May 25, 2018
The desire to create Off Season Adventures developed from my first trip to Tanzania. I went in March, which is during the off season (also called the green season) and immediately fell in love with the people, landscape, and wildlife. Nothing could have prepared me for the majesty of it all and I knew I had to create an accessible way for people to learn about and travel to Tanzania.
This trip not only opened my eyes to the beauty of the country and its people, but also sparked my interest in the benefits of off season travel. As many savvy adventurers already know, the off season can provide tons of perks for the traveler. In Tanzania, the off season provides a more intimate connection with the locals both in the lodges and on cultural excursions, unfettered views of wildlife while on safari, and it doesn't hurt that tours can cost several thousand dollars less. This is all, of course, because there are fewer tourists during this time. The ideas for Off Season Adventures were beginning to take shape, but a few other events took place before our incorporation.
After grad school, I started a blog and worked for a start-up called Voy. I wrote about my personal experiences with travel, interviewed others about their journeys, and crafted a few articles that were more academic. One of these academic pieces about Cuba was picked up by a UN organization and eventually read by professor Megan Epler Wood of Harvard and Cornell. After meeting with Megan, I was asked to come on board as a teaching assistant for her class at Harvard Extension, Environmental Management of International Tourism Development. Needless to say, I already knew the basics of environmental sustainability, but this really opened my eyes to looking at it through the lense of tourism and the need for a unified and international approach to using tourism to protect natural resources.
Around the same time, the word “overtourism” became a household term for an over-crowded tourist destination. Although the concept of overtourism (or mass tourism) is not new, it has now been used to describe many destinations around the world and people and governments are beginning to take action. However, with the tremendous and exponential growth of the tourism industry, there’s no wonder why local communities are concerned about the future. Tourism development can be a little tricky because destinations (sometimes without the input of the local population) must weigh the options between economic growth and environmental conservation. The intersection between those three- people, planet, and profit- is sustainability.
Taking all this into account and realizing that I still wanted to make Tanzania more accessible, I got in touch with Hosea, my original safari guide. Coincidentally, he was in the process of forming a tour operating business of his own to bring people to see his wonderful country. I, in turn, established Off Season Adventures as a tour operator focused on off season travel. Hosea is now my primary partner in Tanzania.
When deciding on the name and the vision of Off Season Adventures, I wanted to reflect so many of the concepts I learned both academically and from my personal experiences in Tanzania. I knew that the off season in Tanzania could provide a better experience for travelers, but the local communities and environment had to benefit, as well.
So, at Off Season Adventures, we strive to exclusively partner with locally owned and operated tourism businesses like lodges, hotels, tour guides, and Hosea and encouraging our clients to buy locally-made Tanzania products as souvenirs. To date, by utilizing these partners, 87% (61% when international flights are included) of the full cost of all tours booked with Off Season Adventures has gone directly back into the local Tanzanian economy, while the average internationally is around 5-10%. In addition, 5% of OSA tours are reserved for local community and environmental investments. These investments go to sponsor tangible projects in the country so that communities or wildlife reserves that do not see the direct benefits of tourism are positively impacted. Infusing the local economies with capital during the off season reduces the swings of seasonality in the economy, eventually leading to more stable, year-round work for locals.
Our goal is to become a truly sustainable travel company by replacing all resources used by our clients during their tours. We can’t do that without addressing the environmental effects that tourism often has. We therefore carbon offset all carbon emissions from flights (booked with or without Off Season Adventures), safari vehicles, and accommodations using a local company called Carbon Tanzania. Using local stakeholders, they preserve and rebuild forests in Tanzania so that the hunter-gatherer tribe called Hadzabe can maintain their lifestyle. Not only are the carbon emissions neutralized, but the there is a positive cultural impact to offsetting this way. To date, we have offset 83.84 metric tons of CO2 and protected 69 trees.
Finally, considering the current tourism landscape of overtourism and the exponential growth of international travel, I think we will continue to see more destinations push back against travelers coming to their countries. Off Season Adventures offers a way to travel and experience wonderful destinations, but without the other tourists, the high costs, or local agitation. In fact, Tanzanian lodges and guides crave business during the off season and the same can be said for other destinations with which we are in preliminary talks.
As we continue to grow and expand into more destinations, three things will remain clear. The vision of Off Season Adventures is:
To encourage travel during the off season
To strive for complete sustainability
To make destinations more accessible in a responsible way
Grow with us as we continue to expand sustainable travel around the world.