Reflections on the Inaugural World Community Tourism Summit

G Adventures and Planeterra demonstrated the transformative potential of community tourism in the first-ever World Community Tourism Summit, which took place on September 27 in Cusco, Peru!

The first World Community Tourism Summit was more than just an event—it was a testament to the power of community in shaping a better world. Throughout the summit, diverse speakers and panelists shared their thoughts and experiences, igniting discussions on how community tourism can make a lasting impact. Here, we’ll delve into some of the key moments and takeaways from this inaugural event.

Project 300

The day began with our founder, Bruce Poon Tip and President, Jamie Sweeting, sharing an exciting announcement: Project 300! In collaboration with Planeterra, G Adventures is embarking on an ambitious endeavor to uplift over 300 communities through tourism by the year 2030 tripling the current number of community enterprises currently. The potential for positive change that this initiative holds is truly remarkable.

Jessica Nabongo

Following this, Jessica Nabongo, a global citizen, master storyteller, and travel expert, graced the stage. As the first black woman to have traveled to every country in the world, Jessica delivered an inspiring keynote. She reminded us of fundamental truths: the inherent goodness of people, our shared similarities that outweigh our differences, and the universal value of every human life. Jessica emphasized storytelling as a powerful tool for fostering understanding and reducing bias. Moreover, she highlighted how stories have the capacity to shape perspectives and bridge cultural divides, nurturing empathy and meaningful communication.

Community Panels

The summit featured two enlightening community panels. Jamie Sweeting hosted the first, featuring Joe Koechlin, Inkaterra Founder & CEO, Sarita Miginiac, General Manager for Latin America – G Adventures, and another panelist. Their discussion emphasized the need for communities to have a voice in travel trade shows, underlining the significance of their contributions in shaping the industry’s future.

In the second panel, hosted by Bruce Poon Tip, panelists JoAnna Hagen, Award-Winning Writer, Speaker, Consultant, and Solutions Advocate, Juan Sebastian Sanchez Chica, ProColombia Tourism Representative for Canada, and Brendan Roberts, Chief Commercial Officer for TourRadar, discussed how community tourism amplifies the voices of local stakeholders in the story. They also cautioned against inadvertently turning community tourism into a new form of exploitation.

Tyson Mayr

Tyson Mayr, a TV Presenter, Producer, Adventure Photographer, and Travel Expert, took the stage to deliver an engaging keynote. Tyson underscored the transformative power of travel in fostering understanding among people from diverse backgrounds. His presentation included captivating videos from his life-changing adventures.

Women’s Empowerment Panel

One of the standout moments of the summit was the Women’s Empowerment Panel, hosted by Julie Fitzgerald, VP of Global Buying and Supply Chain for GTC. The panel featured representatives from three of Planeterra’s community partners: Meenu Vadera, Founder of Azad Foundation, Tara Hopkins, Founder of Çöp(m)adam, and Helga Benito, Manager of Parwa Community Restaurant.

The panel discussion revolved around how industry professionals can support community tourism enterprises that empower women. Meenu emphasized the importance of integration, regardless of the enterprise’s size, citing the inspiring example of “Women With Wheels,” which started with just two cabs but has since grown to operate 45 cabs with the support of Planeterra and G Adventures. She stressed the need for flexibility, adaptability, respect, and active listening.

Helga drew attention to the challenges faced by communities lacking the capacity and resources to host travelers, highlighting how tourism empowers women by offering opportunities to explore new activities and become stronger.

When discussing the impact of tourism on women, Tara pointed out that travelers visiting women-led initiatives not only foster a sense of equity but they also help create financial freedom for women for the first-time enabling women to earn their own income and have agency over their own finances. Meenu added that tourism allows women to financially support their families and discover new possibilities beyond traditional roles. Helga noted the evolving mindset of women in her community, who have become more empowered and actively contribute to their households.

Looking to the future, Tara stressed the importance of educating men to reduce stereotypes. Inclusion of men in community initiatives was seen as crucial for creating a more significant impact and breaking down gender-based barriers. Helga expressed her desire to improve education in her country and empower more individuals, emphasizing the need for ongoing progress and inclusivity in the journey towards gender equality in community tourism enterprises.

Following this inspiring session, the Mayor of Cusco expressed gratitude for hosting the first World Community Tourism Summit in Cusco, highlighting the importance of such gatherings in fostering positive change.

Mario Rigby

Next on stage was Mario Rigby, a Trailblazing Eco-Explorer, Motivational Speaker, and Global Connector. Mario shared his adventures and stressed the importance of diversity in exploration. He highlighted how encouraging Africans to travel within their own continent could bridge cultural gaps.

Hot Topics Panel

The Hot Topics Panel, hosted by Jamie Sweeting, featured Dayvee Sutton, two-time National Emmy Award-winning journalist and travel contributor to NBC News and The Weather Channel, Kevin Rushby, Chief Travel Writer at The Guardian, and Brian Young, Managing Director for G Adventures EMEA. This panel explored the future of tourism, with Kevin Rushby expressing hope for more conscious and purpose-driven travel. Brian predicted that in five years, sustainable travel would be the norm without additional costs, while Dayvee hoped that travel would become accessible to everyone.

In the afternoon, G Adventures announced the launch of “Trees for Days,” their latest initiative in partnership with Planeterra. This exciting initiative paved the way for the next panel, focused on climate and biodiversity.

Climate and Biodiversity Panel

This panel featured Daniel Walsh, co-founder of Reforest, Thomas Armitt, Global Manager of Projects & Partnerships at Planeterra, and JoAnna Hagen.

The discussion delved into the complexity of the climate and biodiversity crisis and its impact on rural and remote communities. It underscored our collective responsibility to create positive change and the importance of making knowledge accessible to empower communities to tackle this unprecedented crisis. The panel emphasized the power of tree planting in environmental regeneration, closing with a powerful reflection on how learning more connects us further.

Delfin and Bruce

Bruce Poon Tip shared a deeper connection he shares with Delfin and his family, whose roots lie in the Ecuadorian Amazon. They have been a profound source of inspiration for his endeavors in promoting a different form of travel. In a heartwarming moment, Delfin gently reminded us that we all come from Pachamama (Mother Earth). Later, both he and his wife graced us with a delightful dance performance, providing a truly memorable conclusion to the day!

As we reflect on this event, we are reminded that community tourism is not just about travel; it’s about the people and places that make our world unique. By fostering collaboration and celebrating diversity, we can continue to use tourism to empower local communities and create a better future for all. 

We look forward to what the future holds for community tourism.

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