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Wednesday, 29 May, 2019, 11 : 00 AM [IST]

‘WildTrails is reshaping the wildlife tourism industry by using modern technology’

WildTrails is a Bangalorebased technology start up connecting the dots that exists in the whole cycle of wildlife tourism and making it a sure-shot ‘platform play’. The start up claims to be world’s first technology platform that brings wildlife sightings data analytics in national parks into planning wildlife holidays, thereby increasing the probability of sighting of favourite animals in their natural habitat. In an e-mail interaction with TravelBiz Monitor, Manjunath Gowda, CEO, WildTrails, who himself is a wildlife enthusiast, gives his account of the inspiration behind launching an innovative technology platform.

Q How did the idea of a dedicated sighting platform for wilderness tourism originate? What kind of dots in the whole wilderness tourism that WildTrails is trying to connect for wildlife enthusiasts and travellers?
I am a hardcore wildlifer for the last two decades and been visiting various parks in India, and whenever I used to visit Kabini, I was intrigued by the ‘todays sightings’ which they used to write on a white board there, and I started seeing a pattern. When I followed it, I was almost guaranteed sightings and this intrigued me a lot and was the real basis of the sightings based platform.

We are the world’s first and only company to successfully bring sightings data analytics into planning wildlife holidays. We are also the pioneers in applying data mining and analytics, AI, Machine learning to deliver a truly customised wildlife experience at a scale that is unmatched today, allowing us to reduce the time to book a trip from few weeks to just a few hours. Interestingly, we are the only one offering this and you can’t find it even on Google.

Also, in today’s world, wildlife tourism seems to be in the Stone Age era as far as technology is concerned. And, wildlife tourism is very complex with many variables like forest, sightings, zone/gate, resort, safari, naturalist and lot more, and hence not ideally suited for an online travel agency to solve this.

We bring the ‘platform play’ for wildlife tourism solving all these and offer a hassle-free wildlife holiday experience to our travellers.

Also, we are the only one who also brings not just sightings analytics, but also sightings images and videos with a date stamp on it so travellers know when this particular sighting happened.

Q How challenging is it for any technology to predict and ensure wildlife sighting in a natural habitat like sanctuaries and national parks? How do you promise sighting of wildlife and what is the level of predictability in this regard?
WildTrails is reshaping the Stone Age wildlife tourism industry with a solution that uses data analytics, modern technologies, and AI/ machine learning to deliver a personalised delightful experience with predictive algorithms.

Our tiger sighting record for visitors is extremely high so is the black panther sightings in Kabini. Our ‘Sighting Index’ is extremely popular and specifically ‘Tiger Sighting Index or TSI’ and ‘Black Panther Sighting Index or BPSI’. But whatever said and done, we cannot guarantee sightings, but all we do is to increase the probability of sightings by guiding to the right sanctuary, right zone/gate and most critically right naturalist. The challenge of tracking still exists of being patient, following the alarm calls and of course, some part of being lucky too.

Q How many wildlife parks you cover and what are your plans to grow the number of destinations?
We cover all 50 tiger reserves of India and also all of national parks. There are more than 540 wildlife parks in India and we intend to cover all. We also cover Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and plan to cover all of Sub-Sahara Africa and slowly the rest of the wildlife world.

We plan to get into e-commerce only for the wildlife promo goods like tees, caps, mugs, bags, books etc.

Q Apart from the Wildlife sighting, what other services does the WildTrails platform offer to travellers? How do you plan to integrate various stakeholders and service providers into your platform?
As a Discovery platform, we provide all possible destinations and all possible resorts/accommodations to pick from for a given park based on budget, category, etc. The platform also allows personalisation of wildlife trips. Our amazing algorithms help travellers choose/ pick/customise the whole trip – first and only one to do so – and even suggests price for all and for the total package, and hence now travellers can customise suiting their tastes and their budget.

We allow travellers to suggest the kind of naturalists they prefer – like generalist or tiger expert or bird experts, etc.

Soon, we will be providing camera lens rentals at the destination, e-commerce store of selling wildlife related promo, goods, etc.

Q How many downloads have you had for your app since it was launched? What is the revenue model for you to make the platform sustain itself?
We have recorded more than 50,000 downloads combined between iOS and Android, and around 25,000 active users per month on our web.

Our revenue model is, users like sightings, book trips based on sightings and we make revenue by organising hassle-free end-to-end wildlife trips.

Q How do you work with B2B customers like tour operators, hotels, etc.?
This is a huge benefit for hotels and local guides and naturalists promo products like tees, caps, etc. Since it’s a platform play, we bring in the hotels and all other local service providers directly in front of the travellers and the whole idea of being discovered is gone at almost no cost and hence benefitting local economy to a large extent. We request all local naturalists, service providers and of course, accommodations to partner with us.

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