Travel for good: Inside the world of ethical tours
Relocating from Nepal to Melbourne, Gaughan got to work on a project to highlight adventure travel options that operated in line with the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.
“At a high level, we believe that travel should strengthen the community around it. It’s about turning around the transaction from a traveller visiting a place, to flipping that to what they can contribute to that place,” Gaughan says.
A couple enjoy travel in Nepal organised through Clean Travel.Credit: Supplied.
Having spent about $100,000 in time and sweat equity to launch Clean Travel, it’s now starting to generate revenue in the low six figures. The company will soon be pitching for a grant of €500,000 ($788,000) in the Booking Booster start-up program run by Booking.com.
The company reviews the ethics of adventure tours in locations such as Borneo, Tibet, Nepal and India. Clean Travel acts as a booking intermediary for a fee of up to 15 per cent and also offers a booking platform for ethical travel businesses.
Gaughan says having only recently launched the company, it’s heartening to see mainstream investors and travel companies such as Booking.com interested in the business.
“There is a sweet spot here. The average adventure traveller is a female, between 25 and 40 and they are looking to go off the beaten track,” he says.
Clean Travel says it has seen an uptick in consumer awareness about selecting travel options with sustainability in mind.
“At a high level, we believe that travel should strengthen the community around it,” he says.
Australia’s tourism sector is worth billions of dollars, with international visitors spending more than $42 billion in 2018, according to Tourism Australia.
The role of eco and ethical tourism is also on the rise globally, while the value of adventure-based outdoor tourism will hit $1.8 billion by 2023, predicts Allied Market Research.
In 2017, the UN World Trade Organisation held a year of sustainable tourism development with a focus on the power of ICT to grow sustainable tourism.
Co-founder of Tree Hugger Travel, John Paul Whelan believes there is plenty of growth to come.
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“We like to support smaller companies — we want to get that niche nature tourism. And we’re looking to help people make an informed choice.”
The British expat travelled to Australia years ago and returned four years ago to settle. He came back to news stories of land clearing and coral bleaching.
“I wanted to create some positivity,” he says.
Tree Hugger travel founders John Paul Whelan and Tina Satchell.
Along with co-founder Tina Satchell, he launched the Australian-focused eco-tourism site offering experiences with a sustainability focus and those with accreditation from Eco Tourism Australia.
The company was built as a side hustle while the duo did a range of other odd jobs and is just starting to generate tens of thousands a year in revenue.
“It’s like a library, an eco-tourism hub,” Whelan says.
“We want to grow and grow and grow and make it bigger.”
Tree Hugger Travel has also partnered with World Land Trust. Its customers can earn rewards points when they spend big so the company can purchase endangered rainforest.
Despite the uptick in interest in the space, Whelan thinks the sector is just getting started.
“I think there’s still a huge amount of growth. A lot of people out there just don’t think this way. I think it will start growing, it’s growing now, it’s got a long way to go.”
Emma is the small business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne.