Peace Corps volunteers, Kyle Wiggins and Jack Fischl, were working with rural and indigenous communities in Panama. They quickly found there existed a divide between the many tourists seeking off-the-beaten-track experience in Latin America and the many knowledgeable, local guides. This inspired them to found Keteka, which means ‘to get close to’ in Ngabarre, a indigenous Panamanian language.
Leveraging their local networks, they were able to start providing authentic travel experiences and grow Keteka to what it is today - an online marketplace of unique, otherwise unreachable, activities that are instantly bookable helping to build capacity in indigenous communities and redistribute travellers. We spoke with Kyle and Jack about their motivations for starting Keteka and what they see its impact being on the travel industry and the communities with whom they work with. Here’s what they said:
WHAT TRIGGERED YOU TO START YOUR BUSINESS?
As Peace Corps volunteers, we experienced first-hand the challenges of creating sustainable tourism solutions for people in the developing world. Keteka started as a tool to help our respective communities promote their tourism operations online to travelers seeking authentic local experiences. That remains as the foundation of our business.
WHAT DOES YOUR STARTUP DO?
Keteka is an online marketplace which allows travelers to connect with validated local guides who provide incredible authentic experiences. We want to give local guides and operators in the developing world the ability to effectively promote themselves and their business on the web.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT OF YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE ON THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?
Keteka is seeking to give local guides direct access to travelers, and as a result, ensure that they receive fair payment for their services. Currently, the tours and activities industry is filled with an abundance of middlemen that quite effectively marginalize the local guides that typically come from developing communities. By shifting focus to the guides, we drive more dollars to their communities, and improve the overall experience for the traveler.
WHAT RECENT MILESTONE(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
We were accepted into the Booking.com Booster Program!
Keteka puts tools in the hands of local communities to empower them - we can't wait to see what they do with the tools they gain over the course of this programme. To read more about them, check out their website or find our updates on our blog.