The news last week that Tripbod – which connects travellers to locals eager to share their knowledge of their home – has been bought by Tripadvisor is really exciting. It is a sign of responsible tourism maturing its communication. And a sign that the mainstream is listening.
In essence there are two approaches. One is typified by the endless roll call of carbon calculator apps, which focus on the idea that travel is inherently a damaging force and the best we can do as responsible tourists is to reduce our impact. The other – as espoused by Tripbod – aspires towards responsible travel as an opportunity to make tourism more engaging, connected, and to leave a more positive legacy behind.
Tripbod may be one of the first responsible travel apps and sites to gain such mainstream traction, however there are many others, and any responsible tourism business can benefit from seeing how they communicate to travellers, and perhaps adopt some of their techniques in their own hotel or tour operator websites. The following four apps and websites are some of my other current favourites to watch:
1) Vecotourism enhances photography to bring destinations alive
Click on one of the 360 degree photographs on Vecotourism (standing for virtual ecotourism) and you are transported to wild places such as the slopes of Rwanda’s Mount Karismibi and surrounded by gorillas. Combine this with voiceovers by authorities such as Ape Alliance founder Ian Redmond and lots of clickable points throughout the photographs that launch videos taking you deeper into the location and its stories, and you have an immersive experience that brings remote destinations much closer.
How other businesses could adapt: Plenty of scope to apply this technique – heritage properties could use to enable guests to explore their properties and their history. Ecolodges could transport people to a silent terrace overlooking the desert around them, and then use the videos to bring its sights and sounds alive.
2) Africam connects you to the natural world, wherever you are
Africam enables viewers to log on and watch 24hr live webcams at watering holes in the African bush. Follow its twitter feed and you’ll be alerted when there’s a herd of elephants or other exciting viewing coming down for a drink. I generally have the webcam open in a separate tab while I am working, the sound of the bush filtering through my speakers, and when occasionally I hear some activity in the undergrowth, I just flick across to see what’s new. That alone makes the site a wonderful way of connecting me to the African wilds that I love, but the fact they frame their video screens with a simple anti-poaching message is a cogent reminder to all in safari that it is possible to give guests the beauty they desire, and also tell them what is really going on out there too.
How other businesses could adapt: Underwater webcams on reefs? At bird hides? Or simply reminding one of the pace of life on Tresco? The scope is endless, and a powerful way of not only introducing a place but also keeping visitors connected once they have gone home.
3) Packforapurpose enables travellers to give something back
For the traveller wanting to give something back, Pack for a Purpose offers a simple, effective, solution. Forget dubious voluntourism projects with questionable impacts on local communities. Rather got to the packforapurpose website, click on your chosen destination, find a participating lodge. Then read what local projects they support and exactly what they need at the moment, pack it in your suitcase and drop it off when on holiday.
How other businesses could adapt: Not only does this approach match needs with opportunities and connect travellers to projects, it also works as excellent marketing for any lodge featured on the site, which naturally benefits from the profile as well as the inbound links generated. Just last week I discovered a couple of places that I will visit on a trip next year because they were listed on Packforapurpose. Lodges could also develop their own schemes, rewarding visitors for bringing certain items out in their luggage.
4) Storymap turns maps into living story archives
Storymap enables prospective visitors to Dublin to click points on a map of the city and watch videos where locals recount stories about that place.. Described as ‘a vision of the city as lived, across nationalities, generations, and centuries’, the videos, which are professionally shot and edited by a pair of young Dublin-based filmmakers, brings alive this city of storytellers.
How other businesses could adapt: With potential to connect through mobile phone apps and other location-based devices, the scope for development in any region that is rich in stories (and where isn’t if you look?) is vast. Or you could encourage guests to upload their own stories to your social media accounts and help you build a map together.
What other travel apps and websites inspire you? Please share them below.