Q&A: Loulu Lima, Chief Travel Guru of Book Here, Give Here

Q&A: Loulu Lima, Chief Travel Guru of Book Here, Give Here

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Book Here, Give Here was founded by Loulu Lima in 2015 as a way for travelers to not only see the world, but to do it in a socially conscious way.

This minority- and woman-owned business based in Austin, Texas supports responsible travel with a cause—travel that makes the world a better place. Founder Lima has been in the hospitality and tourism industries for basically her entire life, working in hotels, corporate offices, OTAs, catering, and more.

Since the pandemic, Book Here, Give Here has shifted the way it looks at conscious travel, putting a focus on thoughtful spending. We talked with Lima all about it:

What is the mission of Book Here, Give Here?

The focus of Book Here, Give Here is to keep travel sustainable and equitable, and this applies to any itinerary that we do. Especially post-COVID, a lot of the thought processes of my mission changed a little bit. Because prior to COVID, we were focused on doing a lot more of the charitable give backs and things like that, but obviously COVID made us rethink, what is a charitable give back? That meant, how do we get local communities back on their feet without having to ask for government assistance? And the best way to do that is to keep tourism dollars local.

What does that look like in action, lately?

The focus has been more on being more purposeful with who I choose and where I book things. So, the reality is, I am trying to cut out a lot of the middlemen of travel. I have become very much of an advocate of not using large DMCs that have multi layers. If there is more than one layer between you as a DMC and the end supplier, I won’t use you. There’s been a lot of battle, so to speak. “Oh my God, how can you do that? These are great relationships.” It’s not that they’re not great relationships. It’s that there’s too many people in the way to keep travel sustainable and equitable because the supplier really gets only a portion of the amount of money we’re actually charging.

I still will do voluntourism, if somebody asks for it, or if somebody asks for certain moving pieces, but this mission of Book Here, Give Here is really about: Let’s work with locals, let’s focus on local cultural immersion. Let’s focus on creating itineraries that make you a world traveler, not a tourist.

Tell us about the four main pillars of your business.

First is Wellness, which is the mind, body, spirit, how this trip will transform you. Second is Gastronomy, the fastest way to local cultural immersion. And when you’re dealing with family travel, as an example, astronomy is a really great way, especially if you have young kids, to immerse them into a culture through food. They can touch it, they can feel it, they can play with it, and they can probably meet also other kids that are their same age. One is trying to learn English and the other one maybe will try to learn a few words to communicate.

Third is Off the Beaten Path, a great way to really focus on not having overtourism, allowing different local communities to earn funds and for people to realize and get that local cultural immersion without having to be like, oh, it’s overcrowded, or you’re dealing with 20 different people coming in.” Be an explorer.

The last pillar is Travel as a Living Classroom, which focuses on all ages. A lot of kids are learning in school, but our textbooks are so whitewashed. I use that word kind of purposefully. Here’s an opportunity for you to go, “Okay, they touched upon this a little bit in class, but here, let me go live it. Let me go walk in history.” There are groups of people in our world that are trying to, quote unquote, “erase it.” You can’t erase something that actually happened. You can go and experience actual concentration camps. That’s not something you can delete.

How has travel helped open up your world personally?

Sometimes it’s a self awakening, right? I never knew I could like adventure travel. I, a plus size woman who is getting closer to 50, I never thought I’d zipline. Well, my first zipline was in Costa Rica when I turned 40. And oh my god. Did I have anxiety? Absolutely. Am I still a nervous wreck in trying to do some of those things? Absolutely. I mean, I won’t go on a roller coaster because I’m past that. But, you know, going whitewater rafting in Costa Rica. There’s really opportunities for a lot of that.

What’s your advice for others in the world of family travel?

My big focus is, don’t be afraid to step outside your box. I’m on certain board, where they go, “I’ve got family travel coming up, and this is not my wheelhouse.” Well, how is it not your wheelhouse? Just because you’ve got children in there now? All you have to do is look at things from: If I was a kid, what would I like?

Go out and network, go out and join other organizations in the countries that you want to sell or that you’re getting requests from. One of the things that I did during the pandemic was, I attended every virtual conference that there was. By doing that, I have now a directory of contacts all over the globe. And then we don’t need to focus on just selling all-inclusives. All-inclusive doesn’t give you local cultural immersion, it gives you an opportunity to go and escape and recharge. That’s their purpose.

Anything else you want to let people know?

Travel is a beautiful thing. Don’t be afraid. Anyone who stopped selling travel because of COVID and everything else, please come out.

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