Connecting to global markets

June 21, 2017

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Winner of the month

Connecting to global markets

About the Implementing organization

Name: Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupaten Raja Ampat

Country: Indonesia

Year of establishment: 2013

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status / Community enterprise or business / Indigenous group or organization

Description

Seeking connection with international markets, and lacking the technical capacity to do so themselves, the Association researched ways to promote their homestays on the internet. The result was the www.StayRajaAmpat.com website. This not only provides all community homestays with their own customised presence on the internet, but is also a resource with all information needed by travellers planning a visit to what is a remote and undeveloped region.

The Association identified the language barrier, limited network access and the inability of members to call or message international numbers as hurdles to communication with potential guests. These were overcome by creating an innovative automated SMS booking system. This platform parses website booking form information to Bahasa Indonesia and sends it as a text message to the homestay. The homestay sends a simple response to the booking system’s Indonesian number and the system automatically generates the appropriate email and SMS responses to the guest.

This approach to promotion is innovative because it set out from the start to be the number one information point for anyone researching a trip to Raja Ampat, so they learn about homestays before anything else. By ensuring the website is operated in a professional way, the Association is able to convey the high standards that homestays aspire to. Their insight was that tourists should not need to navigate obstacles to find out about and book a homestay in Papua.

Nature Element

Forests / Oceans / Coasts / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Sustainable use / Mainstreaming into sectors / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Peace and security

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

    

Environmental Impacts

Stay Raja Ampat is now the number one website for Raja Ampat and in the top 0.1% of most popular websites in world. The website receives over 18,000 unique visits per month and traffic is growing at 38% per year. This growth has translated to success for a growing number of family businesses that otherwise would have no way of letting the wider world know they exist. In less than two years since launch, the SMS booking system has relayed 2000 booking requests to homestays, with a total value of almost USD 600,000 and demand still grows strongly. The system has automated the exchange of over 16,000 SMS and email messages between homestays and guests. The website includes the Association's Raja Ampat Environment Watch, that enables all local residents and visitors to become the eyes and ears of the conservation authorities. Reports can be sent by SMS or mobile phone app, and those made to date have alerted authorities to reef damage, illegal animal trade, pollution and garbage dumping.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Stay Raja Ampat mobilises public support and volunteers to support the Association in its efforts to help all homestays meet the sustainability requirements enshrined in the Association’s membership standards. SRA social media channels and the Raja Ampat Environment Watch app encourage visitors to Raja Ampat to report instances of homestays not meeting sustainability requirements and other environmental concerns and the website encourages feedback direct to homestay owners to help sustainability expectations to be met. The website collates data from all these sources and from online surveys emailed to homestay guests and provides the aggregated feedback to the Association membership. This feedback has resulted in impacts like the sanctioning of homestay owners opting to build with non-traditional materials, the establishment of a plastic waste collection service from communities unserviced by government, and moves toward reducing fossil fuel usage by boats and generators.

Scalability

The technologies employed to connect the Raja Ampat Homestay Association with a worldwide audience have been designed with scalability as a prime consideration. When the website was initially launched in 2011 it represented only a handful of homestays. Now there are 71 and the Association is planning to widen its focus from the Dampier Strait Islands to incorporate the more remote southern regions of Raja Ampat including Misool.

Stay Raja Ampat and the related digital resources employed by the Association have been specifically built on open-source platforms, with scalability and adaptability as intrinsic features. The website itself is built on the readily accessible and customisable WordPress CMS.

The SMS messaging platform used is the Nyaruka/UNICEF TextIt platform which has proven international application and scalability. Raja Ampat Environment Watch is based on the Ushahidi platform and is similarly translatable and scalable.

Replicability

The Stay Raja Ampat services have been designed to be quickly and easily replicated to support any community facing hurdles to development like those faced by Homestay Association members in Raja Ampat.

The Association’s success has already seen it host a community study group from Timor-Leste. The Atauro islanders come from villages similar to those of Raja Ampat and they seek to develop a homestay ecotourism sector. A program of workshops and site visits facilitated an exchange of knowledge that the Atauro study group will pass on to their communities.

The Stay Raja Ampat website and its associated systems can be “cloned” and appropriately redesigned to serve the Timor-Leste community businesses, if required. Perfected by the Association’s experience in Raja Ampat, the time required to replicate the digital support services on Atauro - or other places - is minimal. Ongoing study exchanges between the communities will similarly permit bootstrapping of the Atauro communities’ aims.

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