Qrious kills tourism data portals, reduces location-led insight for regions

Qrious’ products gave RTOs insight into the non-commercial accommodation sector, which is significant in towns like Wanaka.

Big data start-up Qrious is ending its location-led tourism insight web portals saying it is uneconomic to continue with the award-winning service.

The Spark-owned analytics venture is shutting its self-service Voyager and LoQal Destinations applications, which not only use data from the telecom’s mobile network to pinpoint user location but also pull together regional spending and accommodation information.

The surprise move comes as a blow to many of the country’s regional tourism organisations, which have collectively spent tens of thousands of dollars signing up to Qrious’ services over the past two years.

“It’s a real shame to see it go,” said Charlie Ives, executive director of Regional Tourism Organisations NZ. “Particularly after a long period of development and it was  starting to see some real grunt get in behind it too.”

Around 20 of the county’s 30 RTOs were Qrious customers and would be faced with a significant insight gap with the withdrawal of its platform.

“It is leaving a hole and whether a part of the Qrious product is salvageable or can be picked up by other data providers is too early to say,” said Ives.

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore said Qrious’ platform provided the most complete picture of who the visitors were to the region, how many there were, and how long they stayed for.

“For our region, where we have a lot of holiday houses, Qrious could capture people whether they were freedom campers under a tree, people staying with their friends, or those staying in a house sold through a service like Airbnb or BookaBach.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Commercial Accommodation Monitor captured only commercial operators and Helmore said the loss of Qrious’ service highlighted the insight gap the industry was grappling with.

“There needs to be a robust, central core data set for tourism use that will enable  RTOs and local councils and even Tourism New Zealand at a macro-level to look at how tourists flow through the country. The Qrious model exists, it’s just a question of who pays for it.”

Qrious, launched by Spark in 2014, processes anonymised data from the telecom’s mobile network and serves the results to clients in the tourism, transport and events sectors to provide insight into traveller movement.

In August, Voyager won the International Data Corporation’s Smart City Asia Pacific Awards 2017 under the category of Tourism, Arts, Libraries, Culture, Open Spaces. Its successor product, LoQal Destinations, was unveiled that month and provides more timely, granular data on visitor movement.

Qrious chief executive David Leach said the company still had an interest in the tourism sector and would focus on its customised Point of Interest product.

“We still value the importance of geo-location insights,” said Leach. “We offer as a consulting service similar insights. It’s not ‘productised’ [like Voyager or LoQal Destinations] but, through engagement with us, we can quickly pull together the insights and deliver them back.”

He said the investment required to develop and maintain the web portal products made it uneconomic for Qrious to continue with them and the company wanted to focus on providing single customer software solutions.

“We really would entertain or be keen on conversations with central government and Tourism Industry Aotearoa around something similar but as a single customer software solution rather than as a product for market.”

Leach said there had been redundancies at Qrious connected with ending the products but he declined to give details. The company would close Voyager and LoQal Destinations in mid-February.

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