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Tugolo is connecting travellers to unique cultural experiences

Tourism is a boon to many local economies, but in areas like Latin America, as little as 10% of every dollar spent on travel and tourism makes it to the people who actually live in the community. The other 90% of revenue ends up with big corporations. Tugolo is working to increase that 10% that goes to local businesses in the community to 75% by providing authentic unique cultural travel experiences and connecting traveler’s directly with the people who create and provide their trip.

Jay Mahoney started Tugolo five years ago under the name The New World Community. After an inspiring community development trip to the Dominican Republic at age 16, he found himself “fundamentally changed on a human level,” and wanted to make the type of experience he had enjoyed available to everyone. Many underserved communities have extraordinary experiences that they want to share with the world, but lack travellers, payment and booking solutions, or both. Jay notes that Tugolo bridges the gap by providing these services and giving these communities access to the travel market “so their travellers can find what they’re really already looking for.” Tugolo’s ultimate goal is to make social and economic changes for the better in these underserved communities.

The transition from The New World Connection (The NWC) to Tugolo involved examining the company’s core goals and finding a better path forward. Jay had to consider whether he would do things the same way if he could do it again, and the answer was no. With mentorship and support from business advisors at the Velocity Garage, where Tugolo is based out of, Jay worked to maintain the core goals of The NWC, but shift focus to the business fundamentals, and in doing so, Tugolo was born. In addition to a revamped website, name, and processes, the number of travel experience providers has gone from 5 to 20, with another 5 in the approval process. Tugolo not only wants to provide tourists with the opportunity to experience what these underserved communities have to offer, but wants to empower those communities to take charge of the experiences they offer and make them their own.

“Before the [Tugolo] platform, I literally had to get on a plane and go to the communities, to help create these great experiences, which is not efficient and it’s less empowering for the providers. We don’t want people to feel like they’re running a trip for Tugolo, and the platform really makes them feel like it’s their trip and they can do it the way they want.  – Jay Mahoney, Founder of Tugolo

Since its time as the New World Community, Tugolo has taken about 500 travellers to underserved communities and diverted over $240,000 in tourism revenue to those communities. Jay recently returned from the FLII social impact conference in Mexico, where he participated in an incubator program and got the chance to connect with big players across Latin America, including entrepreneurs, investors, and government institutions. Now, they have a plan to scale the business and are aiming to hit 1 million dollars diverted into underserved communities in the next 12 months.