Ecotourism: How Much of the US$100 You Spend Overseas Stays Put?

If you think that traveling in the Third World is a boon to local economies, think again. According to estimates, only US$5 of the US$100 you spend on holiday in developing countries stays in the local economy. The rest heads overseas.

Let’s take those sybaritic spa treatments that we all love so much as an example.

I’ve often wondered how much of the US$100 that a two hour massage costs at a five star resort in a place like Bali actually goes to the masseuse. So I asked my buddy, Jingcho Yang, Co-founder of BukitVista, and from what he tells me, it is worse than what I had expected.

“Average cost of a massage is about US$50+,” Jing says.

“The masseuse is paid monthly, somewhere between US$100 and US$160. If she does two massages a day, that works out to about 40 massages a month, averaging out to about US$2 to US$4 a massage.”


Obviously, there is the expense of running and maintaining the spa – electricity, water, telephone, various other bills, supplies, rent, taxes, and staff other than the people giving massages. But still! It sounds as if somebody somewhere is making a massive profit.

Linking Travelers with Local Tour Operators

I got an email  from  a travel website that helps travelers find “cool things to do”.

All content on the site is user generated and focuses exclusively on authentic adventure experiences. The service is offered to travelers free of charge. It is based in Sydney, Australia.

According to Chris Ball, Adventure Honey Founder and CEO, the platform not only supports local travel operators, fully 25% of its proceeds are invested into the Changemaker Program, which is designed to empower local entrepreneurs, whose socially conscious business ideas have the potential to raise themselves and their communities out of extreme poverty.  

“Our site is designed for independent adventure travelers who want to find not only the coolest things to do in the world, but also to ensure their travel has a positive local impact – that the locals truly benefit from their adventure,” Chris says.  

“As consumers, we can help local people and places progress to a better future – and have an incredible adventure at the same time!”

This piqued my interest. I had a few questions. So I shot off an email to Chris. Within an hour or two I had my answers – very impressive response time! Our email interview follows.

Accidental Travel Writer: Can you answer a couple of questions? First, can you tell me when the website was launched?

Chris Ball: The website was launched in December 2012  

Accidental Travel Writer: Can you tell me what types of companies you partner with?

Chris Ball: We provide a website where travelers can find and book unique adventure experiences. By connecting travelers direct with verified tour operators, we provide a safe and cost effective way to book adventure tours and activities.  

Accidental Travel Writer: How many operators are you currently linked up with?

Chris Ball: Over 30  

Accidental Travel Writer: You say that you are currently operating exclusively in Thailand. Any plans to expand into other markets?

Chris Ball: Absolutely. We will grow through Southeast Asia in the second half of 2013. Users can expect to see Adventure Honey experiences throughout the region in coming months.

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