Meet Step Up Travel and the two philanthropic young medical students who founded it. Step Up Travel aims to provide direct connections between travelers and local individuals and off-the-beaten-path enterprises. Step Up Travel provides a premium, online marketing tool for small tourism providers to help increase their visibility and revenue, while offering travelers more unique and authentic activities and accommodations.
Step Up Travel is an interactive online community featuring a trusted social network and travel classifieds. The travel classifieds highlight web page advertisements posted by local enterprises and individuals, spotlighting their unique cultural activities and services. Unlike many other travel sites, StepUpTravel.org does not charge for ad posting and is committed to helping local businesses and individuals increase their visibility and revenue.
Inspired by the U.N. World Tourism Organization’s ST-EP initiative (Sustainable Tourism-Eliminating Poverty), Step Up Travel was founded in January 2006 by Trip Sweeney and J. Scott Zimmerman, two medical students who met volunteering in the Emergency Department of one of the largest, most chaotic public hospitals in Rio de Janeiro. They shared an appreciation for Brazilian culture and recognized the potential to facilitate a more direct connection between tourism revenue and the lower and middle income populations. Sweeney and Zimmerman resolved to create Step Up Travel while in medical school and have taken a leave of absence to launch the company.
“By using Step Up Travel, travelers are able to learn of obscure and fascinating activities, while also helping direct money to the people who make their culture what it is,” says co-founder, Trip Sweeney. Local services vary widely, ranging from Teotitlan Carpet Making lessons in Mexico, Samba lessons in Brazil, to apartment rentals in South Africa, and of course, local guides who offer authentic views of their cities. “Through our website, we hope that people will have interactions that lead to a deeper understanding of diverse cultures, human values and different ways of thinking and living,” adds co-founder Scott Zimmerman.
StepUpTravel.org also provides travelers with an opportunity to recommend and promote local service providers. These recommendations help build the credibility for local small enterprises. By endorsing local small enterprises, travelers play a key role in the promotion of local small businesses, especially those in developing countries.
StepUpTravel.org taps into the tremendous demand for sustainable travel options. The 2007 Totem Marketing Sustainable Tourism Study forecasts that the number of sustainable tourism travelers will reach 250 million by 2010. The Step Up Travel platform is a valuable resource for these travelers and anyone interested in local perspectives. Step Up Travel’s vision is to meet the growing trends in sustainable and responsible tourism using Web 2.0 functionality that empowers local people, organizations, and travelers to reshape the travel industry.