A brand new social enterprise and another participant in next month’s Barcelona Booster Lab, Clean Travel, seeks to connect travelers to a cleaner, more sustainable, and local friendly market by guiding them to the many sustainable travel activities, tours, and experiences on their online marketplace. Having only launched last month and been founded a few months prior, Clean Travel has already gained impressive traction in social media, accelerator programs, and the sustainable travel community.
Mac, the co-founder, CEO, and seasoned entrepreneur, shared some insight to what led him to start Clean Travel and his greater goals for the company. Read his responses below:
What triggered you to start Clean Travel earlier this year?
I’ve seen the positive impact that ethical tourism can have on a disadvantaged community first hand. Five years ago I founded a social enterprise called Umbrella Trekking that offers tours in Nepal. Profits go to our partner charity, and we train former victims of trafficking as tour guides. Customers not only loved our tours but also loved what we were about and the idea that they could contribute to something larger.
Although we had great reviews and many recommendations, we struggled to reach an audience beyond our charity affiliation. We invested in setting up a user-friendly website, but it received minimal traffic. Online searches of Nepal trips usually result in a blanket of paid advertisements that convince travelers that the multinational companies are the only way to go. These organisations dominate the online sales channels because of their huge financial resources and lead to a perceived lack of choice for travelers, especially those heading to the developing world.
With a little bit of research, I discovered that we were not unique; there are a lot of travel companies who exist to empower developing communities. They are doing amazing work throughout the world, but like Umbrella Trekking, are missing appropriate channels for them to highlight their tours.
This lead me to the realisation that rather than focusing on my own tour company, I could showcase this growing community on a platform, help it reach a larger audience, and scale all of our impacts!
What does your company do and what is the impact of your service on the travel industry?
We’re an online marketplace that connects you with activities and tours run by local ethical operators. You can have the time of your life and change a life by contributing to the communities that you are visiting. We showcase exciting single and multi-day trips run by organisations in partnership with home-grown charities or ethical operator groups. You can search, enquire, book and pay through our platform.
Tourism is a huge global industry, it contributed $1.4 trillion US dollars last year to the Global Economy and 1.8 billion travelers per year are forecast by 2030. Given its huge size, there is massive potential for this sector to have a positive social impact. However, multinational tour companies dominate the industry, which results in visited countries retaining just $5 out of every $100 spent by tourists.
Why can’t tourism, by being better shared locally, serve as the greatest form of wealth distribution that the world has ever seen? To meet this potential there is a growing community of local travel organizations that exist to support and invest in their communities, but they are currently being drowned out by multinational tour companies in online sales channels.
Clean Travel serves as a lightning rod to connect local tour operators online with the growing number of travelers who want to have truly authentic travel experience, ensuring tourism money stays in the country. Clean Travel will shake up the current tourism market by giving local tour operators a chance to compete in the online market. The current surge in socially conscious tourists presents a huge commercial opportunity, and Clean Travel is the vehicle that enables local ethical operators to cut through the noise and connect with these potential customers.
What recent milestones are you most proud of?
Our social media profile is growing fast, and we're booking trips already for 2018, but we’re most proud of the quality of local partners that have started to approach us about joining the Clean Travel Community.
We initially anticipated having to do a lot of groundwork and negotiations to get quality tour partners on board, but have been blown away by the level of engagement and interest that has been shown. Amazing local ethical tour companies have been approaching us, and this just shows how necessary and needed a platform such as Clean Travel is. Our message has really connected with them, and we’re proud that they recognise the potential of our growing community. This has led to over ten new exciting partners reaching out since we launched just last month.
What prompted you to apply to our Booster Lab?
I met with Anil from Backstreet Academy in Nepal in July, and he had great things to say about the Booster programme that Backstreet Academy participated in earlier this year. Their experience motivated me to keep an eye out for your next programme; I was very motivated to apply. Also, the high level of travel industry-specific expertise available and the ability to connect with the growing community of sustainable travel experts through this booster programme is first class!
We’re counting down the days until we get to meet with Clean Travel team as well as all the other startups in Barcelona! Tomorrow we’ll post the next startup story. If you missed Friday’s post on Alternative Athens, you can find it here!