Sustainable Tourism Network Grows to 100 Countries
Whether you use them as measures of success or just enjoy them as excuses for a celebration, milestones matter writes Ethan Gelber of WHL - one of the growing number of growing organizations with .travel domains.
In July, whl.travel hit the 100-country mark. As of mid-July 2009, this global network of local travel professionals spanned 174 destinations in 79 countries, with further expansion into approximately 100 more destinations (including 23 new countries) in the coming months.
In contrast to the tales of hardship emerging from other sectors of the tourism industry, whl.travel is all about growth, very busy moving from strength to strength.
"We"ve discovered that, even during belt-tightening times, optimism and encouraging tales of good travel still capture the imagination," said the introduction to the company"s monthly newsletter in June. "We see and believe in a responsible way forward in tourism, and as we trumpet this refrain, we"re learning just how many of you do too - both travellers and industry professionals. As we reach new markets, forge new bonds and build new partnerships, we hope that you will join our growing global network…"
Catering to independent and experiential travellers headed off the beaten path, whl.travel is a network of grassroots tourism professionals who own and operate booking sites for accommodations and tours in their local markets. By selecting only partners that clearly care about their customers, staff, suppliers and the destination, whl.travel provides travellers with real travel experiences that engage, enrich and inspire by connecting them to the special character of a place.
"Our partners" booking sites constitute one of the largest global online booking networks that taps into the strengths of local tourism experts who, alone, are local leaders, but together have become a forceful global presence for the right kind of tourism, bringing to major markets all the local opportunities that can have such a positive impact on hosts and visitors, especially in the developing world," added Ethan. "We connect independent travellers headed off the beaten path to fun, authentic and responsible experiences."
With 28 active destinations in 14 African countries and another 40 sites on the way, 54 destinations in 17 countries in Asia and 14 more sites under construction, and 59 destinations in 31 countries in Europe and the Middle East, as well as one of the most extensive travel-booking networks in Brazil, Vietnam and across Southeast Asia, whl.travel not only has the power of great breadth and depth, but has also started picking up kudos.
In addition to having been voted a finalist in the Responsible Travel category of the 2009 Travelmole Web Awards, whl.travel was recently revealed as one of five winners of "Globetrotting for Good - The Condé Nast Traveler Challenge". One benefit of the latter is a focus on whl.travel that will appear in the September 2009 "Power of Place" issue of Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
Also worthy of note is the strong emphasis whl.travel places on responsible tourism, concentrating on travel experiences that enhance the character of a visited destination through local food, aesthetics, culture, heritage and the environment. One of whl.travel"s active visions is to locate and promote as many operators as possible undertaking responsible travel initiatives with the conviction that over time support by travellers for these initiatives will help to shape the destination as a whole. Doing good will be seen as good business.
"It is indeed a very motivating achievement having over 100 countries in the network now," added Len Cordiner, CEO of whl.travel. "More importantly, the quality of partners in the network continues to amaze. There are obviously many small local tour operators out there who have a commitment to supporting their local communities and a passion for their destination who till now have been working in isolation. Making them part of the global whl.travel family has provided them a home where they can learn and grow. It is truly amazing what such a widely dispersed group of people can do when their values align and they have a shared vision of what travel could be."
If you haven"t heard of whl.travel yet, you will soon. Its innovative approach to online travel bookings and its trade in authentic travel experiences that keep things local by focusing on small, grassroots hotels, guesthouses and tour operators make it the new home for travellers who want to connect with a destination while booking with locals who really care about their compatriots, communities, culture, and environment.
Sunday, July 26, 2009