Canadian company working to foster sustainable tourism

pnhroyalbeach1_300dpiTourism is an industry largely dependent on climate, especially when people are paying to travel to see white sand beaches, nature and wildlife. At the same ‎time though, the tourism sector is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions ‎‎‎(GHG), especially through the transport of tourists.‎ The UN World Tourism Organization forecasts 1.6 billion tourists by 2020 and increases in CO2 emissions as a result. Many small island states and developing countries depend on tourism for their economy and any ‎significant reduction in tourist arrivals will have ‎serious employment impacts and generate ‎further poverty.‎ They are also the most at risk to climate change impacts. Tourism supports more than 258 million jobs globally and generates $200 billion annually in developing countries; no other industry spreads wealth and jobs across poor countries the same way.

A Canadian company realizes the relationship between economy and environment within the tourism industry and is working to foster sustainable tourism. In 1990, Bruce Poon Tip founded G Adventures to create an authentic, sustainable travel experience. G Adventures offers travellers an alternative to the resorts, cruises and motorcoach tours. Instead their model for sustainable tourism minimizes its impact on the environment by using small-scale lodging, local transportation, supporting locally-owned businesses, and incorporates community-based projects and experiences into tours.

I had an opportunity to speak with Bruce. He told me the company he started more than 20 years ago currently has 1,500 employees who share his philosophy of sustainability. Sustainability of course has many different meanings to people now, but Bruce ultimately defined to me sustainability as respecting people’s basic human rights to things like clean drinking water and protecting destinations for future generations so that our children and grandchildren will have a wonderful natural environment to explore throughout their lives. He describes his company as one that respects local people and cultures by offering economic benefits to local businesses and communities and helping to lift people out of poverty through collaborations.

Bruce explains, “Even in the development phase there is constant conversation between local stakeholders so that cultural and natural environments are preserved, while improving the lives of local people. This is the essence of our way of travelling and it is integrated into every decision and action we take at G Adventures.”

The company also established The Planeterra Foundation in 2003, a non-profit foundation. Planeterra complements G Adventures, by creating an integrated partnership founded on the principles of social enterprise, investing in the futures of the people and places they visit. Planeterra currently operates in over 15 countries globally and provides the tools to empower local communities to harness the power of travel for growth. They accomplish this by providing basic health and education needs, supporting small businesses, conserving the environment and, in times of crisis and natural disaster, providing emergency relief.

G Adventures is currently hosting with Planeterra The G Project. Believing that one idea can change the world, the initiative encourages people to share their ideas on how to make their communities or other people’s communities more accessible to things we may take for granted daily like clean water, a safe home, and adequate medical care. Basically any simple solution to a problem you address is eligible to grant you an opportunity to travel to Costa Rica to attend the inaugural summit in the jungle where the top four ideas will be pitched to Bruce and a panel of experts. The winner will receive a $25,000 micro-grant. The judges range from a United Nations executive secretary to National Geographic and Jane Goodall. The G Project is open for submissions until June 3, 2013 and ideas can be submitted at

Bruce sees his company as really pushing the boundaries past conventional eco-tourism and really being innovative in this sector of tourism. G Adventures is growing into new markets like China and Russia and developing more community tourism in more rural areas. Travellers can live with and like locals through experiences such as a homestay with an indigenous tribe in Ecuador or on a winery in Chile.

It’s important to realize that through transportation to destinations and locales throughout the world humans are using energy and creating a larger carbon footprint but it’s even more important to realize that in travelling to see things and do things we can experience the natural and cultural wonders of our world. When the planes lands we should be environmental stewards to ensure these destinations don’t become neglected, overcrowded, polluted or compromised. Communities are depending on that resource to sustain tourism and life within that community.


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 Date / Fecha: 22/04/13

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