Crowdfunding: Where Creative Travel Ideas Become Reality
Travel Projects Get a Little Help with Crowdfunding
Pitch Your Ideas and then Let the Public Take Over
By Danielle Aihini
Do you have a travel related project in mind but lack the funds to make it a reality? Maybe you’re looking to restore an old schoolhouse into a hotel for locals and tourists to rest their heads. Or perhaps it’s time to reveal mama’s secret recipe to the rest of the world in your very own cafe. It could be that you’re looking to make a difference and protect Africa’s elephants from going extinct. Whatever the idea, look no further than TravelStarter, a new global crowdfunding platform for big and small ideas in tourism.
Whether you’re looking to start your own business or live locally in another country, TravelStarter is a great place to start.
To start a project it is essential that there is a good story behind it and that the owner is committed to the cause. “Crowdfunding has many positive effects. It is not just about money, it is also about getting attention from your potential customers before you even launch the project and of course about the marketing exposure. It is an alternative way to do your marketing,” said Anushka Beltram, CEO and co-founder of TravelStarter.
Checking Each Project
The company has several procedures to check that each project is legitimate and adequate. First, they do online research like checking social media channels, the owner’s website, and any mentions in the press or other websites. If the project is managed by a company, they do basic online due diligence. If all goes well, a personal Skype call with the owner will follow as well as a phone number and physical address verification.
TravelStarter recommends every campaign to create rewards for the donors, a main incentive for users to support different projects.
“It’s a simple ‘exchange’- the donor gets a reward based on how much they pledge,” said Beltram. “Some are travel rewards, based on location; others are gifts and souvenirs that can be claimed anywhere in the world, and some are dedicated to the local community.”
Beltram uses the example of Beach bed & breakfast in San Diego which is offering a variety of gifts and services like a postcard for a $5 donation, a brewery tour for $10, a whale watching tour for $20, and a hostel stay for $25.
TravelStarter offers 30, 60 and 90 day options for campaigns to fundraise to reach their target goal. They also offer both a fixed (all or nothing) and flexible (collect all) option for once the campaign comes to a close. In other words, if a project’s target goal is $5,000 and they choose the flexible option, they can collect whatever amount of money they receive even if they do not reach that goal.
If they choose fixed, they can only collect the money if they reach their goal– if they don’t, the money goes back to those who donated. The flexible option is only available to existing businesses who currently offer rewards. It is free to fundraise on TravelStarter and the company charges a 4% fee for fully funded projects and a 9% fee for flexible funding.
A Success Story
Daniel Wimpelberg, owner of the Safehouse Hostel, raised over his target goal of $10,000 reaching a whopping $13,303 by the end of his fundraiser. He offered rewards ranging from a breakfast to a shirt to a week stay.
“We are so happy to have reached 100% on our campaign. With the money we’ve raised through TravelStarter we can now finish the building to a higher quality and restore some of its original features, like another marble fireplace we’ve just discovered under layers of paint,” said Wimpelberg.
Creating and maintaining a project on TravelStarter all depends on how dedicated the owner is to the cause, according to Beltram. Campaigns that a have a strong network of supporters may spend little to no money.
Others may decide to invest more into social media advertising, PR, and newspaper, magazine, or radio advertisements.
The money raised goes directly to the project owner, with TravelStarter fees deducted from the received funding.
Beltram has always had a passion for travel and tourism. She launched her first startup at the age of 23, a travel agency, and since then has been hooked on the industry.
The idea for TravelStarter came once Beltram realized there were very few crowdfunding platforms connected to tourism.
“The fundamental idea behind crowdfunding is to help someone out to execute his idea, or a project. It gives power back to the crowd, and I find that fascinating. How many great projects would never see the light of day if crowdfunding would not come into play?”
The company is based out of Boston, Massachusetts and Ljublijana, Slovenia. The team consists of Beltram and four other leaders including Blaz Jemc, co-founder and COO, Jernej Lipovec, responsible for the development of the platform, Mateja Koren, project manager, and Syed Bashar, in charge of marketing.
What They Offer
TravelStarter supports a variety of different campaigns including traditional businesses like accommodation (hotels, hostels, guesthouses), and food and beverage businesses (restaurants, cafes, coffee shops) and innovative, less common ideas like surf and kite camps, herbal house home-stays, and cat cafes.
Unlike other funding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, TravelStarter focuses solely on tourism-related projects.
“All our materials are very concrete, personalized, and specific. We want to build a platform that is unique, adopted to travel and tourism and very simple to use,” said Beltram.
The company continues to work on adding several benefits for their project owners. They are looking to create services that owners need when starting their business- everything from social media, IT support, design, and legal/financial services.
So, what’s in it for Beltram? Her favorite part of the business is helping people realize their dreams. “Tourism for me is one of the best industries to work in because it is all about people. People are the key element and the fact that we are able to help them is the driving force of TravelStarter and my team.