Cover Story / March 2018

Tourism: When Sharing Means

Many so-called sharing economy startups are merely a new form of capitalism. TripOnYu, a marketplace that provides opportunity for groups or individuals with strong ties to local cultures to benefit from the tourism industry, aims to provide benefits to more people and become a genuine form of sustainable tourism. It has a United Nations award to back up its claims.

By Albert W Nonto

Learn Javanese royal traditional dance from a native teacher in Solo. Experience the cooking of local food from indigenous people in Maluku. Study traditional weaving in Toraja. These are examples of new experiences in tourism that are providing better returns for local people. In the digital era, tourists can connect directly with people with unique experiences.

Under the traditional model of the tourism industry, only a limited number of local people in any particular area can benefit. Working as a receptionist, housekeeper, waiter or security guard doesn’t make you rich.

To take just one example from Indonesia’s booming tourism industry, Labuan Bajo in western Flores, most of the profits go to investors, the big business people. Hotels, for example, are mostly owned by big groups. Local people only get a small portion of the pie.

TripOnYu offers something different. The traditional musician, batik artist or handicraft producer, a group of street foot traders or other groups with a unique local and traditional flavor can become new tourist destinations. With training to become guides and help with marketing and creating business deals, they become the owners of their products and services and market them through the platform.

The creation of the marketplace provides a chance to create value from traditional experience and local lore, providing direct benefits from people who can share their lifestyles and creativity. Their production centers can become homestays and working as physical or cultural guides can provide additional income.

TripOnYu began by working with 55 groups in Solo in Central Java that were interested in developing local destinations. A trader in Pasar Kembang, the Solo flower market, says she can feel the difference as her sales have grown significantly since she and some friends in the market listed on the site.

“Local traders act as our friends to guide tourists to explore more about the place or to guide them step-by-step in producing handicrafts, for example,” says TripOnYu founder and CEO Augustinus Adhitya.

Individuals or groups wanting to become a part of the marketplace have to adhere to certain terms and conditions, says Adhitya, such as transparent prices for the tourism package they offer, and full details of the tour or experience. They also have to be transparent about who they are. In return, the company charges only around 7% of the tour price.

Adhitya adds that many local people benefit from this form of tourism: food traders, parking boys, local guides and others who work in the area. “Tourism has to improve people’s welfare,” he insists.

There is a growing trend for ‘experience’ tourism. Industry mammoth Airbnb now offers local guided tours. At TripOnYu, European tourists are the main clients and are increasingly buying travel packages from the company.

Currently featured are a three-day, two-night tour to Rembang, one-time center of the opium trade, and a quick course in how to make jamu, Indonesia’s traditional herbal tonics. Visitors can learn to produce a puppet show (wayang) in Solo. They can follow local culinary arts from buying produce in the market through preparing the dish in a traditional kitchen, and then sitting down to enjoy it.

“We work not only with local groups of small entrepreneurs and local destinations but also with professionals with unique skills who want to list their service. For example, we work with individual photographers who offer a unique photo service for visitors,” says Adhitya.

In terms of business, TripOnYu is a peer-to-peer marketplace for anybody to experience and offer unique knowledge about culture, local tradition, local culinary experiences and activities as a learning process to attain new skills and meet friends. As ‘middleman’ it connects people who want new experiences with local people who win satisfaction by offering their services and the experiences of their lives.

TripOnYu is only 18 months old but it has already won an award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for innovation for a non-governmental organization. The award has helped boost the market appeal of the site and an increasing number of unique tourism destinations have listed with it. The company now has partners in Semarang and Jepara to offer experiences in handicraft making and there seems little doubt that many more will come.

This is the second time Indonesia has won an award from UNWTO in this category. In 2016 Yayasan Karang Lestari in Bali was awarded the prize for its Coral Reef Rebirth program at Pemuteran, recognizing the community’s tireless efforts to restore its coral reef and the learning activities that have attracted many tourists. Visitors go beyond the classroom to learn how to become an actor in the restoration process.

Minister for Tourism Arif Yahya credits TripOnYu with continuing the country’s talent as a source of innovative startups, strengthening its position as a leader in sustainable tourism. Indonesia as a whole would benefit from the award, he said, since it would help recalibrate Indonesia’s effort to create a sustainable tourism industry of international standard.

And, added the minister, the award would enhance Indonesia’s credibility in the world tourism economy and boost local players’ confidence in continuing to contribute creatively to the sector, thereby making a contribution to local and national economies.