Sensational Sustainable Travel Experiences to Ignite Your Wanderlust
According to Booking.com’s 2019 sustainable travel report, over half (55%) of global travellers report being more determined to make sustainable travel choices than they were a year ago*. This includes everything from exploring more eco-friendly accommodation options to taking public transportation or biking whenever possible, as well as seeking out more authentic experiences that truly benefit the local community. As more and more people endeavour to have a positive impact on the destinations and communities they visit, Booking.com has compiled a list of incredible sustainable travel experiences around the world, highlighting some of the most innovative travel startups that have participated in the Booking Booster accelerator program over the last three years.
Whether you want to learn how to cook Pad Thai from a real street food chef in Bangkok or go on an impact expedition to bring sustainable electricity to a remote Himalayan village, these unique experiences are sure to spark your curiosity and inspire a few new additions to your bucket list.
Empowering women in Nepal
From the awe-inspiring slopes of Mt. Everest to the bustling streets of Kathmandu, Nepal offers an abundance of natural and cultural treasures for travellers to admire. To truly experience the country’s unique landscapes and traditions, explore its rural mountain villages with the help of one of the local guides from SASANE Sisterhood Trekking and Travel, one of the 10 startups participating in the 2019 Booking Booster program. In addition to the company’s various treks and tours to lesser-travelled areas of the country, all of the guides are women who are survivors of human trafficking. Not only do you get to enjoy some delicious home-cooked meals and learn from local artisans about traditional basket weaving or brewing, you also get to contribute to the elimination of further trafficking, gender-based violence and child marriage in these rural communities.
One of the grant recipients of the 2018 Booster program, the Community Homestay Network is another platform in Nepal, primarily focused on empowering women through community-based homestays, culturally immersive experiences and tours in remote areas. In addition to staying with a family in a traditional accommodation, such as the Panauti Community Homestay (just 30km from Kathmandu), you can learn to cook Nepali cuisine with your hosts or go on a sunset bike tour. No matter your threshold for adventure, there are options for every traveller to explore further off the beaten path while also giving back to the local community.
Sustaining off-the-grid communities in India
A vast country with staggering natural beauty, ancient traditions, delectable and diverse cuisines and hundreds of unique cultures to discover, India offers travelers a multitude to explore. If you love a bit of adventure and want to experience life in some of the countries most remote mountain villages, sign up for one of the impact tours led by Global Himalayan Expedition, recipient of the largest scaling grant from the 2018 Booking Booster program. As part of one of the company’s multi-day treks, you’ll hike through some of India’s most rugged and pristine landscapes on your way to help provide sustainable solar-powered energy to electrify off-the-grid Himalayan villages, in turn transforming lives and helping put these communities on the map for future travellers to discover.
With sustainable access to electricity, these villages can more successfully welcome travellers, which opens up new opportunities and alternative sources of income for them. With stunning views of the Zanskar river canyon and the surrounding mountains, The Hidden Heaven- Apple Orchids Homestay is one such solar-powered accommodation in a formerly off-grid village that has been electrified by GHE. In addition to enjoying meals prepared exclusively from organic local produce, you can also learn more about the copper artisans the area is famous for.
If you’re feeling a little less intrepid or don’t want to devote a couple of weeks to an impact expedition, you can still do your part to help preserve India’s unique culture and heritage while supporting marginalised and vulnerable rural communities, connecting with locals through NotOnMap, one of the startups participating in the 2019 Booking Booster. With handcrafted experiences to truly help you experience the local food and culture of rural India, NotOnMap connects travellers with authentic, traditional stays, as well as cultural and culinary experiences, such as an escape to the remote NotOnMap - H2O House, a traditional guesthouse surrounded by lush foliage and a rushing mountain stream.
Preserving cultural heritage in Southeast Asia
Famous for stunning beaches, friendly locals and delectable cuisines throughout the region, the countries of Southeast Asia are perennial favourites for travellers from around the world. Unfortunately, the downside of this sustained popularity is that some communities don’t benefit fully from the opportunities that tourism brings and with the rise of more mass tourism, many unique cultural traditions are at an increased threat of disappearing. Thankfully, there are a wealth of startups throughout the region dedicated to empowering marginalised peoples and communities, committed to sharing their traditions and heritage and protecting them for future generations to enjoy. The next time you book a massage at a day spa in Thailand or reserve a table at a high-end restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, also consider one of these options to enrich your cultural understanding and do some real good with your journey, as well.
The top grant recipient from the first year of Booking Booster in 2017, Backstreet Academy is a peer-to-peer impact travel platform that empowers impoverished local communities in developing countries across Southeast Asia who don’t speak English and who don’t have access to technology. Together they create unique travel experiences, host tourists and showcase their tradition, culture and heritage with a substantial amount of the profit going back into the local community. The curated experiences available via Backstreet Academy include everything from lessons in Javanese archery to workshops about artisan stamp carving.
A hub for sustainable, genuine Thai experiences in Thailand’s largest urban areas, Hivesters (a grant recipient from the 2018 Booster program) prevents the loss of cultural heritage by connecting travellers looking for authentic cultural interactions with local experts, including everything from traditional dance and perfume making to street food workshops on the streets of Bangkok.
One of the 2019 Booster startups, Picha Eats, is a sustainable food business that helps to rebuild the lives of refugees living in Malaysia. Through the Open House program, you get to be invited to a refugee family’s home to enjoy an authentic home-cooked meal and learn more about their experiences and culture.
Protecting biodiversity in Colombia
As political stability has returned to the country and the world is quickly reacquainting itself with the beautiful landscapes, people and culture of Colombia, travel to explore its unique ecosystems is also on the rise. Offering spectacular nature travel experiences that also serve to protect the biodiversity of Colombia’s indigenous plants and animals, Awake (one of the grant recipients from the 2017 Booster program) connects travellers with local hosts that share their commitment making sure Colombia’s natural treasures remain intact for years to come. Whether you want to encounter the colourful flora and fauna of the Amazon on a three-day jungle tour or go paragliding through the Andes, there are a wealth of sustainable options for every appetite and budget.
IMPULSE Travel, one of the 2019 Booster startups, also seeks to empower local communities in Colombia, preserve traditions and help travellers to fall in love with the people and country through more than 200 tours and activities available through their platform. Whether you want to go coffee shop hopping in Medellin or embark on a three-day trek through the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy national park, IMPULSE provides immersive experiences that promote peace and enable local communities to share and protect their heritage.
Inclusive adventures in South America and Antarctica
Founded by two veterans of the peace corps who wanted to help local guides and artisans make a fair and equitable living through tourism activities, Keteka (one of the 2018 Booster grant recipients) offers bespoke tours and experiences throughout Central and South America, and even to Antarctica. All of Keteka’s otherwise unreachable activities are all instantly bookable online, helping to build capacity in indigenous communities and redistribute travellers more evenly throughout the continent, outside of the well-trodden hotspots. With just a couple clicks of a button, you can be on your way to discovering the unparalleled landscapes of Torres del Paine or spend the night stargazing in Atacama Desert with a local astronomer that will explain the ancient mysteries of the night sky - all with a positive and meaningful impact for the communities you visit.
If you want to explore some of the most remote and spectacular destinations in South America (and beyond) but face mobility challenges, Wheel the World (another one of the 2018 Booster grant recipients) offers inclusive treks and adventure travel experiences, tackling the challenge of accessibility in tourism within the adventure travel sector. Whether you want to scale the heights of Machu Picchu in your wheelchair or come face to face with the giant totems on Easter Island, Wheel the World removes the barriers for everyone to visit these iconic destinations for themselves.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of adults who have taken a trip in the last 12 months/plan to take a trip in the next 12 months. In total 18,077 respondents were surveyed across 18 markets (1000+ from Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, UK, USA. In Israel 883 respondents were surveyed). Respondents completed an online survey in February and March 2019.