference to places, photos and travelogues on our site in planning their own trip. For those who post pictures of their overseas trips on Facebook, our site also provides a “memories” function which acts as a travel journal with each of the places linked for more detailed information if friends want to duplicate their itinerary.

Q: What business are you most likely to be compared to?
Some of the upcoming business that we can be compared to range from discovery sites like gogobot, trippy, Tripit, wanderfly to social booking sites like Airbnb and luxury travel community like Jetsetter.

Q: What problem are you trying to solve for your customers?
There is a growing trend among travellers to seek bespoke itineraries. However, the amount of information available on the web can be daunting to consolidate. Information on certain places is hard to search on the net. QIITO was designed to make trip planning a hassle-free and more visual process. QIITO also works as an inspiration to travellers who want more interesting places to visit.

Q: What financial support did you have to launch the business?
QIITO is fortunate to receive an initial funding of above S$1 million from Japan-based venture capital firm, Lunar Asia.

Q: Who validated the idea first – investors or customers?
It was a research outcome from the CEO’s stint in Singapore Management University. Travellers are leaning towards self-planned trips due to the flexibility and control offered by such arrangements. Online booking sites give users free access to price information and play a vital role in allowing travellers to plan their own holiday trips. We’ve seen the rise of online booking sites and consequently diminishing travel agencies’ market share. Online booking sites help users to source for cheaper hotel stays and flights but do not solve the problem of trip planners having to comb through vast amount of information and organise them in a useful manner.

Moreover, booking is just one of many stages in trip planning, which creates no perceived value to users and certainly does not instil loyalty in users. Trip planners usually go to whichever booking sites that offer them the most value-for-money packages.

What travellers need is an intuitive way of gathering and organising the vast amount of travel information available on the internet and possibly share it with their friends or fellow travellers. Qiito was designed with exactly this intention in mind; to fill in this gap between online booking and trip planning.

Q: What is the revenue model and strategy for profitability?
We believe revenue will be generated from streamlining the information flow of the travel industry. In the near future, we might accept bookings on behalf of airlines and accommodation providers. We are also exploring ad opportunities.

Q: What is the market opportunity? How scalable is this business?
The online travel industry revenue in 2012 is US$162 billion for America and US$51.6 billion for Asia. It is scalable both geographically and through the value chain (e.g. Destination listing to hotel booking followed by airline booking). On top of this, the travel industry is long overdue for changes where we have seen the rise of budget air and accommodation. How travelers source for information and arrange for a trip has also switched to DIY. Booking of various products can be done efficiently with vast choices. Hence the critical point is who can hand-hold travelers through the whole process from the initial sourcing of information to the visit. Standing on top of the funnel definitely presents wide opportunities and a scalable business.

Q: Competitive analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
QIITO strengths lies in being social, visual and having an Asian focus. The opportunity comes when travellers nowadays are more DIY and internet savvy in a vast online travel market worth billions of dollars. One of the challenges for QIITO is that the Asian market is multi-lingual and consolidating information can be a tedious task.Some threats are competitors like gogobot, trippy and me-too companies that are upcoming.

Q: Who are the team members and advisors?
QIITO is fortunate to be made up of travel lovers and a bunch of talented people who loves to use technology to solve problems. It is our relentless focus on travellers that draws attention from our partners and advisors from the travel industry to work with us, such as tourism boards, hotel groups, airliners and more.

Q: Why do you think you are the best people to make this vision happen?
It’s a bit cliche but the fact that we believe we can make this happen is our X-factor being Asian-bred in an Asian-users focused start-up. In addition, we drill deep to solve users problems.

Q: What’s the motivation behind doing this?
Our CEO, Pei-han, was motivated while doing a research in Singapore Management University on travellers’ trend and impact on hotel/airline and came across a major shift in travellers’ behaviour.

Tags: QIITO , interactive , travel organiser , startup , online travel community , social media platform , travellers , destinations , Lunar Asia , Pei-Han Chuang
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