By Rebecca Wiles
Fairbnb.coop is a sustainable community-powered tourism solution that allows the travellers to direct 50% of the platform standard commissions to social projects or charities in the community, through their accommodation and experience platform.
Our people-over-profit concept has attracted many sustainably-minded hosts, local ambassadors and social projects across the globe, keen to help reinvest and promote regenerative tourism. Employers and organisations are now requesting partnership with us, to improve their corporate social responsibility, as well as to benefit their communities of employees and members.
What It Means to be “Authentic” and “Sustainable”
I am going to be controversial now. If one of my travel consultancy clients came to me requesting an authentic, sustainable and intimate travel experience, is this clear enough to deliver a proposal? Raising the overused buzz words of “authentic” and “sustainable”… do we even know what these mean anymore, or are they exploited for marketing purposes?
According to the Sustainability in Tourism Report by Booking.com in November last year, 87% of all tourists want more sustainable travel options and 67% are willing to spend at least 5% more on their trip if this ensures the least possible impact on the environment.
Latest research indicates that rural destinations, so-called “workcations” (remote working vacations), and extended lengths of stay (7 days+) have escalated up the consumer agenda. The change in consumer behaviours is a positive move towards more sustainable choices, including increased demand for “sustainable” certified accommodation.
The Definition of Sustainability
Sustainability by its very nature is defined as the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level over a period of time. In 1987, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The association has been drilled into us now that sustainability means green, green means nature and the planet, and if we plant more trees and offset our carbon footprint we will earn the credentials of being sustainable. I’m not disregarding that these actions are a step in the right direction. What gets me a little hot under the collar is that they feel they have done enough, to tick the box, to get the badge: “I am sustainable”.
Sustainability is a lot more than just nature and carbon. Booking.com published their Sustainability in Tourism report… still the emphasis is on protecting the natural environment, waste reduction and preserving wildlife and natural habitats. There was no mention of the impact of tourism on people.
When over-tourism and its devastating impacts locally are dominating academic research and press, it begs the question, why are large companies being blind still pursuing mass tourism? The best leaders are recognising that if business continues to behave immorally, consumers will turn their backs, and business will nosedive.
There are four key problem areas: over-tourism, extractive economy, loss of identity and gentrification or so-called “touristification”.
To many of us holidays are a luxury, and we’re very fortunate that we get to experience different cultures, learn how others live, relax and enjoy their way of life. If we go and stay in a 4* or 5* chain hotel all-inclusive in the Canaries, how are going to learn about another culture when the hotel looks like it could be anywhere in the world, and the hotel is filled with Brits?
In the short term rental market, under no circumstance should anyone lose their primary home solely to accommodate holidaymakers or investors wanting to earn a hefty income from their property, alienating the locals, dominating and rewriting the culture and traditions in the destination. By pushing out the locals and their customs, you are changing the identity of neighbourhoods, displacing and pushing populations out to the suburbs or further afield.
Most importantly we are talking about people’s state of being, feelings, and mental health. If this is the impact tourism is having on an area much loved and long lived and enjoyed by locals, they increasingly become resentful to the way the place they once called home is being “used” / exploited for shallow interest and pleasure of tourists who may stay for a night or two.
The United Nations proposed their Sustainable Development Goals as “the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice” but it seems too few are taking note.
Community-Powered Tourism: a Truly Sustainable Model
The world condition of tourism prompted demand for an alternative way of doing tourism. Bring on fairbnb.coop, a cooperative initiative which began in 2016, a booking platform which supports the ethos of community-powered tourism. We believe we can maximise the positive impact from the region’s incoming tourists by forwarding greater income and donations into our local community and charities whose work addresses real time societal challenges.
On all booking platforms there is an invisible commission included in the price you pay (usually 10-20%). When a guest books a host property on our platform, half of the 15% commission is forwarded to a local project, meaning fairbnb.coop as the corporate entity keeps very little. Our priority is that those most in need receive the income, including the additional 5% received by the Local Ambassador.
When you consider the average spend on accommodation per night in a particular area, in my home counties, it sits at approximately £160, this feeds back over £10 into a local project, for every night that is booked on fairbnb.coop.
Fairbnb.coop’s presence in the UK will support national partner, the Big Issue Foundation, as well as regional and local social and community projects, like East Anglian’s Children’s Hospices and Gillett Square in Hackney, London. All social projects supported by fairbnb.coop target the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Still, how do we tackle the existential challenge of over-tourism?
Fairbnb.coop empowers independent hosts and value-driven travellers.
In summary, how it works:
- Local Ambassadors work to understand the greatest challenges in the area
- They identify the community projects priority for their positive sustainable development
- They confirm the specified standards of the hosts in line with local authority regulation
- They draw up sustainability rules to protect the community from the side effects of tourism
- Hosts are onboarded to fairbnb.coop platform, featuring their preferred projects/charities
- Guests book on fairbnb.coop and choose their preferred project to donate to
- Hosts earn the same, guests pay the same, but 50% of the platform’s fees are used to fund a chosen project in the area visited
Analysing the impact of tourism in each Local Node, travellers can be reassured that their host meets the legal, and sustainable criteria for the destination. In oversaturated areas like Whitby, North Yorkshire, rules such as “one-host, one-house”, and “host resident in the local node” are implemented.
The thousands of Inns and B&Bs here make every trip to the UK a real journey of discovery. Along with Self Catering lets and many other new forms of hospitality including university accommodation, the hospitality and experience industry can become a powerful source of resources for all the stakeholders in the hosting communities. Introducing our regenerative tourism model to communities represents a pivotal moment in the future of tourism.Emanuele Dal Carlo, President & Co-Founder, on UK Activation
As lead for fairbnb.coop in the UK, and Local Ambassador in Essex and Suffolk regions, I am now representing the internationally recognised “best platform for communities” (Telegraph 2022).
Already we have seen great traction across Europe. We hope that a warm welcome to our model in the UK could work as an inspiration for all the Commonwealth and other English speaking countries.
About the Author
Rebecca Wiles is a fairbnb.coop UK Community Coordinator, and Local Ambassador for Essex & Suffolk, and is a resident in Colchester, Essex (UK). Connect with her via LinkedIn.
Learn more about significance of social project partnerships, e.g. EACH.
Fairbnb.coop is a project of:
Fair Bnb Network società cooperativa
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