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Sustainable Tourism: Dispelling Myths and Uncovering Facts

Written by Deeksha Sharma – Founder and Writer at YouInVerse. 
Growing up as a child, I always noticed the little things that my mother did at home. The word ‘little’ actually sounds little but these little things create huge impacts. From recycling the fruits and vegetable peels, to saving and reusing water from the R.O. or water purifier. From using plastic bottles to make her beautiful flower pots, her every small action was contributing towards a sustainable planet.

Unsurprisingly, I started celebrating sustainability from a very young age. Not only this, I have been a travel enthusiast since childhood too. Travelling has been a significant factor in shaping the way I think in life. The more I travel the world, the more I realize how similar we are despite our differences.

In today’s ever-changing world, sustainable travel is becoming a force for the good. However, there are many myths and misconceptions about what sustainable tourism is and what it is not. First, let’s define what is meant by sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism is defined by the UN Environment Program and UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

Debunking myths and uncovering facts are essential for promoting accurate knowledge and advancing both individual and collective well-being. Let me share five myths and facts about sustainable tourism.

Myth 1: Sustainable tourism is ONLY about protecting the environment

Fact: Needless to say, environmental conservation is a significant aspect of sustainable tourism, however, it’s not the only one that should be prioritized. It is also about supporting local communities, preserving cultural heritage, and ensuring that economic benefits reach the local communities such that they get a fair share of their contributions.

Myth 2: One person can never make any difference in sustainable tourism

This is one of the biggest myths of all time. Every traveler can make a positive impact by making small yet responsible choices. These include – supporting small-scale local businesses, reducing plastic and other waste, mindfully spending on tourism activities, conserving natural resources, and respecting local cultures. Even a small action can create a global impact. When more people act as responsible travelers, the collective impact is significant.

Myth 3: Sustainable tourism is for the rich and wealthy

Fact: Sustainable tourism caters to all pockets. It can be affordable and accessible to travelers with diverse budgets. You can immerse yourself in eco-friendly accommodations or luxury hotels that prioritize sustainability. You can choose to travel by public transport or private transport with lower emissions. Sustainable tourism is for everyone.

Myth 4: Sustainable tourism only caters to the nature lovers

Fact: Sustainable tourism is for everyone, and you don’t need to be in a forest or a beach to enjoy it. You can immerse in sustainable tourism experiences even in cities, museums, luxury resorts, or remote villages.

Myth 5: Sustainable traveling restricts your experiences

Fact:  Sustainable travelling never restricts anyone’s experiences. Interestingly, it can surely enhance your travel journeys by connecting you with local cultures, traditions, and authentic experiences. Sustainable tourism offers what mass tourism often overlooks.

Sustainable tourism is about making conscious choices that prioritize the well-being of all – environment, people and communities. Banishing the myths can help promote a greater and much better understanding of the significance of sustainable tourism. It’s time that we take only memories and leave only footprints. When our planet does so much for us, what are you doing to keep this planet sustainable?

Deeksha Sharma — Founder and Writer at YouInVerse

About the author:

Deeksha (she/her) is an international development sector professional with a keen focus on sustainable travelling and storytelling. She is passionate about finding creative ways to lead social change and making a positive contribution to both global and local communities. In her award-winning blog, YouInVerse, she creatively covers stories of travel, culture, sustainability and well-being from India and around the world. She strongly believes that there are stories everywhere and we should keep discovering the ones that inspire us to be better humans. Deeksha is a travel enthusiast and a passionate writer who believes in the power of storytelling for a peaceful and more compassionate world. She enjoys long walks, stargazing, reading and writing poetry, and will be delighted to have you visit her blog and read some stories.

Follow Deeksha on LinkedIn!

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Planeterra and Iberostar: A Global Benchmark Partnership

Ever wondered what happens when a renowned tourism company and hotel group joins forces with an impact-driven nonprofit? Well, it’s like a ripple effect of positive impact that transforms lives in meaningful and empowering ways and fuels a brighter future for both people and the planet.

Iberostar and Planeterra are proving that the wider tourism industry can take action to create win-win situations for communities around the world, for their own businesses, and for travelers.

Planeterra and Iberostar

Planeterra & Iberostar: Bold Goals for a Brighter Future

The Iberostar Group is a globally recognized company with a rich history in tourism spanning over 65 years. At the core of its operations is Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, a distinguished brand offering over 100 4- and 5-star hotels across 16 countries. Setting the standard for responsible tourism, the Iberostar Group has gained global recognition for its commitment to people and the environment, placing the well-being of both at the forefront of its operations.

In line with that commitment, Iberostar, through the Iberostar Foundation, began working with Planeterra to find ways to support the social and economic development of the communities where Iberostar’s hotels are located.

With Planeterra’s expertise in using tourism to uplift communities and Iberostar’s vision to promote responsible tourism and community well-being at every step of their endevours, the two organizations have embarked on a partnership to foster community tourism initiatives at destinations where Iberostar is present.

The result? Boosting the social and economic development of the local communities while protecting their ecosystems. With the ambitious goals to impact more than 955,000 travelers, involve 35 communities, and improve over 13,000 lives through 36 projects, this partnership is a game-changer for the tourism industry!

How does it work?

Planeterra works to identify and support communities near Iberostar’s properties to help them get started and/or develop their enterprises. This includes providing them with resources, training, and oftentimes, seed grants, which will allow them to create tourism experiences that can be integrated into the hotel’s offering. Guests can immerse themselves in these experiences both on and off the Iberostar properties.

By incorporating these locally-owned enterprises into the Iberostar value chain,  communities have direct and indirect access to the benefits of tourism, opening doors to a thriving market.

On the other hand, Iberostar’s customers are able to not only experience meaningful encounters with local communities, but they can witness firsthand the transformation that the hotel chain brings to communities and ensure that their stay is becoming a catalyst for economic, social, and environmental development in the destination. In this, both locals and travellers benefit from tourism.

The first phase of the project

During the first phase of the project, Planeterra and Iberostar worked with three communities in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Let’s take a closer look:

Mexico

The first project was launched in Mexico. It takes place in the beautiful area of Quintana Roo and it’s led by Bejil-Ha Riviera Maya, a community tourism enterprise founded by seven passionate locals from the community of Chemuyil. This initiative was fully developed in close proximity to the Iberostar hotels in the area and it revolves around conserving over 50 cenotes and protecting the biodiversity of the Yucatan Peninsula.

More than just a tourism offering, Bejil-Ha benefits over 30 local families and promotes awareness and conservation of the territory. With exclusive “off the beaten path” itineraries, guests are invited to explore the community and its natural surroundings guided by knowledgeable local guides. Excursions include bike rides, visits to the cenotes, and a local gastronomy experience.

Bejil-Ha Riviera Maya Mexico

In Mexico alone, Iberostar operates 11 hotels across Cancun, Cozumel, Riviera Maya, and Riviera Nayarit.

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, guests staying at the Iberostar Costa Dorada property can enjoy a weekly immersive tourism experience with two local communities inside the property.

Alongside Chocolate de la Cuenca de Altamira (CHOCAL), an association run by women situated in Altamira, Puerto Plata, guests can learn about the process of cocoa cultivation and chocolate-making.

Through the production of various cocoa products such as chocolate, chocolate bars, and liquor, the women of CHOCAL have demonstrated their leadership skills, capacity for learning, and desire to enhance the local economy, society, and environment through their efforts and dedication. This project helps more than 200 farmers and their families.

Chocolate de la Cuenca de Altamira Dominican Republic

Iberostar guests can also learn about the local wood carving techniques by witnessing the work of the Asociación de Artesanos de Madera Petrificada (ASOARTEP), an association of 40 skilled artisans who have united to protect and promote the cultural legacy of the Imbert community.

This activity benefits more than 250 families in the community.

Asociación de Artesanos de Madera Petrificada (ASOARTEP) Dominican Republic

In addition to engaging with community members and seeing their work, guests will also have the chance to purchase their products and handicrafts, taking home a meaningful souvenir that is not only beautiful, but also conveys the impactful story of these communities.

Looking ahead, Iberostar and Planeterra have ambitious plans to expand this pioneering project to all regions where Iberostar hotels operate, including destinations like Tunisia and Morocco, by the year 2030.

Through this partnership, Planeterra and Iberostar are setting a global benchmark for the hotel industry and demonstrating the tourism sector’s potential to address the exclusion of diverse communities from the wider tourism market.

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Indigenous People’s Wisdom, Climate, Biodiversity, and Tourism

It is undeniable that we find ourselves in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis. You may have seen it in the news or even sensed it in your surroundings – the intensifying extreme weather and the alarming decline in biodiversity are threatening our planet profoundly.

The responsibility for this situation is mainly a result of human actions or, in many cases, inaction.

It is a paradox, however, that those contributing the least to climate emissions are among the hardest hit by its consequences. Indigenous Peoples across the globe have nurtured an intimate bond with nature for centuries, fostering deep connections to the land, water, and ecosystems that are integral to their cultures, languages, and livelihoods. Unfortunately, this connection also makes them highly vulnerable to the harsh impacts of environmental shifts.

In a world struggling with the monumental challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, our focus must shift towards Indigenous communities.

According to the United Nations, there are approximately 476 million Indigenous people worldwide, encompassing 5,000 distinct cultures across 90 countries. While they represent less than 5% of the global population, they comprise 15% of the world’s poorest.

Indigenous Peoples are also protectors of an estimated 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Many Indigenous communities have adopted farming techniques that nurture the land and protect biodiversity. Thus, the value of Indigenous knowledge in addressing the global climate crisis is immeasurable. 

If we aspire to transform our relationship with the land and deepen our connection with the natural world, embracing Indigenous Peoples’ wisdom is imperative. Eva Müller, Director of the Forestry Policy and Resources Division at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, rightly emphasizes that the empowerment of these communities, coupled with their deep-rooted knowledge and forward-thinking strategies, is vital for the survival of future generations – both human and wildlife.

Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of nature protection and biodiversity conservation. At Planeterra, we firmly believe that their insights must be acknowledged and that we must observe and learn from their ways of life. 

In recent months, we’ve been working on the implementation of our Global Climate & Biodiversity Initiative, aimed at supporting our community tourism enterprise partners, including Indigenous communities, to innovate new and existing solutions to the crisis with the goal of improving their adaptability and resilience to the impacts of climate change. Learn more about this initiative, here

Embedded within our Global Climate & Biodiversity Initiative is the understanding that the tourism sector has a significant role to play in addressing this unprecedented crisis. Therefore, we are proud to have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, as it aligns with our vision of how tourism should be and our commitment to doing right by the communities and community tourism enterprises that we partner with. 

Click here to learn more about our commitment and plans.

We will provide further insights into our work regarding this global initiative in the coming months, but in the meantime, we wanted to share an example of one of our Indigenous-led community partners who showcases how tourism can be a powerful tool to support Indigenous communities, safeguard their heritage, and champion environmental conservation.

Parque de la Papa

Pampallacta, Peru.

For centuries, potatoes have held a cherished place in the hearts and fields of the Andes’ Indigenous communities. Parque de la Papa, established in 2006, stands as a haven of agrobiodiversity, safeguarding an impressive array of potato types (approximately 1,300) along with other Indigenous Andean crops in Peru.

One of the remarkable aspects of Parque de la Papa lies in its role as the guardian of ancestral agricultural practices and wisdom passed down through generations. Their sustainable farming techniques and profound environmental insights are pivotal in maintaining the delicate equilibrium between agriculture and nature.

Thanks to support from both local and global entities, Parque de la Papa has woven agro-tourism programs and community micro-enterprises into its fabric. As a result, the reserve has become a center for cultural exchange and education where visitors have the opportunity to get a taste of the rich Andean culture, learn about traditional planting and harvesting techniques, and experience the warmth of the local community. 

Learn more about Planeterra’s work with Parque de la Papa, here.

The benefits derived from tourism are distributed among the local communities for investment in social projects, including improvements to community centers, training on potato conservation and sustainable agrobiodiversity use, women’s empowerment, local rights, and reinforcing traditional community rights systems concerning local bio-cultural resources, and more.

Parque de Papa Pampallacta, Peru

Recognizing its profound importance, the Peruvian government designated Parque de la Papa as an Agrobiodiversity zone. This recognition highlights the significance of its conservation work and provides valuable support for the community’s endeavor to protect their agricultural heritage and maintain their way of life in harmony with nature.

Examples like Parque de la Papa showcase how Indigenous communities in Peru and worldwide remain essential in protecting biodiversity and advocating for sustainable practices that have positive impacts on both people and the planet. 

They also demonstrate the importance of strong partnerships between Indigenous communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and responsible travel operators in developing tourism initiatives that empower Indigenous Peoples while safeguarding their cultural integrity and environment.

By actively participating in responsible tourism ventures, Indigenous communities gain access to alternative income sources. At the same time, tourism helps ensure the transmission of their traditions to future generations. 

Moreover, tourism presents itself as an opportunity to raise awareness among travelers and inspire them to reflect on the impact of their everyday choices and the potential for positive global change through individual actions.

Have you come across inspiring examples of climate and biodiversity initiatives within community tourism? Leave a comment below and share them with us.

Sources referenced:

Other interesting reads:

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Responsible Travel for a Better Future

Written by Aayusha Prasain – CEO, Community Homestay Network
Responsible travel emphasizes respect for local communities, cultures, and the environment while exploring new destinations. It encourages travelers to make conscious choices that have a positive impact, such as supporting local businesses, minimizing their carbon footprint, and preserving natural and cultural heritage.

By practicing responsible travel, individuals can contribute to sustainable development, foster cross-cultural understanding, and leave a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy. However, with the looming threat of climate change, having a better sustainable future for the next generations seems uncertain. 

Nevertheless, it is just not enough to be uncertain, having an action to mitigate it is very important. When we encounter terms like climate action and biodiversity crisis, we often come across complex concepts that may be challenging for the general public to comprehend. However, it is crucial for everyone to understand and address climate action since it is a shared responsibility that affects each and every one of us. 

Strengthening Community Tourism

In an effort to promote community tourism and address pressing environmental issues, Planeterra, a pioneer in community tourism, organized a peer-to-peer learning workshop for its Nepal partners.

The workshop aimed to facilitate discussions on climate action, the biodiversity crisis, and the importance of local solutions. As part of its commitment to supporting community tourism enterprises, Planeterra established the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) during the pandemic, with the goal of breaking down barriers in the tourism marketplace and enhancing the capacity, quality, and accessibility of community tourism worldwide.

Recognizing that addressing climate action requires collective efforts, we, Community Homestay Network (CHN) as a strategic partner of the GCTN here in Nepal joined forces to co-plan and co-execute the workshop, held on June 27, 2023.

The session aimed to foster engagement and knowledge-sharing among various stakeholders in Nepal, while promoting best practices in community tourism and addressing the urgent challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

During the session, participants from different community-based tourism enterprises such as Social Tours, Hands on Institute, Girls Empowered by Travel, Nagarkot Community Homestay, Kirtipur Community Homestay, Panauti Community Homestay and Panuati Bike Station had the opportunity to learn and share about successful models of community-based tourism. They delved into topics such as how to effectively run a community-based tourism experience and understand its wide-ranging impacts and ripple effects.

The discussion emphasized the role of community tourism in addressing the ongoing climate action and biodiversity crisis. By adopting sustainable practices, community tourism can become a catalyst for positive change, promoting responsible travel and mitigating environmental impacts.

The discussion was further facilitated by a collaborative learning and problem-solving process where participants were engaged in a workshop. The workshop also explored the role of the GCTN in mitigating these challenges.

By fostering engagement and providing a platform for knowledge-sharing, the GCTN can contribute to the growth and sustainability of responsible and ethical travel. The partnership between the GCTN and CHN presents an exciting opportunity to harness the power of community-based tourism in addressing the ways to build responsible travel and work on climate action and biodiversity crisis.

Through meaningful engagement and the sharing of best practices, this collaboration aims to promote responsible and sustainable tourism models that benefit local communities and the environment.

Fostering Collaboration and Sharing Best Practices

The session served as a crucial step towards a more responsible and inclusive tourism industry, where community-based initiatives hold significant importance in shaping a positive future for both travelers and local communities.

The best practices for reducing single-use plastics were shared by the communities while the importance of switching to renewable sources of energy was also discussed. The discussions highlighted that these changes not only contribute to making one destination cleaner and greener but also raise awareness among travelers, encouraging responsible behavior in other locations.

The dynamic conversations and collaborative atmosphere allowed all partners to connect and establish relationships for future joint collaborations. As an organization committed to providing community-based tourism experiences that directly benefit local communities through homestays, this platform provided a valuable opportunity for us to exchange ideas with like-minded initiatives and organizations.

We anticipate that this gathering will foster long-term collaboration and contribute to the promotion of responsible tourism practices in Nepal.

Aayusha Prasain, CEO- Community Homestay Network

About the author:

As the CEO of Community Homestay Network (CHN), Aayusha is working towards strengthening the organization while streamlining and scaling the impact of tourism across communities. Along with her team at CHN, she also works towards bringing local actors into the tourism value chain and promoting responsible and inclusive tourism. 

Visit www.communityhomestay.com to learn more about CHN’s work.

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Traveling off the beaten path with Sharing Seeds in Sarangkot Pandeli

Written by Eliane – Student Researcher from Sharing Seeds
Traveling sustainably and responsibly has been trending within the past few years. An awareness regarding cultural loss and increasing levels of pollution due to mainstream tourism has been raised and tour operators as well as travelers are longing for a change. But how can one travel sustainably?

One option to do so can be found in Sarangkot Pandeli the beautiful village near the tourism capital of Nepal, Pokhara City which is a gateway to the world-famous Annapurna conservation region.  

Sarangkot, a small village close to Pokhara, Nepal, is known for its beautiful sunsets and the view over Pokhara and Phewa Lake. However, if you look beyond the well-known sights and mainstream tourist spots, you can learn much more about the community, culture and the production of local products. 

Explore Evenmore Tour and Travels, in partnership with not-for-profit Sharing Seeds, aims to promote sustainable tourism in this area by focusing on guiding visitors off the mainstream routes and towards the local communities.

Knowing what is best for the community, Aabiskar Thapa, Founder and Managing Director of  Sharing Seeds, and his team run three projects that concentrate on the production of local products, like coffee and honey and work to help women gain independence in their communities. 

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More information on some of Sharing Seeds’ Projects:

Organic Arabica Coffee Farming Project: 

  • Goal: Sustainable, local production of coffee; creating job opportunities 
  • How: Providing training and support to local farmers in coffee production 
  • Progress: 600 coffee tree plantations have already been planted in cooperation with 95 farmers

 

Recyclable Handicraft Project: 

  • Goal To empower local women to achieve financial independence
  • How: Providing basic sewing training for women
  • Progress: 40 women have already been trained through the program 

 

Organic Bee Farming Project:

  • Goal: Sustainable honey production 
  • How: Explain the importance of the role of bees to farmers   
  • Progress: 70 bee hives have been installed in cooperation with 5 bee farmers

In collaboration, Explore Evenmore Tour and Travels and Sharing Seeds developed a tour that combines hiking with learning to create added value for the visitors as well as the community in Sarangkot. The popular tour Secrets of Sarangkot: Arabica Coffee experience and local life guides the visitors along the beautiful Phewa Lakeshore, through the community jungle and stops at every project.

While visiting the projects the visitors get in-depth insights into the local life and working processes of local products while enjoying the beautiful landscape all along Pokhara. Through observation and conversations with locals, the visitors are immersed in the Nepalese culture and understand the impact that local organizations have on these communities. Furthermore, there is added value for the community through the exchange of knowledge with the tourists which helps to contribute to sustainable development in Nepal.

To sum up, Explore Evenmore Tour and Travels, in collaboration with Sharing Seeds,  offers a unique experience to visitors while raising awareness about the local culture, food and products and the importance of maintaining them. 

There is also added value for the community through the exchange of knowledge with the tourists which helps contribute to sustainable development in Nepal.

Sharing Seeds - Bee station

About Sharing Seeds:

Sharing Seeds is a not-for-profit social enterprise whose mission is to empower local farmers by providing knowledge and resources to cultivate organic Arabica coffee and practice organic beekeeping.

Visit https://sharingseed.org/ to learn more about their inspiring work.

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Sustainable Travel Close to Home

Written by Ainsley Lawrence
Sustainability is more than just a hot topic of conversation these days. According to a recent Nielsen study, 78% of U.S. consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Reducing waste, using less energy, and recycling are all important. They are also easy habits that people can incorporate into their everyday lives.

Unfortunately, travel and sustainability don’t often go hand-in-hand. We tend to think of things like carbon emissions from cars and planes, the waste produced by traveling, and the people involved that are creating even more pollution simply by having to go to work each day. 

But sustainable travel is possible, especially when you choose to stay close to home. Whether you have a travel bug or you want to take a family vacation while doing something good for the planet, you can use a few effective sustainable techniques to keep things “green” while you hit the road. 

Let’s take a look at a few of those tips and tricks, so you can enjoy your next trip in this post-pandemic society. 

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Cutting Down on Emissions

While traveling via car already creates fewer emissions than traveling by plane, there are still things you can do to cut down on your carbon use while you hit the road. 

First, before you leave on your trip, make sure your vehicle is in top shape. Things like maintaining proper tire pressure, making sure the engine is tuned up, and fixing any other mechanical issues in your vehicle will help to ensure it produces as little pollution as possible. 

While you’re driving, you can also reduce pollution and travel more sustainably by: 

  • Minimizing travel items;
  • Developing a strategy so you can drive the most efficient route;
  • Carpooling;
  • Towing a trailer instead of overloading your car.

Drive slower and smarter while you’re on the road. If you’re not in a hurry, don’t keep your foot glued to the gas pedal. Frequent acceleration not only burns more fuel, but it creates more emissions. Instead, go at a leisurely pace. You’ll get more out of your gas tank and release less pollution into the air. 

You can also choose to live more sustainably on the road. Try to avoid using plastic products. Eat locally. Don’t leave any pollution behind if you stay overnight somewhere, and limit your water usage. These small actions can add up quickly, especially if you travel a lot, and they can really help to give back to the environment.

Getting Back to Nature

Traveling by car to tourist areas and famous sites can be fun, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy those special attractions with your family or friends. But, one of the best options for sustainable travel, especially close to home, is to get back to nature and go camping. 

Spending time in nature is also a great way to gain a greater appreciation for the outdoor world, and it can also do wonders for your mental health. In fact, doctors are writing prescriptions for nature, as outside time has been demonstrated to lower stress while increasing physical activity. 

No matter where you live, there’s likely a national park or campsite nearby. You won’t have to travel far to get there, and you can enjoy a more sustainable time away from home than you would if you went to a typical tourist trap. Plus, getting back to nature allows you to immerse yourself in local culture. Even if you only travel a few hours away from home, you’ll be able to experience new and exciting scenery, people, and ways of life. 

If you haven’t traveled much since the COVID-19 pandemic, spending time away from typical tourist sites can help you ease back into it. Camping can provide a lot of solitude and relaxation, and help you to appreciate the freedom you have to travel across the country while preserving its natural beauty. 

If you want to be an eco-friendly camper, buying organic food, ditching plastic water bottles, bringing reusable dishes, and only camping in designated areas can help. It’s a great way to feel more at home with nature, and a wonderful opportunity to teach your family about the importance of conservation and sustainability. While camping isn’t for everyone, it’s something you should try at least once! You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it, and how easy it is to give back to nature when you’re surrounded by its splendor. 

Offsetting at Home

Finally, when you’re not on vacation or taking a road trip, make sure you’re living sustainably at home. Many companies – including airlines – use a practice called offsetting. It’s a way to do something good for the planet to counteract some of the harmful or negative effects of traveling. 

For example, Delta Airlines has been investing in carbon offsets since 2012 and has a goal of carbon neutrality, so you can feel good about flying without harming the planet in the process. 

At home, you can carbon offset by donating to environmental protection organizations or sustainability groups. You can promote awareness of climate change and excess waste. Most importantly, you can implement daily habits that help to promote sustainability within your household, including: 

  • Using less water;
  • Installing energy-efficient appliances;
  • Recycling;
  • Composting;
  • Switching to LED lighting.

 

Traveling close to home is a great way to scratch that itch to go somewhere new without doing harm to the environment. Keep these sustainable practices in mind for your next road trip, and you’ll be able to make the most out of the time away from home. 

About the author:

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer that 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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Announcing the Global Community Tourism Fund 2023 recipients

Planeterra is thrilled to announce the recipients of the Global Community Tourism Fund 2023!

The Global Community Tourism Fund (GCTF) is one of Planeterra’s cornerstone initiatives to foster entrepreneurship and innovation for community tourism enterprises worldwide.

Through this program, Planeterra provides small grants of up to $3,000 USD to community tourism enterprises, along with community-specific training and mentorship. The GCTF aims to assist local entrepreneurs and communities in scaling up and improving existing tourism experiences.

We received numerous applications and our team was happy to read through the great proposals from our community partners all around the world. 

Deciding on this year’s recipients was not easy, but after careful evaluation, Planeterra has selected 18 organizations. Keep reading to find out more about their inspiring work!

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and supporters, we were able to more than double the number of beneficiaries compared to the inaugural edition of the GCTF in 2022. Read more about the fund recipients from last year, here.

The Americas

Centro de Turismo Comunitario La Moya (Comuna La Moya, Chimborazo Province, Ecuador)

La Moya, an indigenous community of Puruhá heritage, is made up of 50 families who have found a way to increase their income by sharing their knowledge in medicine, gastronomy, customs, and traditions rooted in their culture and worldview. 

Located 3,255 meters above sea level, in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes, they offer unique tourism experiences that revolve around the sacred relationship between humans and the majestic Chimborazo mountain. Visitors have the opportunity to stay in their accommodations and explore the rich craftsmanship of the local women, who specialize in weaving camelid wool.

Through their work, La Moya also aims to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the páramo ecosystem, showcasing the harmonious coexistence between nature and their community.

Learn more about their work, here.

Asociación de Artesanas de Chorrera (Chorrera, Juan de Acosta, Colombia)

Asociación de Artesanas de Chorrera is a woman-led association of 130 artisans who specialize in crochet knitting, storytelling, and immersive experiences that invite travelers to, for example, “be an artisan for a day.”

They focus their work on preserving ancestral knowledge through their rich artisanal culture and community tourism initiatives.

They see tourism as a way to keep their traditions alive and through the fund, they seek to improve their current marketing material, including content for their website and social networks.

Learn more about their work, here.

Cooperativa de Agroturismo Red de Turismo Campesino (San Carlos, Salta Province, Argentina)

The Rural Community Tourism Network Cooperative (Cooperativa Red de Turismo Campesino) was established in 2008. They sell handicrafts, agricultural products, and tourism services as a means to protect their cultural heritage.

This initiative is managed by 25 local families who are also small-scale producers from rural communities in the beautiful Calchaquí Valley.

Learn more about their work, here.

Asociación de Mujeres María del Mar Bocagrande (Tumaco, Nariño, Colombia)

Maria del Mar Bocagrande is a woman-led association that operates on a beach facing significant erosion challenges. Their main goal is to create economic alternatives for their community, especially for young single mothers.

They see tourism as a way to do so and therefore offer services such as river transportation, accommodation, meals, whale-watching tours and wellness activities.

Learn more about their work, here.

Sociedad de Turismo Comunitario Suni Uta Choquemarka (Suni Uta Choquemarca -Caripe Community, Sajama Province, Bolivia)

The Suni Uta Choquemarca – Caripe community is located in Bolivia’s first protected area, the Sajama National Park. One of the reasons they became a community organization was to generate economic opportunities and address the issue of youth migration.

Through their tourism initiatives, Suni Uta Choquemarca – Caripe has successfully provided permanent employment for five community members, contributing to the local economy and offering stability within the community. Their goals also include the conservation of natural resources.

Learn more about their work, here.

Jamao Eco Tours (Jamao Al Norte, Espaillat, Dominican Republic)

Jamao Eco Tours is a community project made up of twenty young community members from the Municipality of Jamao al Norte. They work to protect the local environment while creating sustainable opportunities through tourism so that other people can enjoy it as well.

This project is also supporting local community members to create economic independence.

Learn more about their work, here.

San Vicente Ecoturismo, Ambiomas org (San Joaquín Morelos, Tlalpujahua de Rayón, Michoacán, México)

San Vicente Ecotourism comprises a dedicated team of 15 individuals who are passionate about preserving the firefly ecosystem in the town of San Joaquín Morelos. Over the course of four years, they have been actively promoting nature tourism in the local forests. Their primary objective is to generate employment opportunities for the community and the surrounding regions.

Additionally, they collaborate with researchers to enhance their knowledge of the firefly species found in the area. Apart from captivating firefly-watching experiences, they also provide a range of activities including hiking, biking, and camping.

Learn more about their work, here.

Asociación Turismo Rural Comunitario Kusy Kausay (Pongobamba Community, Cusco, Peru)

The Kusy Kausay Association is located just an hour away from Cusco, on the shores of Lake Piuray. The organization is made up of eight women and three men who offer a range of tourism experiences that include handicraft, agriculture and culinary demonstrations.

Additionally, they provide accommodation, guided hikes to explore the local flora and fauna and kayaking on the nearby lake. As part of their services, they also organize traditional Andean wedding ceremonies.

Learn more about their work, here.

Africa, the Middle East, and Europe (AMEE)

Train & Travel with Women For Africa (Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire)

Train & Travel is a local non-profit organization in Côte d’Ivoire that provides women with the opportunity to engage in tourism through training courses.

Bénédicte, the founder of Train & Travel, has established a niche as a capacity developer, empowering communities to offer innovative solutions that generate income through tourism.

Since 2017, the non-profit has successfully trained more than 138 young women, enabling them to pursue careers or invest in community tourism.

Learn more about their work, here.

Tribal Textiles (Mfuwe, eastern Province, Zambia)

Tribal Textiles is a social enterprise dedicated to making a sustainable impact through creativity and craftsmanship. Located in the remote region of South Luangwa, Zambia, they work with local artisans to create ethically handcrafted home décor pieces inspired by Africa’s rich heritage.

From sourcing to production, each piece they create is thoughtfully designed and made by hand, striving to minimize their environmental impact by using sustainable locally sourced materials and repurposing waste.

Learn more about their work, here.

Muhabura Cultural Experience and Craft Centre (Koranya village, Muramba sub-county, Kisoro district – Uganda)

Muhabura Cultural Experience and Craft Centre is a community tourism initiative from Raising the Artisans Co. Ltd. Their mission is to actively engage the local communities surrounding the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the northern region of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Muhabura Cultural Experience and Craft Centre work showcases the incredible talents and skills of local artisans who create exquisite woven baskets, mats, and other handicrafts, local farmers who produce products like coffee, and knowledgeable cultural and local guides who lead tourists on immersive journeys into the heart of their community.

Learn more about their work, here.

Red Rocks Rwanda (Nkotsi Sector, Musanze District, Northern Province-Rwanda)

Red Rocks Rwanda is not just an ecotourism company; it is a social enterprise dedicated to community empowerment and sustainable tourism through community and conservation programs. 

Through their work, they involve underprivileged communities, like women and youth, in the tourism supply chain, supporting their development and self-sufficiency.

Red Rocks Rwanda empowers these communities through various projects and initiatives, such as providing employment opportunities and training in creative artwork through youth artisan cooperatives.

Additionally, they assist these communities in selling their artwork in urban trading centers, marketing their products, and connecting them with microfinance opportunities.

Learn more about their work, here.

Asia-Pacific

Tenacious Bee Collective (Badsar Village, Himachal Pradesh, India)

Tenacious Bee is a movement dedicated to reviving, preserving, and promoting beekeeping as a sustainable source of income in rural areas.

Over the past five years, they have developed a model that fosters a circular economy, focusing on small-scale beekeeping in their adopted village in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.

Through this initiative, they have not only created new and exciting employment opportunities for women in the village but also showcased the ecological and economic benefits of transitioning to permaculture farming practices on their small plots of land.

In parallel, they have established a range of services that revolve around the maintenance of traditional beehives and the cultivation of private apiaries, specifically centered on native bee species. 

Learn more about their work, here.

Odisha Ecotourism Foundation (Desia Village, Koraput, Odisha, India)

The Odisha Ecotourism Foundation is dedicated to empowering and conserving nature through the promotion of ecotourism. They firmly believe that ecotourism can serve as a powerful tool for both empowering local communities and protecting the environment.

Their work encompasses various projects, including the management of two community-based eco-lodges in the remote tribal areas of the Koraput Valley, known as Title DESIA.

Learn more about their work, here.

North Andaman Network Foundation – Kao Thep Pitak (Kuraburi, Phnag Nga, Thailand)

The North Andaman Network Foundation (NAN) is a collaborative group comprising dedicated locals, activists, and development experts.

With more than a decade of grassroots experience in Thailand, their work spans various areas, including tsunami relief, conservation efforts, community-based tourism, education, and human rights advocacy.

Learn more about their work, here.

SPOONS Cafe Restaurant (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

SPOONS is a versatile training facility and community space with a mission to benefit students, the local community, and NGO partners in Cambodia.

Their restaurant not only offers delicious meals but also serves as a platform for training programs that support disadvantaged youth.

They allocate 50% of the restaurant’s profits exclusively to these training initiatives, while the remaining 50% is set aside in a reserved capital fund at SPOONS. Their primary goal is to preserve the unique dishes of Cambodia’s traditional cuisine.

Learn more about their work, here.

Sharing Seeds (Sarangkot, Pokhara Nepal)

Sharing Seeds is a not-for-profit social enterprise whose mission is to empower local farmers by providing knowledge and resources to cultivate organic Arabica coffee and practice organic beekeeping.

Additionally, they offer village women opportunities to create sustainable, recycled handicrafts using hemp fabrics, enabling them to achieve economic independence.

In many Nepali villages, numerous community members seek a better quality of life by migrating to other countries. Unfortunately, they often find themselves engaged in risky jobs for minimal income, with some even losing their lives due to harsh working conditions.

At Sharing Seeds, they are dedicated to reversing this trend by inspiring and motivating local youths and rural women to embrace sustainable cash crop farming and engage in income-generating activities within their own villages.

Learn more about their work, here.

Barauli Community Homestay (Kawaswoti Municipality, Godar)

Barauli Community Homestay is a traditional Tharu community homestay located in the village of Barauli near Chitwan, managed by local women.

They provide travelers with a unique opportunity to engage with the community and gain insight into their way of life.

They also offer wildlife-focused activities in the nearby community forest. The homestay compound includes tended gardens and farmyard animals, providing a peaceful retreat when not participating in activities.

Their culinary offerings showcase locally-sourced ingredients, providing a true taste of the region.

Learn more about their work, here.

As you can see, tourism plays a vital role in these organizations’ efforts to keep their culture alive, celebrate their traditions and safeguard the places they call home; and through the GCTF, Planeterra strides to amplify their impact for years to come. 

Help Planeterra empower more communities through the Global Community Tourism Fund, click here to make a donation.

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From Tradition to Tech: Women Driving Change in Community Tourism

Written by Zoë Woods
Women are using technology to connect, communicate, and proudly embrace their diverse cultural heritage.

In today’s digital age, Internet platforms offer a vibrant space for women to share their inspiring narratives with the world and display their traditional arts and crafts.

In community tourism, technology acts as a catalyst for women’s empowerment, opening doors to economic and social success. Women are harnessing the power of technology to bridge divides, encourage inclusion, and honour their cultural heritage through the harmonious integration of tradition and innovation.

Asociación de Mujeres Artesanas Zoológico Mágico San Martin de Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico
Keeping Cultural Heritage Safe

Digital platforms have opened up new avenues for communities to showcase their rich cultural tapestry. From websites and social media to virtual reality experiences, these platforms attract tourists in search of authentic encounters. Women play a pivotal role in curating these digital offerings, serving as the custodians of cultural heritage and ensuring that their traditions are appropriately portrayed and preserved.

In addition, women are creating spaces that foster intercultural dialogue. Through online forums, storytelling platforms, and video conferencing, women from diverse cultures come together to interact, exchange ideas, and collaborate on community tourism initiatives. These virtual connections not only facilitate cross-cultural bonds but also promote mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures.

Developing Women's Digital Literacy

Women who possess digital literacy skills are better equipped to navigate the modern landscape and drive meaningful change. Recognizing the importance of empowering women in rural areas and assisting them in utilizing technology for their economic and social growth, several organizations and projects have emerged to provide training and resources. provide training and resources. Through digital literacy programs, women gain essential skills such as internet marketing, e-commerce, and social media management, allowing them to showcase their community tourism projects to a wider audience.

Aside from teaching technical skills, these programs often equip women with the tools they need to excel in leadership, entrepreneurship, and financial management. Women take on leadership roles in their communities, taking charge of tourism initiatives, planning events, and encouraging community cooperation.

Technology, a Bridge to Economic Opportunities

Technology acts as a bridge, opening up new revenue streams and connecting women engaged in community tourism to a broader market. With the rise of internet platforms such as marketplaces and booking sites, women now have the ability to market and sell their local tourism services to customers worldwide. By cutting out intermediaries, this direct link enables women to maximize their earnings, contribute to their communities, and improve their quality of life

Moreover, women are using technology to diversify their sources of income. Through online marketplaces, they can showcase and promote genuine handicrafts, locally sourced products, and unique experiences. By doing so, they not only preserve traditional crafts but also generate income and establish sustainable livelihoods for themselves and fellow community members. Technology enables women to reach customers beyond their local markets and transform their community tourism enterprises into thriving ventures.

Overcoming Obstacles

Despite the tremendous benefits provided by technology, women working in community tourism still face various challenges. Limited access, inadequate infrastructure, and cultural constraints can hinder women who aspire to embrace technology. Recognizing these obstacles, several programs and organizations are diligently working to bridge the digital divide. They provide women with the necessary infrastructure, support systems, and training to thrive in the digital era.

Furthermore, cultural norms and gender stereotypes may restrict women’s participation in leadership positions and decision-making processes within community tourism. Technology-based solutions alone won’t solve these problems; societal and cultural changes are also imperative.

In order to challenge and eliminate gender barriers and create an inclusive atmosphere where women can contribute fully to the growth of community tourism, initiatives focused on women’s empowerment, lobbying campaigns, and regulatory reforms are essential.

Final thoughts

As we recognize the extraordinary achievements made by these women, it is crucial to support their ongoing efforts by giving them the tools and platforms needed to elevate their voices and build a more inclusive and successful future for community tourism globally. 

Planeterra_IUCN_Rio_Abiseo_paisaje

About the author:

Zoë Woods is enthusiastic about empowering women in the tech industry.

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Weaving a new Future: How Tourism has Empowered Indigenous Women in Peru

Written by Serena Hejazi
Deep in the Andes Mountains of Peru lies the village of Ccaccaccollo, home to a group of Indigenous women who have found empowerment through tourism.

The women of Ccaccaccollo belong to a Quechua community, which has lived in the Andes for thousands of years. They are skilled weavers, creating beautiful textiles using the traditional techniques passed down through generations. Despite their rich cultural heritage, many of these women have struggled with poverty, lack of education, and discrimination.

Until recently, the market for their products was limited, and they struggled to earn a decent living. In the early 2000s, a group of local women with the help of Planeterra formed the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op to promote their work and improve their economic prospects. 

The cooperative called “Awamaki” which means “handmade” in Quechua, also provides training and support for other indigenous women to develop their skills, market their products, and manage their finances: it’s all about women supporting other women! 

Tourism has been a game-changer for the women of Ccaccaccollo. The village has become a popular destination for tourists seeking an authentic Andean experience. Visitors can learn about the Quechua culture, watch the women weave their textiles, and even participate in traditional ceremonies and of course you can also purchase their products.

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It’s safe to say that the women of Ccaccaccollo have been able to improve their economic situation and they now have a stable source of income and can provide for their families thanks to tourism. 

They have also gained a sense of pride in their cultural heritage, which they are now able to share with visitors from around the world.

But tourism has not only helped the women of Ccaccaccollo economically, it has also helped to preserve their traditional way of life. The women have been able to continue weaving using the traditional techniques and materials, which have been passed down through generations. 

They have also been able to maintain their language and culture, passing it on to their children and grandchildren.

The success of the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Association is an inspiring example of how tourism can be a force for good in indigenous communities. By providing a market for traditional products and cultural experiences, tourism had a positive impact in the lives of dozens of people. 

If you are planning a trip to Peru, consider visiting Ccaccaccollo and supporting the women of Awamaki. You can purchase their beautiful textiles and learn about their rich cultural heritage. By doing so, you will not only have a unique travel experience but also make a positive impact on the lives of these remarkable women.

Serena Hejazi

About the author:

Serena Hejazi is a passionate traveler and the author of Sere Travels, a blog that focuses on sustainable tourism. Visit http://seretravels.com/ to learn more about Serena’s travels. 

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Unfolding Nepalese Women’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Written by Aayusha Prasain, CEO, of Community Homestay Network
Despite various challenges women in Nepal face, travel and tourism provide them with more opportunities for empowerment and entrepreneurship than any other industry, giving the sector increased responsibility for the advancement of women.

When we hear the word entrepreneurship attached to women in Nepal, the first thing that comes to mind is all the barriers they might have to overcome while pursuing, scaling and sustaining it. These are not just ideas that come to us subconsciously; access to resources and opportunities for women due to the patriarchal structure of society plays a vital role in shaping these thoughts. 

Although women make up 51.04% of the population in Nepal (Census Nepal, 2021), they are not considered equal workers in the economy. Sadly, women tend to be marginalized and discriminated against for access to education, employment opportunities, and property ownership. In addition, the legal framework and policies also affect the control of productive resources like land, forest, credit, and technology. 

According to Nepal’s 2011 census, only 19.71 % of women have asset ownership. Women in Nepal are often associated with subsistence agriculture or work with a huge pay gap. My experiences of working with the communities and the different studies have shown women facing difficulties rising above from the subsistence or lower-paying jobs to high-productivity sectors. 

Women are also disadvantaged because they tend to have inadequate time managing both the demands of their business with domestic tasks – and have lower literacy levels, particularly in developing countries like ours. Along with these challenges, the attitude towards working women creates more obstacles, and as a result, there are few successful women entrepreneurs in developing countries. 

The question is, how do we change that?

According to the UN Global Report on Women and Tourism 2010 by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and UN Women, tourism also promotes women’s leadership more than other sectors of the economy. 

Since its establishment, Community Homestay Network has been one of the social enterprises in Nepal that encourages local women to take the lead in managing their enterprises (community homestays) while offering authentic experiences to travellers. 

Testimonies from the women running community homestays have shared that one of the benefits of interacting with travellers has been learning about different cultures. While they also emphasize the importance of paid work and their contribution to their families well-being, many women entrepreneurs within our network often mention gaining confidence through interactions with travellers. 

Women hosting travellers Panauti Community Homestay, Nepal

They have stated that running homestays have made them more aware of the hygiene and cleanliness of their homes and the surroundings. The hosts of Panauti Community Homestay, the first women-run Community Homestay of Nepal and the flagship product of Community Homestay Network, often express that the economic gain has helped almost every women entrepreneur in their community to strengthen their social networking skills as well as amplified their voices towards community development as a whole. 

Networking plays a crucial role in entrepreneurship. Compared to men, women in traditional societies have less advantage in building networks resulting in limited information about markets and NGOs or government organizations’ support mechanisms. This is probably caused by restrictions on women’s freedom of movement in the public sphere. In such cases, women with strong family support participated actively in requesting additional assistance from the organization, as well as demonstrated leadership abilities.

Another challenge women in (the rural areas of) Nepal face is the lack of access to credit and financial services. This often limits them to start and expand their businesses and also, according to Bushell (2008), creates a dependency on their male counterparts. 

We have been working with hosts of community homestays (mostly women) within our network to have bank accounts in their name to overcome such challenges. Along with our impact partners like ICIMOD and Planeterra, we are actively trying to encourage women entrepreneurs to break the biases. 

In Barauli, we were proactively engaged to establish the bank accounts in women’s names, although this created friction at the beginning due to the conservative mindsets of a few locals. Proper communication and opportunities that could be created through financial independence paved the way for change. 

Walking through the villages in Barauli Barauli Community Homestay, Nepal

As empowerment means different to different women, we should not try to put women in the same basket while unfolding women’s entrepreneurship. 

For some, it might be interacting with the travellers, but for some having a separate bank account, though shy to interact with outsiders, might be the first step to building confidence. In this sense, tourism has also provided women in developing countries the chance to engage themselves where they would not be directly forced into moving out of their houses to start something new to prove the notion of empowerment and success. 

Running community homestays has also helped them use the skills and knowledge (household management) that they have been doing for years to manage the enterprise. This would build confidence in women and help them receive direct financial benefits. 

Despite advancements for women, the tourism industry cannot blindside the persisting inequality inside its sector. Women are paid less, engage in work that receives less money, and are underrepresented in certain tourism occupations and management levels. The issue of overtaking the enterprise once it is successful has also been one of the bottlenecks for women to foster in their entrepreneurial journeys. 

Although the legal registration of the enterprise is in the woman’s name, there is also a tendency to take over the enterprise when it starts to become more successful. Regarding this phenomenon, Brenda Bushell, in one of her studies, has cited women as surrogate entrepreneurs.  

For the economic development of any country, the government, private sector and other relevant stakeholders cannot just capitalize on half of its human potential. Various studies show that organizations that include women on their boards or as decision-makers have their staff performing better in terms of profitability, creativity, and sustainability. Hence, the prospect of a gender-equal society as a whole is promising. 

As a social enterprise, we are doing our bit to change the overall entrepreneurial environment for women. Still, meaningful partnerships among and between relevant stakeholders play a crucial role to develop and strengthen women’s entrepreneurship and leadership.

Aayusha Prasain, CEO- Community Homestay Network

About the author:

As the CEO of Community Homestay Network (CHN), Aayusha is working towards strengthening the organization while streamlining and scaling the impact of tourism across communities. Along with her team at CHN, she also works towards bringing local actors into the tourism value chain and promoting responsible and inclusive tourism. 

Visit www.communityhomestay.com to learn more about CHN’s work.

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