Your Next Adventure Can Help Impoverished Communities
A startup is rethinking how tourism must work to benefit communities
Onwards Travel, a Wisconsin-based non-profit, has found a way to use tourist dollars to fuel local, small town economies. By purchasing their adventure packages, you not only get an organized tour but you also help communities fund their own development.
The startup was founded by Jacob Taddy who saw how a Dominican Republic town transformed from an agricultural sleeper into a hit destination through tourism. In the early 2000s, during the government’s decision to move farmers off from a protected forest to greenhouses, international aide organization workers flocked to Rio Limpio. The rise in visitors provided occupants to bed and breakfasts, diners for local restaurants and sent youth-led tour guides a constant stream of clients.
Taddy then found a way to accelerate this tourism-led growth through microfinance for budding local entrepreneurs. Merging both fields, Onwards Travel was born. Aside from organizing tours to its pioneering area, the Caribbean, the company also provides small loans to local business owners.
Here’s how it works: the startup’s client Raquel opens a bed and breakfast with a $950 loan from Onward Travel. The startup also books her B&B for its guests, helping Raquel pay her loan back and also providing her with a steady stream of income. Aside from micro-financing schemes, the startup also plans to provide business training and professional development for locals in the tourism industry.
To fuel the drive, Onwards Travel is now turning to crowdfunding to grow its lending pool. Eyeing a $10,000-run, the Indiegogo campaign offers those who pledge a discount off their next tour bookings with additional perks. For $50, backers can get a T-shirt and Sticker plus a $50-discount off a booking made through Onwards Travel within the next two years. For a $1,000 pledge, backers can get a spot on the next trip to a new location.
As of press time, Onwards Travel is offering two trips. An 8-day trip and a 9-day trip in the DR, the latter including a border crossing to Haiti. The trips expose tourists to rural life against breathtaking natural landscapes. Veering from “slum tourism”, Onward Travel aims to show adventurers how communities can grow and prosper through the tourism industry.