Spending time in fresh air has never been so desirable. Tapping into the growing trend for nature tourism, Yonder offers travellers the chance to book stays in cabins and ranches across the US, as well as outdoor experiences such as horse bonding and mushroom hunting. Samuel Ballard reports
Spotting an opportunity, Tim Southwell, a permaculture farmer and farm-stay owner in Montana, founded booking site and app Yonder in 2018 to help better serve those wanting to stay on farms, ranches and vineyards. (Other sections on the site include Mountains, Forest, Open Sky, Escape and Waterfront, depending on the kind of scenery and experiences you want.)
According to a study by QYResearch, the nature tourism (also known as agri-ecotourism) market is worth around US$13 billion globally – and that was before coronavirus, which will no doubt boost demand for spending time in the outdoors. However, most experiential travel packages are still directed towards urban stays.
After Yonder received US$4 million in seed round funding in 2020 from private investors, it now sells a wide range of US-based experiences and stays in properties that include log cabins in Montana and mansions on Californian vineyards, for example.
Meanwhile, experiences vary hugely. You can go mushroom hunting in southern Oregon, birdwatching in Utah, white water rafting in Colorado and fishing in British Colombia.In a sense, Yonder can be considered the “Airbnb of the great outdoors”, as it connects people directly with property owners and locals who want to share their knowledge in remote and rural parts of the world.
The company also has ambitions to expand into other English speaking countries, including the UK, Australia and Canada.
Freyr Thor, CEO of Yonder, says: “With the stress of our digital lives, it’s important for everyone to just get out and enjoy the natural world, and people often overlook the amazing nature-rich getaways that are close to home. Nature tourism also helps local communities by creating jobs and inspiring guests to protect the environment. Our carefully selected stewards offer unique, immersive experiences that they’re ready to share.”Yonder says that the stays and activities sold through its site have been “hand selected for their exceptional hospitality, natural surroundings and activities”. The experiences are all designed to “deliver on the many benefits of nature connection (mental, physical, spiritual) and support ecological harmony”.
Scottie Jones, Yonder’s farmstay advisor and board member, says: “Most booking sites are a transactional experience where you enter a location, compare prices and book. Yonder’s approach is much different. It encourages a path of discovery and exposes people to unexpected, lesser-known stays and activities that connect them to nature.”Nature based retreats are a growing trend. Last year, Globetrender interviewed Livia Manca di Vaillahermosa, the founder of Balance Holidays – a UK based company offering biophilic wellbeing retreats in Europe.
“All of our retreats are designed as short-breaks from our daily lives – a withdrawal from the stress, demands and distractions,” she said. “They offer the time and space to create, think, exercise, connect, go deep, whatever needed to recapture a bit more of ourselves. They arm our guests with tools for re-learning, self-care, mindfulness and cleaner, healthier living.”
At the launch of Globetrender’s Future of Luxury Travel Forecast: 2020-2025, Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, predicted that “purity” (in relation to nature) would be the buzzword of tomorrow.
He said: “Increasingly, as this crazy world we live in consumes and overwhelms us, the idea of being able to take a trip that juxtaposes so strongly with our day-to-day existence will become even more important to people.
“I am obsessed with the organisation Quiet Parks International. The first national park to be a designated quiet zone is on the Zabalo River in Ecuador [Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park could be the first in the US].
“I love this idea of finding places that protect ‘quiet’ – we live with so much white noise – and having this elemental, pure offering – whether that is silence, air, water or the clarity of the night sky.”
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