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Press Release

Panama commits to bringing travel back better with launch of PACT – Panama Alliance for Community Tourism

New initiative designed to improve well-being of residents, visitors and the environment

This week the Panama Government, in partnership with the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO), Fundación Natura, and non-profit Planeterra, the global leader in community tourism enterprise development, announced a joint venture to work with communities across Panama to build community tourism experiences that improve the well-being of residents, visitors, and the environment, celebrating the natural beauty and must-have cultural experiences the country offers. 

The new partnership aims to reposition Panama as a destination focused on incredible cultural immersion experiences for travellers that leave a positive footprint on the country in terms of supporting local people and businesses, and ensures traveller dollars stay in-destination. 

“The launch of the Panama Alliance for Community Tourism (PACT) is a major break-through in the implementation of Panama’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan”, explained Ivan Eskildsen, the Panamanian Minister of Tourism. 

“In our Master Plan, we have prioritized the development of tourism experiences focused on the ‘discerning traveler’, a global trend that is demanding more and more authentic experiences that benefit local communities, and their surrounding environment. We are excited that PACT will accelerate the implementation of this strategy, with local and global partners that will help Panama consolidate world-class community tourism experiences, that showcase the extraordinary wealth of our natural and cultural heritage.”

The partners involved in the PACT initiative plan to work closely with at least 10 communities and their tourism enterprises in order to assist them with income diversification, product development, and customer service. Long-term sustainability will be a focus for the initiative’s pilot projects, which will include training local counterparts in Planeterra’s highly successful community-led tourism development methodology and local communities in all aspects of the tourism value chain, including business planning, regenerative agriculture and resiliency building in order to ensure each community is set up for success.  

“Planeterra is excited to work with APTSO, Fundación Natura and the Ministry of Tourism to launch this groundbreaking community tourism initiative,” says Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra. 

“We look forward to bringing Planeterra’s proven approach to empowering community-led tourism to Panama and, in the process, strengthening local partners to lead this initiative forward.”

“The PACT partners share a vision for using proven solutions to put host communities at the heart of tourism in Panama,” explained Annie Young, president of the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO). “Through close collaboration, we can achieve the goals of  the Tourism Vision 2025 of the Panama  Sustainable Tourism Master Plan and become globally recognized as a world-class sustainable tourism destination while supporting the wellbeing of our communities.”

For more information, please visit www.planeterra.org  and www.aptso.org.

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About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

Media Enquiries

For media enquiries, please reach out to:

Alanna Wallace
Program & Communications Manager

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PLANETERRA LAUNCHES ONLINE RESOURCE TO STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY TOURISM BUSINESSES

Planeterra partners receive webinar kick-off training in wake of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, halting the global tourism industry, local communities who rely on tourism for income are being severely impacted. Working with some of the most impoverished communities in the world, Planeterra Foundation is releasing emergency grants to those most in need across their 85 projects, which supports the livelihoods of 65,000 individuals globally.

The COVID-19 pandemic shocked the world and threw the global tourism industry into a tailspin. With flights grounded and airports empty, community tourism businesses around the world who rely on international travellers for revenue, are struggling to survive.

Planeterra launched the Turn Travel Into Impact from Home emergency fundraising campaign at the end of March, when it became clear the pandemic was going to negatively impact projects around the world who were going to see a drastic reduction in business for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the team sent out a needs assessment survey, which asked all 85 projects to describe the challenges they were facing. Part of this survey also asked businesses what kind of assistance they needed in terms of coaching and training.

“We saw through responses to our needs assessment survey, that our partners really wanted business planning support,” explains Planeterra Program Manager Rhea Simms, who led the Planeterra Learning Hub project. “They were all thinking, at a time without travellers, about how they could diversify their business, perfect their current experiences, and maybe prepare new ones for when travel returns.”

With these training needs in mind, the Planeterra Learning Hub was built around a series of training modules meant to assist Planeterra’s projects around the world. Seventeen years of community tourism experience was systematically collected and published in a privately accessible site accessible to the employees of local businesses across six continents. The purpose of the site is to allow Planeterra’s partners to improve their tourism experiences, explore new areas of potential income, better market their organizations, and improve their financial and human resource management, all leading to their ability to scale their impact in the future.

The site was launched with much anticipation on June 25th, filled with approximately 30 different topics and about 50 worksheets, templates, and videos in two languages. The launch was made official by the participation of about 38 Planeterra project partners in two webinars – in English and in Spanish – conducted by the Planeterra team.

“We see it so often – the challenges our community partners experience in rural India are often not that different than what we see in beautiful Zimbabwe. It was time to bring these stories to light and allow for more cross learning from our diverse partners,” says Simms.

The launch was overwhelmingly successful, with testimonials from projects already rolling in. “I am sure this will be very helpful in many ways for our project,” commented Jose Vargas from Life Monteverde in Costa Rica. “I really liked that Planeterra is always innovating and supporting the projects,” added Ofelia from Mi Cafecito.

As the weeks go on, the Planeterra team will continue to host webinars on various topics in both English and Spanish for their partners, with the goal to translate the resources into even more languages. The Community Development Specialist team, who work regionally to support Planeterra’s projects, will also assist partners and guide them through the Learning Hub.

“Our global team will be following up with projects to make sure they’re getting the most out of the Planeterra Learning Hub,” says Simms. “It’ll ensure our partners come back even stronger when travel starts again, and will make them more resilient in the future.”

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About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

Media Enquiries

For media enquiries, please reach out to:

Alanna Wallace
Program & Communications Manager

Read more

Talking Sustainable Travel with The Native Traveler

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

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

LISTEN NOW

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Looking Back at 2016

Dear Friends and Supporters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Jamie Sweeting

Planeterra President 

READ OUR 2016 IMPACT REPORT

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Planeterra named finalist for WTTC Award

We’re thrilled to report that Planeterra and our partners at G Adventures are finalists in the “Community” category of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, hosted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)! As Community Award Finalists, Planeterra’s work has been recognized as a leader of sustainable tourism in local community development, empowerment and cultural heritage.

Please read the press release from WTTC to learn more.

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