Big Travel is a big problem. Small Travel is a Big Solution. How do we Make The Shift?

Jay Mahoney
3 min readMar 10, 2021

When it comes to sustainability, big travel is a big problem. Disastrous over-tourism has displaced people, over-run communities, wreaked havoc on our environment, and turned cultural gems into places where locals don’t even want to be. Meanwhile, smaller and locally operated tourism businesses in smaller towns and rural communities across the globe are taking matters into their own hands. Local travel businesses have designed tourism solutions that purposefully reduce environmental impact, pay living wages, respect local culture, and benefit local communities. Some even go as far as regenerating the places they serve, and transforming the people they touch.

While it is true that that which is smaller can be more tightly controlled, smaller travel doesn’t control itself — smaller travel is owned and operated by people who care. Hard working small business owners and lifestyle entrepreneurs spend their valuable time, money, resources and energy to make tourism a force for good. They sacrifice the easy, for the better… and now is their time to shine.

But there’s a problem. For hard-working people who “just need a vacation”, big travel has 2 big advantages:

1) Easy to find

2) Easy to book.

Big travel relentlessly focuses on getting in front of travellers and optimizing the online user experience to drive bookings. In a marketing world that’s shifted almost entirely online, one big contributing factor gives big travel a consistent upper hand: boatloads of cash. Money buys top tier software developers, highly skilled precision digital marketers, and an ad-spend to guarantee front page search results every single time, leaving lower-resourced small business owners to cut through the noise to attract travellers, despite that the fact that the experience they provide is just plain better in every conceivable way.

“If ya cant beat em, join em”… said no determined person ever.

There are 3 deterring factors that prevent local travel businesses from “joining” mainstream booking engines.

  1. High commission. Getting discovered and booked by big travel comes at a high, unfair cost that extracts tens of millions of dollars from local business and communities.
  2. Uniqueness. Unique is what makes local tourism special, and so…