Uncovering the Undiscvered: meet the startup promoting conscious tourism

As mass tourism floods popular high streets, travellers are increasingly seeking to visit remote corners of the world. Undiscvered wants to be their guide.

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When tourists pack their suitcases and prepare to jet off on their next getaway, their wishlist will usually be populated by mainstream experiences and spots that are featured in postcards.

From the Tour Eiffel to the Empire State, tourist hotspots dominate Google and social media hashtags. Their emblematic history, their photogenic allure, and their ‘Instagrammability give them a magnetic pull that never goes out of fashion.

But a growing number of travellers want to stray from the well-trodden path and seek places that aren’t so picture perfect. The challenge is having to scour the depths of the internet to find these real adventures that aren’t advertised on TripAdvisor.

To cater for this thirst for the unknown, Undiscvered has made it its mission to connect this niche of explorers with the experiences they’re chasing.

Offering the premise of travelling the world like a local, Serena Masand and Anish Kotecha launched Undiscvered after travelling to more than 40 countries. Their travel platform offers a curated menu that immerses users in an authentic cultural experience and promotes conscious tourism.

The challenge to helping others design the perfect vacation? Standing out from the sea of Reels that flood the travel space on social media.

Swimming against the tide

According to survey results, 85% of millennials use someone else’s social posts when planning their vacations. A further 34% book a hostel because they saw it via user generated content (UGC) on social media.

These statistics show that gone are the days of travel agencies. People are flocking to social media feeds to plan out their itineraries and get a taste of what they might be in for when they cross border control.

To inspire someone’s travel plans, the logical solution as a content creator would be to find ways to please the Instagram algorithm. For Undiscverd, it actually makes more sense to turn this convention upside down.

When Masand and Kotecha travel, they’re not carrying around a big DSLR camera or sophisticated vlogging equipment. They strive for content that feels real.

“It’s not so fake, it’s not so filtered, it’s not so perfect – it’s a very imperfect experience, which isn’t very popular on Instagram initially,” confesses Masand. “But as people start to interact with our brand, they start to really like the reality that they see behind places that we go to.”

Masand shares the experience of climbing up into a bat cave and recording everything with a smartphone and “bringing that real feeling through.”

Masand explains that their social media strategy is all about finding the right target audience rather than curating their content to look like the standard picturesque travel vlogs.

“We haven’t got a million, we’ve quite a small 18,000 followers. The content we put out there is appealing only to people that travel consciously, to people that want to go and help the local,” Masand stresses.

“I still have the goal of having as many likes and shares as possible, but at the end of the day, it’s about finding the audience that works for you and what you’re trying to promote.”

Doing UGC differently and consciously

UGC is a powerful type of organic content that is synonymous with high conversion rates and traffic. Statistics show that 90% of consumers say that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support.

Consumers also find UGC 9.8x more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision. These positive numbers have translated into 86% of companies understanding the importance of UGC and wanting to create it to engage potential customers.

As valuable as UGC is for brands, it’s not necessarily the most sustainable or profitable for whoever or whatever is being featured in the social media travel space.

Creators will come in on ad hoc basis, feature an experience, and never reconnect with the source after that.

Undiscvered, in a bid to establish long-term connections with locals and connect them with conscious tourists, doesn’t think that has to be the method.

“We actually work on longer contracts with brands and the reason why we do that is because we don’t believe in putting out one-off posts or creating one-off content for brands,” she explains. “That way, we actually get to know the brand, build a story for them, and put out content that actually entices an audience rather than it feeling like an ad.”

“We work with these locals to provide them with a platform, but at the end of the day, they also don’t have the resources or the knowledge to put their own content out there,” she expands.

Preserving the magic

Tourism doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. It shouldn’t only mean pushing through the crowds of busy museums or streets, nor struggling to find truly local spots that have been gatekept from tourists, with residents feeling like their territory is being invaded.

After all, it’s a source of revenue for the locals and a way to share cultures. But without respect, the experience can quickly turn sour.

“Their culture is the heart of what they are. You can send any traveller there, and they may or may not travel with respect,” Masand shares. “But if you send travellers there that are conscious about where they’re going but with guides, that makes a difference.”

“Guides need a livelihood, but they also promote this line between mass tourism and conscious travelling,” she adds.

For Masand and Kotecha, conscious tourism is not only about learning about other cultures, but letting it have an impact on their lives.

In terms of the future of travel content creation and tourism, they both think there is a general change towards a more conscious and respectful direction.

“I see at the moment a shift in people engaging with unique cultures, unique destinations and not necessarily just experience, but actually seeing things that they can never see if it wasn’t for social media,” says Masand.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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