When travellers enjoy lunch at the New Hope Cambodia Vocational Training Restaurant, they are also providing marginalised people in that community with the hospitality skills needed to gain work. Anyone joining the Thailand Hilltribes Trek doesn’t only get the chance to meet and share experiences with homestay hosts from the communities of Ban Pha Mon, Ban Meung Pam, and Ban Jabo. They are also enabling these communities to remain in their home villages, rather than head to the city in search of work now that climate change has made their annual rice yields much less predictable. And the many thousands who stop to buy a souvenir at the Women’s Weaving Cooperative at the village of Caccaccollo in Peru aren’t just picking up authentic handicrafts – they have been instrumental in making it possible for local municipality to prioritise the building of new road, electrical, and sanitation infrastructure.
All these projects have two more things in common. First they are supported by the Planeterra Foundation, and secondly, large numbers of the tourists visiting them were taking part in one of G Adventures’ trips. The connection is no coincidence. 120,000 people go on G Adventures tours each year, making it the world’s largest small group travel company. And Planeterra is its not-for-profit arm, set up in 2003 to help develop projects like the ones above, so that people in marginalised communities could benefit from tourism.
Since it was launched in 2003, Planeterra has launched or supported 60 community development projects, which have helped over 70,000 people gain greater access to education, health care, and sustainable income. In 2015, it looked to scale its impact considerably, launching the ‘50 in 5 Campaign’ that looks to develop 50 new social enterprises – and include them all in G Adventures’ itineraries by 2020.
To ensure the transparency and efficacy of its impact, G Adventures conducted, last year, a global supply chain assessment. This audit found that 91% of the company’s suppliers are owned and operated by local legal residents; that 97% of its suppliers incorporate some kind of sustainability practices into their business; and 70% purchase supplies from local markets and farmers. The travellers stopping at the cafes, plying the trekking routes, and buying their souvenirs may not realise the full impact of their decisions, But G Adventures and Planeterra have made sure they matter.