Best Projects 2019 features all the nominated entries submitted ‘Submit your Project’ category. All the entries consist of innovative projects run by existing enterprises in the form of businesses, NGOs or informal programs.
Explain your project in details:
Impact Explorer enables rural community-based tourism (CBT) sites (initially set-up by communities and local NGOs) to connect to local and international visitors through the development of a socially responsible e-commerce market place and mobile app, resulting in an increased income for poor rural families. Our business model addresses several issues: .independent travellers- there isn't online one-stop-shop information/booking platform for community-based ecotourism initiatives that would enable visitors to find information about social and environmental impact and make a booking. On the other hand, local communities have limited skills and knowledge of the digital economy and limited access to technology and internet, while traditional online booking platforms have limited coverage and reach, and lack the understanding of challenges faced by CBT communities. Impact Explorer bridges the gap. It is an online market place that connects visitors with impactful travel experiences and stays. It enables potential visitor to search the sites by activities or location, check reviews from other travellers and tourism experts, and make a booking with one click. In addition, the market place focuses on educating travellers about sustainability issues in the tourism sector, natural resources management and environmental challenges of mass tourism. We are changing the face of tourism! Impact Explorer redefines how we travel, by being green, sustainable and impactful. It brings together local communities, private sector and governments to create a social change through sustainable impactful tourism. Along this journey, Impact Explorer has been selected to be the 2018 MIST semi-finalists, 2019 World Tourism Forum Luzen Start-up finalists and 2019 SmartScale Entrepreneur programme (Cambodia).
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
Impact Explorer builds capacity of rural community-based tourism projects and eco-sites in developing countries and connects these projects to independent international travellers through a socially responsible e-Commerce platform. As a direct result, we directly increase the financial viability of these projects leading to a greater diversification of income within the local communities and increased protection of natural habitat/ local eco-systems as families are less likely to engage in illegal logging and harmful farming practices. In addition, with increased family income we can also expect an increased capacity of the family to provide education for their children, ability to meet families health needs and prevent stunting in children due to malnutrition. Today, we have 54 projects listed on our platform in Cambodia with 35 of these projects being able to take online bookings, and the rest are being currently supported to do so. In total over 350 families currently benefit from the start-up, with majority of the experiences/homestay being women-led tourism experiences. Part of the income generated through bookings is being used to improve the lives of adults and children living in these communities. In vast majority sites, 10-15% of listed booking price goes to community village funds that pay for local development and regeneration. Each community makes a decision together (through a democratic process) about how the community fund will be used. In most places, the money is used to provide free English classes or supplementary education for children and young people in the community, WASH infrastructure projects and health services. Our social impact is directly interlinked to our source of revenue. Secondary, communities' revenue growth is directly linked to our income from booking fees. One does not exist without the other.
Sustainability and future plans
Impact Explorer has been designed with long-term sustainability in mind, moving from information platform (launched in July 2017) that provided only information to potential tourists to an e-commerce marketplace that both offers increase income for poor rural communities as well as a revenue stream that enables long term financial viability of this start-up, and its expansion across ASEAN and other markets tourism. Current revenue models used generated revenue through: 1) Commission on online bookings- the platform charger 15% fee on top of the cost of CBT rates for accommodation or activities (similar to Booking.com or Agoda). Please note that no fees or commissions are charged to local communities or CBT projects, in order to be totally transparent with our customer 100% of listed prices go to local communities and projects. 2) Affiliate marketing With the increased growth of tourism in ASEAN, there are possibilities for affiliate marketing contracts with both local and international companies working in related fields. Currently, we have 1 affiliate marketing agreement with Bookmebus a local transport booking platform. Further agreements are being negotiated wit could be achieved with Cambodian Airline. 3) Online advertising Over a longer period of time, with the increased popularity of our platform, we hope to be able to attract local advertising contracts, that will further increase long term revenue of the marketplace. Currently, Impact Explorer operates in Cambodia and we are in the process of enlisting projects in Laos and Myanmar. By the end of the year 2019, the marketplace is planned to have over 70 projects in 3 ASEAN countries, with further expansion planned for 2020 to cover Vietnam and Thailand. In 2019, Impact Explorer received funding from USAID and Development Innovations to scale up.
Your profile as an entrepreneur
My name is Jitka and I am one half of the co-founding team behind Impact Explorer. I am 2012 Clore Social Fellow (UK). I have spent the last 20 years working in the non-profit sector, supporting marginalised communities across the world to have a better life. I have an extensive understanding of challenges faced by poor rural communities, their barriers to success and challenges women face as agents of change in their communities. However, over the years I have also seen how some of the current models of donor funding and NGO management fail to address social issues through sustainable service delivery. This understanding drives me in making Impact Explorer a entrepreneurs success with social change as part of its business mission.