How our Alumni are innovating in response to the pandemic

The Booking Booster has been highlighting innovation in sustainable travel since it began in 2017. The accelerator programme, which supports sustainable tourism organisations to scale their impact on the industry through mentorship and funding, was scheduled for its fourth installment in 2020. In previous years, the Booster welcomed eager entrepreneurs to Amsterdam for three weeks of innovation bootcamp, illuminating their startups’ challenges and opportunities to achieve lasting impact on the travel industry. It culminated in a pitch event where founders impressed Booking.com judges & audience with their forward-thinking, planet-saving, and community-enriching innovations. Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Booking Booster was cancelled, but we remain committed to supporting organisations dedicated to a more sustainable future of travel.


As national and international travel locked down, many of the Booster Alumni now faced a new challenge – supporting their destinations, communities and staff during these unprecedented times. Once again, these entrepreneurs impressed and inspired Booking.com with their impact innovations, but this time they were innovating to equip the industry to face the pandemic. In order to support the transformation of these ideas into impact, Booking.com accepted proposals from alumni for short-term projects that would support their communities during COVID-19.


As with every Booking Booster, each proposal was assessed by a panel of judges for its potential impact. 10 projects received support, each taking a different approach to addressing the pandemic, but all with the local travel communities at their heart.



Below you can read about the diverse projects delivered by Booking Booster alumni as well as their impact to date. While the effect of the pandemic on the travel industry persists, so does innovation in response to this adversity.


Booking.com continues to support alumni during this challenging time through an engaging program of video calls with industry experts, access to insightful resources, and a community of Booking.com employees ready to share their expertise. Learn more about the Booster alumni on our website.






Community Homestay Network trained 5 communities to develop and sell locally produced items to keep financial benefits within these communities and earn income while tourism to the area is halted due to the pandemic. They have also been able to complete capacity-building training in an additional community, fostering collaborations between the communities in preparation for the return of tourists. As of November 2020, a total of €2,811 (NPR 386,270) was generated in sales from the products from four communities. The beneficiaries of the project are 56 families with 50 women. In the short-term, they expect to generate sales of €5,807 (NPR 798,020), giving families an average household income of €74 (NPR 10,101) and reaching 79 families from the community homestays.



Global Himalayan Expedition introduced a destination and traveler screening system, DEMETRA, to 5 remote homestays in India. This tool is designed to build travelers’ confidence in visiting destinations and provide rural villages with health monitoring facilities so that they can diagnose themselves from any outside infections. 100 people across 5 villages tested this tool, allowing them to establish a very important baseline of health data for people in the community, including heart rate, oxygen, respiration, and temperature. This tool has introduced an important resource for remote communities to begin to understand and address health concerns that they have not had access to previously. DEMETRA has also won the prestigious Outlook Responsible Tourism Awards 2021 for the Best Covid Ready Innovation.



Travel Without Plastic offshoot, Greener Guest, partnered with health and safety experts to create an interactive e-learning tool specifically to help hotels reduce plastic waste while keeping guests Covid safe. The training module provides practical support, knowledge and reassurance to help businesses deploy operational procedures that prioritise both hygiene and plastic waste reduction. The online course entitled ‘How to Manage Plastic Reduction and Keep Guests Safe’ is still available free of charge. As of December 2020, almost 6,000 hospitality industry workers had engaged with the content and 412 had completed the 40 minute e-Learning module. 92% of users report intention to change behaviour and reduce plastic.



Impulse launched BeAChangeMaker campaign to raise €46K to kick-start Líderes de Cambio (LdC), an educational & funding program to guarantee the continuity of 15 community projects, and keep them linked to the market. 3,100 people have been impacted by Impulse’s campaign. It has generated 15 active community projects in 7 regions, raising €10,523 to support the projects. 15 leaders have been trained in Leadership & Emotional Management During a Crisis, Business & Social Entrepreneurship, and Biosafety protocols.



Innovation Lighthouse conducted experiments across 4 hotels in the Netherlands to identify sustainable solutions that enable hotels to reopen in more cost-effective, safe, customer-orientated ways, and with long-term sustainability in mind. These experiments have identified 20 sustainable solutions, gaining positive feedback from all participating hotels and a measured increase in guest happiness when experiencing sustainable solutions. They have shared these learnings with over 240 hotels, including 3 successful webinars reaching 300 attendees so that the broader industry can leverage the project’s insights. Additionally, these solutions will be featured in an upcoming edition of the Partner Sustainability Handbook on Booking.com’s partner portal.



Keteka supported the tour operators and hostel owners around the Uyuni Salt Flats to prepare for a return to sustainable tourism operations by boosting digital preparedness and training, and funded their first wave of sanitation supplies. Keteka has trained 196 people on digital preparedness and improved the digital presence and ability to receive digital payments for 12 tour operators and hostel owners. This puts them in a strong position in their region to be visible to customers as they are planning their trip and confirming which areas are opening & accepting tours.



Khwela further developed Ubuntu Beds, an online platform that matches healthcare workers with hotels to provide them with accommodation while they are working on the front lines against COVID-19, ensuring they keep their families safe and healthy. This project housed 556 healthcare workers in safe accommodation near their place of work and provided 425 healthcare workers with a safe place to quarantine or isolate while waiting for test results or after having been tested positive with COVID-19 (this included meals and transport).



NotOnMap developed and deployed a ‘intensive and practical training program’ for rural communities and travelers on 'new safety regulations, expectations & norms' and 'sustainability principles & responsible tourism guidelines'. They’ve finalized the content for 160 videos, trained 230 local trainers, and on-boarded more than 1100 homestays. Hygiene training was completed in 65 villages and the local authorities have invited them to conduct training in an additional 150 rural communities. NotOnMap conducted more than 30 webinars involving over 2,000 community members and approximately 50 organizations from 17 states in India.



Sakha adapted its organization to the challenge of COVID-19 by supporting and educating the women chauffeurs who work with them. The project focused on developing and introducing health and safety measures and supporting communities to acquire new skills such as learning to drive e-scooters. 360 women drivers have been able to retain their jobs through the pandemic, generating €128,000 of cumulative earnings. All drivers were trained on health and safety procedures, and all cabs were fitted to be compliant including masks, sanitizers, and a protective shield. 2,833 families received support from Sakha drivers through delivery of rations and groceries.



Ukarimu Academy developed a free app to prepare staff and trainees in tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa for COVID industry requirements. The app covers all topics of the current Ukarimu hospitality and tourism curriculum, plus additional modules that respond to the pandemic. The app offers access to 18 different modules with exercises, videos, games and reading materials. Topics include customer service, an introduction into tour guiding and CV writing. The Ukarimu app is currently used by hotels and training institutions in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and targets 10,000 users by the end of 2021.