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Interview: Sustainable Travel with Bookdifferent.com

Sustainable travel is on the rise. Furthermore, big corporations are increasingly making decisions using environmental impact as a determining factor. Accommodation-booking website Bookdifferent.com makes eco-friendly and socially responsible traveling easy.

Becoming a mother changed Lonneke de Kort’s view of the world. An admirer of the beauty of nature, she loves hiking in the mountains. What if her children might not enjoy the beauty of nature when they would grow up? The thought was unbearable for Lonneke and planted the seed for a new adventure: she became CEO of Bookdifferent.com, the “green” Booking.com alternative.

What Is Bookdifferent?

Bookdifferent is an accommodation booking website for those who care about their impact on the environment, the local economy, and culture. Lonneke’s team has checked each and every hotel on Bookdifferent. Each accommodation’s green credentials are based on facts and data. In 2018 Bookdifferent won the Sustainable Travel Award.

The website also shows hotels with low ratings regarding sustainability. In the end, it is the traveler’s choice if she wants to make the world a little better.

“We show the information, but the final responsibility is for the consumer,” Lonneke explains in her office in Hilversum, the hub of the Dutch media industry. “The era of ‘thou shalt’ is over.”

How it All Began

In 2011, Lonneke de Kort was the Commercial Manager at an international fashion label. In this world, it was all about more: producing more, selling more, and consuming more. “At one point, I thought: ‘I do not want ‘more,’ I want ‘less!’ “, laughed Lonneke. In other words, she wanted a more sustainable way to make a living.  This was in the same period that Lonneke became a mother.

Coincidentally, it was not long before Lonneke was approached by four developers who had built the precursor to the Bookdifferent website and asked her opinion as a sales professional.

They had a great idea: booking a hotel safely online with the best price guarantee and at the same time financially supporting a charity of your choice without paying anything extra. The bad news was the website barely generated traffic.

To fix this issue, Lonneke was happy to come up with many ideas to attract website visitors. She became so enthusiastic that she quit her job and “stepped into the Bookdifferent adventure,” as she calls it. “If you want to change something, talking is not enough,” she said laughing. “You just have to put blinkers on and think: ‘I do it to make the world more beautiful, and I will work very hard to achieve this.’ ”

Carbon Footprint: How Green is Your Accommodation?

The big breakthrough to get the Bookdifferent message out was linking hotels to their carbon footprint. “Everyone knows the energy labels on cars, washing machines, and houses. My idea was simple: ‘Let’s attach an energy label to hotels!’ ”

How does it work? The carbon footprint for hotels is calculated by means of a statistical formula, developed by the Breda University of Applied Sciences (BUAS) in cooperation with Bookdifferent and the Dutch tourism sector. This model is integrated into the Bookdifferent dataset to automatically calculate the carbon footprint of all the accommodations that are listed.

The calculated average output of a hotel based on the sample is 14.99 kg (33.05 pounds) carbon per guest night. All accommodations that score lower receive a green-foot icon in the website listing. The accommodations that have a higher output of carbon per guest night receive a gray foot.

This certification of accommodations turned out to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the foot icon helped travelers make a conscious choice for a sustainable hotel. On the other hand, gray foot icons were a challenge for entrepreneurs to perform better. “I received troubled calls from hoteliers. They were very unhappy when they received a gray foot. Some shouted: ‘I drag you to court!’, but others asked: ‘Can you help me become more sustainable?’ ”

Bookdifferent

Teaming Up with Raptim

At a meeting about climate neutrality, Lonneke met Jacco Draaijer, Raptim’s sales and account manager in the Netherlands. “We came up with the idea of combining social and sustainable issues.”

Subsequently, Bookdifferent’s data were transported to the database of Raptim. Now, when planning to help other people on a different part of the globe, you can opt for a more sustainable hotel in the Raptim booking tool. When you call Raptim’s office to book a flight, our staff can recommend sustainable accommodations too.

“I would like to give Raptim a big compliment,” Lonneke said. “When working with third parties, both social responsibility and sustainability are major factors. Raptim is the first travel management company that makes it possible for companies to book sustainable hotels.”

Founded as a tiny start-up to make the world a better place, Bookdifferent is expanding. Recently, they have attracted their first investors and hired new faces. Furthermore, through the collaboration with Raptim, Lonneke de Kort can realize the growth that can result in the impact that she really wants.

not for the profit

 

 

 

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