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What does sustainable tourism in a post-COVID look like in Vietnam?

As 2022 came to an end, so did the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project, funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in which we collaborated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

With this project, we aimed to uplift communities, living in and around protected areas, to use tourism enterprises as a way to recover from the impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project also aimed to develop a more crisis-resilient and sustainable landscape in and around protected and conserved areas. The focus was on improving the ecological and social aspects of tourism and rebuilding better for people, wildlife, and ecosystems.

To achieve this, IUCN and Planeterra worked in the Cuc Phuong National Park and Van Long Nature Reserve (Vietnam) to provide training to, and build the capacity of, community members. Through this, both organizations were looking to uplift local community tourism enterprises and increase their benefits, build common visions through action planning, and provide recommendations to protected area staff and management, as well as global guidance and best practice solution sharing based on lessons learned from the project.

We used MEET Network’s experience and methodology to inform and provide guidance and content to the project, including its actions with project sites. Also, the IUCN Green List Standard was core to the success of the project.

Our work in Vietnam

Tourism was not the main source of income for the communities in the Cuc Phuong National Park. The Khanh village has been the only location open to visitors since 1993, making it one of the earliest examples of community-based tourism in Vietnam, as noted by the Cuc Phuong Management Board. However, the village currently has only four homestays and the services, pertaining to tourism, are limited.

We found out that people in Cuc Phuong were keen to gain knowledge about tourism and use it to diversify their income. We also discovered that staff from the Cuc Phuong Center of Education and Environmental Services, in charge of tourism and education activities, were not trained to deliver tourism products and services. Likewise, there was no monitoring and evaluation system in place to ensure an effective and smooth operation of community tourism-related products. 

We could see a similar case in the Van Long Nature Reserve, given that tourism was not the main source of income, but community members were eager to gain the skills and knowledge needed to run a tourism enterprise. It was also identified that the Management Board responsible for tourism management in the area, lacked expertise in the matter.

Check out the activities the project initially planned for the Cuc Phuong National Park, here.

To identify all of the situations mentioned above and adapt the initial project plan to better suit the communities needs, our team in the field started off by conducting a baseline survey.

Training sessions

A series of three workshops were conducted in five villages to improve the community participants’ knowledge and skills in:

  • Health & safety.
  • Ecotourism product and itinerary development.
  • Ecotourism marketing and promotion.

All the contents were tailored to fit the demographic features of selected communities (ethnicity, age, learning ability, etc.). 

Read more about the Health and Safety training in both protected areas in this blog post.

Product development and pilot trips

Four tour itineraries that highlighted the most prominent features of the local communities were designed and two out of them were put into practice. Since community members were mostly new to tourism, it was determined that hosting pilot trips, which would give an opportunity to community members to interact with tourists first-hand, would be more suitable activities to implement at this stage.

The project, in close collaboration with community members, then organized one ‘learning trip’ for tour guides and three ‘test trips’ (two to Khanh village in Cuc Phuong National Park and one to the Van Long Natural Reserve) involving expatriates living in Hanoi. These initiatives helped our team to get feedback from visitors as well as give local communities the chance to improve their skills before introducing them to the tourism market. 

Learn more about the pilot trips in Vietnam here.

Planeterra’s key learnings

After working on the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project in Vietnam for over a year, we learned that:

  • Conducting baseline surveys before designing a community tourism project is key to understanding the current situation and real needs. 
  • If there are any issues related to the administration and local partnership, they must be sorted out before the project implementation. 
  • It would be ideal to have a designated team to continue supporting the project, or perform regular check-ins after its completion, to be able to guarantee the sustainability of the activities.

Community tourism enterprise development provides local communities with additional opportunities to recover from the negative impacts of COVID-19, whilst promoting resilience through the development of business skills and knowledge and by emphasizing the importance of linking community well-being and effective protected area management.

Looking back at all the project activities (i.e. cash-for-work), we can see how some of them have had a positive impact on motivating the communities to use tourism as an additional income source that draws value from healthy and protected areas. 

For Planeterra, working on this project has reaffirmed that tourism, when managed responsibly, can be crucial to promote a positive relationship between communities and the environment. 

Learn more about the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project, here.

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What does sustainable tourism in a post-COVID look like in Peru?

As 2022 came to an end, so did the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project, funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in which we collaborated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

With this project, we aimed to bridge the gap created by the pandemic on tourism and develop a more crisis-resilient and sustainable landscape in and around protected and conserved areas. The focus was also on improving the ecological and social aspects of tourism and rebuilding better for people, wildlife, and ecosystems.

To achieve this, IUCN and Planeterra worked in the Río Abiseo National Park and Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (Peru) to provide training and capacity building to community members. Through this, both organizations were looking to uplift local tourism businesses and increase their benefits, build common visions through action planning, and provide recommendations to protected area staff and management, as well as global guidance and best practice solution sharing based on lessons learned from the project.

We used MEET Network’s experience and methodology to inform and provide guidance and content to the project, including its actions with project sites. Also, the IUCN Green List Standard was core to the success of the project.

Our work in Peru

Because of COVID-19, the access roads to the Río Abiseo National Park were closed, the flow of visitors decreased, and economic activities based on agriculture, forestry work, and local commerce were limited. Even though the situation of tourism in the area seemed to be improving at the start of 2022, there were still some barriers for community members.

Some of these included having limited access to training and funding opportunities to develop unique and meaningful community tourism enterprises that go along with the flow of visitors around the local tourist attractions (e.g. the improvement of food and lodging services that already existed). Through this project, we worked with five rural communities (San Juan del Abiseo, Pizarro, Pucallpillo, Santa Rosa and Dos de Mayo community) in this protected area.

Check out this blog post and meet some of the local entrepreneurs at Río Abiseo National Park who developed and improved their community tourism products and experiences by working on this project with IUCN and Planeterra.

In the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the flow of tourists. Given that the community has been hosting travellers for over 10 years when tourism came to a halt it left severe economic losses. This meant that they had to go back to traditional fishing, hunting, agriculture and other extractive activities as a survival measure.

Talking about tourism, in this protected area, through the project we supported and worked with five indigenous communities (Queros, Shintuya, Puerto Azul Mberowe and Boca Ishiriwe) already involved in the tourism sector, some of them had formal organizations and basic tourism facilities to host tourists. However, there was still the need to provide training and capacity building to improve the existing community experiences, effective market access, as well as access to tools for responsible tourism development, basic sanitation, and improving the quality of life of the local population.

To get a clear understanding of the current situation of tourism in both protected areas, the team in the field conducted a baseline survey. As a result, a starting point was established for all project activities.

Conducting a baseline survey is key to the success of a project and for our team in Peru, it also became a powerful tool to boost stakeholder participation in both protected areas. It is also worth mentioning that there was no previous analysis on these topics at the national or local level, making this information the first of its kind in Peru.

Let’s review some of the most outstanding project initiatives!

Training sessions

The training sessions for this project focused on the following topics:

  • Health & safety.
  • Ecotourism product & itinerary development. 
  • Ecotourism marketing and promotion.

Thanks to the baseline surveys, our team in the field learned that the residents of Río Abiseo National Park had no previous knowledge about tourism businesses, so the sessions needed to start from zero. On the other hand, people from the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve had previous experience in tourism, so the training sessions were designed to enhance their existing tourism offer.

Read more about the ecotourism products training, here.

Community-Led Action Plans & Cash-for-Work

The community members in both protected areas had to envision how they would like tourism to be and then come up with a Collective Dream. Based on this, the participants agreed on an Action Plan that would guide their activities relating to community tourism development.

Part of the Community-Led Action Plan included Cash-for-Work activities, which enabled community members to use their skills to develop tourism infrastructure that would contribute to adding value to the products, services and itineraries that the communities developed. The Cash-for-Work mechanism ensures that these economic resources are directly benefiting each participant. 

Click here to read more about how the cash-for-work initiative empowered local communities in Peru.

Product development and FAM Trips

During the Ecotourism Product and Itinerary development training, the communities and facilitators co-designed twelve tour itineraries. To get a more practical understanding and showcase their products, the communities hosted FAM Trips with Peruvian tour operators.

The expectations from both sides were high. In the case of destination managers, joining these trips allowed them to see the reality of tourism in their territory, community performance, conservation commitment and future expectations from operators and hosts. The FAM Trips also helped to get feedback from tour operators about the protected areas and community tourism potential.

Learn more about the FAM Trips, here.

Planeterra’s key learnings

After working in the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project in Peru for over a year, we learned that:

  • Coordination between all stakeholders is important. 
  • The organizations involved must work together to break down barriers instead of putting up new ones. There must be clear institutional roles and discussions over tourism management and tourist destinations governance frameworks to empower communities.
  • Having a professional team with vast knowledge and experience in each destination is crucial.
  • To succeed in tourism, there must be a clear market-driven strategy among tour operators and communities. 

Community tourism enterprise development provides local communities with additional opportunities to recover from the negative impacts of COVID-19, whilst promoting resilience through the development of business skills and knowledge and by emphasizing the importance of linking community well-being and effective protected area management.

Looking back at all the project activities (i.e. cash-for-work), we can see how some of them have had a positive impact on motivating the communities to use tourism as an additional income source that draws value from healthy and protected areas. 

For Planeterra, working on this project has reaffirmed that tourism, when managed responsibly, can be crucial to promote a positive relationship between communities and the environment. 

Learn more about the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project, here.

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Planeterra’s work in 2022

Planeterra continued to be at the forefront of community tourism in 2022. As travel restrictions were lifted, we were thrilled to receive images and videos from our partners as they welcomed back travellers after shutting down due to the pandemic. But the road to recovery has not been easy for everyone and a great part of our work in 2022 was focused on ensuring that communities are able to benefit from tourism once again.

We continued supporting community tourism enterprises through our Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN). In 2022, our team hosted several Community Hours and monthly Webinars, both in English and Spanish, and we continued providing ongoing support and mentorship for community tourism enterprises through our Learning Hub.

To date, 450 community members from 77 different countries are part of the GCTN🌎

One of the major highlights of last year was the launching of the Global Community Tourism Fund. This is a grant program that supports growth and recovery for community tourism enterprises within the GCTN through small grants and mentorship. Each of the recipients received a flexible grant to support initiatives such as infrastructure upgrades, equipment purchases, marketing, training and more.

Read more about the first projects supported by the fund, here.

Over the past year, our team collaborated for the first time with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project, funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The goal of this project was to bridge the gap created by the pandemic on tourism and develop a more crisis-resilient and sustainable landscape in and around protected and conserved areas. The focus was also on building back better for the people, wildlife and ecosystems, as well as improving the ecological and social aspects of tourism.

Planeterra and IUCN worked in the Río Abiseo National Park and Amarakaeri Communal Reserve in Peru and Cuc Phuong National Park and Van Long Nature Reserve in Vietnam. Our team in the field first worked with community members in each protected area to understand the current situation of tourism, provided training in topics such as ecotourism, health & safety, and marketing and deployed a series of initiatives, one of them being the cash for work activities, to benefit community members. 

Read more about some of the outcomes of the project in Peru and Vietnam.

Dos de Mayo Community, Río Abiseo National Park
Dos de Mayo Community, Río Abiseo National Park

Planeterra closed 2022 granting wishes with our annual holiday campaign, The Wish List. This year, the goal was to help our community partners fully recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to support them in getting ready to welcome travellers once again and benefit from tourism. 

To create more impact, the Wish List focused on uplifting five critical areas:

We are thrilled to announce that the Wish List campaign was a success and it surpassed our goal of raising CAD 50,000! Thank you to everyone who donated and supported us throughout the campaign. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

To close off, we would like to celebrate the awards and recognitions Planeterra received in 2022. Our Global Community Tourism Fund, through which Planeterra provides small grants to help local entrepreneurs and communities worldwide benefit from tourism, was recognized in Condé Nast Traveler’s first-ever Bright Ideas in Travel list (read more about it, here). We were also humbled to receive the Meaningful Tourism Award 2022 in recognition of our commitment to creating a new approach to tourism (click here to learn more about it).

We would also like to give a shout-out to our partners who received recognition for their inspiring work:

And with this, we come to the end of some of Planeterra’s work in 2022. In the next couple of months, we will be releasing our 2022 Impact Report, so do not forget to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first one to read it. Also, follow us on Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn more about our work and all the exciting things we have in store to continue using community tourism to change lives in 2023 and beyond.

As we look forward to the new year, we are excited to be celebrating Planeterra’s 20th Anniversary! Twenty years of working to uplift communities and to show that tourism, when done right, can truly be a force for good.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements about our anniversary. If you would like to be part of the celebration and have visited one of our partners over the years, share your favourite #PlaneterraMoment with us by tagging @planeterracares on Instagram or send us a message with the link to your post.

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Environmental Protection

Did you know that over 70% of Planeterra’s project partners invest a percentage of their profits into environmental protection ensuring income from travel positively impacts local conservation efforts?

Around the world, communities are working to protect their surrounding ecosystem which serves as both a resource and a home. Planeterra believes that tourism should help improve environmental well-being for the benefit of communities instead of degrading or misusing their natural resources.

Responsible tourism has proven to have the potential to support conservation efforts, mainly by creating awareness and providing communities with resources, helping them to move away from engaging in environmentally-destructive activities such as logging or illegal hunting just because they cannot find other means to survive.

Planeterra supports programs that positively impact their communities by conserving the natural environment for future generations to enjoy, such as our program with Soa Zara.

Soa Zara seeks to protect Madagascar’s natural environment while empowering its people, and the result is the reforestation of the area around Ranohira.  They work with the local community on a number of environmental initiatives, such as the  “energy tree” project, which encourages locals to grow and use trees solely for the purpose of firewood and charcoal (like fast-growing acacia and eucalyptus) and to discourage the cutting of forests. This will lead to a renewal of habitat for species like endangered lemurs, and also expand the current ecosystem within Isalo National Park. 

Planeterra has partnered with Soa Zara on a tree-planting activity for travellers staying at the ITC Lodge. They also create awareness by giving visitors the chance to learn about this reforestation project.

Soa Zara Ranohira, Madagascar

Along with this steady stream of income from the tree planting experience, we are also helping to support Soa Zara’s current washbasin project to protect the nearby river from pollution. For this, they work with the local women’s cooperative, the goal is to create a washbasin station and water filtration system in Ranohira, which will allow the community to do their laundry in a safe environment without polluting nearby water systems.

Another interesting environmental initiative is Mi Cafecito, a tourism and agriculture co-op in Costa Rica. They have used the production of delicious organic coffee, amongst other local root vegetables and cacao, to create employment opportunities as well as connect local farmers and artisans with a market to sell their products.

Planeterra supported the development of the Mi Cafecito program, which includes a coffee tour and a meal experience at their on-site restaurant, and other related tourism services in the area. Hosting travellers has been an opportunity to make their business sustainable.

Over the years the cooperative has obtained several certifications, all of them showing their commitment to improving the environment, taking care of the land, using organic fertilizers, supporting farmers and fostering entrepreneurship.

Mi Cafecito Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Like Soa Zara and Mi Cafecito, there are many community tourism businesses working to protect the environment, however, COVID-19 made it difficult for them to have the necessary resources and facilities to continue hosting travellers.

This is the case of Osmose, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the environmental preservation and the socio-economic development of the Prek Toal area, located in the Tonle Sap UNESCO Biosphere reserve in Cambodia. They created several floating structures: a Saray water hyacinth handicraft workshop, an environmental education school, and a community restaurant all connected by a floating bridge to welcome travellers, but they need maintenance and repairs.

Having no income from tourism due to COVID-19, they had to use their savings for emergencies and there was not enough left to pay to repair the floating structures. Planeterra has supported the renovation of some of the various platforms. However, the community is in need of additional resources to complete these repairs so that it is safer for staff and visitors to the area.

Osmose Prek Toal area, Cambodia

Part of building a sustainable future for all includes being mindful of the decisions we take today. We support communities by providing the mentorship, training, and skills they need, in addition to facilitating the market connection for their projects to be successful. 

We want to continue giving them the tools to protect the places they call home and that we all love to visit. If you’d like to support our work, consider donating to the Wish List today.

Click here to learn more about the Wish List.

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New Paths for Youth

Did you know youth in many parts of the world still have limited access to formal education and fewer job opportunities?

You probably did, but why is that a problem? Young people help build the present and shape our future. Whether this future is sustainable or not, will depend on the decisions made not only by our generation but also by the next. Needless to say, we have to give youth the tools and support they need to create positive life paths and unleash their power.

Developing skills to work in industries such as tourism and hospitality provides them with exciting opportunities and empowerment. Planeterra is proud to support programs that help at-risk youth develop new skills and create a better future for themselves and their communities. 

Take Bike with Purpose, a student-led bicycle tour of Caye Caulker Island, Belize, for instance. We developed this project in partnership with the Ocean Academy, the first and only community high school on the island that opened in 2008 to give students a decent education. Before the academy opened, the youth had to travel to the mainland to study, so by the age of 12 many have chosen to quit school and find work.

Today there are 125 students enrolled in Ocean Academy and 25 of them are directly involved in the Bike with Purpose project. As the local economy of the island has shifted to aquatic sports, tourism and hospitality services the youth involved in the project develop the skills and training needed for future employment opportunities. Further, the project has reduced the school dropout rate. 

Bike with Purpose Caye Caulker, Belize

To support Bike with Purpose, Planeterra raised donations to fund needed bicycles and other materials. We also connected them to our tourism partners, creating a constant stream of travellers. Nowadays, Bike with Purpose also funds nearly 15% of the educational programs for the students at Ocean Academy.

Another great example of youth empowerment is  City Walk run by Salaam Baalak Trust, an organization that provides safe housing, counselling, education, and support to over 5,000 children in New Delhi, as well as managing five safe homes across the city.

India has the highest concentration of street children in the world, with more than 18 million kids living on the streets. Without adequate shelter and care, children often suffer from malnourishment and do not have access to formal education and medical treatment. Likewise, without support from family, they are left to fend for themselves, entering the labour market at an early age. Many are vulnerable and forced into child prostitution, drug trafficking, or resort to begging to earn an income for their exploiters.

That is why Salaam Baalak Trust’s work is so important. Through City Walk, they give youth the opportunity to gain a new set of skills, improve their communication skills (including learning English) and boost their self-confidence. 

Youth lead tours and show travellers a different perspective of Delhi. At the same time, the interaction with visitors from across the globe exposes them to different points of view. Since its inception, over 33 guides have been part of this program. Eighteen former guides have completed their higher studies from universities in India and the US with scholarships; and today are entrepreneurs, working in travel companies, interning at the Indian Parliament and Indian railways, and studying to be development sector professionals. 

City Walk New Delhi, India

Planeterra helps the City Walk program by connecting them to the tourism market, allowing them to have a reliable stream of income to support their education and social service work. This is crucial since funds from the City Walk program are used to provide scholarships and job placements for youth, as well as resources for the shelters. 

Our wish this holiday season is to continue supporting programs like City Walk and Bike with a Purpose. We can’t do it without you! Donate to the Wish List today and help us build a sustainable future for youth through community tourism.

Click here to learn more about the Wish List.

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Conserving Cultures

Did you know that lack of awareness can contribute to the loss of invaluable cultural heritage?

The cultural diversity of our world is one of our greatest treasures. However, we have sadly seen how traditions, languages and cultural practices are being lost because indigenous and rural communities are oftentimes forced to change their ways of life.

Losing this heritage would mean losing invaluable knowledge that has shaped our identities and ways of relating to people and the environment for centuries.

Tourism can help preserve traditions, foster cultural awareness and strengthen identities and pride. Responsible travel experiences broaden our horizons because we interact with people from different backgrounds and learn about their ways of life. At the same time, by travelling, we can help improve the quality of life of many communities worldwide.

Planeterra supports programs that recognize the unique offerings that indigenous and rural communities have for tourism. We help to create meaningful connections between travellers and indigenous people through social enterprise. 

Over the years we have seen that conserving cultures through tourism is possible and it can empower local people to improve their livelihoods by sharing their heritage. 

The Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op, for instance, is a great example of how communities can use tourism as a tool to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources while expressing, sharing, developing, and pursuing traditions.

Ccaccaccollo is an Indigenous community located in the Andean region of Cuzco, Perú. Despite being close to a popular tourist attraction, Machu Picchu, Ccaccaccollo did not benefit from tourism. Also, like many communities around the world, women were frequently excluded from educational and economic opportunities.

Ccaccaccollo Women's Weaving Co-op Sacred Valley, Perú

Planeterra funded training programs to help bring back the weaving traditions that had been lost over the previous generations as there wasn’t a way to earn a significant income. When we first developed a partnership with the women in the Ccaccaccollo Community, the cooperative was run by only 3 women – today, the cooperative is owned by 46 women. 

Through our partnership and a connection to travellers, the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op has been able to contribute to their families’ income. The women who have been with the project since the beginning report that all of their children study at university. Those involved in the cooperative are the first generation to be completely literate in Spanish. 

And with the success of the Co-op, they have also grown their enterprise and opened a Community Homestay.

Another inspiring initiative is the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative. This project was born from the desire of the women in San Antonio village (Cayo District, Belize) to preserve the Mayan Yucatec culture and revive aspects like the language that was being forgotten. They also wanted to find a way to earn an income, empower women and inspire the children and youth.

Planeterra provided a grant to the San Antonio Women’s Co-op which allowed them to build an indoor workshop space. The new space has increased the center’s capacity to host many more travellers and has given them added space to safely house their products. This space also resulted in the cooperative being able to add a training program for unemployed youth in the community so that they too can benefit from tourism.

When travellers visit the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative, they learn about corn grinding and tortilla making and get a chance to try their hand at ancient pottery-making techniques.

The women in San Antonio are proud to share their traditional knowledge not only with visitors but with the younger generation. Their great work was recently recognized as the best “Cultural Experience of the Year” by the Belize Tourism Board.

San Antonio Women’s Co-op San Ignacio, Belize

We want to see more projects like the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op and the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative thrive. Nevertheless, with challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic arising, the barriers are higher (yet with your support, not impossible!).

This is the case of the Lusumpuko Women’s Club in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. They started as a group of chicken-rearers who also occasionally cater to church and local community gatherings. With Planeterra’s help, they’ve shifted into also hosting a cooking class for local travellers. 

This has allowed them to rediscover their cultural history as they create dishes from their memories with their parents and grandparents. Likewise, it has given them the chance to continue learning about tailoring, catering, and animal husbandry, traditional trades that were reserved for men, creating income for their families and communities while empowering other women to build and launch their own businesses.

But they suffered the same fate as many tourism businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Having no travellers visiting them meant no income to continue implementing much-needed improvements to the equipment they use to prepare food, the core of their business.

For the Lusumpuko Women’s Club to continue providing delicious meals for travellers and locals, we need your support to help them with renewals and repairs to their stoves and other equipment. 

If you’d like to “get a taste” of what it is like to be hosted by the vibrant women at Lusumpuko, you can see them towards the end of this video, at the 10 minutes mark. Fun fact shared by Evie, Planeterra’s Regional Program Manager AMEE:

This is Lusumpuko every day, they are so vibrant and happy to receive travellers. It also helps that their food is amazing!! Especially the caterpillars

Lusumpuko Women’s Club Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Planeterra wants to continue seeing projects like Lusumpuko Women’s Club improving the livelihoods of their communities while celebrating and conserving their culture. If you feel the same way, donate to the Wish List today.

Click here to learn more about the Wish List.

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Women’s Empowerment

Did you know that although women make up over half of the tourism workforce, they are often underpaid and have limited opportunities to move into higher positions in their jobs?

At Planeterra, we work to change that by empowering women to take the lead in the development and growth of tourism experiences. Over the years, we have seen how the work of women has not only had a positive impact on their lives but also on the well-being of their communities. This, as a result, contributes to creating more stable and just societies.

We are proud to have supported inspiring projects that seek to empower women all over the world. One of them is Women With Wheels, in New Delhi, a project that is challenging cultural norms and paving new paths for women across India. Our ground partner, Azad Foundation, works with disadvantaged women from resource-poor urban areas across India to empower them to become professional commercial drivers.

Women with Wheels New Delhi, India

A few weeks ago, we hosted the Women’s Leadership in Tourism webinar. Towards the end, we had the honour to hear Bubblyi, one of the drivers the program has supported, talk about her experience. When she started the training seven years ago, she was scared as she was not aware of the routes in New Delhi. Looking back to her first day, Bubblyi remembers crying when it got dark because she felt she was not going to be able to find the way back home.  

Fast forward to today, Bubblyi now drives with confidence, even at night. Travellers have complimented her skills several times as they can see first-hand how challenging it is to drive on India’s chaotic roads. Bubblyi also became a team leader, with responsibility for ten women under her watch and she even drives to other cities (this is a huge deal!). 

Bubblyi takes pride in what she does and her ability to financially support herself and her family. Moreover, she has inspired other women from her community to join the training and become drivers as well. 

Our wish is to see more projects like this thriving and to have more women taking on leadership roles in their communities. But what do we need? For instance, a change in mindsets and opportunities.

By providing life-changing access to education, job training (both in business acumen and soft skills) and mentorship, Planeterra has been able to provide women with opportunities in the tourism sector. But in addition to that, there are other needs for women-owned businesses to succeed.

Take the example of Princess Sewing Cooperative, a women-run business that focuses on tailoring services in the Victoria Falls township of Mkhosana, Zimbabwe. Planeterra provided extensive business training as well as lobbying for the cooperative to become a laundry supplier for local tour groups visiting the area. 

Providing laundry services made it possible for women in the cooperative to increase their income, meaning they could afford school fees for their children, complete their studies and lead an above-average economic life. However, COVID-19 slowed down their business tremendously as there were no travellers in need of their services. In addition to this, they are in need of new equipment including water tank pumps to store water for laundry due to water shortages in the township, and a dryer.

Princess Sewing & Laundry Co-op Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Help women-led businesses like Princess Sewing Cooperative prosper and benefit from tourism again. Consider donating to the Wish List. Your support will allow us to continue empowering women all over the world.

Together, we are building a more sustainable future for women!

Click here to learn more about the Wish List.

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Tourism Recovery

Did you know that while travel is steadily returning, the impacts of COVID-19 on communities involved in tourism are still being felt?

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on tourism worldwide. Having no visitors for months, and in some cases years, meant tourism businesses had to look for alternatives to survive because let’s face it, bills still needed to be paid.

For Planeterra, it has been difficult to see the projects our community partners started with so much enthusiasm coming to a halt. The return of travellers brings hope to communities all over the world. Over the last few months, we’ve seen travellers having cultural immersion tours in Baracoa, Cuba or enjoying the hospitality of the community at Hill-Tribes Trek in Thailand once again (learn more about our partners who have welcomed travellers this year, here).

However, this is not the same fate for all of our community partners. AFER Women’s Association HomLunch in Morocco, for instance, began the construction of a kitchen before the pandemic started. They hoped to use it to prepare and serve a delicious traditional lunch for locals and travellers. Sadly, when COVID-19 hit, they had to stop the construction and prioritize expenditures in other areas. Having the kitchen construction unfinished means travellers cannot visit them and thus, the community can no longer benefit from tourism.  

AFER Women’s Association HomLunch M’Haya, Morocco

Our partners Puesta del Sol, an association led by women in the community of La Paloma, Nicaragua, are facing a similar situation. While they’ve put efforts into their community homestay program, the fact that they had to close for almost three years due to COVID-19 has prevented them from investing in much-needed equipment to better host travellers, such as new mattresses, and sheets, among others.

These are only two of the many examples that showcase the need to focus on getting communities “back on their feet” so they can build a stronger, more sustainable, and resilient tourism economy. In other words, before we can invest in the future of tourism, we need to invest in the recovery of our community partners. 

We need to make sure they have all the resources and facilities they need to welcome travellers again, and also provide mentorships and facilitate access to training material so they feel confident and empowered to get back in the game.

Puesta del Sol Association Ometepe, Nicaragua

Planeterra’s wish for this holiday season is to continue supporting the recovery of projects like AFER Women’s Association HomLunch and Puesta del Sol. We want to see them enjoying the benefits of tourism as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, do you also feel the same way?

Donate to Planeterra’s Wish List today. With your continued support, the potential is infinite!

Click here to learn more about the Wish List.

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The Wish List 2022

Web - The Wish List

Planeterra believes that community tourism, at its very best, can break down barriers to engage underserved communities in meaningful, life-changing ways. It is our wish to see our partners and local communities benefit from tourism, but there are still challenges to overcome, especially after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With travel steadily returning, we are hopeful for the future of tourism and all opportunities it will bring. For that reason, Planeterra has launched its year-end giving campaign, the Wish List, to raise funds for community enterprises around the globe.

Planeterra’s holiday wishes for 2022

Women’s Empowerment

Women make up over half of the tourism workforce and yet they are often underpaid and have limited opportunities to move into higher positions in their jobs. 

We wish to see women thrive in their communities, redefining their roles in society and having the financial freedom and opportunities that they deserve but so rarely get in the tourism industry.

Learn more, here.

AFER Association HomLunch
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Conserve Cultures

Lack of awareness can contribute to the loss of invaluable cultural heritage. Creating meaningful connections between travellers and local communities through social enterprise helps preserve cultures.

We wish to support Indigenous and rural communities who want to show the world their unique offerings and use tourism to celebrate and protect their culture rather than harming it.

Learn more, here.

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New Paths for Youth 

Youth in many parts of the world have limited access to formal education and fewer job opportunities. 

We wish community tourism enterprises working to create new paths and opportunities for at-risk youth in their communities are uplifted for years to come.

Learn more, here.

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Environmental Protection

Around the world, communities are working to protect their surrounding ecosystem which serves as both a resource and a home. By supporting programs that positively impact the environment, future generations can also get a chance to enjoy our planet’s natural resources.

We wish to see a travel industry filled with community enterprises with access to the support they need to protect and conserve their ecosystems through responsible travel.

Learn more, here.

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Tourism Recovery

While travel is steadily returning, the impacts of COVID-19 on communities involved in tourism are still being felt. 

We wish for our community partners to receive the grants they need to recover from years without an income so that we can make sure communities aren’t left behind as tourism restarts.

Learn more, here.

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Help Planeterra grant wishes this holiday season! Any contribution you can make is so valuable, whether it is donating to our campaign or following our socials and sharing our mission with your own networks.

The Wish List Campaign kicks off on #GivingTuesday (November 29, 2022) and officially ends on December 31. This year, Bruce & Roula Poon Tip have generously offered to match donations up to $25,000 to create double the impact!

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FAM Trips in Peru to promote local tourism experiences

IUCN FAM Trip

IUCN and Planeterra have been working with communities in Río Abiseo National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve in Peru to develop community-based tourism enterprises and link them to the travel market.

One of the best ways to do this is through familiarization trips, also known as FAM trips, where tour operators can get to know the communities first-hand. Therefore, organizing a FAM trip was one of the main initiatives of the project.

Last October, representatives from several Peruvian tour operators gathered in the Río Abiseo National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve to discover all the wonderful experiences the communities have to offer.

FAM Trip in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve

From the 16th to 22nd of October, six representatives from various Peruvian tour operators, two Amarakaeri management representatives and the IUCN media team gathered in the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve to discover all the wonderful experiences the communities of Queros Shintuya, Boca Ishiriwe and Puerto Azul Mberowe have to offer.

During the FAM trip, participants had the opportunity to interact with the communities, learn about their culture and natural environment, taste their traditional dishes and experience new tourism proposals. The main activities included:

  • Visiting the Hinkiori petroglyphs and getting to know the local handicrafts in Queros.
  • Conservation and handicraft experience by the “Oteri” initiative, culinary tasting by the “Wandar Wachinokeri” initiative and visiting the hot springs in Shintuya.
  • Visiting the macaw clay lick in Puerto Azul Mberowe.
  • Visiting a mammal clay lick in Boca Ishiriwe.

The FAM trip was a great learning experience for the communities, especially for two of them as it was their first time hosting tour operators. The feedback from the participants will be of great value in improving existing tourism offerings or creating new experiences.

FAM Trip in the Río Abiseo National Park

From the 27th to 29th of October, four local and regional Peruvian tour operators, four destination managers from the public and private sectors and the IUCN media team visited the communities of Dos de Mayo, Pucallpillo, Santa Rosa, Pizarro and San Juan del Abiseo in the Río Abiseo National Park.

During the FAM trip, participants had the opportunity to interact with the communities, learn about their culture and natural environment, taste their traditional dishes and experience new tourism proposals. The main activities included:

  • The Chocoplatano gastronomic experience.
  • Nature and cultural experiences through the cocoa fields in Pulcapillo.
  • Touring the Meliponas circuit in Pizarro.
  • Tasting of bark and root-based beverages in San Juan del Abiseo.

Although this was the first time the communities had hosted tour operators, they did an excellent job. They’d prepared special receptions, speeches and dances, and had excellent time management skills. 

The communities were motivated to take the lead and start ‘now’, especially after the construction work was done through the cash-for-work mechanism. 

The FAM trip participants provided input, helped them with the formalities of working and shared the next steps. This feedback inspired communities and other stakeholders to compromise and continue working to promote the destination and the great tourism experiences it has to offer. 

These FAM trips are just the beginning of a great journey in tourism for the communities of Río Abiseo National Park and Amarakaeri. Read more about the ‘Sustainable Tourism and Protected Areas in a Post-COVID World’ project, here.

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