Selene Orellana

Cultural Immersion and Self-Care: Finding Balance in Sustainable Travel Experiences

Written by Ainsley Lawrence

Studies show that 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, and 25% say that their job is the number one stress in their lives.

Practicing self-care can make a big difference in managing stress, and one of the ways many people enjoy relaxing is by traveling and experiencing other cultures. However, it’s important to find ways to travel affordably and with a lower impact on the environment.

Here are some ways that you can travel sustainably while immersing yourself in a new culture.

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How Travel Helps Manage Burnout

One of the stressful things about daily life is that it can feel very repetitive. You go to work, come home, have supper, go to bed, and do it all over again. It’s easy to feel like what you’re doing doesn’t make a difference and isn’t appreciated. 

Unfortunately, this repetition and discouragement can lead to burnout, which can have long-term negative effects on your life.

Burnout happens when you’re doing stressful work for long hours without much of a break. You can feel tired all the time, struggle with sleep, and have mood swings. Long-term burnout can cause headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive issues.

The good news is that travel can help you break up your routine, have new experiences, and get a renewed perspective on life, especially when you experience new cultures. Travel can increase your creativity, allow you to reset, and improve your mental health and overall well-being.

Traveling Sustainably

As you take care of yourself, it’s essential to also take care of the communities you visit and the planet by traveling sustainably. Start with what you decide to bring with you. The lighter you travel, the lower your carbon footprint and impact on the places you visit.

For example, instead of buying mass-produced fast fashion to wear on your trip, choose a high-quality wardrobe that will last for years. For example, you might choose durable Wrangler jeans, a high-quality Carhartt jacket, or a genuine leather belt.

Next, think about the sustainable habits you can practice as you travel. Remember that sustainable travel is about protecting both the environment and the local communities you visit. Each individual makes a difference with their choices. 

Consider supporting local businesses as you travel rather than national or international chains. You can choose local transportation that has lower emissions and prioritize spending money with companies that have strong sustainability practices.

Best of all, immersing yourself fully in the culture of your destination can help you break out of the rut you’ve been in. By going to locally-owned restaurants and businesses, you can experience the true essence of a place, whether it’s near where you live or quite far away.

How to Ensure Your Travel is Self-Care

It’s easy to intend to relax as you travel, only to get caught up in stressful situations, unmet expectations, and unexpected challenges. Having the right mindset as you go on vacation can make a big difference.

Start by thinking about where you’re headed and how you can embrace the culture. Tourism can help preserve local traditions and foster your awareness of new cultures. And you don’t have to leave the country to find unique heritages — simply visiting a subculture within your state, such as visiting the Amish in Pennsylvania or the Cajuns in Louisiana, can open your eyes to an entirely different way of life.

As you make plans to enjoy the local communities you visit, focus on mindfulness to boost your resilience to unexpected challenges.

Remember that vacation isn’t automatically stress-free, but having an adaptable attitude and sense of exploration can help you adjust to changes more easily.

Sustainable travel, where you immerse yourself in a local culture, can help you break free of the treadmill that is leading you toward burnout. 

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to travel, sustainability, tech, and accessibility. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

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Crafting Connections and Building Opportunities through the Community Haat Bazaar

Written by Sazza K.C. and Rubik Joshi from Community Homestay Network

Tracing the journey from conception to realization, the Community Homestay Network and Planeterra recently joined forces to unite Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) Nepal partners in a dynamic marketplace. Hear our story of how we turned an idea into a reality, along with the key takeaways and lessons learned from the event.

Community-Haat-Bazaar attendees visiting one of the stands

Forging a Sustainable Future: Planeterra and CHN's Visionary Partnership in Community-Based Tourism

Established by Planeterra during the pandemic, the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) stands as a beacon of support for community tourism enterprises worldwide, actively dismantling barriers in the tourism marketplace. Through engaging activities like offering access to enriching online learning opportunities, fostering global connections among like-minded peers, and championing partnerships for increased visibility and sustainability, the GCTN is empowering community tourism enterprises to reach new heights. The emphasis here is on growth, learning, and collaboration—key ingredients for transforming dreams into reality.

As an active supporter of community tourism, Planeterra has been working together with the Community Homestay Network to support various community tourism enterprises and initiatives in Nepal. The objective of this partnership is to strengthen community tourism in Nepal by providing funding and knowledge-sharing sessions by bringing them under the GCTN partner network. The Community Haat Bazaar was one such initiative.

In the wake of the Planeterra team’s visit to Nepal for the First in-person meet of the GCTN, an interesting idea surfaced—to unite local members of the network under a common platform to showcase the local and traditional arts, products, and experiences—the notion aimed at fostering economic growth and providing extensive networking opportunities through organized events.

Subsequently, a series of monthly meetings unfolded between key stakeholders from the Community Homestay Network (CHN) and Priyanka Singh, Community Tourism Project Manager for Asia-Pacific at Planeterra. These discussions explored crucial considerations such as the nature of the event — whether it should be exclusive to GCTN Nepal partners or include other entities engaging in community tourism, budgeting considerations with potential assistance from Planeterra, and meticulous planning regarding when and where the event could take place. 

The collaboration between CHN and Planeterra emerged as a powerful synergy, with CHN as the organizing force and Planeterra contributing essential knowledge and resources to ensure the success of this community-building initiative. Together, we envisioned an event and a catalyst for sustainable growth and meaningful connections within the global community.

From Vision to Reality: CHN and Planeterra's Collaborative Journey in Creating a Dynamic and Inclusive Community Event - Community Haat Bazaar

The Importance of Fostering Community Growth for a Sustainable Collaboration

Long-term partnerships are the cornerstone of the sustainability of any event or project. By providing a stable foundation, these collaborations ensure consistency, effective resource utilization, and shared commitment to common goals. The gradual development of trust and rapport facilitates open communication and problem-solving, essential for overcoming challenges. Long-term partnerships also promote a continuous learning mindset, allowing collaborators to adapt and improve together over time. The sense of community fostered by long-term collaborations extends to stakeholders, creating a supportive ecosystem.

Members of GCTN Nepal partners share common goals that revolve around promoting sustainable development, preserving cultural heritage, and fostering positive socio-economic impacts. These shared goals reflect the commitment of community tourism enterprises to creating positive, sustainable, and culturally enriching tourism experiences for both visitors and local communities. Keeping these things in mind, the collaboration between CHN and Planeterra was initiated to foster the relationship between the GCTN Nepal partners; building a sense of community among collaborators. This not only includes the immediate partners but also extends to stakeholders and the broader community.

Before the conceptualization of the Community Haat Bazaar, we have also been organizing routine meet-ups (virtually) between our network partners to discuss how we can move forward with this collaboration. The Community Haat Bazaar was one such conception initiated to support our partner network members.

What is the Community Haat Bazaar?

The Community Haat Bazaar is a traditional open-air market aimed to bring the GCTN Nepal partners together and allow them to showcase their art and cultural commodities. This event serves as a multifaceted platform, bringing together community members, promoting local artisans and businesses, and creating a dynamic social and economic hub. 

The primary objective of the Community Haat Bazaar is to cultivate a sense of community among our community homestay members and visitors while providing economic growth opportunities to our network partners. The event was strategically designed to showcase and support local businesses. The market stalls featured an array of products, including handmade crafts, clothing, jewelry, and fresh produce, inviting local artisans, craftsmen, farmers, and entrepreneurs to display and sell their offerings.

In addition to the market aspect, the Community Haat Bazaar offers enriching experiences through workshops and interactive sessions. These sessions aim to educate participants on various cultural topics, such as the unique Ranjana Lipi script and the intricate Mithila Art. Beyond the economic boost, the event emphasizes community engagement and the creation of a vibrant social space.

Unveiling the Success of the Community Haat Bazaar

Following the conceptualization phase, we initiated collaborative efforts with our event partner, Planeterra. While CHN took the initiative to organize and manage the event, Planeterra provided funding and guidance for setting up the event. Furthermore, AVATA Wellness Centre provided the event venue in Baluwatar, Kathmandu. 

The Haat Bazaar was primarily marketed to the expat community, along with some of the key stakeholders of the travel industry. We wanted to expose our GCTN Nepal partners’ products and services to potential travellers and travel agents while creating a platform for the participants and an opportunity to network and connect with the visitors.

Collaborative promotional efforts besides promoting the event on digital platforms were also undertaken to amplify the reach of the event. With a common goal to promote tourism as a force of good, our sister entities from Royal Mountain Group of Companies played a crucial part in promoting the event. The same thing goes for the supporters of our co-organizing entity – Planeterra.

It was amazing to witness the synergy demonstrated by all these stakeholders involved in the promotion of the event, which shows that a well-planned communication strategy can work wonders when executed properly. A total of 8 organizations, including AVATA – our venue partner, participated in setting up a kiosk for the Community Haat Bazaar.

The fruition of all these efforts was reflected during the day of the event. All stakeholders involved were fully engaged throughout the entirety of the event. The venue; AVATA, witnessed a notable turnout of visitors that met our expectations, leading to an engaging event where people were busy exploring and involving themselves in the various local products and experiences provided by our enthusiastic partners. New connections were made along with the rejuvenation of existing partnerships. 

Notably, international travellers and expats came to the event, a testament to the success of our marketing efforts. In addition to that, other communities were invited to observe the Community Haat Bazaar, contributing to the event’s inclusive atmosphere. The day concluded with a feedback and reflection session, providing participants with an opportunity to share insights and experiences from this vibrant community-driven gathering.

After the success of the first edition, we are hopeful that this would be a good and replicable model to show what goes behind planning an event and how one can truly support community-based events to garner a wide audience resulting in success.

Lessons from the First Edition of the Community Haat Bazaar

In reflection, the Community Haat Bazaar not only served as a vibrant marketplace but also offered invaluable insights and learnings. The event highlighted a strategic shift in our approach, emphasizing the importance of expanding our reach to customer-centric audiences rather than exclusively focusing on business partners. The sense of belonging experienced by GCTN Nepal Partners’ community members showed the significance of such gatherings, providing not just economic opportunities but also fostering a deeper connection within the community.

Some pictures of the event, courtesy of Community Homestay Network:

The seamless orchestration by the CHN team, coupled with the active involvement of Planeterra partners and GCTN members, emerged as pivotal factors in the event’s success.

Looking forward, the importance of pre-scheduled communication with supporting partners and clear expectation management for participants became evident, emphasizing the need for meticulous planning in future endeavours.

The event not only marked a celebration of culture but also laid the foundation for continued community empowerment and sustainable growth.

About the authors:

Sazza K.C. and Rubik Joshi are two dedicated team members of the Community Homestay Network (CHN), a social enterprise that supports a network of community homestays in Nepal. Sazza works as a Product Development Expert, while Rubik is their Social Media Manager.

CHN is one of our Strategic Partners in Nepal with whom Planeterra has joined forces to support the members of our Global Community Tourism Network.

 

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Uplifting Communities Worldwide with the Wish List

It’s that time of year again – a moment we’ve all eagerly anticipated! Planeterra is excited to announce the launch of the Wish List.

The Wish List is Planeterra’s annual year-end fundraising campaign. It serves a dual purpose, helping us establish a stable funding base that supports our vital work while raising awareness about our mission and the profound impact of community tourism. 

This year, the campaign runs from Giving Tuesday, starting November 28, and officially ends on December 26, 2023.

Why Giving Tuesday Matters to Us

Giving Tuesday is a global day of generosity, offering people worldwide the opportunity to use their individual influence for positive change through acts of kindness and contributions to meaningful causes.

As a nonprofit, Giving Tuesday holds special significance for us. It is a day when we can harness the power of generosity to share our story, engage passionate supporters, and cultivate an active community that believes in our mission.

That said, this celebration of generosity also marks the ideal moment to launch our year-end campaign, the Wish List.

The Wish List 2023

This holiday season, we only have one wish, and it’s simple, yet incredibly powerful:

✨We want to strengthen community tourism around the world, so that economic opportunities are created, places are protected, and cultures are celebrated through travel✨

This year, we’ve set the bar high! We aim to raise a minimum of US$50,000. However, we can’t achieve this alone. We need your help to break down barriers and partner with underserved communities with the tools that they need to create sustainable livelihoods for generations to come. 

How do we do that, you ask? Get ready because we’re about to take you on an exciting journey, delving deep into our methodology to uplift communities through tourism.

PHASE 1: EMPOWER

Planeterra empowers community tourism enterprises led by women, youth, Indigenous and rural communities through several ways, including:

  • Providing access to practical educational resources
  • Establishing a network of peer-to-peer support and knowledge-sharing
  • Facilitating access to experts in areas ranging from business development to environmental protection to child welfare

Our Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) is the key to providing these tools and resources.

With over 500 members worldwide, GCTN participants gain access to a Learning Hub filled with resources about community tourism, insights on creating a thriving business in the industry, monthly webinars, and active community hours that foster connections and networking.

And, did we mention our Learning Hub and monthly interactions are available in both English and Spanish?

This enables us to support communities from different corners of the world, with plans to expand to other languages.

Now, let’s hear directly from some GCTN members about how being part of the network impacts them:

How does Planeterra empower community tourism enterprises?

Here are a few examples of how GCTN members leverage the resources and opportunities provided by the network:

Asociación de Conservación Oso Dorado Hierba Buena Allpayacu, based in Peru, plays a pivotal role in safeguarding a protected area near their community, actively contributing to the preservation of two endangered species. Led by a courageous young woman, the association shared insights into their projects and accomplishments during an engaging GCTN webinar, demonstrating a commitment to knowledge exchange and continuous learning.

Asociación de Conservación Oso Dorado Hierba Buena Allpayacu stands as a shining example of female leadership and environmental protection. We look forward to continuing to empower more projects like theirs.

Penggerak Pariwisata Pajokka Balocci, situated in the South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, empowers local youth to operate exciting river tubing adventures. Their dedication to continuous improvement and learning is evident through active participation in GCTN community hours, attendance at webinars, and utilization of GCTN resources to enrich and strengthen their existing tourism offerings.

Beyond their current endeavours, they aim to invest in more responsible community tourism and management training, equipping their team with the knowledge and skills for exceptional experiences and effective tourism management. 

Your donation to the Wish List can help turn Penggerak Pariwisata Pajokka Balocci’s aspirations into reality.

The Muhabura Cultural Experience and Craft Centre, nestled in Western Uganda near the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, operates as a social enterprise dedicated to uplifting local artisans.

Their two-fold mission involves empowering and educating women artisans while training the youth to become skilled local guides.

Rukundo, a dedicated member actively engaged in GCTN community hours and webinars, brings newfound knowledge back to the Centre, fueling its continuous growth.

Through collaboration with the GCTN, women and youth have transformed their lives, generating income by hosting travellers and creating a ripple effect of employment opportunities, increased capacity, and a significant enhancement in their livelihoods.

This positive transformation has contributed to a tangible reduction in poaching, gorilla trafficking, and tree cutting, and a heightened focus on the protection of the national park.

PHASE 2: SUPPORT

Planeterra supports our community partners through kickstart grants, mentorship, and training. This includes:

  • Capacity building through 1:1 mentorship
  • Small group learnings
  • In-person Workshops
  • Seed grants

One of the ways we do this is through the Global Community Tourism Fund (GCTF).

How does Planeterra support community tourism enterprises?

Meet some of the recipients from the 2023 GCTF:

Centro de Turismo Comunitario La Moya, in Ecuador, is a dedicated community organization involved in tourism for years, recognizing the importance of continuous improvement.

Their recent project involved repairing and enhancing their kitchen area adversely affected by humidity.

Thanks to a GCTF grant, they addressed this issue, enabling better service and paving the way for expanding their space to welcome more visitors.

Asociación de Artesanas de Chorrera is a Colombian organization formed by skilled weavers and artisans, who created the “Tejiendo Ilusiones” (weaving illusions) experience to celebrate their traditions and crafts.

Despite an impressive heritage, they faced challenges due to a lack of effective market connectivity.

With the GCTF, they are creating a website and promotional materials to reach new markets, ensuring their remarkable cultural heritage and crafts receive the recognition they deserve.

The Odisha Ecotourism Foundation, based in India, is deeply committed to community development and conservation through tourism.

As a GCTF recipient, they are training 10 local youths to become nature guides, exemplifying dedication to community tourism development and conservation.

They have also utilized the Learning Hub to conduct skill training workshops, empowering Indigenous youth with essential knowledge and skills for community tourism.

Sharing Seeds, located in Nepal, pursues a diverse and impactful mission. They actively support local farmers in cultivating Organic Arabica Coffee, promote beekeeping, and create new opportunities for local women in Pandeli village to craft recyclable goods from hemp fabrics. These initiatives have not only empowered the community but have also significantly enriched their lives.

As a recipient of the GCTF, Sharing Seeds has made a profound impact on the lives of 100 small organic coffee-growing farmers by providing essential training and distributing coffee plants.

However, there are additional critical needs on their list that go beyond what the GCTF has already supported. 

To ensure they can offer the best possible experience and meet travellers’ expectations, they aim to develop additional infrastructure for an enhanced experience. This includes constructing a western toilet, obtaining necessary equipment, and tiling the space.

With your support, we can continue to assist Sharing Seeds and other community tourism enterprises in implementing all the improvements they need to ensure a great experience for everyone involved. 

Train and Travel with Women for Africa is a powerful initiative that is transforming the lives of 15 Ivorian women aged 18-35. Through feminist walks in Abidjan, they highlight the contributions of women and raise awareness about women’s rights in Cote d’Ivoire.

In recognition of their dedication and commitment, Train and Travel with Women for Africa secured GCTF funding, which has enabled them to train women in guiding and tour leadership, bringing economic independence and empowerment through active involvement in the tourism industry.

PHASE 3: CONNECT

Connecting communities with travellers and tourism opportunities is vital to our work. We understand that the success of a community tourism enterprise lies in strong market connections, so we partner with travel companies engaged in responsible tourism practices, eager to provide memorable experiences to their travellers while creating a positive impact on the places they visit.

Planeterra then acts as a bridge, facilitating the connection between community tourism at the local level and these travel companies, whom we proudly refer to as our travel partners. The integration of community-owned and led enterprises into our partners’ itineraries represents our method of connecting communities directly to the advantages offered by tourism.

However, this integration is not as simple as it sounds. Work needs to be done to ensure these communities have all the resources they need to host travellers and provide them with a good experience. 

Most of our activities during the connection phase center around field visits, long-term mentorship, capacity building, and oftentimes, kickstart grants. All of this is done with one goal in mind: to ensure their success and create stable funding for the sustainability of community tourism enterprises worldwide.

The connecting phase is the result of a long and rewarding journey! Our wish is to continue creating these connections that allow community-owned enterprises to secure a stable customer base and become financially sustainable. Moreover, we truly believe that by shifting towards this type of responsible travel model, the tourism industry can amplify positive impacts.

How does Planeterra connect the local community to the tourism market?

We couldn’t think of a better way to show you what we mean than by introducing you to some of our newest community partners:

Tinkuy Community Tourism is a powerful initiative that brings together 12 families from the community of Cuyo Chico (Sacred Valley, Peru), united to create something extraordinary. Partnering with Planeterra, they received support through comprehensive training programs and facility improvements, enhancing their capacity and resources. We also helped them develop captivating cultural experiences, focusing on traditional pottery and gastronomy.

The true game-changer, however, was the connection established between Tinkuy and one of our travel partners. This collaboration opened doors to a sustainable source of income through tourism, allowing the community of Cuyo Chico to celebrate traditions and explore newfound economic opportunities.

Ban Ou, nestled along the path to the renowned Kuang Si waterfall in Luang Prabang, holds untapped potential to benefit from the thriving tourism industry. Planeterra provided comprehensive training and supported infrastructure improvements, enhancing their dining area and waste management facilities. With the connection to one of our esteemed travel partners, 10 local families are now reaping the benefits of welcoming travellers, marking a significant turning point in their journey towards prosperity and self-sufficiency.

Looking ahead, Ban Ou envisions an even brighter future and seeks support for infrastructure improvement, including adding floor tiles to their community hall. Your donation to the Wish List can power their future.

Funtasia, situated on the West Bank of Luxor, offers a unique bike experience led by gap year young students who provide travellers with a glimpse of their culture and the place they call home. Planeterra provided a grant that not only enhanced the safety of the bike tours but also included comprehensive training and support.

Integrating Funtasia‘s bike tours into one of our travel partner’s itineraries generates income to fuel programs that empower local youth and equip them with the tools they need to create a better future for themselves and others.

Tourism is a dynamic industry, and community tourism enterprises often encounter the need to enhance their infrastructure and facilities, invest in more training, or create new experiences from scratch. With your help, we can assist them in refining their offerings responsibly, benefiting both the local communities and the environment and generating ripple effects for everyone involved. 

And, speaking of ripple effects, here are a few of the many benefits of using tourism to uplift communities.

Women starting their first jobs outside the home

Children getting increased access to education

Communities promoting a sustainable environment for generations to come

Women taking on leadership roles in their communities

Youth gaining skills to help them find long-term employment

Communities earning a sustainable income through cultural celebration

This is what your donation will support! With the right tools, resources, and access to capital, our community partners can create sustainable tourism enterprises and create sustainable tourism enterprises for a better future.

Donate to Planeterra this holiday season and help us break down barriers for underserved communities, ensuring that the ripple effects of community tourism continue to spread. Together, we are unlocking opportunities for communities worldwide to thrive through tourism.

Also, don’t forget to follow us on social media, share our posts, and tell a friend, relative, or colleague who believes in the power of tourism for good.

And remember, when we give collectively—what we can, with what we have, from where we are—we can make massive change happen.

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Holiday generosity changing lives year after year

Written by Julia Pitcher – Communications and Development Coordinator, Planeterra

For the past several years, Planeterra has launched a fundraising campaign over the holidays to raise funds to uplift communities around the world. Without fail, Planeterra donors have answered our call for support. Particularly in these last few years, the Wish List Campaign became especially relevant during the global pandemic as several Planeterra community partners were struggling, but our donors played a crucial role in helping us transform these challenges into opportunities.

In 2020, during the height of uncertainty, our donors rallied for the Home For The Holidays Campaign. Their unwavering support became a lifeline for our community partners, such as the AidChild Leadership Institute in Uganda.

Without tourism income, their ability to care for HIV-positive orphans was suffering —until our supporters stepped in, ensuring these children had food and care during tumultuous times.

AidChild’s Café & Gallery Kayabwe (Equator), Uganda
Zoológico Magico-Planeterra
Cooperativa Zoológico Magico San Martin de Tilajate, Oaxaca, Mexico

The following year, in 2021, holiday donors reignited hope for communities who were preparing to partner with Planeterra pre-pandemic but had to put their dreams on hold. Take Zoológico Mágico, an Indigenous women-owned artisan cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Your generosity equipped these women with the tools they needed to preserve their cultural heritage. Turning their traditional skills into a sustainable livelihood while fighting against the commodification of Zapoteca crafts and culture. 

Then came 2022—a testament to the unwavering commitment of our holiday donors. Their generosity gave a path forward for community partners’ overwhelmed with the devastation of the pandemic. Like the Lusumpuko Women’s Club, with their equipment and sanitation systems deteriorating they had too much to overcome after years without an income.

With Planeterra donors by their side, the community tourism enterprise has not only been revived but it has thrived. They now welcome even more travelers, offering more employment opportunities for women while reinstating crucial community support initiatives.

From a burial fund for bereaved community members to providing meals for hospital patients in need, the ripple effects of your donations are being felt throughout the community at large. 

Lusumpuko Women’s Club
Lusumpuko Women’s Club Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Today, as we stand on the cusp of another holiday season and Planeterra’s 20th Anniversary, we couldn’t be more excited to focus once again on funding the future of community tourism.  

Community tourism doesn’t just provide much-needed income, it can seed opportunities, fuel dreams, and create a future where traditions flourish and communities thrive on their terms. As you’ve read, we can’t do it alone, we need everyone to join forces with Planeterra to empower, support, and connect communities to the resources they need to change their lives. 

We only have one wish this holiday season: 

We wish to strengthen community tourism around the world, so that economic opportunities are created, places are protected, and cultures are celebrated through travel.

Will you help us? – Donate today

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Eco-Adventures: How Tourism Businesses Can Embrace Nature Without Harming It

Written by Ainsley Lawrence

Spending time in nature does wonders for your mental health. Today, 98% of studies confirm that nature boosts physical and cognitive health, and many suggest that time in the wilderness is particularly powerful.

However, left unchecked, our love of the great outdoors can inadvertently harm the natural world. This is a real issue if you run a tourism business but care about preserving local ecology while combating climate change.

You can continue to support environmental causes while running a tourism business embracing responsible travel. Responsible travel can even strengthen the environment by raising funds for conservation efforts and your local community.

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Eco-Friendly Events and Education

If you run an eco-friendly tourism business, you probably appeal to folks who want to actively help the natural world. However, many well-intentioned tourists trample on green spaces when exploring a nature reserve or animal sanctuary.

You can help folks minimize their impact by hosting an eco-friendly outdoor event. When planning the event, focus on key details like:

  • Replace single-use plastics with reusable cutlery and crockery.
  • Avoid paper products and opt for digital tickets and programs instead.
  • Provide local, responsibly sourced food.
  • Encourage folks to ride-share or hire a minibus to reduce transport emissions.

Consider partnering with like-minded organizations when organizing your event. These organizations can provide educational materials for participants and assist you in refining your approach to hosting an eco-friendly event. An example of such an organization could be Soa Zara.

Outdoor Activities

Theme your eco-adventures around an outdoor activity that excites your clientele. The outdoor activity industry is booming now, as many of us feel the urge to reconnect with nature while having fun. Your eco-friendly tourism business can take advantage of this surge in interest by providing accommodations for activities like:

  • Hiking tours on pre-established trails.
  • Equipment rental to reduce waste.
  • Offer horse riding in place of car safari tours to minimize disruption.

These outdoor activities are designed to work with the natural world, rather than against it. If you do decide to take a group hiking, keep folks on predetermined trails. This mitigates potential disruption and teaches folks to care for the natural world.

Try to educate eco-tourists while they are on your outdoor eco-adventure. For example, if you’re hiking into the wilderness, use your pre-trip planning time to introduce folks to leave-no-trace principles. This will ensure that your guests respect the local wildlife and take steps to leave the area as they found it.

Fundraising

Low-impact, educational eco-adventures can make a world of difference. Even small changes to your operations — like offering free rental equipment to reduce the impact of consumerism — can reduce waste on your site and help folks understand the key principles behind eco-tourism.

However, if you want to maximize your impact, you should consider teaming up with charities to raise funds for sustainable causes. Many eco-friendly charities require a steady stream of donations to keep the lights on, meaning your donations will always be well received.

If you suspect that your guests can’t afford to donate, consider offering alternative ways to raise funds and help. Run fundraisers like sponsored marathons or ask your corporate partners to match your donations. Even small donations help in the fight against climate change, poverty, and ecological damage.

Conclusion

If you run a tourism business, you may be alarmed to find that your company causes a lot of ecological harm. You can take action to prevent harm and support eco-friendly causes by making strategic changes to your events and activities. Encourage folks to rideshare en route to your location and use your time together to educate your guests. Give people plenty of opportunities to donate to charitable causes and try to run as many fundraisers as possible during your busy season.

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer who lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to travel, sustainability, tech, and accessibility. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.

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Nurturing Nature’s Jewel: The Vjosa Wild River National Park Community Tourism Initiative

Written by Blerina AgoEntrepreneur & Tourism consultant, activealbania.com

Greetings from the heart of the Vjosa River! I’m Blerina Ago, a passionate advocate for sustainable tourism, and I am excited to share with you the remarkable story of the Vjosa Wild River National Park (WRNP) Community Tourism developments with the significant support of Planeterra.

As I stand here by the pristine riverbanks, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, I can’t help but reflect on the transformative power of community-driven initiatives in the field of tourism.

Photo © activealbania.com : Blerina Ago enjoying the dramatic view of Vjosa Wild River National Park.

A Historic Promise for the Vjosa River

For over a decade, a dedicated coalition of environmental experts, tourism activists, organizations like IUCN, Patagonia, Riverwatch, Euronatur, and EcoAlbania, together with local communities, artists, media, and adventure enthusiasts, have tirelessly worked to protect the Vjosa River for future generations.

On March 2023, history was made. The Albanian Government declared the Vjosa River a National Park, marking it as Europe’s first Wild River National Park. This decision is more than a legal designation; it’s a promise to keep the Vjosa flowing freely, benefiting both people and nature for generations to come. It’s a testament to the unity of people and government in protecting this natural wonder.

A Journey to Remember

Photo © Adnan Beci: Blerina Ago enjoying the adrenaline rush in Vjosa Wild River National Park.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Vjosa. It happened on a rafting adventure more than one decade ago. It’s challenging to put into words the sheer rush of adrenaline and emotions I experienced that day. All I can say is that this one adventure changed the course of my life forever.

I was captivated by the river’s charm and the hospitality of the communities that call this area their home. These communities have always had a strong connection to the river, relying on its resources for their livelihoods. This connection is what ultimately sparked my interest in getting involved in community tourism as a way to protect and preserve this pristine environment while benefiting the local people.

Community Tourism:  A Real Game-Changer

Community tourism is more than just a buzzword; it’s a transformative approach that empowers local communities to take charge of their own destinies.

In the Vjosa WRNP, this concept has become a guiding light for sustainable development. It encourages the active participation of local residents in tourism activities, promoting the preservation of their cultural heritage and natural resources.

One of the most significant impacts of community tourism is the diversification of income sources for local communities.

Traditionally reliant on agriculture, forestry and fishing, the people of the Vjosa region are now finding new opportunities in tourism-related businesses. This not only improves their economic well-being but also allows them to stay connected to their land and traditions.

Now, let’s dive into why the Vjosa WRNP Community Tourism developments matter so much:

-Conservation and Awareness: This initiative brings visitors into close contact with the beauty and significance of the Vjosa River. It’s like turning them into eco-warriors who want to protect this natural gem. They become passionate advocates for conservation.

-Preserving Culture: The project places a strong emphasis on preserving the rich cultural heritage of the local communities. Tourists are encouraged to immerse themselves in local traditions, from traditional music and cuisine to handicrafts. This not only keeps these traditions alive but also helps local residents earn a living.

-Economic Diversification: Community tourism will open new doors for the locals, who traditionally depended on farming. Now, they’re finding new livelihoods in tourism-related businesses. This not only boosts their income but also lets them stay connected to their land and traditions.

-Empowerment and Ownership: The Vjosa WRNP community tourism initiatives empower local residents by giving them a say in their region’s development. They’re not just passive observers but active decision-makers, ensuring that tourism activities are sustainable and in harmony with their values.

-Preserving Natural Beauty: Sustainable tourism practices, like responsible rafting, biking, hiking and wildlife observation, ensure that the Vjosa River’s natural beauty stays unspoiled. This isn’t just great for the environment; it’s also crucial for the long-term success of tourism here.

-Education and Learning: Visitors don’t just come for the scenery; they come to learn about the Vjosa River’s unique ecological importance. This educational aspect makes them feel responsible for the environment, strengthening the river’s protection.

The Distinct Character of Albanians

But the Vjosa River isn’t the only gem in this region. Albania itself is a land of fascinating diversity and a unique character. The people, known for their warm hospitality, have a deep-rooted sense of identity and culture.

Albania’s cultural traditions are deeply rooted in its history and its people’s enduring spirit. From its distinctive polyphonic music, where multiple voices blend harmoniously, to its unique dances that reflect the country’s diverse regions, Albanian traditions are a testament to the resilience of its people.

Photo © activealbania.com: Enjoying stories of Lord Byron visit in Tepelena told by the locals while tasting a handmade drink with fresh strawberries from the garden.

The age-old Albanian adage, “Buke e kripe e zemer,” meaning “Bread, salt, and a kind heart,” embodies the very essence of Albanian hospitality.

It speaks to the values of the nation’s spirit, which is rooted in the idea that all that one possesses, no matter how little, should be shared with guests who have honored their home with their presence.

Let me share with you the authentic cultural heritage of remarkable places,  where Vjosa WRNP flows as a living river:

Gjirokastra, often called the “City of Stone,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its well-preserved architecture is a testament to the rich history of this region. Strolling through its cobbled streets feels like stepping back in time. The locals are proud of their traditions, which include unique  “saze” music, dance, and culinary delights like gliko.

Here, you’ll find talented craftsmen creating exquisite hand-carved wooden and stone items, including furniture and decorative pieces, which often incorporate traditional motifs. In the nearly four-century-old reconstructed Characteristic Bazaar, traces of a tradition of working with wool, tapestries “sixhade”, embroidery, but also iron and wooden rosettes can be found. In this Bazaar, one of the city’s earliest crafts is also being cultivated, stone coffee.

Photo © activealbania.com: Sunset to remember in Gjirokastra.

The road by car from Tepelena towards Vlora, through the deep canyons of Bënça, stops in authentic villages like Gusmar, Lekdush dhe Progonat, meeting with the local shepherds of the area, or visiting the impressive waterfall of Peshtura and encountering the crystal-clear waters of the Vjosa River tributary, the Shushica river, offers one of the most dramatic views of the valley. Vlora, a coastal gem, owns beautiful beaches, a rich maritime history, and a unique connection to the sea reflected in local life and cuisine.

It’s also historically significant as the birthplace of Albania’s independence in 1912. When you venture into this region of the Vjosa River, you’ll have the chance to explore the Zvërnec and Sazan islands, home to ancient monasteries, unwind on Orikum Beach, uncover the wild allure of Karaburun Island, and appreciate the rich biodiversity of the Narta Lagoon.

Photo © activealbania.com: Idyllic campsite Lekdushi-Shehu, located in the middle of the Vjosa valley mountains, in an ideal setting for a total change of scenery.

Fier, on the other hand, is a city with a fascinating history dating back to ancient times. It’s home to some of the most impressive ancient ruins in Albania like Apollonia, which reveals its rich heritage through well-preserved archaeological ruins and captivating stories of the past.

As you stand amidst other well-preserved ruins of this historic city of Bylis, you’ll not only immerse yourself in Albania’s rich history but also be treated to an awe-inspiring vista of the Vjosa below.

Skilled artisans here craft pottery and ceramics using age-old techniques, often featuring intricate patterns and designs. These pieces serve as a beautiful testament to the city’s historical roots.

Photo © activealbania.com: Amazing view of Vjosa WRNP from ancient Byllis Archaeological Park.

Korca, nestled in the southeastern part of Albania, intricately threads together a vibrant cultural mosaic. Known for its historic architecture and vibrant arts scene, Korca has managed to safeguard its traditions through the ages.

The city’s women, in particular, champion traditional craftsmanship, with a focus on weaving and embroidery. Their dedication underscores the vital role women play in preserving cultural heritage and traditions.

In Korca, community tourism serves as a conduit for the endurance and celebration of these traditions, connecting travelers to the city’s living cultural legacy.

Photo © Albanian Telegraphic Agency" (ATA): Artisanal woodwork skills are passed down through generations by the women of the Roma community in Korça.

The Vjosa WRNP Community Tourism developments represent a model of sustainable tourism that balances economic growth with environmental and cultural preservation.

This project is not just about attracting tourists; it’s about empowering local communities, preserving nature, and fostering a sense of responsibility for our planet.

As I stand here, watching the sun dip below the horizon, I am filled with hope for the future of the Vjosa River and its surrounding communities.

The journey from an unknown gem to a thriving community tourism destination is inspiring. It serves as a model of what is possible when local people, passionate environmental advocates, and responsible travelers come together for the greater good.

Photo © activealbania.com: The Brati Bridge with 2 arches over the Vjosa tributary, Shushica

So, I invite you to experience the magic of the Vjosa WRNP and witness firsthand the incredible transformations happening here. Come and be a part of this inspiring journey towards a more sustainable and harmonious future for Vjosa and its people.

Remember, every visit, every story shared, and every choice you make as a traveler can make a difference.

Together, we can protect and empower the places we love, and the Vjosa WRNP is a shining example of what can be achieved when communities and tourists work hand in hand for a brighter, more sustainable future.

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G Adventures, Reforest & Planeterra: Uplifting communities one tree at a time

Recognizing the urgent need to address climate change and biodiversity loss, and in alignment with their commitment to supporting local communities and social enterprises, G Adventures has recently unveiled the “Trees for Days” initiative. Through this innovative program, they will actively contribute to communities by planting, maintaining, sustaining, and safeguarding one tree for every day a traveler spends on tour with them.

The High Atlas Foundation Morocco

The primary objective of Trees for Days is to support organizations dedicated to tree cultivation, with a particular emphasis on enhancing community resilience and well-being in the face of the adverse impacts of climate change and supporting biodiversity conservation efforts.

G Adventures has partnered with Planeterra, who will be responsible for growing and maintaining trees for this new program. To firmly integrate positive environmental impact into their customer offering, G Adventures sought to create a simple, tangible, and personalized customer campaign focused on growing trees as part of a proactive response to the climate-biodiversity crisis.

To find the right solution, G Adventures embarked on an international quest to find environmentally-conscious partners. Ultimately, they discovered an ideal collaborator in Reforest, an Australian-based social enterprise renowned for assisting businesses and events in taking authentic climate and nature-positive actions by planting trees in high-quality, local Reforestation projects. What sets Reforest apart is its unwavering commitment to delivering tangible impact to its partners and their audience.

Reforest’s advanced technology platform enables G Adventures to meticulously track the impact of each reforestation project. This transparency ensures that G Adventures’ commitment to authentic climate action is not just a promise but a tangible reality. Every tree planted, every ounce of CO2 removed, and every bit of habitat restored is meticulously documented, providing travelers with real-time insight into the positive change their actions are bringing about.

G Adventures didn’t stop at simply planting trees; they took an additional step by connecting Reforest with the Planeterra Foundation’s restoration projects. Now, Planeterra collaborates closely with Reforest to monitor the progress and accomplishments of our tree-growing program.

Trees for Days, a more tangible and engaging alternative to traditional flight offsetting, allows every G Adventures customer to actively participate in tree planting to offset the impact of their flights. These trees contribute to fourteen distinct global Planeterra projects, each of which supports environmental restoration while providing benefits to local communities.

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Reflections on the Inaugural World Community Tourism Summit

G Adventures and Planeterra demonstrated the transformative potential of community tourism in the first-ever World Community Tourism Summit, which took place on September 27 in Cusco, Peru!

The first World Community Tourism Summit was more than just an event—it was a testament to the power of community in shaping a better world. Throughout the summit, diverse speakers and panelists shared their thoughts and experiences, igniting discussions on how community tourism can make a lasting impact. Here, we’ll delve into some of the key moments and takeaways from this inaugural event.

Project 300

The day began with our founder, Bruce Poon Tip and President, Jamie Sweeting, sharing an exciting announcement: Project 300! In collaboration with Planeterra, G Adventures is embarking on an ambitious endeavor to uplift over 300 communities through tourism by the year 2030 tripling the current number of community enterprises currently. The potential for positive change that this initiative holds is truly remarkable.

Jessica Nabongo

Following this, Jessica Nabongo, a global citizen, master storyteller, and travel expert, graced the stage. As the first black woman to have traveled to every country in the world, Jessica delivered an inspiring keynote. She reminded us of fundamental truths: the inherent goodness of people, our shared similarities that outweigh our differences, and the universal value of every human life. Jessica emphasized storytelling as a powerful tool for fostering understanding and reducing bias. Moreover, she highlighted how stories have the capacity to shape perspectives and bridge cultural divides, nurturing empathy and meaningful communication.

Community Panels

The summit featured two enlightening community panels. Jamie Sweeting hosted the first, featuring Joe Koechlin, Inkaterra Founder & CEO, Sarita Miginiac, General Manager for Latin America – G Adventures, and another panelist. Their discussion emphasized the need for communities to have a voice in travel trade shows, underlining the significance of their contributions in shaping the industry’s future.

In the second panel, hosted by Bruce Poon Tip, panelists JoAnna Hagen, Award-Winning Writer, Speaker, Consultant, and Solutions Advocate, Juan Sebastian Sanchez Chica, ProColombia Tourism Representative for Canada, and Brendan Roberts, Chief Commercial Officer for TourRadar, discussed how community tourism amplifies the voices of local stakeholders in the story. They also cautioned against inadvertently turning community tourism into a new form of exploitation.

Tyson Mayr

Tyson Mayr, a TV Presenter, Producer, Adventure Photographer, and Travel Expert, took the stage to deliver an engaging keynote. Tyson underscored the transformative power of travel in fostering understanding among people from diverse backgrounds. His presentation included captivating videos from his life-changing adventures.

Women’s Empowerment Panel

One of the standout moments of the summit was the Women’s Empowerment Panel, hosted by Julie Fitzgerald, VP of Global Buying and Supply Chain for GTC. The panel featured representatives from three of Planeterra’s community partners: Meenu Vadera, Founder of Azad Foundation, Tara Hopkins, Founder of Çöp(m)adam, and Helga Benito, Manager of Parwa Community Restaurant.

The panel discussion revolved around how industry professionals can support community tourism enterprises that empower women. Meenu emphasized the importance of integration, regardless of the enterprise’s size, citing the inspiring example of “Women With Wheels,” which started with just two cabs but has since grown to operate 45 cabs with the support of Planeterra and G Adventures. She stressed the need for flexibility, adaptability, respect, and active listening.

Helga drew attention to the challenges faced by communities lacking the capacity and resources to host travelers, highlighting how tourism empowers women by offering opportunities to explore new activities and become stronger.

When discussing the impact of tourism on women, Tara pointed out that travelers visiting women-led initiatives not only foster a sense of equity but they also help create financial freedom for women for the first-time enabling women to earn their own income and have agency over their own finances. Meenu added that tourism allows women to financially support their families and discover new possibilities beyond traditional roles. Helga noted the evolving mindset of women in her community, who have become more empowered and actively contribute to their households.

Looking to the future, Tara stressed the importance of educating men to reduce stereotypes. Inclusion of men in community initiatives was seen as crucial for creating a more significant impact and breaking down gender-based barriers. Helga expressed her desire to improve education in her country and empower more individuals, emphasizing the need for ongoing progress and inclusivity in the journey towards gender equality in community tourism enterprises.

Following this inspiring session, the Mayor of Cusco expressed gratitude for hosting the first World Community Tourism Summit in Cusco, highlighting the importance of such gatherings in fostering positive change.

Mario Rigby

Next on stage was Mario Rigby, a Trailblazing Eco-Explorer, Motivational Speaker, and Global Connector. Mario shared his adventures and stressed the importance of diversity in exploration. He highlighted how encouraging Africans to travel within their own continent could bridge cultural gaps.

Hot Topics Panel

The Hot Topics Panel, hosted by Jamie Sweeting, featured Dayvee Sutton, two-time National Emmy Award-winning journalist and travel contributor to NBC News and The Weather Channel, Kevin Rushby, Chief Travel Writer at The Guardian, and Brian Young, Managing Director for G Adventures EMEA. This panel explored the future of tourism, with Kevin Rushby expressing hope for more conscious and purpose-driven travel. Brian predicted that in five years, sustainable travel would be the norm without additional costs, while Dayvee hoped that travel would become accessible to everyone.

In the afternoon, G Adventures announced the launch of “Trees for Days,” their latest initiative in partnership with Planeterra. This exciting initiative paved the way for the next panel, focused on climate and biodiversity.

Climate and Biodiversity Panel

This panel featured Daniel Walsh, co-founder of Reforest, Thomas Armitt, Global Manager of Projects & Partnerships at Planeterra, and JoAnna Hagen.

The discussion delved into the complexity of the climate and biodiversity crisis and its impact on rural and remote communities. It underscored our collective responsibility to create positive change and the importance of making knowledge accessible to empower communities to tackle this unprecedented crisis. The panel emphasized the power of tree planting in environmental regeneration, closing with a powerful reflection on how learning more connects us further.

Delfin and Bruce

Bruce Poon Tip shared a deeper connection he shares with Delfin and his family, whose roots lie in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They have been a profound source of inspiration for his endeavors in promoting a different form of travel. In a heartwarming moment, Delfin gently reminded us that we all come from Pachamama (Mother Earth). Later, both he and his wife graced us with a delightful dance performance, providing a truly memorable conclusion to the day!

As we reflect on this event, we are reminded that community tourism is not just about travel; it’s about the people and places that make our world unique. By fostering collaboration and celebrating diversity, we can continue to use tourism to empower local communities and create a better future for all. 

We look forward to what the future holds for community tourism.

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Meet our Newest Community Partners

Tourism, when done right, has the potential to break down barriers and engage underserved communities in meaningful, life-changing ways. However, often, due to factors such as limited resources, language barriers, or other challenges, local communities miss out on the job opportunities and income that the tourism industry offers, even when they reside near popular destinations.

Planeterra is on a mission to change this situation by connecting these communities to the benefits of tourism. In line with this commitment, we are excited to share that we have established partnerships with the following community tourism enterprises over the past year:

GoodWork Foundation_planeterra

Good Work Foundation – Hazyview, South Africa

The Good Work Foundation (GWF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to training local youth in technology, conservation, Tourism, and Hospitality. It offers valuable opportunities within the tourism sector to young individuals residing in villages adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Each year, GWF provides complimentary training to 25 youths, facilitating their transition into employment opportunities within hotels and lodges in the region.

Learn more about their work, here.

Safi Kitchen_Jordan_Planeterra_P100

Safi Kitchen – South Ghawr, Jordan

Safi Kitchen is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving local culture and natural resources while promoting the southern region of the Jordan Valley (Ghawr) as a year-round tourist destination. The primary beneficiaries of this initiative are local women and youth who face limited financial opportunities within their communities. They actively engage in an authentic farm and meal experience, showcasing their traditions and culture through food.

Learn more about their work, here

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Yimsoo CafeBangkok, Thailand

Yimsoo Cafe is a social enterprise established to generate income to support the Universal Foundation for Persons with Disabilities to run its program that helps people with different abilities, empowers them and voices out through the community that they can do anything they set their minds to accomplish.

Learn more about their work, here

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Lady Tuk Tuk Driver Association – Siem Reap, Cambodia

Lady Tuk-tuk Driver is a non-profit organization, formed in 2022 to empower women to break stereotypes, to be more confident and be able to work in the tourism industry, providing local transportation called Remorque in Khmer” to improve their livelihood. The income from tourism allows this group of women to establish a sustainable business model and support themselves and their families.

Learn more about their work, here.

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Funtasia – Luxor, Egypt

Funtasia is a local NGO that focuses on developing life skills and social consciousness among young people in the West Bank of Luxor. As part of their efforts, Funtasia has developed an afterschool program that teaches art, communication, and social skills to youth. It particularly focuses on providing high school graduates during their gap year(s) before college with capacity building, income, and exposure to working in the tourism sector. The youth in the villages around the Valley of the Kings lead a bike tour experience.

Learn more about their work, here

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D’danau Homestay – Kota Belud Sabah, Malaysia

D’danau is a beautiful community homestay located in Kota Belud Sabah, Malaysia, an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. They provide accommodation, cooking classes, a natural fish spa, and other activities. D’danau’s mission is to promote their culture and way of life, protect the environment and enhance their livelihood.

Learn more about their work, here

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Ban Ou Community Tourism – Luang Prabang, Lao PDR

Ban Ou is a small village comprising of 60 families whose livelihoods revolve around farming, fishing, and traditional crafts such as silk and cotton weaving, bamboo weaving, and blacksmithing. The village is situated between picturesque mountains and the Mekong River. Tourism helps them to improve the living conditions and job opportunities of local people.

Learn more about their work, here.

Zoológico Mágico

Asociación de Mujeres Artesanas Zoológico Mágico – Oaxaca, Mexico

This newly formed cooperative was founded by 13 women who want to preserve the Zapotec culture and the cherished artisanal process of creating alebrijes, a local cultural heritage. Their workshop is a haven of fantasy and art, where they breathe life into various animal creatures they can imagine. Each piece is meticulously crafted with their own hands, skillfully combining vibrant colors that enhance the beauty of the wood.

Learn more about their work, here

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Tinkuy Community Tourism – Cuyo Chico community, Sacred Valley, Peru

The Cuyo Chico community, situated in the Sacred Valley near the well-known city of Cusco, is dedicated to preserving its rich traditions. In a collective initiative, 12 families from the Ricchariy Association of Cuyo Chico joined forces to create Tinkuy. This local enterprise provides cultural experiences and valuable income opportunities, particularly for women who previously had to leave their families to seek employment elsewhere.

Learn more about their work, here

How Planeterra Provides Support to Our Community Partners

Here are some of the ways in which Planeterra connects communities to the benefits of tourism:

  • Providing Grants: We provide financial grants to help communities kickstart or expand their tourism projects.
  • Training and Mentorship: Through training and mentorship, we empower community members with the skills and knowledge needed for success in the tourism industry. Members of the Global Community Network also have available resources from the Planeterra Online Learning Hub, which fosters continuous learning.
  • Infrastructure Development: In some cases, Planeterra funds the creation of new infrastructure and enhancements to existing facilities, preparing community tourism enterprises to host travelers effectively.
  • Marketing Partnerships: Through collaborations with our corporate partners, we facilitate marketing connections. This ensures that communities have a consistent income from tourism, making it a sustainable revenue source.

These efforts extend beyond profit; they are about fostering positive, enduring change. Planeterra is committed to making an even more significant impact worldwide in the future. The question is, will you join us?

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Impacts that Last a Lifetime through Responsible Travel

Written by Chloe Friedland – International Development and Social Entrepreneurship student at McGill University.
I had the opportunity to speak with McGill Student and Travel Enthusiast Madeleine Loh, who has had numerous opportunities in the past to travel with G Adventures and visit Planeterra Partners. From what she told me, her travels with G have been a whirlwind of discovery and connection. Each trip, each visit to a Planeterra community partner, has been a step into a world that's as vibrant as the local markets and as warm as the welcoming smiles of the local peoples.

In Cambodia, India, and Vietnam, Maddie discovered the resilience of the human spirit. At New Hope, a vocational training restaurant in Cambodia, and City Walk in India, she saw how Planeterra partners empower individuals to rise from adversity, as the Partners’ outreach programs touch some of the poorest areas in the region, and gives people from those communities a renewed spirit through job opportunities and health care support.

Her favorite experience, however, was at Oodles of Noodles in Vietnam. Oodles of Noodles acts as a curriculum for youth to practice their English skills in order for them to succeed in the hospitality industry. The students lead a noodle-making class with travelers and teach them about the twenty-six different types of noodles available in Hoi An, Vietnam. Many of the students go on to work at large five-star hotels in Da Nang and neighboring cities. Through this experience, Madeleine learned that food is more than sustenance; it’s a cultural connector and a tool for change. And let’s be honest, who can resist a good noodle?

City Tour in India
A warm welcome in India

As Maddie journeyed to Nicaragua and Morocco, she experienced the power of community and the joy of cultural exchange. At Puesta Del Sol, a tourism cooperative in Nicaragua, she saw how tourism can support local economies and preserve cultural heritage. She saw first-hand how the creation of new job opportunities through Puesta Del Sol, profoundly uplifted the livelihood of the community.

In Morocco, through AFER HomLunch, an organization that empowers and develops the skills of rural women in Morocco through kitchen spaces and cooking training, Madeleine tasted authentic local cuisine and experienced the warmth of Moroccan hospitality. 

Madeleine also had the opportunity to journey to Tanzania and visit the Maasai Clean Cookstoves. Here, she saw the strength of women who build and sell clean cookstoves, improving health conditions and creating a sustainable income for themselves. 

These experiences deepened Madeleine’s understanding of the ways in which supporting women and creating job opportunities can have a ripple effect throughout an entire community, bolstering its economy and revitalizing its collective spirit. 

Madeleine’s travels with G Adventures and to Planeterra Partners have shown her the power and value of responsible tourism. They’ve demonstrated that when we travel with an open heart and a desire to connect, we can find common ground with people from all walks of life.

While Madeleine thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of her trips, she recounted how much her visits to Planeterra partners resonated with her, as these experiences brought her to the next level of immersion into the local cultures. By visiting Planeterra partners, Madeleine was truly able to connect with local communities and understand where their values are rooted. 

Madeleine on a Jeep in tour Kenya

She says “I have amazing memories of all my adventures with G Adventures, but my experiences visiting Planeterra partners will always hold a special place in my heart. When I visited these organizations I really felt like I gained a new perspective on their communities and now have a really deep appreciation for what they stand for.”  

When planning your next adventure, remember Madeleine’s insights and consider seeking out experiences that will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the local culture. Connect with local organizations, visit Planeterra Partners and other community projects, and embrace the customs and traditions of the places you visit. By doing so, you’ll not only enrich your own travel experience, but you will also contribute to the well-being and preservation of the communities you encounter along the way. 

Chloe Friedland

About the author:

My name is  Chloe Friedland, I’m a fourth-year student at McGill University, studying International Development and Social Entrepreneurship. I have a passion for travel because I love the way it can foster new perspectives. I am very interested in the Responsible Tourism Industry as I am committed to creating a positive impact for both communities around the world and the environment.

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