THE YEAR TRAVEL WAS PAUSED
We are honoured to share Planeterra’s 2020 Impact Report. This report is filled with challenges, triumphs and stories of impact. Despite worldwide lockdowns, Planeterra, our supporters and communities were able to turn travel into impact from home.
Dear friends and supporters,
Planeterra started 2020 on a high, having set our sights on making a bigger impact with the successful launch of Project 100 and poised to be positively impacting at least 100 communities by year’s end. In January and February our team was travelling across the globe visiting community tourism enterprises in the USA, Egypt, South Africa, Argentina, Thailand, and Italy. However, other partners in places like Italy and China soon had to close their doors due to government-issued stay-at-home orders, with the spread of COVID-19 monopolizing news coverage worldwide.
Then, the COVID-19 global pandemic was declared and within days, we were grounded in our homes under various degrees of lockdown, and our work to forge new partnerships ground to a halt. We immediately pivoted to supporting our 85 partners now facing an undetermined amount of time without an income. We deployed a needs assessment survey, and began fundraising to support emergency relief grants for the communities we work alongside. Our dedicated field team took calls with communities unsure what the pandemic meant, sent World Health Organization guidelines to keep people safe, and acted as a shoulder to lean on for countless individuals and their enterprises. Based in seven regions around the world, we became a dedicated network for sustained support and mentorship in the early days – but this would grow to mean so much more in the coming months.
We were overwhelmed by the immediate, sustained, and generous support for our Turn Travel Into Impact from Home campaign, which raised over $100,000 CAD between April and July. You helped us provide funds for medicine, food parcels, community gardens, greenhouses and other income-generating initiatives to 30 communities in 25 countries.
The virtual support of our partners proved equally as important this year, as we channelled our efforts into publishing the Planeterra Learning Hub, an online site exclusively for our partners featuring over 50 training modules, worksheets and instructional videos in both Spanish and English. Our team planned training that partners had identified in our needs assessment survey including marketing, income diversification, and business planning. We began conducting monthly training sessions, fostering peer-to-peer learning amongst our partner communities and supporting them through strengthening their enterprises for a more sustainable future. Many focussed successfully on domestic markets, sold handmade face masks online, conducted virtual events, fundraised from their supporters, and returned to subsistence farming and other revenue sources while they awaited the return of travel.
We watched the tourism industry struggle to survive for the majority of the year, from our community tourism partners to our travel industry allies. Many of our supporters, colleagues, and friends lost their jobs in these challenging times. Some days, the magnitude of the pandemic and the sadness we felt for individuals, their families, and communities was overwhelming. Our small team leant on each other – virtually – during these times, increasing our number of team gatherings and check-ins, reaching inward to one another for support, while relentlessly and passionately campaigning for Planeterra’s vision of a world where community tourism is put at the centre of travel’s recovery.
The Planeterra community continued to show their support and rallied together in September, when we launched our first Planeterra Trek Challenge. Together, 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 fundraising over CA$100,000 for Planeterra’s work.
As we look back on 2020, we feel immense gratitude to all those we worked alongside, the volunteers who lent a hand, our monthly donors who gave us confidence in our work, and to all those who supported us both big and small.
We wish you all the best in 2021, and are hopeful for the return of travel. But we do not wish for a return to the status quo. We will be working tirelessly to ensure communities are put at the centre of travel’s reemergence, that travel companies, governments, and travellers all recognize the importance of community tourism as a means to empower communities, and most importantly, that communities receive the training and support they need to thrive.
From all of us,
Jamie, Rhea, Alanna, Crystal, Carlota, Rosselin, Joel, Laura, Evie, Tung and Priyanka