September 2016

How Your Vacation Can Do a World of Good?

Planeterra + G Adventures + Community Collaboration = Sustainable Social & Environmental Initiatives

With travelers, G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation supports community-based solutions to local problems around the world by raising funds and creating market-based projects that empower local people to create, execute and sustain solutions to their community challenges. The foundation’s work is central to G Adventures’ long-standing corporate commitment to using travel as a force for global good.

In a recent interview with Kelly Galaski, Planeterra Program & Operations Manager for The Americas and Europe, I had the opportunity to learn more about the foundation, travelers’ impact and vision for the future.  

Clearly you have a shared passion for travel and social impact.  Could you share a bit more about your background and journey to Planeterra?

My university thesis was focused on Community-Based Tourism for Sustainable Development in Costa Rica.  The experience living in Costa Rica, doing field research working with a community-based tourism group followed by an internship in Jamaica were key foundational experiences that solidified my passion and path in Sustainable Tourism.  In 2009 I started working with Planeterra with a focus on helping communities take full advantage of tourism to support local development.  It has been an amazing experience to work with local communities and my partners at G Adventures to create sustainable programs.  

Planeterra initiatives are located specifically in areas where G Adventures travelers visit most.  Why is that?

That’s right – we only develop projects where a sufficient amount of travelers visit, and spend money, in order to sustain these community enterprises.  Planeterra collaborates with community partners to create a development plan, and supports with enterprise launch and management.  The funds raised from the local enterprise are then used to address the specific needs of the community (i.e. healthcare, education, infrastructure).

The Bike with Purpose program in Belize is a great example of this.  In partnership with Ocean Academy, the program provides classes to prepare local youth for careers in the tourism industry.  Planeterra, through G Adventures, provided the funding for the program to purchase 40 bikes.   The students then lead guided tours for G Adventures travelers.  Approximately 2,000 visitors per year take biking tours with Bike with Purpose.  It’s a win-win proposition providing valuable experience for the local students with an active and fun excursion for travelers.

Is there a ‘typical’ G Adventures traveler?  And how does their travel support Planeterra Foundation Projects and local communities?

Our travelers tend to be curious, open-minded, interested in learning  that help them learn and stretch beyond comfort zones, and doing good via experiences. They also tend to be female, by majority, and between 35-45 years of age, although we also host many Millennial and Baby Boomer travelers of both genders. Many of our itineraries incorporate social enterprise into tours with the intent on leaving a positive social impact.  It allows our travelers to make a positive difference simply by choosing G Adventures and participating in the planned experiences from active local excursions, shopping or simply eating lunch.  

There are many other Planeterra projects world-wide focused on education, women’s empowerment, vocational training/entrepreneurship.  Some examples include: 

  • Sisterhood of Survivors (SOS) – Nepal

    SOS provides dumpling-making classes with G Adventures’ travelers and educates them on the issues women face in Nepal.  The project is completely run by survivors of human trafficking with support from Planeterra, and in 2016, was recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization as one of the world’s most innovative.

  • New Delhi Street Kids Project – India

    Through Planeterra’s partnership with Salaam Baalak Trust, scholarships are made available to young people who once lived and worked on the streets of Delhi.  Many of these adolescents have been fully trained as tour guides who lead exciting tours through the enchanting inner city streets of Paharganj, the New Delhi railway station, and The Old City.

  • Mayan Community Homestay Project – Guatemala

    Planeterra worked in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund to develop a home-stay program and visitor centre for groups that provide access to the tourism market to a small village, San Juan La Laguna (on Lake Atitlan), Previously, this community lacked opportunity to benefit from sustainable tourism.

  • Bike with Purpose – Belize (as mentioned above)

What is the vision for Planeterra five years from now?  What do you hope to accomplish and contribute? 

Our goal is 50 in 5 – which means that we aim to start 50 new Planeterra projects in the next five years in the places where G Adventures travelers visit most.  Our vision and mission is to help as many people as possible via our network of travelers and industry partners.  2016 has been, and will continue to be, an active and exciting year fully focused on ten new community projects across the globe.

Stay tuned for Part II to learn more about recent and upcoming 2016 Planeterra launches and community enterprise collaborations.

For Additional Information:

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