Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Whole Travel launches green experiences

I had the pleasure yesterday of speaking with Matthew Davie, CEO of Whole Travel, a comprehensive website that allows users to search for travel experiences without being restricted by date or location. It has a focus on the green movement and features locations that embrace sustainability.
So for those who wish they could simply type in a search query of “rain forest” and find the ideal vacation, there’s good news: Whole Travel was launched today. But what may be even better news for hotels in these remote locations is that they now can be found.

While it does remain a work in progress, the site at this point features 4,000 hotels and resorts that are often independently owned and operated and are located around the world. These are places that won’t necessarily be found on the average travel site and meet four criteria established by the experts and academics who created Whole Travel: economy, environment, education and culture.

And while “green” remains a buzzword in the industry, Davie said Whole Travel wants to avoid greenwashing and give customers something authentic.

So, the Whole Travel team thoroughly analyzed locations before approving them for the site. Hotels must take action to create economic sustainability by hiring local labor and using resources available right in their specific regions. Furthermore, they must work to preserve the environment there. Customer interaction with the local environment also must be available through tours and sessions about sustainability and how it’s good for the economy and environment. And, finally, the business must be in line with the local culture and sustaining it—the hotel in the rain forest must not have cut down the rainforest’s lush landscape to be there.

While now it’s simply a meta search of destinations, Davie said Whole Travel is working to bring more Web 2.0 technology in with guest reviews and hotel ratings. Also, those independents may not be alone for too long as the site looks toward advances being made by large company’s, like Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's Element hotels that are LEED-certified and offer a total green experience.

I think Whole Travel is ahead of the game in a lot of ways here, not just in addressing the growing trend of travelers looking for green destinations, but also loosening the reins of travel searches to allow users to find experiences that suit their lifestyles instead of just hotels and flights. I wouldn’t doubt that we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in coming years.

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