With increased interest in sustainable tourism, increasing numbers of major companies and organisations are buying into the startup culture – with real money grants, up to six-figures. By Jeremy Torr
Singapore, January 10 2017. Online booking company booking.com has introduced a new 2018 Booking Booster Programme, a three-week accelerator session based in Amsterdam aimed at social enterprise initiatives working in sustainable tourism. The new programme comes with a significant €2 million purse for grants to organisations and startups which get through the company’s selection process.
“By identifying, funding and mentoring early stage start-ups, social enterprises and non-profit projects and changemakers, we can help make an even more meaningful impact,” said Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans. Tans said they were looking for applicants from universities, governments and NGOs with the objective of bringing them together to “empower people and organisations to affect real change [towards] a healthy and sustainable future for thousands of destinations all around the world.”
Hand in Pocket
The online booking company is not the only one putting its hand in its pocket. To help boost sustainable tourism and the circular economy in the Asian region with advice, analysis – and funding, companies including Credit Suisse Group, Dutch development bank FMO, ING Bank, the UNDP-UN Social Impact Fund, Clifford Chance lawyers and analysts Sustainalytics have formed an umbrella group called the Sustainable Finance Collective Asia (SFC).
SFC says its aim is to help underwrite operations that generate measurable social and/or environmental impacts, mainly in emerging markets, as well as promote sustainable energy and help establish circular economies in Asian regions.
“We want to encourage businesses to become more sustainable and we hope to see applications for game-changing sustainability projects that will have a positive impact in Asia,” said ING Wholesale Banking Asia CEO Gerrit Stoelinga. As well as providing support and advice from an expert panel of technical consultants, SFC will offer environmental consultants who can help assess environmental and social impact of projects. “These experts can help companies to fine-tune their projects and improve their chances of qualifying for funding from the Collective,” said Stoelinga.
SFC said its objectives, like the booking.com fund, are targeted on bringing “positive, meaningful changes to communities and the well-being of individuals and families.” It also noted that this kind of initiative can help promote financial inclusion, health and wellness, minority empowerment and access to education and electricity within otherwise under-developed regions.
Like booking.com, the SFC is talking serious money. To be considered, applicants must come under one of three sustainability themes: circular economy, sustainable energy or social impact – but if they qualify they can get up to US$15 million for the first two categories, with social impact projects getting at least $5 million funding if they qualify.
Booking.com is also launching a new initiative called Booster Labs. This is a series of short, regionally-focussed weekend programmes slated to run at a selection of local venues around the world. Each session will be dedicated to giving early-stage sustainable tourism startups a boost to their tools and skills needed to grow - and increase their impact. And for what it calls “disruptive innovators in the non-profit realm” who are promoting sustainable tourism industry, booking.com is also funding a €2 million Booking Cares Fund.
With the available pot appearing to expand significantly in recent months, the application process would seem to be critical, especially for those operations working in remote areas, or offering less usual situations. As part of the growing move to expand access to available funds and grants, a recently started grant funding and application platform called Instrumentl has been set up out of Silicon Valley to help applicants get their hands on the avalanche of available grants.
CEO of Instrumentl, Gauri Manglik, says that if people use the new platform and its simplified application process, and helps new ideas “set a great example of the powerful role enterprise can play in mitigating climate change, promoting public health, and saving our world’s oceans.”