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Connect With In-Country Experts to Craft a Personalized, Sustainable Travel Experience

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Oct 8, 2021

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

This week, The Climate Win looks at a brand new service that offers travelers truly local experiences. Elsewhere helps you gain insights not available through online searches or via group tours — by connecting you directly to service providers on the ground to help you plan epic, personalized journeys.

Alexis Bowen and Craig Zapatka brought a combined two decades of travel industry experience with them in founded Elsewhere in the spring of 2021. Their goal is to run a sustainable business that both provides valuable experiences for clients and puts money into the economies of the places they visit.

“We’re a product of Covid,” Bowen says in a conversation with Matador. “Craig and I modeled Elsewhere around the current environment and what we wanted to see go differently.”

To them, that meant eliminating the many hands that dip into group tours, with their set itineraries. Instead, their service operates as a concierge to travelers, connecting them to locals who can help them craft and then enjoy experiences on their own or with their party, rather than on a large group tour. The result is the best of both worlds: convenience and ease, without sacrificing the personal approach and tailored itinerary.

“We’re cutting out the middlemen,” Bowen says. “We’re linking travelers directly to local, in-destination experts. This means we cut out 30 to 40 percent of the margin.”

“We’re coming from the DIY side,” Bowen says, “where all of our friends only want to book trips themselves, and not use operators. But coming from the industry we knew there was a value in the expertise. People are getting overloaded with choices. We link travelers with licensed and insured professionals, because when you’re talking multi-day travel, you want somebody who is a professional.”

The platform works like this. You visit the website. You type in where you want to go. Their platform matches you with local experts in that location. Together, you work to craft a dream itinerary based on your interests, hobbies, and desired level of culinary adventurousness. Then, you travel.

Each local expert meets strict criteria for eco-friendliness and community well-being. Their fees must support themselves and the local economy. And the visitor (you) must gain access to “unknown places and experiences.” Many are involved in charitable work in their destination, supporting sustainability initiatives, social justice, medical research, and other positive community development projects that your money then goes to support. The full-circle process harnesses travel as a “force for good” in the world.

An agency in Africa may be big on animal welfare and conservation, for instance, but may not be as focused on social impact or green energy. Elsewhere, which is a certified B-Corporation, also looks into the hotels they book, the tours they send guests on, and the souvenirs travelers will have the chance to buy — in order to ensure the full-circle sustainability of each trip.

“One of the first things we ask them is about fair wages,” Zapatka says. “We prioritize female-owned agencies, which amounts to over 50 percent of our portfolio. We also prioritize certifications like Travelwise, some of them are B-Corp, and all of them are locally owned.”

For example, you want to hike in Chile. On the Elsewhere homepage, you search for Chile. The site prompts you to tell it what type of trip you want to take. In this case, you want to go to the Atacama Desert, while supporting local makers and food producers. Elsewhere matches you with a local expert to help fine-tune your plans and develop an itinerary. Then, Elsewhere helps you through the booking process to ensure everything from travel arrangements to on-the-ground activities are locked in, and that your dollars will benefit the people and places you visit along the way.

Once a traveler signs up on the site, they gain access to the backend of Elsewhere. This area is similar to Airbnb, where users can receive itineraries and proposals, receive info on their destinations, and see photos and maps. During the planning and booking process, travelers can chat live with the on-the-ground sources they’ve cultivated through Elsewhere’s platforms to ask questions and get advice.

“We wanted to build out this opportunity for people to get connected with a destination before they get there, and get connected with a local,” Zapatka says. “We want people to feel comfortable and secure.”

More climate wins this week

Google announced this week it’s Flights service will displace the emissions generated by trip itinerary searches on its site. This tool allows users to see the impact of their flight and calculate an offset, and allow them to compare flight options based on total emissions. The service gets quite detailed — looking at the specific aircraft (did you know that older planes generate more emissions than newer ones?) and even seat options to be as accurate as possible in the calculations.

Denver International Airport is getting two large solar farms that will generate 36 million kWh of power each year, PV Magazine reported. The airport has partnered with Greenbacker Renewable Energy to purchase enough solar power to save it $3 million over the next 25 years.

A cloth sheet is being used to protect a Swedish glacier from melting, Reuters reported. The covering prevented over 11 feet of ice from melting off the Helags glacier. The glacier had already lost nearly seven feet in height in the past year, and researchers hope the experiment with the cloth will drastically slow down future melting.

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