The Game Has Changed: The Future of Adventure Travel is Here.
In an industry where only 4% of companies have any form of online reservations, SWAE represents a major shift.
On June 16, 2009 three young outdoor enthusiasts set off on a 2,500 mile bike trip from British Columbia, working their way down the Pacific Coast toward Mexico.
Why? It was fun—an adventure—and it was also the launch of their start-up business, SWAE [an acronym for Snow, Water, Air and Earth] Sports, a company dedicated to bringing the adventure sports industry online. Their objective: to meet and partner with the raddest guide services and outfitters along the West Coast. By the time they returned home to Boulder, Colorado in early September, they’d personally met and partnered with 120 outfitters in towns ranging from Index, Washington to Malibu, California.
But the journey for SWAE began long before this epic bike trip. From a simple idea born in the freshman dorm rooms at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, grew a mission to create an online home for adventure sports. Daniel Epstein, founder of SWAE Sports:
“Creating a more efficient outdoor industry, while promoting conservation through adventure, is our team’s mission.”
As Daniel recalls, the idea for SWAE sprung from the frustration of searching for a guide who could take them paragliding.
“Even after we found an outfitter, it turned out to be prohibitively expensive for our college budgets”, remembers Epstein. “We realized then that our frustration was probably shared by thousands of people trying to enter new outdoor sports. It was at that moment that SWAE was born, really. I thought: what if we could develop a place where, no matter where you were travelling to, you could go online to one location to find the best guide services, see the trips they had to offer, look at other people’s reviews of their service, compare prices, and be able to intelligently book your next adventure?! Must already exist, right? Well, it didn’t.”
What SWAE did to meet these challenges was to create a no-brainer-to-use website where adventure outfitters can display their trips and classes as well as offer direct bookings online. Guide services from around the world are now joining in to post their own adventures on swaesports.com. Visitors to the site can search based upon region, sport, difficulty, and other users’ ratings.
“We partnered with SWAE because the only time they get our business is if they bring us more. It’s a win-win for everybody. I also liked that our companies shared similar values on environmental conservation,” said Nick Miller of Wide Open Adventures in Littleton, Colorado.
You now find and book your adventure on swaesports.com—and outfitters can use SWAE’s systems to offer online bookings on their own site, free of charge.
“One of our goals from the beginning is to also make it simple for outfitters to manage their trips online, which frees up time for them to get outside and do what they really love,” says Elliott Bates, a SWAE Adventurist.
Yet even with a first-out-of-the-gate idea, SWAE still had to figure out how to get the word out.
“We had this amazing-looking site and were super passionate about what the team was doing, but SWAE was operating on a bootstrapped budget and we needed to find a way to make our company stand out,” recalls Epstein.
“It almost seemed too simple to combine biking from Canada to Mexico, something we had wanted to do for years, with launching our adventure sports company.”
Beyond cycling to make adventure sports more accessible, SWAE hopes to redefine what it means to be successful in the for-profit world. 10% of the company’s profits are dedicated to providing local guides in the developing world with the necessary start up capital, equipment and expertise they’ll need to create their own eco-tourism business. Once their company has been incubated, they’ll have access to targeted marketing and the world of adventurists via swaesports.com. Daniel Epstein:
“SWAE has the potential to promote poverty relief and conservation through the creation of new eco-tourism outfitters in the developing world.”
We wish ’em luck!