Written by Rhea Simms – Director of Global Programs
Learn why Planeterra has made all of the Planeterra Learning Hub free for all community tourism enterprises
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Planeterra made the decision to upload all our training materials and best practices online so they could be freely accessed by our (at the time) 85 community tourism enterprise partners. We did this so that our team could continue to mentor, support and provide training to the enterprises we work with, even if we could not physically be there. The impacts of the pandemic left our community partners in a transition phase of rebuilding their business models, developing new tours for the domestic market, and navigating online sales and experiences – some for the first time. Having access to our tools and training meant they could more easily set prices, create new experiences, and navigate the world of online marketing.
The compilation of our resources, which we call the Learning Hub, became the basis for the Global Community Tourism Network which was launched in April 2021. With this new program we expanded benefits beyond the online learning tool, to also creating spaces for peer to peer learning, and developing a network of engaged community tourism enterprises that we could support with market connections as tourism returns. We opened up the platform and the benefits not just to our original 85 community tourism partners, but to all community tourism enterprises who met our criteria and could stand to benefit from the program. And we decided to still keep all benefits free for communities.
- Many communities lost their main source of income overnight – During a global pandemic our partners lost a large portion of their income overnight. Adding a cost to the platform would create a barrier that some could not overcome, meaning they would not be able to access the resources and community that could help them become more financially sustainable long term. We are committed to making the most impact which means making our resources as accessible as possible. Not to mention, many of our community partners lead and fund community development activities in their communities, and we want them to continue to use their resources in this way.
- We want to change the status quo for community tourism tools and resources – Community-based tourism materials have historically been developed with academics and consultants as a key stakeholder, not necessarily with and for the communities themselves. Planeterra does want to develop tourism experiences that we hope travellers will someday visit. We want to make sure our partners have the tools and network to reach the market to achieve their goals.
- There is a huge need for ongoing support and mentorship for community tourism enterprises– For years Planeterra has seen a huge gap in ongoing support and mentorship for community tourism enterprises. In order to compete with larger companies, community tourism enterprises often need ongoing support, mentorship and advocacy with large private sector partners. Ongoing mentorship has always been a key part of our model and success, and we continue to make it so with our growing network.
- Our model works, and we want to share it – Planeterra has developed a proven model for community tourism enterprise development, and we want others to learn and join us in the mission to keep communities at the heart of tourism. The more our proven method for tourism development is adapted, the more we can see communities receiving more benefits from the tourism industry.
The Global Community Tourism Network exists today thanks to the generous donations of individual travellers. Our work continues to grow and be stewarded by our community enterprise partners, Strategic partners and Corporate partners that all believe that communities should be at the heart of tourism and its benefits.
We are grateful to all who have joined us in this mission.