On a mission to make tourism better, more sustainable and more ethical, Elsewhere connects travellers with vetted local travel companies to plan and book tailormade trips. Globetrender speaks to co-founder Alexis Bowen to find out more.
What is Elsewhere?
How does the site work?
What’s your background?
“My co-founder and I have both worked in travel for over a decade. My experience lies in travel operations and business development, while my co-founder, Craig, spent the majority of his career on-the-ground as a trip guide.
“It was the perfect pairing because where he intimately understood how trips operate while in-destination, I had the business and operations background to get the trips marketed, sold, and out the door.
“Thanks to our experiences with some of the biggest names in travel, we had a killer network of suppliers worldwide that we were able to recruit for Elsewhere.
“As for me, I’m a California native, but now split my time between San Francisco and Paris. I started traveling young, with my first solo international trip at 13 and couchsurfed all over the world through my late teens and early 20s. I didn’t start my career in the travel industry, but naturally found my way there and haven’t looked back since.”
What’s unique about the business?
“To showcase what’s unique about the business, it’s important to understand how the travel industry works. When you book your trip with a travel agency, this agency is booking with another company located in the host destination.
“Elsewhere cuts out the intermediary and connects travelers directly with these in-destination agencies. These agencies are the hidden heroes behind companies like National Geographic, Audley, Black Tomato and Intrepid.
“Rather than operating behind these names out of London or New York, Elsewhere cuts out the middle-man and allows these in-destination experts to craft trips directly with travelers. Not only is this more efficient, but it also creates a more extraordinary experience for the traveler, allowing them to see their destination through a local lens.
“Rather than booking a trip to Argentina with Gary in New York, you’re booking with Lucas in Buenos Aires, and he’s sharing his insight and local knowledge in a way that allows travelers to see and experience beneath the surface of a destination. This is surprisingly a big differentiator in the business.”
Tell us about the sustainability angle…
“Most people talk about the environmental aspect when they discuss sustainable travel, but there is so much more that goes into being a truly do-good company. Yes, we carbon offset each trip and support reforestation projects and ocean plastic removal. But where we see our greatest impact is through social and economic change.
“One in ten people globally work in tourism and, on average, they don’t meet the basic requirements of fair pay and safe working conditions. At Elsewhere, we thoroughly audit our entire supply chain to ensure proper wages and safe working conditions. We privilege women and other underrepresented members of society and ensure there is access to equal opportunities and career advancement.
“We also focus on reinvesting in local communities economically. 80 per cent of low-income countries focus on tourism as a means of improving their economic situation, but on average as little as 10-30 per cent of money spent on a vacation is actually invested back into those local economies.
“At Elsewhere, we privilege local at every turn and ensure that your tourist dollars are funneled back into the communities, empowering them with access to long-term, locally based income.”
What’s the profile of your users?
“We built our site to shake up the all-too-traditional travel industry. Our approach is modern, digital, and stream-lined, and feels more like a tech company than a travel site, so we have a strong appeal to millennial consumers.
“And because we are a values-driven company with a mission to deliver more ethical and responsible trips, we also have a strong following with the conscious consumer.”
Who are your competitors?
“The travel industry is a crowded space, but we credit DIY as our main competition. Our target clientele is the internet-savvy, international traveler. They understand that with enough time, they can put a trip together almost anywhere in the world.
“They also understand that this takes an enormous amount of time (on average 40 hours of research to plan an international trip), and even after this time spent researching, most are unsure if they’ve made the right decisions.
“Our clients are people who come from the DIY world, but value quality and expert insight and so are happy to have an option that cuts through the noise with local insight and expert advice.”
How has the pandemic shaped the business, if at all?
“Elsewhere is a product of Covid. We launched in April 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic. It seemed like a crazy idea, but to us, it was a chance to shape the future of travel.
“My co-founder and I had this amazing network of in-destination agencies that were suddenly out of work, and the two of us realised that now was the perfect moment to start something new and build a modern brand with a sustainably-driven purpose built into its foundations.
“We wanted to build a platform that would give travellers access to badass trips, while also radically improving the way travelers and destinations experience tourism. It’s now been four months since launch and we’ve been floored by the response.
“With zero paid marketing to date, we have sold more than enough trips to cover our operating costs, our social networks have exploded, and we’ve had solid interest from the press. It’s been clear that despite the times we’re in (or maybe because of it) people are looking for a modern and fresh face in an all-too-traditional space, and it seems to many we have been the answer to that.”
Can you outline your favourite experience available to book on the site?
What’s your long term plan/goal for the site?
“We have ambitions to grow, while still retaining our heart. Our goal is to mainstream better travel – travel that is more ethical, more sustainable, and more responsible, and to provide incredible trips to incredible destinations.”