Step Up Travel – A novel way to connect travelers and locals directly

15 March, 2007

It is a brave, new concept – Step Up Travel.

Founded by two philanthropic young medical students, Step Up Travel aims to provide direct connections between travelers and local individuals and off-the-beaten-track enterprises.

Step Up Travel offers a premium, online marketing tool for small tourism providers to help increase their visibility and revenue, while giving travelers unique and authentic activities and accommodation.

Step Up Travel, claim its founders, 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, does not charge for posting advertisements, but instead aims at helping local businesses and individuals increase their visibility and revenue.

Inspired by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’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, Brazil.

They shared an appreciation for Brazilian culture and recognised the potential to facilitate a more direct connection between tourism revenue and the lower-income 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, travellers 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 Trip Sweeney, co-founder.

Local services vary widely, ranging from Teotitlan carpet making lessons in Mexico, Samba lessons in Brazil, to apartment rentals in South Africa, and local guides who offer authentic views of their cities.

“Through our website, we hope that people will have interactions that would lead to a deeper understanding of diverse cultures, human values and different ways of thinking and living,” says co-founder Scott Zimmerman. also gives travellers a chance to recommend and promote local service providers. These recommendations help build the credibility for local small enterprises. By endorsing local small enterprises, travellers play a key role in the promotion of local small businesses, especially those in developing countries. takes advantage of the tremendous demand for sustainable travel options. The 2007 Totem Marketing Sustainable Tourism Study forecasts that the number of sustainable tourism travellers will reach 250 million by 2010.

The Step Up Travel platform is a valuable resource for these travelers and anyone interested in local perspectives, according to its founders. “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, organisations, and travelers to reshape the travel industry,” they say.





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