With a couple of Stanford graduates as founders, a new entrant to the online travel space officially launched its beta site today, WholeTravel.com.
Following a small but growing trend in the travel search space, Whole Travel uses what they call “Blue Sky Search”, or the ability for searchers to use open-ended experiential queries, rather than inputting specific location data, airport codes or exact dates for travel.
Searchers on WholeTravel.com are encouraged to type in eco-friendly activities (mountain trekking, wildlife tours, canoeing) or broad destination ideas such as “rainforest” or “desert”. With an editorial feature called “Whole Ranking”, results can be ordered by a scale of sustainability, based on factors such as on-site environmental and conservation efforts, renewable energy, contribution to the local economy, social and cultural experiences available to travelers.
The company has also started a non-profit arm, the Whole Travel Foundation, to increase sustainable travel practices, help promote and manage Whole Ranking, among other projects to help tourism businesses manage sustainability.
For the leisure traveler who considers sustainability, experience is the key motivator behind the purchase decision, so price sensitivity is less of a factor, though plenty of lower cost options (like tent camping or rustic cabins) can be found on Whole Travel, as well as resorts with high-end amenities.
Whole Travel has aggregated results from over 4,000 boutique hotels and eco-friendly resorts around the world, and will send visitors directly to their websites to book these unique accommodations (you won’t find many global hotel chains here), while they’ve partnered with Kayak for travel bookings.
In July, Jupiter Research published a report, Green Online Travelers: Assessing the Brand Impact of Travelers’ Environmental Concerns. Jupiter analyst Diane Clarkson had this to say about the potential growth of this market segment:
“We found that, among online green travelers, 7% are what we call “Dark Green”. These travelers have a favorable impression of travel companies with green policies and are actively green in their travel purchases (i.e. researching accommodation green policies, buying carbon offsets) etc.
WholeTravel will certainly appeal to this segment of Dark Green online travelers, for whom sustainability is a booking motivator. I believe WholeTravel will also have an appeal to travelers who, while they may not be in the Dark Green segment, are concerned about the environment and are looking for alternative accommodation options.”
Co-founder and CEO Matthew Davie said that in this market segment, up to 42% of consumers consider green aspects as part of their purchase decision. With travel being a $115 Billion dollar industry, this micro-segment has the opportunity to grow quickly.