Lujaina Kharusi, founder of adventure travel app Envago www.envagoapp.com
The $40 billion adventure market
As an economist, I know that travel is one of the most competitive markets there is. But the changing technological, economic and cultural landscape means it also offers unrivalled opportunity too. I’ve watched with rapt fascination as smartphones have changed the travel industry with the emergence of disruptors like Airbnb, and in other marketplaces too. And I’ve tracked the arrival of what were always very niche segments such as adventure travel onto the main stage. In Europe alone, the tours and activities market is worth over 40 billion, nearly half that of hotel reservations. Whilst the numbers of travellers booking adventures through their smartphone has increased exponentially by over 1700% from 2011 to 2015. Envago is an app for the 21st century; it’s for travellers who want to make their travel plans from their smartphone whilst on their lunch break, it’s for the millennial traveller who wants to experience the unique and authentic when they travel and it’s for small, independent adventure planners who want to make money from their passion for adventure.
Tapping into 21st century adventurous travel
For me, Envago is about allowing people to make better choices, giving them access to many, readily available options that previously would have been nigh on impossible for them to find and book. This is opening up the world of adventure in a way that resonates with what the modern traveller wants. They are looking for authentic travel experiences, off the beaten track adventures and exhilaration when they travel. And they are willing to pay for them, with research stating that travellers will spend more on tours and experiences than on shopping, nightlife and souvenirs combined. In fact, after ‘sun and sea’, ‘mountains and nature’ is the second most appealing vacation type. Through Envago app, they can book a 12 day survival experience in the Amazon where they learn the tools and techniques of jungle life, go paragliding in Pokhara, kayaking in Croatia, trek up Jebel Shams in Oman or myriad other exciting activities.
How we book is changing
Unlike the days of old when booking travel involved copious amounts of brochures, nowadays we rely on first hand reviews with estimates that up to 95% of travellers rely on reviews before booking travel. That time that would once have been spent poring over printed brochures is now spent poring over online reviews, up to seven before booking and up to twenty in the planning stages. It made enormous sense for us to incorporate reviews into the app, allowing travellers to peruse adventures, compare and read reviews before booking.
It’s either in your blood or it isn’t
From the initial research to the development of the very first iOS version of the app to the subsequent android versions, building the website, bringing adventure planners on board, creating the systems, Envago has been a labour of love and that wouldn’t have been possible without the enthusiasm I have for travel. From a young age, living in the UK and later in Oman we always travelled and it’s something I’m still passionate to do with my own four children. Whether it’s camping in the desert in Oman or trekking up glaciers in Iceland, I want to encourage my children to experience the world, and this is something that will resonate with many parents.
Consider longer term trends
In our research another key trend that dominated is that of ‘voluntourism’ with 1.6 million Brits heading abroad to volunteer each year, whether that’s for a solus volunteering experience or combining a holiday with time volunteering. We designed Envago to include adventures across a range of themes, including volunteering. We have opportunities to work in the community in Nepal or help to save the endangered green turtles in Lang Tengah Island off Malaysia, and these are the type of adventures that will appeal to not only millennials but Gen Zs with their desire to change the world.
What’s next for Envago?
More adventures, more planners, more choice. Our challenge perhaps is the scale, with adventures offered around the world and multiple markets. Our focus right now is the Middle East as we build our portfolio of adventures in Oman and beyond.
How Envago works:
Adventurers can search by category of adventure (Air, Earth, Water, Rock & Ice or Volunteer), listed activties or by map. Adventure Planners can become verified within the app, then create a profile, events and adventures for people to buy. Activities range from thrills like trekking to the ‘lost world’ in Venezuela, adventures like staying in an Aurora dome to see the northern lights to ‘voluntourism’- community based activities like volunteering projects in Nepal. Find out more at www.envagoapp.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Download for free at iTunes or on google play for android.