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TourHQ is an online platform that connects guides and travellers around the world. The term “Guides” encompasses a range of tourism service providers, or rather anybody who can enhance the quality of a traveller’s holiday experience.
At tourHQ, guides put up their profiles where they provide details of services offered, their expertise and contact information. Travellers planning a holiday then have the ease of surfing through the profiles of guides of the area they are visiting, and selecting a guide with the best fit.
Tell us about the business, how and why did you conceive it?
Any traveller can plan a trip, and self help oneself to visit the sights with the aid of books and audio guides. But as I realized in my interaction with many travel enthusiasts, a good guide goes a long way in enhancing a traveller’s holiday experience, be it to get a local flavour of the place, navigate through unfamiliar languages or customs, have an insightful visit to the museum, or even just spend a good evening out at the popular nightspots.
And whilst one is able to research and plan every aspect of the holiday such as the hotels and flights in detail, there is a lack of resources online to help choose a good guide. Often travellers leave it to chance by simply trying to hire a guide on the spot, or at other times ask around with family and friends for recommendations.
Hence, tourHQ has been conceived to assist travellers in planning this aspect of their trip, thereby maximising their holiday experience.
The word Tour is synonymous with holidaying and travel. HQ (abbreviated for Headquarters) was appropriate as a suffix to broadcast the use of the website as a one stop portal for travellers, giving them an abundance of options of guiding experiences to pick and choose from. After all we have the whole range from scuba diving instructors and culinary guides to historians and mountaineering experts.
Tell us about your team. Did you have all the expertise you needed to launch this business or did you have to outsource any of the components?
Entrepreneurs today have the luxury of being able to draw upon resources from all over the world in putting together a virtual team. In our case, our developers and some of our customer support staff are working out of India. We have our Spanish team sitting in Spain. We have our content writers reporting in from all over the globe, including Australia, South Africa, UK and the USA. So the website is truly a global effort, drawing upon the skills and talents of many different people.
What was the development process like? How long did it take?
The idea of tourHQ was born in April 2012. Business plans were then drawn up, and in October 2012 we started work on the website. In June 2013 we launched the beta version of tourHQ, and were clearly in business! We are already in the process of completely revamping the website as certain features that were not technologically possible a year and half ago, are now possible, hence introducing travellers to a new level of ease in planning their holiday experiences. The new website will be launched in another few weeks, and I am very excited about the new offerings that will be offered with it.
What are some of the biggest challenges you encountered so far?
I think the biggest challenge that I, and many enterpreneurs would face, is finding a like-minded team who share the same zeal and passion for the project. Furthermore, we have to constantly be on the look out for new consumer trends in the industry, so that we can ensure that we have a product that meets the consumer requirements and changing tastes.
I see that you have opened your business up to a worldwide audience. How do you market internationally, both to travellers and guides?
Since tourHQ is an online platform, we believe that the Internet is the best way to reach our audience that will benefit the most from this service. We hence focus our marketing to google and social media, while our guides also serve as our best marketing ambassadors.
Did you raise funds to launch TourHQ or was it self funded?
TourHQ is currently self-funded. We will consider raising financing over the next few months if we feel the need to increase the advertising reach, or increase our development spend.
What’s next for TourHQ?
We are on the cusp of introducing several new features such as a true marketplace and payment gateway for the ease of guides and travellers. The website is currently being adapted to Spanish, and we will shortly bring out versions in Mandarin, Portgueuse, Japanese, French and German. In addition, new features such as forums, travel deals and coupons are being introduced in the updated version of the website, and we are looking to develop the mobile based app as well. Exciting times ahead indeed!
Interview with Vandana Om Kumar of tourHQ