One of the fastest growing segments of travel are so-called eco-adventures—treks through rain forests, biking in the Himalayas, diving in the Philippines. They sound so exotic (and earth-friendly!) but how do you book one of those trips? There are a variety of sites out there that cater to the Eco-traveler, but most of them look like they were slapped together by hippies instead of Web designers. A new site quietly launched earlier this month called ekoVenture takes a different approach.
On ekoVenture you can search more than 10,000 eco-tours, culinary explorations, and other active adventures from 450 travel operators around the world. The site’s goal, says CEO TJ Sassani, is “getting people active and helping them break the theme park habit.” You can search by activity (biking, hiking, spelunking) or destination. Results show up as flags on a map with vacation packages listed underneath. There are details about each travel experience, and you can inquire about booking a tour right through the site.
Every tour operator is vetted by checking how long they’ve been in business, certifications, standings with local travel and business bureaus, awards, and positive press mentions. Once the site gets going, user reviews will play an important role in the vetting process as well. In addition to connecting travelers to tour operators,
ekoVenture also offers tour operators a free booking engine on the back-end, much like OpenTable does for restaurants. This gives ekoVenture direct visibility into their availability and pricing, although it doesn’t always book travel through the site if its a complicated package that requires more handling. The company was founded two years ago, and raised $1.3 million in seed capital in August, 2008 from angel investors including Dave Dolby, Nanosys founder Larry Bock, and Gerson Lehman CEO Alexander Saint-Amand, hedge fund manager Jonathan Auerbach, and Zig Capital.
ekoVenture does a really good job of organizing this particular type of travel all in one place. It gets either a 10 percent commission for simple bookings or a lead-generation fee for each inquiry it passes along. So the more that people find adventure travel that Interests them, the more money it makes. But in keeping with the whole earth-friendly theme, the company will donate 10 percent of its profits to eco-charities.
The site also features travel notes from real travel adventurers (world-class mountain cilmbers, kayakers, divers, skiers, and sailors) to help inspire those of us who are more desk-bound to get out and see the world. Travelers can share their own adventures by blogging on the site, uploading photos and videos, and adding reviews.