Meet the 35 year old Founder of Fair Travel Tanzania, Benjamin Taghavi – Awal, passionate about his enterprise and what he has set out to do. The first impression you may have is that he comes off as a visionary and is very contemplative with a high degree of awareness of the environment and what can be done through synergies to make the world a better place. His other passions include traveling, skydiving, sustainable development, alternative system thinking
In 3 sentences only, who is Benjamin?
– One of seven billion.
– Passionate about nature and people.
– Stubborn and determined with a vision.
What does your company/organization do?
We use tourism for impact and make sure that the staff receives fair salaries and that our tours are environmentally friendly. We also make certain that the profits go to local projects to protect nature and benefit the community.
What is your role?
My role is to make this happen, and that involves using my computer to communicate with people. To share information about Fair Travel and to communicate with potential customers, former customers, staff, volunteers, and partners. I work very hard and in between I try to enjoy good food with good company and share love.
How come that you took exactly this path that you have chosen? How has your journey been so far?
Like so many others I wanted to be a rich successful entrepreneur who would start to help once I was financially independent. Instead I saw an opportunity to use my skills, talent and energy and use business as a tool to benefit people and environment without aiming for the traditional model of success.
My journey has been rewarding, fulfilling, meaningful and inspiring to me and to others. I have also been facing many challenges to reach where we are today. Without the benefits I just mentioned none of it would have been possible, but I only focus on the positives.
What’s your next step? What’s your dream/vision?
To share amazing travel experiences with more people and to show that we could use tourism as a force of good, to any destination on this planet.
We reach there by collaboration and working with like-minded people who have come to the same realization: there are environmental and human challenges that need to be addressed and can be.
Being a social entrepreneur is most often not to follow the straight wide road. Can you tell us about any road less travelled that you’ve taken and how it turned out?
Since there is a lot of ‘greenwashing’ in our economies I chose to make Fair Travel a transparent company showing a full cost breakdown to our guests, so they can see what they pay for and where their money goes, in order to empower them to make and informed decision when comparing us to competitors. That is something that was never done before in the tourism industry and that is the way I believe we can make our economies sustainable, by transparency and accountability.
Many advised against it. They said that it would be wrong, that we would be locking ourselves in to a certain level of pricing. That it would upset others and it would create enemies. I said: Thank you, I’ll take it into consideration…
Today our transparency is a great competitive advantage for us. That is why many of our guests have chosen Fair Travel, because we are showing them what they pay for – even the profits we make.
My only fear is that we are challenging an industry where there are a lot of people that benefit from exploitation and hidden costs. But I work for other purposes.
What impact do you aim to make? What impacts have you seen so far?
I see the smiles of the people that I work with who were previously exploited in the tourism industry. I see the smiles of happy tourists that I know would not have smiled if they had gone with companies that exploit their people. I see the smiling people who understand what we are doing, and its potential to help people and planet. And I have seen the impact of using money to provide water to people that didn’t have that, or to protect forested areas were there was no protection before.
I vision where tourism money can go to creating a better life for local communities, providing them access to basic needs of water, education, health and food security. And I see how we can restore the damage done to our environment, by using tourism profits and reinvesting them into our nature.
Why does this (the impact you are trying to make) matter to you?
Because I have a choice. I am empowered with knowledge to make a choice that makes sense. And when choosing to use my energy, time and passion for what I do, and seeing the results, I feel a personal satisfaction that I am spending my life for something that matters – to other people and to our environment. That feels good.
Tell us one thing about you that not too many people know about you. Any secret talents?
I play online chess during my toilet sessions. I think many people don’t know that about me, and probably they shouldn’t know…
Many people don’t know that I have been living with hunters and gatherers for 10 days, eating fruits and nuts. I am interested in human nature and psychology so I was exploring the different time stages of humanity and how tools have changed our behavior.
Why are you participating in the SE Outreach Accelerator? What were/are your expectations? What are your needs? How has your experience been so far?
I am participating because I want to scale Fair Travel with the help of people who see the same benefits and potential, to inspire other entrepreneurs to use business for good and to network with potential friends, colleagues and partners. My expectations were to find likeminded people and to get the kick-start we need to grow Fair Travel and our impact.
It has been very rewarding and inspiring to be part of an organization and network of likeminded people. It has also been challenging to see how small part of the economic ecosystem that it still is, and how little support system there is to help and encourage important initiatives that are dedicated to solve pressing human and environmental challenges.
It has been frustrating to see how few people understand what social enterprising is and its potential for positive impact. It is sad to see that it is not the highest priority from our governments and higher institutions to focus our resources to promote this sector to become mainstream in our economies. There is a lot of good stuff happening. With the correct political and financial will we will be able to shift our economies and mindsets faster.
I was very happy to be selected to the Accelerator program among many applicants and to join a team of passionate and dedicated people who have been there for us to help us scale the impact that we have.
Any good tips you want to share with the outer world?
Put your time and energy to create positive impact for other people and our environment, it will be very rewarding for yourself as well. Connect and create synergies with likeminded and collaborate beyond mental borders like gender, religion, culture, background, income level and education.
Favorite quote: “To realize a dream you must first wake up” – Benjamin Taghavi – Awal