What inspired the creation of Vaolo (Village Monde first)?
I am an tech entrepreneur, sailor and explorer. It is by exploring the world with sailing – which gives us access to communities that are otherwise difficult to reach – that we have really been able to measure all the privilege we had to access these remote communities not affected by industrial tourism: shared happiness.
It is during a trip sailing around the world, that the concept of Village Monde was born. We arrived in Madagascar after crossing the Indian Ocean. Our first contact with the country was in small fishermen villages in remote islands far away from any conventional tourism. Villagers were so happy to have visitors, warmly welcomed us and were ready to share everything, even if they had little.
Exposed to so much beauty and authenticity, the idea of “village world” came about. How can travelers in search of authenticity and discovery to have access to these villages from the end of the world? How can you bring them to discover and share with the villagers? And, above all, how can we help these communities to accommodate travelers, enable them to make use of means of subsistence, sustainable reinforcement of their fragile ecological, social and economic balances, while improving their often difficult living conditions?
It was there where the concept of connecting remote villages that offer accommodation and authentic experiences through a collaborative platform was born.
The platform’s origins are in Madagascar, a country rich in potential and wonders for all travelers. And so it was only natural to me that the name of this new platform dedicated to sustainable tourism was Vaolo. VAOLO stems from Vaovao Loharano, a Malagasy expression which means New Source. A new source of income and sustainable development for the future of all remote communities, but also a new source of destinations for travelers in search of discoveries off-the-beaten path.
Tell us more about the VAOLO collaborative platform – you call it the “Airbnb of responsible tourism.” Share about the host communities. What makes them unique?
Vaolo directly connects remote and rural accommodations certified by Village Monde for their positive impacts to a worldwide network of travelers looking for new and authentic destinations.
This way, Vaolo enables making trip reservations in those communities without an intermediary. Furthermore, the money spent in the destinations helps the host communities to improve their quality of life. It is like an AirBnB of responsible tourism, and the money spent helps the host’s community.
Every host community is very unique. All of the communities receive a label from Village Monde to certify that as a consequence of their visit and stay in these village accommodations, travelers contribute direct and sustainable benefits to the host communities. Sustainable benefits are measured by their economical, social and environmental positives impacts.
For example, in Tizi N’Oucheg, Morocco, life has not always been easy. A lack of jobs and economic activities, resulted in an exodus of the youth from the land, in search of better conditions. Fortunately, over the last ten years, things have improved drastically. Tizi N’Oucheg’s association believes the income from tourism must have a positive local impact on the whole community. With that income, infrastructures were developed, including the primary school, the tap water system, the electricity and a craft workshop… And, that is only the beginning! These are the kind of initiatives that are supported, and exist for all to discover, on Vaolo.
All accommodations or destinations that meet these criteria can benefit from the VAOLO platform.
The VILLAGE MONDE Label assessment process covers:
- Quality of accommodation and amenities;
- Potential activities;
- Change of scenery, accessibility, and remoteness;
- Authenticity and sharing;
- Quality and protection of the environment;
- Socio-economic benefits for the community;
- Autonomy, pride, and equity;
- Hospitality and management.
How do you think travelers can travel more sustainably?
By traveling, you discover the beauty of our planet but also its fragility. So more and more travelers change their mind and take in account their potential impact in their choice of travels. There is a real movement that’s is growing around responsible travel.
Each traveler can contribute to change the world and have a positive impact. A traveler that spend 2-4 days in a host remote community has a positive impact on 10 to 20 families.
What efforts would you like to see from the travel industry to make this more of a focal point?
The entire travel industry has a responsibility to measure its impact on the host communities, but also on the environment. Strong and large travel companies start to initiate carbon compensation projects, but it is not enough. The building of a better and more equitable world and the sustainable development of communities is an important issue.
Why do you personally love to travel?
For years, I’ve traveled the planet. I’ve crossed all the major oceans, deserts, sea ice, and explored more than 60 countries, but what I love most is to connect with remote communities. I love to share moments of simplicity with people in these communities, to be disconnected, to be more connected with people and the environment, to discover the untouched beauties of our fragile planet, and explore the world village by village.
Share a story about trips that made an impact on you. As a travel entrepreneur, what mark are you hoping to leave in the world?
My trip to Madagascar made a huge impact on me. It changed my life. I became a social innovation entrepreneur using technology to build a better world and face the main social and environmental challenge of our planet. I hope that every traveler can live the same experience, to become a vector of change, and help growth in new travel trends.