Go eco and web-plan an eco-friendly trip, where you can have a more meaningful travel experience by incorporating green travel ideas wherever possible, including non-profits, in most major cities in North America, Europe and Asia.This could be the description of Tripsketch, as the Ceo Lalitha Swart- an experienced travel, high tech executive and founder of TripSketch, a trip planning website with a green travel bias- told us.
Here some hints from TripSketch website and finally some Lalitha's useful suggestions to whom is starting.
Why digital innovations can be used to promote responsible tourism?
Information on green travel, meaning lowering your carbon footprint by using public transport, frequenting small, local businesses, taking a walking tour instead of a bus tour and so on, is not readily available. Travelers have to search for that information. The website TripSketch seeks to inform travelers about responsible tourism, and specifically, short-term voluntourism opportunities. In fact, by purchasing the TripSketch Green Book mobile application for 4,99 dollars, travelers design their own trip, reaching thousands of eco-friendly hotels, restaurants, attractions, tours and other travel services, as well as "don't miss" trip options in over 80 of the world's greatest destinations, choosing among over 100 "Do Good, Feel Good" activities. Even before they leave home, TripSketch enables travelers to support green and humanitarian activities: as part of commitment to sustainable and social causes, TripSketch donates 20% of proceeds from Green Book mobile application downloads to social enterprises selected.
How did you come out with the idea?
Few travelers want to commit a week or more of their vacation to volunteering on a social project. However, many travelers would enjoy a short-term opportunity to make a difference and to support businesses that help disadvantaged communities while they are on vacation.
By profiling and promoting social enterprises, TripSketch aims to encourage more travelers to a new approach to voluntourism. These activities might include shopping at a women's cooperative in Beirut, attending a dance show at an orphanage in Siem Reap, enjoying a meal at the Delancey Street Restaurant in San Francisco where at-risk youth learn life skills, overnight home staying in rurally disadvantaged communities, bringing school supplies to a school or an orphanage, visiting small locally owned restaurants, assisting in English conversation practice, or helping children with basic numeracy.
What to consider about the tourism market?
Tourism exports account for as much as 30% of the world’s exports of commercial services and 6% of overall exports of goods and services. Globally, as an export category, tourism ranks fourth after fuels, chemicals and automotive products. For many developing countries it is one of the main sources of foreign exchange income and the number one export category, creating much needed employment and opportunities for development.
We know that responsible tourism is growing and so it is the tourism web marketing.
What are the risks of going green?
We are aware of the green washing risk, but it is also true that new markets can be more transparent.
As we report in our website, back in 2006, David Fennell, author of Tourism Ethics, questioned how easy it is for tourism organizations to market to the ethical tourist (Cooper & Hall 104). He asked, "whether ethical holidays are just a ploy to increase the margins for certain target market groups and to exploit a trend in society" (Cooper & Hall 104). So, the recent rise of focus on "green travel" does question whether companies are once again taking advantage of the responsible/ethical tourism trend to gain competitive advantage. And in this case, technology would be at the forefront of fueling the competitive advantage to exploit a trend for economic gains. Also in 2006, Derek R. Hall and Frances Brown argued in Tourism and Welfare: Ethics, Responsibility and Sustained Well-Being that there is a "lack of pressure for companies to become "actively ethical': while consumers often punish unethical companies, they do not necessarily reward ethical organizations" (9). Given that the WTO's Code of Ethics still remains the same, and that few initiatives have been enforced since then, one can suppose that Hall and Brown's statement generally remains true today.
What is your advice for young women who want to start a company in tourism?
I learned some things the hard way, by making mistakes and also from my background as a banker to technology companies:
1. Start small, don't be too ambitious. Specialize in your local area first. For example, if you are from Milan, then become an expert in your area (Lombardia) instead of starting a company that covers all of Italy. It is easier to become an expert this way.
2. The way for a small company to be successful is to become an 'expert' in something: a small region, a topic (food and wine, green tourism), an aspect (culinary tours, green hotels). The more you specialize, the better your chance of success even though it may not seem that way.
3. The reason of becoming a “small-expert” is that, if you don't have a lot of money, you can end up offering the same information that larger companies offer, and they will win because they have a bigger marketing budget. But large companies do not specialize as I suggest in #2 so it is easier for a small company to succeed by becoming a 'subject matter expert.'
4. Find a way to sell something other than information if you want to make money, people don't like to pay for information, they think they can find it free on the web (even if it is very hard to find).
5. Building a webiste and all that other technology is very easy, that is not the hard part. There are lots of companies that will build you a website for not much money. The hard part is making it easy to navigate your site, so users can quickly understand what you offer, and why they should stay on your site and more importantly, return to your site. This is called 'user interaction design' and this is MUCH harder to do, and much harder to find good people who can help.
6. Above all, an entrepreneur should ask the following questions of themselves: 'what does success look like in one year?' and 'how will I measure success?' People must answer that question before they start a business!
How to know more on your mobile apps?
We have a free app for Chicago where users can understand what we offer from a content perspective in our paid apps. All our paid apps cover anywhere from 5 to a dozen cities or more, and offer great value for the price. Like traditional city guides, they cover all the popular attractions in a city but also offer the green filter discussed above. You can download at the page http://tripsketch.com/mobile . Remember that 20% of paid apps are returned to charitable causes!
But marketing is also to participate?
Yes, and to follow meetings and get into contests. For example, we got several recognitions: for MobileVillage.com’s 2011 Mobile Star Awards™, TripSketch's mobile app won the top award, "Superstar", in the Navigation/Travel category and was awarded "Shining Star" in the Specialty Social Network category. TripSketch was awarded 1st Place in the Eco/Green category by Nokia at its 2010 "Calling all Innovators" Competition for its Green Traveler mobile application and was a Top Three Finalist in the App Yap Contest at the 2011 World Youth & Student Travel Conference for its Green Book mobile application. We have also made the first cut in Eye for Travel's Mobile App competition (concluding Mar 2012) for best mobile strategy, and are in the company of well recognized brands. If you like our mission please vote for us here: http://events.eyefortravel.com/mobile/vote.php .