Visitors travelling to the region for next year’s FIFA World Cup 2022 will have the option to personalize their travel itineraries through ViaVii – a Jordan-based online venture that promises travellers a more meaningful cultural experience hosted and curated by citizens and residents of Qatar.
ViaVii, an online platform accessible through viavii.com, will soon be available as a mobile application for download through Apple and Google app stores. It is a hyper-personalized platform where sightseers can explore and book genuine in-destination travel experiences that are adjustable on-the-move, and can connect with residents of Qatar at any time.
Among its many features, ViaVii will provide opportunities for visitors to experience cooking traditional Qatari food, enjoy the local arts scene, hear captivating stories of tradition and heritage, spend the night in the desert, and partake in heritage walking tours.
In addition, a digital dashboard has also been developed for hosts allowing them to freely add experiences and communicate with travellers – and it is the first to use the Arabic language in its user interface, which is crucial for the region’s tourism indicators. All these combined makes ViaVii completely unique and different from what other competitors offer.
ViaVii will launch another key feature for their online platform this summer – a digital itinerary planner for the World Cup tournament. Integrated into several websites in Qatar, including that of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, it will ensure that the focus of all travel-related entities in Qatar is to offer fans a personalized authentic experience. ViaVii’s team believes this technology will address what travellers will seek during their time visiting the region.
Rola Fayyad, ViaVii’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, says the need to create this platform came from the fact that most people traveling to the Middle East did not fully experience everything the region has to offer.
She says: “What caught my attention the most was that travellers to the MENA region struggled to find and discover new experiences, or things to do, that allowed them to explore new cultures and meet new people. People these days have become more aware of the real value of travel that goes beyond just sightseeing and attractions; they prefer being exposed to different cultures, languages and cuisines, all while meeting new and interesting people.
“Our main goal is to connect people in the most meaningful of ways. For that reason, all the experiences available on our platform are designed and hosted by amazing residents of a community who are eager to share their culture and talents with travellers. It’s a win/win situation for both the curious travellers and the hosts. To date, ViaVii offers more than 3,500 ready-to-buy immersive digitally delivered experiences, of which only 20% are currently active due to COVID-related lockdowns.”
ViaVii’s story began in September 2016 when the company was founded under the name ‘Friendture’. It was then a mobile application that made it easy for group travellers to plan and organize their trips together. However, having been in the travel industry for more than a decade, Fayyad was able to gain solid understanding of travellers’ needs – all of which helped her identify some major gaps in the industry – which prompted her to start ViaVii in 2019.
The start-up received a seed investment from the Tech Venture Fund (TVF) that is managed by Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation (QF RDI), and is aimed at specifically supporting innovative local start-ups and attracting international start-ups to the region.
With the FIFA World Cup 2022 scheduled to take place in Qatar in just 18 months, the deployment of TVF capital into a Company that could help millions of visitors to Qatar next year – likely a large percentage for the very first time – is a utilitarian addition to the local ecosystem of this global sporting extravaganza, while also contributing to the diversification of the Qatari economy.
ViaVii – currently in the process of setting up an office in the QSTP Free Zone – received TVF backing after winning the Challenge 22 competition which was focused on enabling technologies and innovation for the upcoming FIFA World Cup tournament.
“Landing an opportunity to serve hundreds of thousands of regional locals and fans making their way to Qatar to attend the first World Cup hosted in the region was something we simply could not pass up,” Fayyad said. “With travellers now seeking a more meaningful way to experience a trip, predefined and fixed itineraries that travel agents offer are no longer needed. Travellers look for an empathetic platform, with personalized user-experience and authentic content designed and hosted by amazing locals, ultimately making travel more purposeful. ViaVii provides just that.”
Looking at the bigger picture and the significance of QSTP in their company’s progress, Fayyad said that finding the right funding is not an easy process. She commented: “During our journey we always sought partners and not just a cheque. During my years fundraising, QSTP was the only investor, out of several, that focused on the team, rather than just a product, which is the reason start-ups succeed – the team behind them.
“This made us more confident and happier knowing that they really believe in who we are and our vision – and this mindset is not common in our region. I would say we are excited for what the future holds for all of us, especially serving FIFA Qatar 2022.”