The travel industry has been the most impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, losing nearly three-quarters of its revenue that could amount up to INR 15 Lakh Cr. In 2019, travel and tourism accounted for more than $9 Bn of the global GDP or 10.4% and in the pandemic-hit 2020, it came down to 5.5% or a little more than $4 Bn.
According to a 2020 statement by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the pandemic could wipe off 50 Mn jobs across this industry, and Asia was expected to be the worst affected. As the lockdown and restrictions are slowly lifting up, foreign tourism will still remain low, but domestic tourism is picking pace. While eco-friendly and sustainable tourism is one of the fastest-growing trends in the travel industry, workcations, road trips, and solo trips have increasingly become common among travellers.
Now, Zo World, a travel startup that is building a decentralised travel marketplace, has launched a quest-like platform, built on the premise of NFT geography cards.
Founded in 2020 by Dharamveer Singh, Zo World connects travellers with local travel service providers — pick & drop facilitators, travel and locality guides and lodgers and hoteliers. The startup provides an experience where travellers can explore, travel, complete quests and earn collectables while building their profiles.
The startup will soon announce its first set of 11,111 travellers with Zomad cards, who will be able to go on adventures in the Zo World, solo or on a trip planned by the startup. While it has not yet revealed how one can become a Zomad, some of its early community members over Discord, Twitter, and NFT purchasers would be among the lucky few to get invites — suggesting an invite-only model.
The startup will further be expanding its central team with these NFT Zomad cards; hiring engineers, designers, creators as well as on-ground support across all countries. It aims to have 1 Mn+ Zo community hosts who will be able to help people, travel, live and work anywhere in the world.
“If you have a local friend anywhere in the world, they’ll be able to help you with finding safe, hygienic clean places; they’ll tell you the best places to eat; the easiest and the best flights, trains and cabs to take; the places to experience and most importantly, how to not get cheated by scammers,” the founder mentioned, adding that Zo World addressed the problem of this “local friend”.
Through the journey, travellers would have to complete quests such as travelling to different geographies, going paragliding, watching the sunrise at Lake Badi, eating a Mirchi vada or bargaining at the shopping street. “Any experience can be a quest,” states Singh. “Completing quests allows Zomads to mint collectables, build profiles and achieve levels.”
Before the pandemic started, Zo World’s cofounder Dharamveer Singh, envisioned a one-place-has-it-all gamified platform for travellers, led by a community of fellow travellers. “We have been working on Zo World ever since the pandemic started, so we were heartbroken to see that people wouldn’t be able to socialise, exchange ideas and feel the vibe of our common rooms,” Singh told Inc42.
That’s when the startup started building scalable avatars with virtual audio connect technology.
Creating A Tale Of Cities
Zo World is expanding its network of the local community — Zo World hosts or managers of your trip — with a managed decentralised system. These hosts will be trip advisors, guides and even chauffeurs. All a traveller (or a Zomad, or cofounders as Singh puts it) will have to buy a blockchain-based geography card of the place available on the platform, and a local community of hosts will help them have a memorable experience of the place.
These hosts go through background verification, the cofounder has stated. Zo World has built virtual community rooms with adventure management tools and dashboards, a decentralized admin system for managing the community and a custom communication layer on WhatsApp.
“We believe every corner of the world has a story to tell, something beautiful for humanity to see and learn from. But we need the local community to help it unlock and bring it to the world. That’s why half of our geography cards can only be earned by the community and not bought,” Singh adds.
Singh, also the founder of Zostel Hospitality — which owns two brands, budget hotel chain Zo Rooms and backpackers’ hostel chain Zostel — states that Zo World is a different entity, only built to address all of a traveller’s needs. Beyond just solving travel needs and revolutionizing social travel, the startup aims to make it easy for everyone to make a living — directly or indirectly — working for the travel industry.
NFTs For Travel?
The startup states that it has been selling NFTs not to earn money, but to build a community of serious travellers. Zo World looks at NFTs as a way to remove the distinction between virtual experience and physical travelling.
“We are bringing use cases for NFTs for the whole crypto ecosystem. An AR geography layer worldwide for people to collaborate and build adventures and experiences for Zomads will enable building local economies that empower ground-level communities,” Singh stated.
Currently, Zo World also claims to have sold 3 out of 5 of its most expensive country cards worth 1.75 Lakh each. While its cheapest geography costs less than $40, the ETH gas fee is $200, enabling a bottleneck. Thus, the price for such an experience is high.
The startup claims to be working with the Polygon team to help reduce transaction fees for the community and build an internal platform for transactions using MATIC on the Polygon network.
Eat, Pray, Love At El Salvador
Effective September 7, El Salvador, a Central American country passed the Bitcoin Law, giving the cryptocurrency the status of legal tender within the country. Promoted by President Nayib Bukele, the country will use wallet Chivo to deposit money via cards — the country paying a $30 signing bonus.
“As Bitcoin transcends digital to the physical world, we pay an ode to their [El Salvador’s] boldness and officially promise to host trips for Zomads in El Salvador 100 days after all of its geography cards sell out. Our app will also be available to download in El Salvador from October, for suggesting experiences, content, partnerships, etc. by the local community,” Singh tells Inc42.
Zo World claims to have sold $10K+ worth of geography cards for El Salvador in just 24 hours even without officially announcing the launch.