Nearly 50% of you are currently satisfying their wanderlust by planning their next journey, according to our survey conducted in April. Most of us are probably using the world wide web to do their research, some might still use traditional print travel guides. But how can we manage to make our research efficient, merge the tips from the different sources, and above all have fun planning?
We talked to André Kirsten, Co-founder and Brand & Communications Manager of Travel Kollekt, a start-up that is addressing these exact questions. He told us about their approach to responsible travel, the challenges the company has been and is facing right now, and how they are reacting to it.
Can you give us a summary of what Travel Kollekt is actually offering?
I will answer that, bringing a familiar situation to your memory. Do you remember when you were very keen to travel to a specific destination and then you started reading everything about, looking for blog articles, following hashtags, buying magazines, and travel guides? So, Travel Kollekt could facilitate your experience at that moment, helping you to organize all that content you found by yourself into a bespoke travel guide book.
Planning is a significant part of the travel process, but it is shocking to think of how much it is neglected. Organizing can be messy and even though people try to “hack” their own solutions, they can’t meet all their needs. I myself, for instance, used to have a simple, rough text file with a lot of links and tips I’d like to check during my trips. Not very practical, aesthetically pleasing, or functional to travel with.
Jumping into the future, we designed a tool to empower people to organize their travel research and be the author of their journeys. We like to call it the reinvention of the classic travel guide book, because we are merging digital with analog, using reverse printing to create a new tactile and aesthetic experience. You just need to find the content you want, copy, paste, and publish your book. It is actually as easy as it sounds.
You state that you wish to empower travelers to act more responsible and travel in a more sustainable way. What is your approach to this?
This new context is bringing to the surface a lot of concepts that were already important but that now expand to a new dimension. We believe that travel now – and in the future – will demand more and more research, learning, planning, caring, and slowness. Words and values like these will be crucial for the creation of a more responsible context for tourism, and which in a way is part of the essence of Travel Kollekt and why we are here today. We empower people who desire to travel responsibly by tackling the first barrier to sustainable behavior: a lack of information. We want people to be more aware and make decisions that will positively benefit communities and destinations. So, in addition to celebrating the planning process with a tool designed for that, we are partnering with local writers from all over the world who are experts in sustainability, urban development, and diversity. But also curate articles from local aspiring writers and creators. And we always publish everything in their local language and English to accommodate and promote local travel.
Our goal for the future is to build a global database of professional travel writing to offer to people that want to go deeper and understand a destination from a more conscious, responsible, and contemporary perspective. This way, travelers can mix their personal research with content made by these local experts, creating a unique travel book.
We also embed responsible manifests and pledges from destinations in our books. So, every place you go to, if there’s a pledge available, we will make sure that you get it.
Besides that, we are committed to minimizing our impact on the world, keep learning, selecting carefully the right partners and plant trees on behalf of our customers who created books in partnership with One Tree Planted.
What is your biggest challenge right now (during the COVID 19 crisis) and how are you handling it?
I am proud to say that reflection has always been something very strong in Travel Kollekt’s culture. Resilience is a word that defined us from the beginning, that is, knowing when to take a step back. There were countless times that we stopped to reflect if we were following the correct path and our values. This current period has undoubtedly been very challenging for us. Initially, we were like everyone, of course, concerned with the most practical parts of running our business. But we had already set it up in a way, so Travel Kollekt will survive tough times like these. So, we are now having the opportunity to reflect again on our purpose and role in traveling and as a business that wants to leave a more responsible legacy to future generations.
In the future, companies will need to think more about the whole ecosystem, the planet, and not only consumption-driven business models. We need a more holistic view and we would like to contribute that in traveling. So our biggest challenge is to understand how we can create an even more responsible scenario for the local communities, the writers, our users, partners… If we can come up with answers to this question we are doing the right thing – and it will be beneficial for everyone.
We are becoming more aware of our role in creating a desirable future. Instead of waiting for the future to happen, it is in our hands and imagination to think and act differently.
The creators, writers, and publishers you work with are located worldwide. Are you still in contact with them and what are their greatest challenges these days?
It is difficult to say clearly how they feel exactly. We are talking about at least 30 people who react differently. Many of these writers write for pleasure but have other jobs and functions, so there is a diversity of contexts and cultures. It is not difficult to imagine that the sudden halt in travel has left many of them reflective. But I can give an interesting example that shows hope for the future. During this pandemic we held a writing competition together with Books On Demand, asking writers from different parts of the world to share with us their unique views on the place where they live. To our surprise, despite the lockdowns, we received so many beautiful texts full of stories, meaning, and life. This experience allowed us to see a spirit of optimism for better days to come. Now locals and others around the world will be able to read these stories and experience these unique local perspectives by themselves with our first publication, an anthology or travel compendium we’ve decided to name it “City Letters”. It will be ready in just a few weeks!
Is there any way travelers can still support you?
Yes, we would love to further strengthen our community of responsible travelers.
There are three ways, the first is through the participation of an initiative that we recently launched: Let’s recollect. Since all this started, Louise Zastrow, the founder of Travel Kollekt, and I have been collecting stories of hope. From the news and other media, we know that the destructive and horrible COVID-19 pandemic has brought along a great amount of change. And – just as devastating as some of that change has been and still is – we’re also hearing about small and big positive changes caused by the lockdown of societies everywhere. We want to create and publish a book of local stories. A book that tells about all those positive side-effects of the lockdowns, like the ones we have been reading in the media highlights: the stories of drinkable water in the Ganges, a once again visible Himalayas, dolphins playing again in the Bosphorus Strait. A book of things, we think should stay and become the new normal. We want decision-makers to remember these stories when societies begin to re-open and restrictions are lifted.
The second way is to do your local travel planning for the summer season. Unfortunately, not everyone will have the privilege of leaving their homes in the summer, but we hear a lot about the important role the local tourism can have on supporting communities in the coming months. If this is your case, and you can leave, plan your trips in a different way: rediscover your own region, go to nature, support small business. Try Travel Kollekt to plan it, give us feedback to improve, and if it makes sense buy books.
The third is through the purchase of gift vouchers for travel guides at travelkollekt.com. We believe that this can be an ideal, creative gift for travel lovers use afterward or to starting planning now. It’s cool because your friends, colleagues, or family can create their own travel books. Or even yourself.
Do you think Covid 19 will have an impact on how, why, and where we are traveling on the long run? What would be the best-case scenario regarding these changes in your opinion?
For sure! I think right now we have a unique opportunity to imagine desirable futures on a global scale. This is no small act. Imagine how much diversity will come out of all of this. Likewise, many companies and some governments are now pushing the sustainability agenda even more together with people. This can also dramatically change the way we consume. These are all speculations, but I would love that in this new context are building there would be more space for slowness, reflection, and sharing. Anyone who thinks that speed and modernity is something positive has not yet understood that this “project” has been failing for a long time. It is time to reflect, awake, and be together.
Thank you, André, for this pleasant interview and the insightful answers! We cannot wait for the “RE-COLLECT” book to be published!
If you now wish to create your personal travel book or learn more about the “Let’s Re-Collect” initiative, head over to the Travel Kollekt website.