We take a closer look at a pioneer of community-based tourism that’s been striving to change the way we travel since 1990.
Aiming to “change the world through travel” may sound like a lofty ambition, but since launching G Adventures in 1990, founder Bruce Poon Tip is striving to do just that. As much a social enterprise as it is a group travel company, these aren’t your average tours. Instead, they’re built on meaningful relationships with local communities and strive to have a positive impact on the people and places they visit.
Its ethos is built around a belief that travel can be a force for good – hence the ‘G’ in its name. Small-group adventures might include ice-trekking on glaciers in Patagonia, spotting blue-footed boobies and giant tortoises in the Galápagos or getting up close and personal with gorillas in the Masai Mara (on a trip endorsed by Dr. Jane Goodall, no less).
What they all have in common is that they adhere to robust responsible travel guidelines, which promise to give back as much as – if not more than – they take from the local communities they visit.
Its non-profit partner, Planeterra, was established in 2003 to nurture social enterprises by bringing underrepresented communities into the sustainable tourism chain, improving education and providing jobs. It has a long history of working hand in hand with local communities to create social enterprises where profits go straight back to the community. In Botswana, for example, research identified a lack of locally-owned and -run accommodation options, so Planeterra worked with the San community to promote and provide training for the community-owned Dqae Qare San Lodge. This helped them gain access to new markets, creating new sustainable revenue streams that showcased and helped preserve the indigenous heritage of the San.
Another success story has been the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op in Peru. Located in the Sacred Valley, Planeterra worked with a small group of indigenous women, assisting with training and marketing to promote traditional Inca weaving techniques, and creating a social enterprise that has since flourished and grown to over 65 all-female cooperative members. During the Covid pandemic, Planeterra also launched the Global Community Tourism Network, providing online training, promotion and marketing for community-owned tourism businesses.
Most recently, Planeterra teamed up with the Delhi-based NGO Salaam Baalak Trust to fund shelters for street children in the city and then help them find meaningful employment – sometimes as expert guides for G Adventures.
And, as a final sweetener, G Adventures travellers can see the impact they are having using the Ripple Score, which shows how much of your money goes towards locally-owned products and services on your tour. The higher the score, the more money stays in the local community. Simple.