Booking.com is calling startups from around the world that are building technology-driven solutions to solve sustainable travel challenges – in multiple areas – to apply for support from its €2 million fund.
To celebrate the launch of the program’s third year, Booking.com is also highlighting four key areas of innovation being driven by startups addressing sustainability issues in the travel industry, including projects from previous winners.
Spreading the benefits and effects of tourism more evenly
Overcrowding in some of the world’s most beloved destinations is currently one of the most urgent and pressing topics in sustainable tourism currently being explored by a wide range of startups, together with cities such as Amsterdam, Venice and Barcelona. As international tourists have gone from 25 million international arrivals in 1950, to over 1.3 billion in 2017, the United Nations World Tourism Organization forecasts that the sector is expected to continue growing 3.3% annually until 2030, a year in which 1.8 billion tourists are predicted to cross borders.
Recent Booking.com research highlights that most travelers are very open to the idea of adjusting where and how they travel, as well as what they do during their stay in order to help spread the effects and benefits of their trips more evenly. In fact, more than half of global travelers declare a willingness to stay outside of the city center (51%) or travel outside of the peak season (68%). Nearly half (47%) are also willing to skip major tourist attractions in favor of less well-known alternatives. In fact, 54% of travelers say that they would extend their stay with the purpose of making trips outside of main tourist areas. This all highlights the significant potential for increased innovation on this front to empower travelers to explore further, discover under-visited areas and support more local businesses.
Creating economic opportunities for women through travel technology
Globally, the labor force participation rate among prime working-age women (aged 25–54) stands at 63% compared to 94% among their male counterparts, and the global gender pay gap is currently at 23%. As one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality and women’s empowerment is a topic that is also incredibly important to Booking.com. The scope of this issue is reflected in the growing number of startups globally that are leveraging innovative concepts and business models to position travel-related services as a vehicle to enable women to generate income independently.
Promoting inclusive growth for under-resourced local communities
In a frequently quoted statistic from the UN Environmental Program, it is estimated that for every $100 spent on holiday by tourists from a developed country, only about $5 actually stays in the country and benefits the local destination and community. This represents a significant opportunity for travel companies to help local communities benefit more equally from the global tourism opportunity and to promote a more inclusive growth model for the larger travel industry as a whole. From recent Booking.com research, nearly two thirds of travelers (65%) say that they would like to seek out more local products instead of mainstream tourist souvenirs. Furthermore, over half of all global travelers (53%) are interested in undertaking experiences organized by the local community if that would help mitigate the impact of tourism.
Protecting the environment
There are many complex and interconnected environmental challenges being tackled by enterprising startups throughout the sustainable travel industry, including limited access to fresh water, issues associated with plastic waste and the ongoing depletion of natural resources. While nearly 70% of the world is covered by water, only 2.5% of it is fresh, with the majority being trapped in ice. According to the United Nations, water usage has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. So for communities already coping with a water scarcity issue, this means relying on bottled water, which comes with additional environmental and operational costs. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, globally we produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, which is roughly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. Much of this plastic waste ends up in the world’s rivers and oceans, polluting the global water supply, threatening marine ecosystems and cluttering beaches and other coastal destinations.
BOOKING BOOSTER 3.0
For the 2019 Booking Booster program, Booking.com will select and invite 10 social enterprise startups in the sustainable tourism sector that are ready to scale their business plans to a three-week accelerator program in Amsterdam in May 2019. The program will consist of a series of lectures, hands-on workshops and coaching sessions, culminating in a final pitch to receive a grant of up to €500k from Booking.com’s €2 million fund in order to help support the next stage of projected growth for the participating startups. All the startups will also receive a full year of ongoing mentoring and coaching from Booking.com experts, as well as opportunities and access to collaborate with Booking.com on potential innovation initiatives and experiments to help accelerate their future growth.
Going into the program’s third year, we are increasingly impressed with the amazing entrepreneurial spirit of the startups who apply for Booking Booster and the inspiring innovations they are developing in key areas related to tourism dispersal, creating new economic opportunities for women, promoting inclusive growth for under-resourced communities and developing cutting-edge technical solutions that help keep destinations happy and healthy in every corner of the globe.
Gillian Tans, President and CEO of Booking.com.
In helping travelers to explore and experience more than 143,000 unique destinations all over the world, Booking.com also seeks to contribute to the ongoing health of these same destinations so that future generations can continue to enjoy them for years to come. Together with the Booking Cares Fund and the Booking Cares Labs, the Booking Booster Program sits alongside Booking.com’s internal volunteer program, where employees have long partnered with local organizations on projects that help improve destinations worldwide. Together these initiatives make up and further expand Booking.com’s commitment to make a positive impact on the global tourism industry. For more information about upcoming programs and opportunities, please visit the Booking Cares website.
Startups from all over the world are invited to apply for the 2019 Booking Booster Program as of today (November 1, 2018). Applications close on December 2, 2018, so interested startups should visit the Booking Booster section on the Booking Cares website for full information and additional details.