Booking.com has announced the 10 sustainable tourism startups receiving scaling grants as part of its 2018 Booking Booster accelerator programme. After three weeks of workshops and intensive coaching sessions led entirely by Booking.com employees and experts, the programme culminated in a final pitch to receive grants of up to €500k from Booking.com’s €2 million fund in order to help support the next stage of the startups’ projected growth.
The 10 teams of finalists pitched their scaling plans to a live audience and panel of expert judges in Amsterdam, with Indian startups Sakha Consulting Wings: Women on Wheels and Global Himalayan Expedition being awarded this year’s highest grants of €325k and €400k respectively. Sakha Consulting is a unique social enterprise, launched to offer safe transport solutions for women by women in selected cities in India, providing livelihoods with dignity through professional driving opportunities to resource-poor women as part of the “Women on Wheels” (WOW) initiative. Global Himalaya Expedition (GHE) organises impact expeditions to provide clean energy and digital education access to the remote mountain communities of the Himalayas, helping to put them on the map for future travellers to explore.
Gillian Tans, President and CEO, Booking.com said, “The vision and passion that we’ve seen from all the startups this year has been truly inspiring. I was especially impressed with Wheel the World’s moving mission to empower people with disabilities to explore the world within the adventure travel sector, Sakha’s commitment to empowering women in India to take control of their livelihoods and of course with how GHE is literally bringing light to remote mountain villages through their Himalayan expeditions. We’re all looking forward to seeing how their plans unfold over the coming weeks and months as we work together to bring their vision for a more sustainable travel industry to even more destinations worldwide.”
Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager India, Booking.com on the sidelines of the Booking Booster finale held at Tobacco theatre, Amsterdam said, “With India’s Authenticook taking out one of the highest grants at last year’s inaugural Booking Booster event, it’s clear that India is an important source of talent when it comes to startups. We are delighted that two startups from India with great ideas focused on sustainable tourism were a part of the grand finale and both have received a combined total grant of €7.25 lakhs. Our aim is to build a network of like-minded organisations and individuals that are leveraging technology to create a more sustainable future for destinations worldwide as such initiatives further expand our commitment to make a positive impact globally.”
The 10 startups that participated in the 2018 programme hail from six different countries and operate collectively across six continents, including Antarctica. Their businesses also represent a diverse mix of innovative online marketplaces that connect travellers with inclusive travel experiences, cutting-edge technology solutions and initiatives that empower local communities to benefit more equally from the global tourism opportunity.
All 10 of the sustainable tourism startups are being awarded grants from the 2018 Booking.com Booster Program’s €2 million fund, including Community Homestay Network (Nepal) for €225k, Keteka (United States: Operating in Central and South America, Antarctica) for €275k and Wheel the World (United States) for €275k. HiveSters (Thailand), Hotel Con Corazón (Netherlands: Operating in Nicaragua), KITRO (Switzerland), Reflow (Netherlands) and Tastemakers (United States: Operating in Africa) each received grants of €100k.