Rhea Simms

Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2017

August 9th marks the United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Planeterra works closely with indigenous groups across the globe to create meaningful employment and training opportunities in tourism. These programs work to conserve culture while promoting sustainable development. From Tully, Australia to Santiago de Agencha, Bolivia, take a closer look at our unique partners across the globe that are celebrating their heritage through tourism programs. Each of these initiatives has been effectively integrated into G Adventures itineraries, creating livelihood opportunities for indigenous communities. 

Cafe Chole

The Jirrbal people are descendants of a true rainforest Aboriginal culture.  As a means to preserve the Jirrbal heritage, Planeterra worked closely with Ingan Tours, an Jirrbal-owned and managed organization, to bring to life their dream of transforming an old rail station into a learning centre for youth.  This Cafe and Cultural Centre serves as a place to teach about the Jirrbal traditions, as well as a museum to celebrate and preserve artefacts of their history. With the help of a $20,000 catalyst grant from Planeterra, the old Tully railway station has been repurposed into a vocational training café, offering lunches and training workshops in painting and Aboriginal arts to travellers. 

Jukil Community Lodge

The Bolivian salt lodge in Santiago de Agencha was renovated and expanded through a major project in 2016 funded by Planeterra, with a generous donation from Live Out There. With many of the village’s younger residents migrating to nearby towns in search of economic opportunities, this lodge is seen by the community as a way to rescue their indigenous culture and provide opportunities for younger generations. Visitors learn about the local agricultural practices, eat ethically-sourced meals from local farmers , and take a guided walk with a community member to the sacred Jukil mountaintop.

Barauli Community Homestay

The Tharu are a group of indigenous people living near to Chitwan National Park. The park is a popular tourism attraction that is well known for its wildlife (such as the Bengal tiger) but less known for the cultural value that it has to offer 
travellers. Baurali is a small community in the surrounding area, home to many of the Tharu people.  Due to its distance from the typical tourism hotspots in the park, the Tharu residents have never been able to access the economic benefits of tourism. The community guesthouse program was developed by our partners, Royal Mountain Travel, to connect travellers coming for park’s wildlife with the rich culture of the Tharu people. The community guesthouse project is completely run by women with the intention to provide women with diversified income in the region. 

Wiwa Tours

In 2015, Planeterra began working in Colombia with the Wiwa of the Sierra Nevada. The Wiwa are descendants of the ancient Tayrona people, who, up until recently, remained in relative isolation. Of late, the Wiwa have had increased contact with the outside world, as they struggle to avoid conflict in the high mountainous region. Planeterra is working with community leaders directly to identify opportunities in communities along the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trekking route. Establishing micro-enterprises along the trek will provide opportunities for women to sell traditional bags and other handicrafts to customers from tour groups that visit the area as well as to provide meals to trekkers.

Mae Hong Son Hilltribe Trek

Planeterra worked with Community Based Tourism-Institute (CBT-I), to develop and deliver an 8-month training program that would build the capacity of the villages of Pha Mon (Red Lahu), Meung Pam (Red Karen), and Jabo (Black Lahu) in Northern Thailand to develop a tourism trekking program. Within each village, a community association was created to manage the various products and services included in this community trek — the entire trek is owned and operated by each of the hill-tribe associations. These communities had never before benefitted from a global tourism market before.

Ngadas Community Homestay

Home to 1,898 people in central Java, Indonesia, Ngadas is a small community inhabited by the Tennger tribe in the foothills of the mountains. The Tennger are the protectors of the mountain, Mount Bromo Volcano, one of the most sacred sites in the country. By working with the Tengger people, Planeterra created a homestay and community tour program owned and managed by the Tengger for G Adventures travellers. The homestay program is inside Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and will allow for the older generation to diversify their income; as well as create opportunities to provide employment for the next generation of Tenngerese to stay in their local community to work. 

Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Historical events such as the flu smallpox epidemics as well as the implementation of residential schools and the fracturing of families led to the alteration or loss of much of the oral history important to the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations of the Whistler region of Canada. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre affords youth from reserves in the region transport for classes, and the opportunity to train in the hospitality industry through on-site museum and cultural tours. Through their partnership with Planeterra and G Adventures, the centre is able to increase their visitor numbers, giving them more opportunities to expand their training base and available visitor activities.
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Training Underway at LinkAge Restaurant

Planeterra has been working hand-in-hand with Friends International to launch their first co-financed social enterprise restaurant in Burma/Myanmar. LinkAge Restaurant will help support at-risk former street youth find training in the tourism industry.  LinkAge will start hosting G Adventures’ National Geographic Journey’s trips starting October.

July was a busy month for the students at LinkAge, as they welcomed their trainers to learn more about the fine details of hospitality to make the visitors experience better than ever. Check out the progress the trainees are making as they prepare to welcome travellers:

LinkAge head chef, Koyee standing in his kitchen before renovation. Koyee will also act as the lead trainer for the students at LinkAge.

LinkAge Restaurant is a small, cozy cafe featuring local art. In partnership with Planeterra, the interior of the cafe will upgraded with new chairs, tables and decor.

In partnership with Friends International, students were given training on how to properly welcome and serve guests at the restaurant.

The students enthusiastically learned new skills from their trainer and are excited to welcome the first G Adventures travellers in October 2017.

Students worked very closely with their trainer to gain new skills.

Planeterra’s Field Manager, Panot Pakongsup poses with the students after a busy week of training!

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Talking Sustainable Travel with The Native Traveler

The United Nations declared 2017 the International Year for Sustainable Tourism – but what does that mean for you? Planeterra’s own Kelly Galaski joined the Native Traveler to talk about what Sustainable Tourism means for us here at Planeterra and for our partners at G Adventures, and how our conscious purchasing efforts can lead to a better future for everyone.

The show is hosted by Liz Beatty, and includes interviews with Erla Zwingle, a freelance journalist that has appeared over 25 times in National Geographic Magazine, and Elizabeth Becker, an award winning author, editor and journalist.


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Looking Back at 2016

Dear Friends and Supporters,

2016 was a very big year for Planeterra. We officially launched our CAD$5 million “50 in 5” campaign, with a goal of including 50 new social enterprises into G Adventures tours in 5 years. These will be in addition to the 25 social enterprises that we had already worked with G Adventures to bring to market.

I’m excited to share that we made a great start on this campaign in 2016, successfully bringing 11 new social enterprises to the G Adventures market. We also raised CAD$983,460 in 2016. Added to the pre-launch funds raised during G Adventures’ Ignite the Night 25th Anniversary event in late 2015, this total puts us well on target to reach 50 in 5 on time and on budget.

Planeterra’s vision is to improve people’s lives by creating and supporting social enterprises that bring underserved communities into the tourism value chain. My hope is that this 2016 Impact Report brings this vision to life and provides you with a better understanding of what we do and why we do it.

Simply put, we believe that what we are doing at Planeterra has the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who live in tourism hotspots, but who currently see little or no benefit from people visiting their homelands.

Rather than raising money from travellers and travel companies to give philanthropically to well-meaning health and education projects (typically seen as a “hand out” in development terms), we have embarked on a mission to help people help themselves. In doing so, we work with tourism industry partners to support the development of small and micro social enterprises that provide disadvantaged and often marginalized local people with a “hand up.”

What we have seen is that, once empowered to set up and run their own community / non-profit businesses, these same people then invest their earnings and profits into the priorities they have personally chosen for themselves – perhaps not surprisingly, these are often in the areas of education, health care, supporting cultural heritage, and conservation.

The key difference is that, following the initial start-up grants and some ongoing support and mentoring from the Planeterra team and our partners, their businesses provide sustainable funds for these initiatives. They are no longer reliant on the charity of others; instead, they have engaged in trade, not aid.

I wish to thank all of our supporters, including the travellers who visited our projects, the G Adventures CEOs (Chief Experience Officers – aka tour leaders) who led their groups to experience the projects, and the companies and individuals who generously donated both time and money to allow us to do this important work.

Special thanks goes to our founding partner G Adventures, which, under the leadership of Bruce Poon Tip, continually pushes to do more when it comes to helping improve the lives of the people who live in the places their tours visit.

Enjoy reading about the impact we’ve made in 2016. We look forward to the next four years and delivering the remainder of our 50 in 5 projects.

Best wishes,

Jamie Sweeting

Planeterra President 


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Bolivia Community Project Leaders Visit Cusco, Perú

In April 2017 five community members from Jukil Community Lodge in Bolivia travelled to Cusco, Perú as part of a week-long internship program supported by Planeterra. The trip’s purpose was to contribute to the strengthening of their knowledge about social enterprise management in the tourism industry, to exchange good practices between the communities, and also to provide the necessary tools to improve their tourism program. This experience allowed unique indigenous groups from different countries to interact and learn more about one another’s culture. With many of the community tourism leaders in Bolivia never travelling before, it was an experience of a lifetime to see a new culture from a traveller’s perspective.

The intern group included one community leader, the lodge manager, two women, and a youth leader. Before travelling, the interns took part in workshops to imagine the communities that they would visit, as well as how they envisioned their own own community enterprise growing in the coming years.

The interns lived as travellers for two days to understand how tourists feel in other countries and to experience the local services. Another day was spent learning about community tourism operations, and one day spent having meetings with other community leaders to better understand how they are managing their tourism business through training modules provided by the Planeterra field team. The interns also visited the G Adventures local office in Cusco – giving them a better overview of the logistics that go behind an effective tourism program.

It was an amazing trip because some community members had never travelled before, and they were feeling nervous, shy, and excited to see and talk with their peers for first time. After the internship experience, they were able to communicate their experiences to the rest of their community: Interns presented what they learned with the help of facilitators showing photographs and videos to convey what they learned.

They worked all together on a plan to improve their community business; including a list of possible actions and needs for the community. These plans are being used to create a robust improvement plan to better the services provided at Jukil Community Lodge in the future.

The internship program provided community leaders with a space for sharing experiences and lessons learned for their community enterprises, and to reflect on challenges and opportunities. It also provided an opportunity to analyze and understand tourism dynamics and the potential impact on the social, cultural, economic and environmental dimension of community life.

As manager for the region, Joel Callanaupa stated that “Seeing their smiles and excited conversations with other communities Planeterra works with, as well as the interaction between distinct indigenous communities, was incredibly meaningful, and unforgettable.”

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Construction Underway in Colombia

Planeterra has partnered with Wiwa Tours, the only indigenous tour operator on the Lost City Trek in Colombia, to develop opportunities in tourism for the Kogui and Wiwa indigenous groups along the trek.
Check the progress that communities members are making in Sierra Nevada:

The Wiwa community has been transporting construction materials to the village by donkey.

Community members have integrated indigenous construction knowledge with modern techniques.

The architect installed a machine that allowed community members to make environmentally-friendly bricks.

Community members were trained on how to use the machine to effectively produce building materials.

The community has begun to lay the foundation for the kitchen and dining room floor.

This building will become the bathroom and showers for travellers.

This building will be a place for lounging and hammocks. It is being constructed completely with bamboo, a traditional building material in Sierra Nevada.

Wiwas traditionally use palm as roofing materials. These techniques have been deeply integrated into construction plans.

This building will become the dining area for travellers in the Wiwa community.

Community members are making great progress in laying the brick walls on the kitchen building.

This indigenous owned and operated tourism enterprise will support the livelihoods of over 100 Kogui and Wiwa people.

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Planeterra Community Projects Attend Largest Travel Show in Perú

Perú Travel Mart is the most important strategic meeting of the tourism industry in Perú. The event has brought international buyers together with local suppliers since 1987. In 2017, for the very first time, two of Planeterra’s partners were exhibitors at this international event.

Representatives from Parwa Community Restaurant were able to pay their way to attend the trade show with savings from their tourism program. They went further to also pay the way for the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op to join them. Both projects are based in the Cusco region and work closely together to provide outstanding tourism experiences for international travellers.

Attending Perú Travel Mart marks a transition into the greater tourism industry for these community-owned social enterprises. Through our work with both communities, providing catalyst funding, training, market connections and ongoing support through the years, both of these programs are now in a position to diversify their markets, and seek out their own partnerships with travel industry partners beyond G Adventures.  They will be able to see an even greater impact in a communities once completely forgotten by tourism. G Adventures’ contracting manager accompanied community members at Perú Travel Mart to provide guidance and coaching as they build out their marketing skills.

Parwa Community Restaurant and Ccaccaccollo Weaving Co-op host 16,000 or more G Adventures travellers annually. The magnitude of their tourism programs have allowed them to invest significantly back into community development programs in their regions, seeing drastic improvements in education, infrastructure and access to healthcare in their communities.

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An Alternative Tour of Delhi

Walking through the streets of Delhi, guided by Ruhi, I am shown what life is like for children living on the streets in the crowded city. Running away from desperate circumstances – be it poverty, abuse or child marriage – a child arriving alone in Delhi is left vulnerable to gangs, child labour and substance abuse.

While on the walking tour, Ruhi talks about how children often end up begging or selling items on the street, only to spend that money on substances and entertainment. Children are not taught to save, and can often find food for free at different temples across the city. Children come to Delhi to find freedom, yet the freedom they find often leads them into a vicious cycle of poverty.

When Ruhi was only a young girl her parents could no longer take care of her. They could not afford the expense of another child in the home. At this time, she was placed into the girl’s shelter home with Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT). SBT has six homes for children across Delhi where they provide children with the education, nutrition and care they could not find on the streets.

Ruhi is now in class 10 and has been working as a tour guide with SBT for the past year. Here she is able to interact with travellers from all around the world, teach them about life for street youth in Delhi, and share her own story. Through this experience she is able to build her confidence and practice her English speaking skills in a safe environment.

Part of Planeterra’s partnership with SBT sees 3,500 G Adventures travellers participate in the City Walk tour every single year. Tour guides from SBT have gone on to work with travel agencies all across Delhi and have even qualified for scholarship programs globally thanks to their improved confidence and English skills gained through the program.

As Ruhi finishes her education in the coming years, she can continue working with the City Walk program as a guide. This will help her to earn the income she needs to begin living independently from the shelter.

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Khushi’s Journey

Would you ever dream to wake up at 5:00AM and clean your car? This is something Khushi likes to do every single day. Khushi works as a driver with Women on Wheels, a taxi service in Delhi that is run by women for women. She has been driving for the past 7 years and treats her car like an extension of her own body. “I wash myself every day – why should my car be any different?” she jokes.

If you have ever come across our Women on Wheels project, you’ll know that there is something special about it. Scratch the surface a little further, and you will uncover the years of training and social services that were provided to these women long before they could even consider becoming a taxi driver. Our partners, the Azad Foundation, are working with vulnerable women in city centres across India, and they start with the very basics. Income alone cannot change a woman’s life, but strong social connections, a better understanding of their rights and increased confidence through education – combined with economic opportunity – is a great place to start. When one of the lady drivers picks you up from the airport, you are not just helping her earn a livelihood – you are changing her life.

I had the honour of sitting in Khushi’s car this April in Delhi. She exudes confidence, and is keen to share her story with all that will listen. The Women on Wheels program helped bring her life from a place of crisis to one of opportunity.

There’s no better person to tell her story than Khushi herself:

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Sisterhood of Survivor’s momo recipe

The Sisterhood of Survivor’s program is empowering women survivors of trafficking to gain the skills they need to successfully reintegrate into society. How are they doing this? Through a simple momo making demonstration for G Adventures travellers! Not only are these little dumplings changing lives, they are also delicious!

Our partner’s at SASANE kindly shared their famous momo recipe with us so that you too can make this delicious snack from your home.


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