Simply, Meru.me is an online platform that connects travelers to lodges and guides in rural areas of Latin America. But we are more than that. Our mission is to eradicate poverty through travel. To educate, show, and facilitate travelers to discover the wonder of traveling in a sustainable way. Where your experience matters, and it matters because it empowered the local community to form part of your financial and emotional transaction.
More than one billion people travel to an international destination every year. Each one of them for their own reasons. But traveling is more than this figure. The real magic happens behind these numbers.
To explore new horizons. To understand the fundamental similarities and the beautiful differences, that we as human beings share. To leave the place a little better than you found it. To share tears and smiles, stories and perspectives. To return with unfitted but life-enhancing thoughts. To find each other and feel. That is the magic of travel.
Meru’s image is that of humanity. It expresses the joy of people who love the world, who are passionate about what they do, and who want to shape the future. We are creating a community around travel where world peace can be cultivated.
Some 10 years ago I had my first experience staying in an all-inclusive hotel and resort. I can still feel the excitement whenever I remember this moment.
I was about 12 at that time, and going to one of the biggest beach hotels in the country where I could consume as much food and drinks as I wished seemed marvelous at that age.
Today, however, when I look back to those happy memories, I can’t help to think of a particular moment. I was walking on the white and soft sand of the hotel’s beach when all of a sudden a security guard started blowing his whistle.
I thought I was doing something wrong. Then I realize it wasn’t directed at me, but at the colored mother with her two little children walking in my direction.
In my eyes, they weren’t doing anything wrong. But the guard later told me that they weren’t allowed on this private property. To me, that didn’t make much sense. But there was nothing I could do, I thought. At least at that age and time in my life.
Fast forward ten years later and many books and new experiences, I came to understand that this phenomenon, which I experienced as a kid, was part of a much larger and complex problem, tourism leakage. Back in 2000, the UN conducted a study on tourism where they discovered that for every 100 USD spent by a tourist on travel to a developing country, only about 5 USD remained in the host community.
Coming from a humble background, and a country which has been sinking in poverty for the past two decades, I decided to step up and propose a solution to this global abnormality.
Businesses, or the private sector, are commonly known, and in some places, obliged to maximize profits and shareholders value, regardless of the process as long as it falls within the law.
Albert Einstein is famously quoted for saying “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
I truly understand and appreciate where Albert is going with this. Yet I wouldn’t say it’s applicable to this scenario.
You see, I firmly believe that a business is the most effective and sustainable way of overcoming humanity’s biggest problems. There is so much innovation and resources in the private sector but perhaps is not being evenly distributed. Much less, used to solve real problems, like poverty.
For that reason, Meru.me was created. An online platform that allows travelers to discover and book lodges and experiences in rural areas of Latin America (as a start).
We believe that by directly connecting people to accommodations and service providers in rural areas we can create a truly inclusive tourism ecosystem where everyone, especially the host communities, would benefit from the economic and emotional transactions travelers engage in their adventures. Moving from tourism leakage to tourism linkage.
Even more, for every booking or transaction made on Meru.me, we re-invest part of that money in local social projects that contribute to the wider goal, eradicate poverty through travel.
Perhaps our proposition to solve tourism leakage or on a wider scope, poverty, isn’t the most innovative or original idea. But unlike Tesla, innovation isn’t our main proposition for now.
Our strength lies in taking this massive goal of eradicating poverty, breaking it down to bite size, and joyfully working on it tirelessly every single day through the beautiful industry that tourism is.
We trust that this effort will inevitably bring innovation along the way.
Ultimately, the solution we are proposing goes beyond an internet platform or a social enterprise for that matter. Our real solution lies in the global humanity driven community – a movement if you will – that believes in travel as a force for good, as a crane to lift up people from poverty.
Join us at Meru.me.