photo: Eva Darron / Unsplash

Faircations: Sustainable Travel as the New Normal

To many people, sustainable travel sounds expensive, elite and like it involves a lot of research. The fact that it doesn’t have to be is something Sonja Karl and Stefan Seibel want to demonstrate with their travel startup Faircations. We talk with Sonja Karl in our interview to find out more about their specific approach.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!

Faircations co-founder and our interview partner Sonja Karl (photo: Faircations).

Sonja Karl, Faircations: We’re Sonja, 41 years old, and Stefan, 48 years old. We’ve known each other for several years and worked together at a large tourism group. I (Sonja) come from the product/yield/sustainability field, particularly long-distance and luxury travel, and Stefan from IT/travel technology. We’ve been working on our idea for one and a half years, which is to end the niche existence of sustainable travel and to make it accessible to a broad audience – to basically get it out of the ‘eco’ corner. In February 2021, we officially founded Faircations, the first online portal for fair and green travel.

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

Sonja Karl: A lot of people are mindful of sustainability in their daily lives, they buy organic products, separate their trash and so on. When it comes to vacations as well, more than 60 percent of travelers would like to do so more sustainably, but only 6 percent actually do. That’s because most people don’t find the right offers, or they think it would be too expensive or they would have to give something up on vacation. Or because they simply don’t know what sustainable travel actually means.

Including all aspects of sustainability

That’s why our aim with Faircations is to make fair and green travel tangible, attractive and accessible. We also want to prove that it doesn’t always have to be a ‘vegan yoga retreat,’ but rather that something like a normal vacation on Mallorca can be made sustainable. When it comes to sustainability and travel, you often think of environmental protection and carbon compensation, but we want to go beyond that and include all of the aspects of sustainability, which means economic and social aspects as well, such as the fair payment of hotel employees.

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Sonja Karl: There are so many fantastic companies that offer sustainable hotels, predominantly in neighboring countries. There are also very specific and unusual trips that aren’t necessarily the right option for everyone who wants to travel sustainably. What doesn’t exist yet is a seriously cool one-stop-shop booking process that allows you to flexibly put together individual sustainable and/or compensated options such as the flight, accommodations or excursions.

Already won over the first angel investors

Munich Startup: Was there a point when you nearly failed?

Sonja Karl: We launched right before the coronavirus crisis – not necessarily the best timing for starting a travel startup… On the other hand, taking counter-cyclical action can also be a good approach, so we simply used the time to develop our concept further. Now that the travel market is slowly recovering and we have the first angel investors on board, we’ll be going live with our new website and the first bookable offers in late December.

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?

Sonja Karl: In one year, we would like to be the first place to go in the DACH region for booking a full range of worldwide trips with accommodations, transfers, excursions and tours for anyone who would like to travel sustainably.

Bookable across Europe

In five years, we would like to take bookings from across Europe and to have played a significant role in furthering sustainable tourism through our impact on the value-added chain – sustainable travel should become the new normal. And in ten years, we hope that no one will be able to remember that non-sustainable forms of travel even existed.

Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?

Sonja Karl: Munich is the best city in Germany to me – but I must admit that I (Sonja) am not totally unbiased: After many years in Frankfurt, it’s back to the roots for me here, since I grew up in the north of Munich and studied tourism in Munich. Munich is an extremely attractive city that offers a very high quality of living, which helps in recruiting talented people despite the relatively high cost of living.

Munich Startup: Coworking or your own office?

Sonja Karl: So far, neither one or the other – we’re currently working from home in several cities in Germany: Munich, Kiel, Frankfurt, Würzburg…