Secrets of responsible urban tourism by Elena Rodriguez Blanco from Authenticitys

Elena Rodriguez Blanco Authenticitys

Elena Rodríguez Blanco is the Co-Founder and Experience Curator of Authenticitys. With more than 10 years of experience in several sectors, Elena is in her 4th social startup and has changed roles and industries, countries and projects…giving her the ability to take risks and believe in the power of ideas and teams of ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.

Authenticitys is an online platform that is addressing the main challenges our societies have today in six dimensions: Health, Education, Environment & Resources, Equality & Freedom, Employability and Happiness.

Jeremy: What challenges is Authenticitys trying to address?

Elena: Traveling abroad, especially to cities or urban centers, is becoming more popular than ever before. But alongside that uptick in interest (from millennials in particular) comes a range of urban, social, and environmental problems that cities must contend with as they host increasing amounts of new visitors. We believe that when done responsibly, travel can be a force for good, and thus we partner with organizations and tour organizers that are addressing local problems and challenges armed with local knowledge. These challenges include issues like food systems issues, marginalized/homeless/refugee communities, the decline of cultural/historical heritage, urban pollution, LGBTQ acceptance and many many more.

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Jeremy: What is the impact you are trying to achieve?

ElenaThe impact we want to have is twofold. First, we want to impact the traveler. We believe that traveling to a new place in a participatory and experiential way can have an impact on the traveller that lasts long after they return home, so we design experiences that help foment that kind of positive engagement and transformation.

The second impact is on the communities we operate in. We want Authenticitys travelers to leave a positive footprint on the place they visit—be it environmental, educational, or economical—and so we strive to provide ways for them to do that which are also fun and informative.

On a larger level, the main impacts we categorize our tours into—Employability, Education, Freedom; Equality, Environment, Health, and Happiness —are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as we feel these are the most promising roadmap for the future.

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Jeremy: What’s special about your approach to meeting these challenges?

Elena: At the core of our belief system is the idea that local people know how to address local problems. So instead of having travelers enter communities that are foreign to them and expecting they will know how to make a difference, we are allowing them to learn about and participate in solving these challenges from the people who know them best.

“At the core of our belief system is the idea that local people know how to address local problems.”

We also work hard to really track the impact and progress of each of our partners in every city we work in and helping our travelers realize where and how they have delivered an impact. We are also looking to engage as much as possible the ecosystem of travel in the cities, hotels, restaurants, other operators to work on making travel more responsible and sustainable from a holistic level.

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Jeremy: What’s the most exciting thing Authenticitys has achieved so far?

ElenaIt’s been really exciting to “find our tribe” so to speak, and realize there are lots of people who want to travel responsibly but don’t necessarily know how. The fact that we have taken the time to co-create experiences, and really be a part of the challenges these communities are facing, as well as to talk to so many travelers and realize that we are speaking a language they want to know and understand. Now, when I visit a city I know there will be some experiences waiting for us, or people there willing to co-create. It excites me to support them in the best way we know how.

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Jeremy: What do you need to help you be more successful?

ElenaWe are seeking strong corporate partners from around the world who are ready to make a difference and who want to begin working from a social entrepreneurship mindset. Social startups can inspire, lead, and innovate, but we need to gain the institutional support of organisations that have a lot of experience and reach in the sector if we really want to maximize our impact.

“We need to gain the institutional support of organisations that have a lot of experience and reach in the sector if we really want to maximize our impact.”

If we want to transform travel, we need to include as many organisations that are already in travel—such as major hotel chains, hospitality sector players, and online travel platforms—in order to bring the industry to its next level.

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Jeremy: What does that success look like? Share your dream with us.

Elena: When travel is all sustainable, when entrepreneurs build social and environmental responsibility into the core of what they do, when we can drop all the buzzwords and speak honestly and frankly from a common level of understanding. Ok, perhaps not everybody, but our whole Authenticitys community. If we get to build enough momentum and people in it to bring forth a tipping point…that would be success.

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Jeremy: If you could connect with one person, company or organisation in responsible tourism, who would it be, and why?

Elena: We are not just interested in changing boutique travel, but corporate travel as well—because that’s where the biggest potential impact is. So we’re really interested in connecting with Accor hotels.

“We are not just interested in changing boutique travel, but corporate travel as well — because that’s where the biggest potential impact is.”

They are getting more involved in responsible travel, for example they just put up orchards in 100 terraces, and they are changing the way they operate in terms of sustainability. Connecting with them would give us a wider perspective of how we can change the entire traveler’s experiences to be able to transform travel as a whole through the entire value chain.

Jeremy: Which other person, company or organisation would you most like to recommend to be interviewed for this series, and why?

Elena: Bloom Microventures. My first social enterprise in impact travel was Bloom Microventures. It is currently being run by Loan and Ly, which have taken Bloom in a new direction and have made the organization sustainable past the 5 year mark for a startup. They are truly doing amazing things in the region. Bloom Microventures was the foundation and the inspiration for Authenticitys today.

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Connect with Elena Rodriguez Blanco on Travel Massive and follow Authenticitys on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

This article is part of Interviews with Social Entrepreneurs. If you would like to be featured in this series, please get in touch.

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