[Sustainability Agenda] Meet the startup curating eco-friendly travel experiences
A strong love for the outdoors has always been at the centre of Suman Sukumar’s life.
Having travelled the length and breadth of India as part of hiking, paddling, and biking expeditions, Suman saw firsthand the need for authentic resources to facilitate sustainable travel experiences in the country.
With an aim to create immersive experiences, which focus on ecology, heritage, and indigenous culture, Suman, who is based in Goa, foundedin 2019.
“Suman wasn’t able to find a repository of authentic stays that practised the ideas of responsible travel,” Nupur Balasubramanyam, Head of Marketing and Collaborations, Knowhere Travel Co., tells SocialStory.
With 10 years of experience in the travel industry, Suman realised that many like him wanted to access such sustainable experiences without going through multiple platforms and websites, and started curating them.
Today, Knowhere Travel Co. has partnered with 70 homestays across states, including Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. Homestays, farm stays, and heritage homes — all can be easily found through this innovative curation platform.
“All of these are carefully audited by us. We visit them in person because we don’t want to send our guests if we ourselves haven’t seen how clean, comfortable, and well maintained it is,” Nupur adds.
One of the main influences to partner with a stay provider is understanding how well the community is included in the whole experience. At present, Knowhere Travel Co. has expanded into curating active and immersive trips.
An uptick in the eco-tourism trend
“There is a marked increase in the interest in this kind of eco-travel,” remarks Nupur, adding that they hope people grow more conscious as consumers.
A sustainable travel report by Booking.com revealed that 94 percent of Indian travellers think sustainable travel is vital, with 88 percent saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
The government, too, has noted the growth of interest in eco-tourism and has upped its efforts in the past few years to compile policies that facilitate it in wildlife and forest areas.
In line with this, Knowhere Travel Co. looks to change the conventional idea of travel and spark conversations around making it more sustainable and ethical for everyone involved.
“We want people to ask questions and be mindful of where they go; be mindful of the ecosystem they’re inhabiting during their stay,” Nupur says.
Social media has been an important platform for them to create engaging conversations with people. “It has also proven to be a big source of enquiries for us as well,” she adds.
The onset of the pandemic did put a dampener on their operations. “We were clear in our messaging that we didn’t encourage travel during that time,” Nupur explains.
But now, with the lockdowns lifted, the startup has noted “revenge travel,” where there has been a steady rise in the number of people looking to move out of their homes once again.
It hasn’t been an easy feat to challenge norms of what a conventional holiday home looks and includes. Many guests are looking for that “Insta-friendly” vacay and have their demands, including facilities like a pool, which are not environmentally sustainable.
Some other stays are not conducive to partying and alcohol, but they are more garnered towards quiet contemplation. Nupur underlines that it’s an important part of their role to communicate and get the guests and the providers on the same page.
Picking the right places
Nupur says Knowhere Travel Co. primarily looks for sustainability factors among homestays before partnering with them.
These places need to prioritise local elements and materials, and the people employed should be from local communities. In fact, the startup also looks at other measures like rainwater harvesting and growing food.
“We’re not looking at airconditioning in the room or comforts that are beyond basic. We consider these luxuries,” Nupur explains.
Through its services, the company hopes that people get an opportunity to “get off the tourist trail” and understand cultures better while also being responsible about the way they travel.
By supporting local communities and making people more conscious about their carbon footprint, Knowhere Travel Co. hopes to make people rethink the way they gain new experiences in new places.
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Edited by Suman Singh