2023 marks Planeterra’s 20th Anniversary. As with any major life milestone, we’re taking a moment to look back and reflect on where we started and how far we have travelled – from those early days raising funds to the collective work that has gone into our efforts to make the tourism industry more equitable and giving a voice to communities worldwide.
Planeterra’s major milestones over the years
Planeterra’s history is filled with pivotal moments and key achievements that have allowed us to use community tourism to change lives. We are proud to share some of the highlights with you:
Using tourism to do good things around the world
When Planeterra first started back in 2003, it acted more as a traditional philanthropic non-profit charity, focusing on a specific issue and fundraising through travellers to raise money for various causes including water towers in Central America, a maternity ward for a hospital in East Africa and eye camps in Tibet.
In 2004, Planeterra partnered with Inti Runakunaq Wasin in Peru to support children, adolescents, women, and people with special needs who are at risk, abandoned victims of domestic violence, or those looking to improve their quality of life by promoting positive participation in their communities and families. Planeterra funded the purchase of the Cuzco Youth Drop-in Center Inti Runakunaq Wasin “The House of Children of the Sun” in 2009, where children and youth participate in various educational training, workshops, occupational, and income generation programs.
In January 2010, Haiti was hit by a catastrophic earthquake and together with G Adventures, we raised over $10,000 for the Canadian Red Cross in just one week, and the Canadian government matched our donation. Additionally, Bruce Poon Tip personally volunteered to join an Air Canada relief flight to deliver more than 25,000 pounds of donated food and supplies to the most affected areas.
The world was struck by another devastating earthquake in 2015, this time in Nepal. Once again we united forces with G Adventures, raising over $200,000 CAD for the victims of this devastating event.
Initially, we provided emergency aid and basic living supplies to families in the Kavrepalanchok district. However, after assessing the situation and the extent of the need, our plans shifted toward rebuilding houses. In total, we helped rebuild homes for 152 families!
Investing in people and their potential for sustainable growth
Over the years, we came to realize that we could have a greater impact by working with, and through, the tourism sector itself to create opportunities for local communities to thrive.
The idea of working with tourism industry partners to support the development of community tourism enterprises that uplift communities was born and through it, Planeterra has been able to create a long-lasting sustainable impact.
Our first community enterprise, the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op, was established in 2005. Planeterra worked with the Ccaccaccollo community in the Sacred Valley of Peru to develop a women’s weaving cooperative to create economic opportunities for the women of this community.
When Planeterra 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! We are proud to see how these women have not only maintained their traditional weaving methods but also used the income from tourism to empower themselves and their families.
In 2007, we worked with Salaam Baalak Trust to support City Walk, a youth-led walking tour that provides a different perspective to Delhi, India while giving youth the opportunity to gain new skills. Funds from the City Walk program are used to provide scholarships and job placements for youth, as well as resources for shelters for homeless children and youth.
In 2010, we worked with New Hope Outreach Centre to build a training restaurant to support young Khmers living just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. In addition to providing training, proceeds from the restaurant are used to provide health care and fresh water to the student’s families to reduce sickness.
A few years later, in 2012, Planeterra was granted a $1 million multi-year partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank Multilateral Investment Fund to develop a sustainable community-based tourism program in Central and South America. The project aimed to increase the competitiveness of micro and small enterprises by optimizing their market access and efficiency in the tourism value chain. Watch the video below to learn more about this project!
In 2016 we officially launched our “50 in 5” campaign, with a vision to develop and include 50 new social enterprises into G Adventures tours in 5 years and by 2019 (a year and a half early!) we successfully completed it. Building on this success, Planeterra introduced Project 100, a new mandate to launch 100 total social enterprise and community projects into G Adventures tours by the end of 2020. In 2019, we also launched partnerships with two well-established U.K. travel brands Travelsphere and Just You.
Everything was going great, we were on track with our plans when an unprecedented pandemic hit the world. We knew we needed a rapid response to be able to support our community partners, so our team rapidly deployed a needs assessment survey to have a better understanding of the situation. From this, we learned that a quarter of our partners were at risk of not being able to support their households and families with basic needs like nutritious food and healthcare.
Planeterra immediately began fundraising to support emergency relief grants by launching the Turn Travel into Impact from Home campaign one week after the worldwide shutdown, making us one of the first in our industry to respond to the crisis.
We also learned that our community partners really wanted ongoing support in business planning, marketing, and partnership development and saw the opportunity to take everything we had learned in the last 15 years of developing community tourism enterprises and create an online space to provide them with all the training resources they need to thrive in the tourism sector. We named it the Learning Hub.
Planeterra’s Turn Travel Into Impact from Home campaign was selected out of over 250 applicants for the World Travel Market Responsible Tourism Award, which recognized our work supporting our community partners during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on the sustainability and longevity of our Learning Hub. The Family Travel Association also recognized our work with communities not only in 2020 and during the pandemic, but every year.
In June of 2020, Planeterra was awarded a grant from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) for a project focusing on increasing domestic demand for handicrafts made by local artisans from our partners at the Sthree Craft Shop & Café in Kandy, Sri Lanka. This project has equipped 110 women entrepreneurs and 23 employees from the Women’s Development Centre in Sri Lanka with increased knowledge of business management, improved handicraft skills, and a better understanding of domestic market channels and trends.
2020 also marked the start of one of our main annual fundraising events, the Planeterra Trek Challenge. In this first edition, more than 550 participants set off to symbolically trek to Everest Base Camp, walking the 85,000 steps around their neighbourhoods in more than 30 countries, while raising over CAD 100,000 for Planeterra’s work.
In 2021, another major turning point for Planeterra occurred as we publicly launched the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) sharing what we have learned throughout these years about community tourism with a broader audience. This includes NGOs, social enterprises, community-owned enterprises or associations, cooperatives, and small micro-enterprises that have social and/or environmental goals.
Also in 2021, we launched a ground-breaking partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. Through a project supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), we worked together to demonstrate how community tourism can uplift the livelihoods of communities living in and around protected areas and thereby leading to more effective biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
To date, Planeterra has worked with over 450 communities in 78 countries, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Looking to the future, Planeterra’s ambitious vision is to achieve the following goals by 2030:
50 million travellers experiencing community tourism.
A cumulative $1 billion worth of income reaching communities.
3.5 million lives improved.
We are excited to see what the next 20 years will bring!