Travelers' MAP

Travelers' MAP

South Korea
Organization type: 
for profit
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We want to create income for underdeveloped nations and Korean rural communities by applying sustainable tourism strategies, and thereby to ensure regional economic, social and environmental sustainability. Our major project is to develop engaging travel products that can directly create value for the region and to market these to ethical consumer groups; we thereby support the establishment and growth of tourism-based community business organizations.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Korea, the population in non-urban areas is aging rapidly, while local populations are also rapidly dropping. As a result, the basic industries that maintain society, such as farming and fishing, are collapsing, and the income discrepancy between city and country is increasing. The tourism culture is stuck at an inadequate level, and famous tourist attractions are consequently suffering from deterioration and underdevelopment, while the village-based tourist facilities in which the government has invested are not being put to proper use and have become eyesores. Local communities cannot find a clear path to development due to low income and the lack of key labor force components such as young people; as a result, there is an urgent need to establish a strategy for developing tourism resources while also increasing income and environmental resource conservation. These phenomena are also mirrored in other regions of Asia where many Korean tourists go.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

By linking tourists’ changing demands for a focus on ethical consumption, well-being, eco-friendliness, and self-improvement through cultural exchange to regions where aging, depopulation and impoverishment are accelerating, we can provide tourists with a new kind of satisfaction and stimulate revitalization of the local community. We have implemented optimal techniques for minimizing the consumption of various resources including carbon, while also avoiding harm to the conserved natural landscape. In addition, because a community tourism business centered on the local people works to conserve the core local tourism resources of the natural landscape and environmental resources, a new cycle is established in which travelers, locals, and the environment protect each other. In order to accelerate this cycle, we link the support of national and local governments to local communities and underdeveloped countries, and also promote projects to raise tourist awareness about responsible travel.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As the leading Korean social enterprise in the travel sector, Travelers’ MAP designs sustainable tours in accordance with our motto of “benefit local, protect nature, respect people.” In addition to developing, planning and selling our approximately 30 domestic travel products and 20 overseas travel products, we operate travel studies projects for young people including our (short-term) Youth Travel School and (3-year) Road Scholar program. By means of these projects, Travelers’ MAP is working to improve unfair trade practices and exploitative structures, improve environmentally-destructive travel products, develop low-carbon green tourism through carbon footprint minimization, promote mutual exchange and respect for local culture, respect and protect the human rights of local people, and convert travel products from a structure of competing on low prices to competing on quality.
About You
Travelers' MAP
About You
First Name

hyung seok

Last Name


Facebook Profile
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Travelers' MAP

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

The founder of Travelers’ MAP has been traveling with young adults for more than 10 years as an instructor at an alternative school. By walking more than 3000 km with young people, he has had the opportunity to explore every corner of Korea, and to understand the local circumstances and issues. In addition, he has confirmed that participant consciousness can be changed through travel that is closely connected to the local economy and culture. This type of travel may be a little uncomfortable, but it has much greater cultural and educational impact, and he became convinced that it could provide an alternative that could assist local communities by changing Korea’s short-term tourist culture centered on snapping photos of famous attractions.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

As of 2011, Travelers’ MAP is undertaking travel projects in about 20 regions in Korea and 20 regions elsewhere including Asia. Our sales grew by 309% from 2009 to 2010. The number of tour participants grew by 561%. The proportion of total travel costs invested locally has reached 40%, and this is an improvement of more than 8-fold over the Korean tourism industry, in which less than 5% is invested directly in the local area while the rest leaks away. In relation to our projects currently underway in Korea, at least 3 tourist business organizations are being established centered on local communities, and overseas, we are supporting the establishment of social enterprise in Nepal together with corporations, and in Cambodian villages in Banteay Chhmar and elsewhere we are supporting the development of tourism business, We are also providing tour services for neglected groups, such as field trips to the home country for children from multicultural households. In Korea, we have also succeeded in attracting investment of $150,000 from clients, funds and individuals by publicly performing social investment for the first time.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

In the next 3 years, Travelers’ MAP will expand the regions it serves by at least 3-fold, and will increase the number of participants at least 6-fold, ensuring the actual generation of income for local communities. Through the Korea Association for Sustainable Tourism, which Travelers’ MAP played a key role in founding, at least 20 local community businesses will be discovered and promoted. In addition, we will attract foreign tourists and begin to provide a global level of service in sustainable tourism in the Asian region.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Currently low-quality travel products predominate, competing for low prices; travel products that preserve local communities and pay reasonable costs are considered high-end. The ethical consciousness of travelers is changing rapidly, but in reality there remains a clear discrepancy between these changes in consciousness and any changes in the actual style of travel. In the Asian region, Korean tourists still chiefly engage in modes of tourism that exploit local communities. Accordingly, we are spreading the “fair travel” culture in cooperation with national government agencies at industrial networks, and are working with them to improve practices that are unfair to local communities. In order to achieve a dramatic improvement in the quality of service and focus on disadvantaged communities, we are focusing on training, consulting and product development to foster self-reliance and establish a foundation for change in the tourism industry.

Tell us about your partnerships

In Korea, we are cooperating with 8 similar agencies through the Korea Association for Sustainable Tourism; in each travel destination we are participating with specialized business partners. We are carrying out and advancing cooperative projects with strategic partners such as the Korean Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Korean National Parks Service, and Korean Tourism Organization. The Haja Center, a hub for youth innovation establish in cooperation with the Seoul city government and Yonsei University, assists in founding of businesses with Travelers’ MAP and is currently carrying out spatial and industrial cooperation; we are carrying out joint projects approximately 10 innovative social enterprises based at the Center. Internationally, we are cooperating with local partners including in Cambodia (CCBEN) Indonesia (INDECON), Nepal (3Sisters Adventure Trekking, AHRCDF), Africa (Nomad Tour), Vietnam (AMAP, KOTO), and China (Xintour). In the coming year, we plan to join The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and participate in the ESTC international conference.

Explain your selections

We have acquired project capital through social investment in early 2011 from individuals and fund investors. We have succeeded in acquiring a total of $150,000 and of this 80% has been invested by individuals including our customers; the remaining 20% has been invested by funds specializing in social enterprise. We are proceeding with several projects in collaboration with NGOs to support social enterprise, and are also carrying out tour projects for neglected groups in cooperation with foundations that support these groups. We are additionally supporting neglected-group tours through corporate sponsorship, and corporations are also involved in the expenses for supporting local development. Local and central government and public agencies are carrying out joint projects with us to revitalize local community businesses while also assisting in project development costs and labor costs.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We will continue to diversify the regions our project serves and our service types. In this way, we will enable real contributions to these regions while improving product quality. By strengthening our cooperation with industrial networks and national and local governments, we will create Korean models for sustainable tourism and focus on expanding these models nationwide. We will present a model for cruise tours, which have not yet been attempted in Korea, and scale up the size of our travel business; at the same time, we will grow into a leading global service enterprise in the Asian region in the field of sustainable tourism by expanding our local footholds. In this way, we will expand our industrial networks in the sustainable tourism sector across Asia.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Restricted access to new markets


Lack of efficiency


Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

We are moving forward with projects to improve travel culture through the national government and public agencies, and to strengthen affiliation and cooperation among similar corporations in order to create markets. We are strengthening publicity through large-scale cruise travel events and generating issues such as endangered species. In order to create an organizational culture that is both democratic and efficient, we are consulting with specialized agencies while also holding organizational workshops, and we are providing systematic opportunities for self-improvement and professional development in order to enhance the professionalism of key workforce components.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Grown geographic reach: Global

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

We are preparing an inbound tourism project for Japanese tourists; this will be extended to the areas of China, Europe and North America. We are making the first effort at cruise-based travel projects within Korea, and are adding new travel products to our lineup that protect and conserve endangered animals through our “Animals in Crisis” series. In 3 regions in Korea, we are establishing community-based eco-tour models, and plan to expand this nationwide.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Industrial innovation is not something a single company can accomplish by itself. In Korea, the conditions are still inadequate for a new type of tourism to spread. In order to create tours that can benefit local communities and environment, the most important thing is to form a robust network of collaboration with the above organizations; over the past 2 years, a 1st step in that cooperation has successful y been achieved. As a result, in just two years, “fair travel” became a hot topic of discussion in the tourism industry, and is appearing as a core theme in various conferences.