Is Trakaro the TripAdvisor of sustainable tourism?

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As consumer tastes steer towards an increasingly eco-conscious society, more entrepreneurs are finding opportunities along the intersection of “good for business” and “good for the planet”. Conceived at Asian Institute of Management’s Sustainable Tourism Hackathon in 2017 and founded by Paul Joseph Galacan, travel platform Trakaro aims to promote awareness for sustainable tourism in the Philippines.

Trakaro provides users a tourism establishment’s sustainability—and not just their customer—rating, a measurement made possible through the triple bottom line Fylla rating system the Trakaro team conceptualized with the help of AIM’s Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism.

The app targets avid travelers who are willing to do their share in advocating for a greener future but are wondering what the practices and benefits of sustainability are.

It can be described as the local TripAdvisor for sustainability. But what makes a business sustainable in the first place?Paul Galacan, Founder and General Manager of Trakaro Sustainable Travels, giving a talk on sustainability in Zambales.

Defining a sustainable business

Trakaro determines the sustainability of the establishments they rate through the triple bottom line approach of their Fylla rating:

1. Planet. Preference is given to locally sourced food as well as ingredients that are more sustainable (e.g., meat vs. vegetables) and sourced directly from farmers. They ascertain these variables through Transforming Tourism Value Chains with their SEC-registered NGO partner, the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc.

2. People. Preference is also given to those that empower the local community and give economic incentives to locals for them to stay and not migrate. Those who hire within the community and whose employees have families that live in the vicinity have higher ratings.

3. Profit. This refers to how businesses keep their bottom lines healthy whilst keeping their practices sustainable. “If customers have great experiences, then that translates to higher profits,” Galacan says. The startup wants to do away with the stigma that sustainability is bland and boring.

Fylla has a 0-10 metric with 7 being the minimum passing grade.

The team further attests the accuracy of their ratings system by engaging with trusted establishments and checking receipts to ensure that the said facilities have a healthy carbon footprint. And whenever possible, they do personal site visits too.

Business must be pursued “with a judicious use of resources, overall well-being of people, and ecological good in mind,” says Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaign Officer of EcoWaste Coalition. He explains that a significant way of doing this is ensuring businesses are compliant with these ecological solid waste management tenets of Republic Act 9003: [1] avoidance if not reduction of plastic waste and plastic product packaging; [2] minimizing and optimizing food wastes; [3] performing primary waste segregation; [4] practicing recycling and reuse; [5] observing segregated waste collection and schedules; and [6] proper disposal of residuals (e.g., bulky, toxic/special wastes).

Abigail Aguilar, Regional Urban and Mindset Campaigns Coordinator of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, adds that a sustainable business should look at all aspects of its business model, from food sourcing and disposal to energy and water use.

At present, Trakaro limits their platform to the assessment of hotels, restaurants, and tour operators. They don’t yet have the expertise as yet to put into metrics other factors such as waste management, plastic use, and energy consumption.

“We are inviting other rating systems like the Anahaw Awards and the Zero Carbon Resorts in the platform so that it’s not just the Fylla rating proving the sustainability rating of the establishments. It also helps us make Trakaro a holistic platform,” Galacan shares.Caption: The Trakaro team from left to right – Paul Galacan, General Manager; Jo Anne Paril, Sales and Marketing Head; and Kat Chua, Business Development (photo by Joshua Gantuangco).

Opportunities for growth

Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Aguilar notes that “good initiatives” like Trakaro “need to be developed and mainstreamed. They not only provide info for travelers and other concerned citizens, they point them in the right direction of businesses that are doing their best to lower their environmental footprint.”

She suggests looking at some other aspects that could be incorporated into a business’s Fylla rating: rainwater harvesting, reusable cutlery, paperless offices, composting, and solar panel installations.

EcoWaste Coalition’s Benosa echoes the need for proper engineering infrastructure, water conservation, and renewable energy. He states that these actions “could be carried out with proper education and a robust campaign to all stakeholders. These just need to be reviewed, relearned, monitored, and effectively enforced.”

Individuals are becoming more aware about their carbon footprint and how their activities impact nature. Trakaro is one of a growing number of startups that hopes to meet the need for sustainable solutions that empower communities and help the environment.