Started in the Netherlands in 2014, Better Places expanded into Germany in 2016 (as Fairaway), and internationally in 2017 as Better Places Travel, focusing on individual, unique, and tailor-made travel experiences. With the belief that individual travel is aimed at bringing the traveller directly in contact with the local population, Better Places Travel seeks to provide the traveller with the ultimate travel experience. Passionate about Responsible Travel, Saskia Griep, Founder of Better Places Travel shares what the platform aims to achieve, how one can get involved and what does Responsible Travel entail for all stakeholders.
OPR: Better Places Travel is built around the theme of Responsible Travel. What are the tenets within Responsible Travel you are aiming to promote?
Saskia: Our commitment is to creating Better Places to live in, Better Places to visit. In that order. We strongly believe that travel, when done responsibly, can make a positive difference to local people as well as to the destination, and providing a more satisfying, holistic and immersive experience for the traveller.
Our approach to responsible travel can best be described as holistic. We work together with local experts in more than 30 destinations around to globe to bring responsible, authentic and 100% tailor-made trips directly to the traveler. We work together with our local experts to ensure their offer and operations are as sustainable as possible – by focusing on small-scale accommodation and excursions (such as homestays, local cooking courses, etc), and guiding local experts through processes such as Travelife certification, upgrading of back office systems, etc).
We are similarly committed to ensuring that Better Places to visit indeed remain Better Places to live. We do so by actively supporting local tourism suppliers as well as several local initiatives. In the past year, we have focused in particular on initiatives based around minimizing plastic waste (when travelling). You can read more here.
Furthermore, we consider climate action one of our biggest responsibilities, and therefor report on and compensate for all travel undertaken by staff and clients – also the emissions of the international flights booked independently. We compensate for all CO2 emissions resulting from our business through a Gold Standard compensation project. Read more here.
OPR: So how does it begin? In the sense, if someone’s venturing out into the area of traveling responsibly, how can Better Places Travel help them and what are the most important factors to consider?
Saskia: Better Places is an online platform for responsible travel that works together with local agents to offer 100% tailor-made travel experiences. The wishes and needs of travelers are central in our trips. We like to stimulate clients to get out of their comfort zone, by for example staying in a homestay. We focus on offering the traveller a chance meet locals, stay in locally and sustainably run accommodation, and enjoy and experience natural wonders of the destination in a sustainable fashion. In order to combat over tourism, we stimulate clients to not only visit the well-known highlights, but also more off the beaten track places, and to travel outside of the high season if and when possible.
We strongly believe that travellers are increasingly on the lookout for more authentic and responsible experiences, and at Better Places Travel we wish to make responsible travel easier for the consumer; and therefore more accessible to all.
We have very strict criteria in selecting our local experts, strong focus on sustainability and passion for adventure travel.
OPR: How does it work for the traveller?
Saskia: After browsing through our website for inspiration, travellers can get directly in touch with one of our local experts, by sending them an email or filling in the online request form. Our local expert will send an initial proposal for a completely tailor-made travel experience based on the wishes of the client within 2 days, and will work on fine tuning it together with the traveller until it’s just right. Once the traveller decides to book, this can be done through our automated online booking form and via our secure online payment system, with financial guarantees for extra peace of mind.
In terms of environmental sustainability, we help travellers minimize plastic waste when travelling by supporting a number of initiatives around the world and offering practical advice on reusable water bottles and spots to refill. We similarly help travellers reduce their carbon footprint when travelling by offsetting 100 % of the emissions of their trip (including the independently booked international flight), entirely at our own cost, and offering tips on reducing their impact throughout their travels – by choosing for more sustainable transportation initiatives, small scale accommodation, sustainable excursions, etc.
OPR: What are the areas around the field of Sustainability one would be introduced to during a typical travel experience using BPT?
Saskia: As I mentioned, our approach to sustainability at Better Places can best be described as holistic. In terms economic and social sustainability, we always try to encourage travellers to stay in small-scale sustainably run accommodations, thereby also ensuring income for small scale suppliers, and actively support community based tourism initiatives and “meet the locals” experiences in our destinations (for instance, the alternative Inca Trail i.e. coffee route in Peru). When it comes to environmental sustainability, we take our role just as seriously. We compensate for all CO2 emissions of the travel undertaken by our clients and staff (including airline travel), promote overland travel where possible, support numerous initiatives centred around minimizing plastic waste, offer travellers tips on how they can go about minimizing their own waste while travelling, and so on.
OPR: The space of Sustainable Travel is seeing increased interest. What sets BPT apart in this sector?
Saskia: We believe that Better Places Travel sets itself apart with its small scale, 100% tailor-made approach, the personal contact our local experts have with the travellers before, during and after the trip, and the satisfaction of our local suppliers & travellers. We focus on working with one local supplier per destination, so that we can build up a strong relationship, and help them grow their business sustainably. We believe in aligning our visions on sustainable travel for the long run, and offering our providers the opportunity to become both Travelife Certified and expand their operations by helping them implement more efficient back office systems.
In the 2nd part to this conversation, see how you could get involved with Better Places Travel as a Local Travel Expert and destinations of choice amongst users and what Saskia feels would be the trends to watch out for within the field of Responsible Travel in 2018.