It’s one thing to know that travel agent associations are lobbying the government on agents’ behalf. It’s another to actually hear it and see it in action.
TORONTO — At G Adventures’ annual celebration of World Tourism Day, owner and founder Bruce Poon Tip continued his impassioned mission to drive sustainability and reduce poverty through responsible tourism.
Poon envisions a world where travel helps facilitate a transfer of wealth to the poorest countries to help alleviate extreme poverty, a world where tourism helps support local communities with jobs and technology, and minimizes the environmental footprint. This ideal world is also where travellers are educated on their environmental impact, good and bad, so they can make conscious decisions about how to spend their tourism dollars.
“At G Adventures our purpose is to change travel and change the way people look at travel. We believe you can change the world just by enjoying it,” said Poon Tip. “But if you want the comforts of home, you should probably consider staying home.”
G Adventures has created the G Local Program to begin measuring the impact that tourism has on local communities and the environment. While in its infancy, the new scoring system, which was created in partnership with Sustainable Travel International and a panel of experts, will help measure local impact with verified and documented results. The G Local Score can then help inform purchasing decisions.
The company’s product can boast the following G Local scores: 91% of suppliers are local; 25% use solar power; 90% buy local, and $250 spent by every G traveller equals $200 million into local economies.
The scoring is one piece of the puzzle, but agents and consumers must also be educated on what to look for in a sustainable tourism product.
As a result, G Adventures has created the 30-minute Travel Better Certificate program, an interactive and easy-to-use online learning module. This course is designed for agents interested in learning about sustainably, so they can pass the message onto their clients.
“Travel agents are key to helping educate consumers on how to travel better and more sustainably,” said Poon Tip.
On the product side, G Adventures is launching a new 32-trip Limited Edition program, as well as 20 wildlife trips in the Jane Goodall Collection.
The new Limited Edition program offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences that include a Halloween party at Bran Castle in Romania, the Haitian Carnival in Jacmel, Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica, Pizzafest in Italy, and longboat racing in Cambodia.
These trips are aimed at immersing travellers in local cultures, and delivering experiences that are completely unique to a place and its people.
G Adventures is also offering new itineraries by way of a new partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. Through this collaboration, G hopes to raise awareness of the importance of wildlife-friendly tourism, curating a program of 20 wildlife trips to form the Jane Goodall Collection by G Adventures.
All trips in the collection are endorsed by renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. The Jane Goodall Institute protects endangered species through conservation strategies that incorporate the needs of local communities, understanding that helping people saves wildlife.
“I want to congratulate G Adventures on their animal welfare policy, which is so aligned with our values. My vision is that one day people can live in harmony with nature. Travel can be a powerful way to learn about the natural world and our relationship with it,” said Goodall.
G Adventures continues to put their money where their mouth is its charitable arm, Planterra, which has successfully raised $1.1 million over the past year and added 11 community projects to G itineraries. This all goes towards the ambitious goal of adding 50 new projects over five years in the 50-in-5 campaign. New projects include noodle bars, train station rehabilitation and local bicycle tours, among many others.
“Travel and tourism has the potential to be a great equalizer when it comes to income and opportunity for young people, especially in the places where jobs and development have lagged,” added Poon Tip. “When we do it ethically, with like-minded customers who care as much about customer experience as positive community impact, and we partner with local people who have vision and ambition, we can do a world of good.”