Filipino-made mobile app promotes sustainable tourism

A group of millennials who met as students at the Asian Institute of Management has developed an online platform that promotes sustainable tourism.

“Our startup Trakaro is an online sustainability rating platform for hotels, restaurants and tour operators,” says Paul Joseph Galacan, the general manager and co-founder of Trakaro: Sustainable Travels.

Trakaro is the first online sustainability rating platform for hotels and restaurants that uses a proprietary technology called Fylla Algorithm. Through Trakaro, travelers can look for sustainable establishments, contact them and book their services.

Trakaro is the first project of Kezar Innovations Pte. Ltd., a Batangas-based company established by the first students who completed the Master of Science in Innovation and Business program at AIM in 2017.  Kezar was incorporated in Singapore on March 26, 2018.

Trakaro, sustainable tourism
 Trakaro co-founder and general manager Paul Joseph Galacan
Galacan serves as the chief financial officer of Kezar while Rey Edward Solicito is the chief executive.

“We joined the AIM Sustainable Tourism Challenge while we were graduate students in 2017.  We were fortunate to have won the competition and they gave us initial funding of P150,000. It was enough for us to develop the first application,” says the 25-year-old Galacan who graduated from Mapua Institute of Technology with a civil engineering degree in 2016.

Galacan says Trakaro is the first startup to be supported by AIM’s Center of Tourism.  “They gave us the metrics on sustainable tourism and we developed the app,” he says.

He says the plan is to make Trakaro the best online platform in finding sustainable hotels, restaurants and tourism operators.

“The goal of Trakaro is to raise more awareness for sustainable tourism by creating a platform where people can see and compare establishments that are genuinely doing their part to conserve the environment and empower the local community,” says Galacan.

The startup is a part of the few teams in the French Social Enterprise Incubator and MakeSense Academy. Trakaro now has more than 100 partner establishments all over the Philippines, from hotels and resorts to restaurants and coffee shops to tour operators.

Galacan says this is one way of disrupting the tourism industry in the Philippines.

“With Trakaro, you can search establishments that are into sustainable tourism.  They include hotels, restaurants and tour operators that are genuinely healthy to the environment and empower the local community,” he says.

“The goal of Trakaro is to identify establishments that are doing that and telling travelers and users that instead of just customer ratings, you can also look at sustainability ratings for additional metrics in choosing tourism establishments,” says Galacan.

Trakaro, sustainable tourism

Among the establishments that received high ratings in Trakaro are a vegetarian restaurant, a farm-to-table restaurant, a resort that takes care of its environs and a farm tourism project.

“We have as far north as Pangasinan and as far south as Zamboanga.  We discovered that there are vegetarian restaurants in Los Baños, farm-to-table restaurants in Quezon province and farm tourism in Tagaytay,” he says.

“Right now, we have more than 100 hotels, restaurants and tour operators.  Among the factors we consider are food sourcing, local hiring and customer experience,” says Galacan.

This is based on the triple bottom line of sustainability: planet, people and profit.  “The first is planet, which means you have to conserve the environment, take care of it.  People means empowering the local community, giving more opportunity to them and encouraging local hiring.  And then profit, which means that to be sustainable you also need to get sustainable growth,” he says.

“With planet, we are using the metric on food sourcing.  We look at the types of ingredients. Of course, there is higher carbon footprint when you serve beef, meat and so on, unlike vegetables.  We also look at their source of ingredients.  The closer the source, the better. For manpower, we look at where they hire,” he says.

Trakaro, however, has yet to develop the full metrics on profit.  “Since we cannot look directly into profit which could be confidential, we just incorporated customer experience and rating.  A higher customer rating is a good sign for profitability,” says Galacan.

Galacan says the plan is to include more metrics in the future.  “If we talk about sustainability, there are other aspects such as waste management, energy consumption and water consumption.  That is why we reach out to our partners that are doing that like Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Inc., an NGO with sustainability metrics,” he says.

“Another partner is WWF Philippines Ayoko ng Plastic Campaign and Sustainable Diner.  Then there is the AIM.  We are also conversing with the Department of Tourism to help us with their Anahaw Awards.  We are asking their help to improve our ratings,” he says.

Galacan hopes that more establishments that support sustainable tourism will join the platform soon.  “Our next milestone target is 1,000 establishments,” he says.

Topics: Trakaro , mobile app , sustainable tourism
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