Pre-Pandemic Eco-Tourism was one of the fastest growing industries in the world, at a globally annualised rate of nearly 17% per year. While the new data is yet to be published, it’s clear from country level reporting that the trend has accelerated with the advent of COVID, albeit in different ways. 

Tourism is still on the rise. In the USA, national park visitors and recreational vehicle (RV) sales are at all-time highs. Americans are flocking away from urban centers at scale, opting to buy/ rent homes in ecologically friendly destinations. Places like Montana and Colorado – and for that matter anywhere with natural attractions – have witnessed massive price inflation. 

Why? Because living & working in urban centers is no longer necessary! And because humans at the core need nature to feel good. It’s a part of our universal recipe for Joy. 

In more developing countries, the story is similar. Whilst in Mexico last year, I was scouting and surveying land acquisition opportunities, with the intention of building eco communities. It was a real cowboy job, walking through the forests to fine lone ranchers with acreage for sale. But I wasn’t the only one! Not by mile… In fact, hundreds of foreigners were doing the same exercise, in mountain and costal areas (places with nature). As a result, prices went soaring! 

It’s also echoed in my Himalayan home, where were seeing thousands of urbanites flock to the hills for reprieve – many signing long term housing leases or opening guesthouses, to monetize their eco living experience. 

While this is a great trend for humanity, as it can seriously help humans find better lifestyle, it’s serving to exacerbate preexisting ecological conditions. 

We as a species tore down most of the earths natural attractions in the industrial era, building urban models for economy. The remaining areas of earth not developed are oftentimes the most remote and ecologically sensitive, and vital for our survival. 

Take the Himalayas for instance. This ecosystem feeds two billion humans its water! It also provides vital oxygen and other resource supplies that serve the planet at large. This place needs to be protected! 

The Amazon is another ecosystem vital to earth and human existence. It’s increasingly torn down for agriculture and development projects, and likely also for ecotourism. 

By accelerating development without the proper backstops and systems, we are pushing these ecosystems to the brink of disaster. Failure with inaction is inevitable. And time is not on our side. 

If COVID taught us that life is fragile and time is limited, why shouldn’t we apply this lesson to the environments we inhabit? 

Bottom line is we need to act, and quickly. 

The Robinhood mission is to bring awareness and balance back to ecosystems. We exist to serve more than just ecotourism economies and travelling communities but also the environment and earth at large. 

At each location our goal is to drive as much social and environmental impact as we do commercial impact. And at our first site, we established a waste service that fundamentally changed the environmental paradigm of local communities, the first daily segregated waste service of its kind in the Kullu Valley. Since it’s inception, it’s collected over 3000 tons of waste! 

Thankfully we’re not the only ones that care about this issue. Many tourism providers share sustainability values, and have operationalized amazing initiatives BUT this segment is still a small percentage of the total marketplace. 

In the waste service example, because most of the market still abuses the common space, our efforts haven’t made a dent in the broader problem. We can pat ourselves on the back for driving impact but must accept that this small scale solution doesn’t change anything. 

The only way to fix the problem is broad based market activism and solutioning at scale.

Every provider in the marketplace, alongside governing parties should be asking themselves, what are we doing to help humanity’s ecological challenges? Are we serving or simply taking? 

At this time, no single global brand in the hostel industry (Selinas, Zostel, Generator, Mad Monkey, Go Stops etc) that’s pushing this message or these values alongside it’s commercial enterprise. And many of the ‘Eco’ providers around the globe have simply adopted this eco branding to attract more customers – with missions that are a far cry from sustainable. 

Our hope in scaling the Robinhood Brand is to shine a light on the problem, driving awareness across the marketplace, to the point where consumers prioritise providers that are aligned to sustainable value systems. If we’re successful, it will be in every company’s commercial interests to be sustainable. 

But we can’t do it alone! 

Our long term survival hinges on acting quickly and coordinating these communities around the Globe. We ask that if you believe in this mission, to follow along, join our community and share, as it will take all of our collective efforts to make change a reality! 

Josh Willig

Chief Joy Officer – Robinhood Co-Living