Trillions of dollars are spent on tourism annually. This begs the question: Where does this massive amount of money go and how can we as travelers take control?
What is sustainable travel?
According to the World Tourism Organization sustainable travel is the “management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems.”
Why is sustainable travel important?
Think about the multi trillion dollar tourism industry. 4 to 8 trillion (depending on what exactly you are measuring) is an enormous number. How many zeros? 4,000,000,000 … not there yet … add three more zeros: 4,000,000,000,000. Wow that is a crap load of mula. Currently a large portion of this goes to big travel companies and canned tours.
The sliding scale of travelers range from the wall street banker who wants nothing but luxury, the guy who travels for business, to the millennial who is looking for romanticism or adventure. The one thing all of these travelers have in common is they want an authentic experience. Truly authentic experiences come from locals.
Sustainable travel is compassion for the places we visit. Also, compassion for our fellow man. A genuinely empathetic society will be able to perpetuate the resources we have to create a worldwide community.
Imagine the possibilities if we, as travelers commit to responsible traveling. Imagine the lives that can be pushed in a positive direction if we are able to equip travelers with an easy way engage cultures. This will result in direct impact to local economies. One of the zero’s in the trillion dollars could end up in the pockets of locals rather than big corporate travel companies.
Traveling has moved me to become an involved citizen of the world. This has led me to yearn to create something that sponsors connection across oceans and phone screens. This is why Seekr was created.
Does Seekr enable sustainable travel?
Seekr connects travelers to locals who offer experiences that cannot be found in guidebooks. Young travelers the world over crave off the beaten path experiences. With Seekr these travelers now have an incentive to on-board locals they have a meaningful experience with.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
― Herman Melville
How do we make this happen?
We connected a group of African ladies who are passionate about cooking and sharing their culture to a group of adventurous travelers here in Denver, Colorado. Seekr invested in the meal. Travelers came with the knowledge they were having a cultural meal in exchange for a donation.
We tested the assumption that travelers would be inclined to give more money if the experience was labeled as a donation. The test yielded interesting results. Each traveler brought up the importance of expectations. Labeling the experience as a donation completely changed their thought process. Very interesting insights that will help us build a product that has impact baked-in.
The meal was incredible. Jemimah and her talented chef’s provided savory dishes. Travelers tasted an African home-cooked meal and engaged with another culture.
Travelers told us the experience yielded a new appreciation for other cultures, a rejuvenated perspective on their own values and excitement to seek out similar experiences in the future.
The test validated Seekr’s hypothesis and mission: Enabling cultural and authentic experiences will give travelers a new appreciation and providers will gain a new sense of pride from sharing their culture and knowledge.
This is one small example of how travel is local. Connecting to local people is the best way to truly experience a location. Watching money go directly into the pockets of locals is even better.
Before the meal, Jemimah gave a great talk about how the world is one person. It doesn’t matter if we are from Kenya, Congo or The United States we all are one because we are all connected.
I have traveled around the world twice. Discovering cultural enrichment thourghout my travels and in my own backyard tells me the world is flat. Technology has enabled forces to converge resulting in an even playing field around the world. Seekr inspires the connection and compassion that this new flat world is desperately searching for.
To learn more and stay up to date visit http://www.seekr.is
Why the Future of Travel is Local was originally published in RE: Write on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.