G Adventures – Using Overseas Tourism as a Force for Positive Change

G Adventures - Bruce Poon TipAfter returning from a backpacking tour of Asia, in 1990, Canadian Bruce Poon Tip founded Gap Adventures (renamed G Adventures in 2012) with nothing more than two personal credit cards and a burning desire to create an authentic, sustainable travel experience like nothing the world had ever seen before. By offering adventure-craving travelers an alternative to the resorts, cruises and motor-coach tours they were accustomed to, he not only changed the way people looked at their holiday time, but changed the face of travel forever. What started off as a one-man show has since grown to become the world’s largest adventure travel company with over 1350 employees.

But it doesn’t just begin and end with unique travel experiences. G Adventures is itself a social enterprise, creating positive social change. They sell tours to countries all over the world that utilize local services, contribute to local economies, and provide employment opportunities and training in under-served regions of the globe that rely heavily on tourism as their only economic import. They even give grants for seed funding along with training to get new travel initiatives up and running in some cases.

The entire G Adventures enterprise was founded on the concept of sustainability and established travel practices that show due consideration for natural surroundings and local cultures. By limiting the average travel group size to around twelve people, and by using local transportation and staying in small, locally owned hotels and guesthouses, G Adventure travelers are able to minimize their footprint in foreign communities and gain maximum exposure to the local culture.

Poon Tip’s organisation supplies these locally operated businesses with ongoing tourism and the people at G Adventures are very passionate about the difference they and their clients make to the communities they serve. In return, their globetrotting tourists get engaged and motivated CEOs (the company calls all their Tour Guides, CEOs or ‘Chief Experience Officers’) and can witness first-hand the real difference that their presence and their tourism makes to these local communities. The families and the communities within G Adventures’ travel network benefit in so many ways from the extra income. It creates a ripple effect within the local economy connecting small businesses, cooperatives and even rural families directly to its supply chain, thus enabling more tourism dollars to stay in the local community.

G Adventures’ business model varies greatly to that of all-inclusive resorts or other tour operators. In a staggering statistic from the UNEP (United National Environmental Program), on average out of every $100 spent by a traveler in a developing community in an all-inclusive resort, only $5 actually benefits the local community. Bruce believes that travel can be the greatest form of wealth distribution on the planet if it’s done correctly. and it doesn’t rely on donations or handouts – it just relies on travelers making smart choices about how and who they travel with.

This is a business that cares, with a founder who is a revolutionary thinker and a great leader.

Planeterra Foundation

Established in 2003 by G Adventures as a way to give back through travel, The Planeterra Foundation is a legally constituted non‐profit organization that supports social and environmental solutions in destinations around the world via its global network of travelers. Planeterra works to ensure that communities are benefiting from the opportunity that tourism has to bring. Working directly with G Adventures to minimize the impact on the world’s great destinations and to promote sustainable solutions and economic growth for communities worldwide, Planeterra manages over 50 current and funded projects in threatened and developing regions all over the world.  G Adventures - Peru

Together, G Adventures and Planeterra have partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in a multi-million dollar initiative that will promote sustainable, community-based tourism in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. This is the first time that IDB have partnered with a private organisation, and this highlights the great work that together G Adventures and Planeterra can achieve. The on-the-ground component of this joint venture (hiring, training etc.) is managed by Planeterra, who develop tourism projects, services and small businesses in these communities that have not historically benefited from the travel industry. Planeterra brings the knowledge and expertise in developing sustainable projects, while G Adventures provides a ready-made market for the product.

Tourism is one of the largest industries on the planet. Vital to the livelihood of eighty-five per cent of developing nations, it creates employment opportunities, battles poverty and strengthens economies,” says the Executive Director of Planeterra. “Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on developing community-based tourism worldwide with little benefit to the hosting communities. The tourism industry has not traditionally been involved in international development activities. Where it has, it was only engaged at the very end, yielding high failure rates and unsuccessful projects. In order for community-based tourism development to be sustainable and effective, the private sector, specifically tour operators that possess the market power, must be engaged at the beginning and throughout the entire process.

Some of the Planeterra projects include…

• A Women’s Weaving co-op in Peru. This is an incredible project that taught local women ancient weaving techniques as well as natural fabric dye processes. As a result of this project, local women now have employment where there was previously zero employment of women and it has reconnected a community with the importance of their own history. Today all G Adventures travel groups visiting the Sacred Valley in Peru have a chance to see and purchase high quality textiles produced by these weavers, all sold at fair trade prices.
• New Hope Cambodia – a Vocational Training Restaurant in Cambodia, which provides marginalized people in that community with hospitality skills to help them obtain new dignified job opportunities.
• Hope Africa – a day school for HIV/AIDS orphaned children in South Africa.
• A foundation in Honduras to help women start their own businesses.
• A community school in Ecuador.
• A drop-in centre for street children in Cuczo, Peru.
• An NGO in Costa Rica for environmental and wildlife conservation projects.

G Adventures - Peru WeavingOnce Planeterra has made its positive impact, G Adventures then provides consistent market access through its travelers as a sustainable source of income for these local communities. Its travelers bring long term success to these projects long after Planeterra’s initial investment has gone, so it is a business model that measures the social return on investment as a priority rather than just the company’s profits, but in the same breadth ensures that it remains financially viable over the longer term. A perfect example of ‘making a difference’ without sacrificing financial sustainability.

G Adventures funds Planeterra by covering all administrative costs, so one hundred per cent of donor funds go directly towards supporting each project. G Adventures also contributes $30,000 per year in matching funds made through individual donations online. Whether a traveler takes a trip with G Adventures, volunteers at one of Planeterra’s projects, or invests in their projects worldwide – he or she is helping to make Planeterra’s work possible.

Planeterra’s mission is to support sustainable solutions in the places travelers love to visit and it does this through G Adventures – building projects into tours.

Global Recognition

The work of G Adventures and Bruce Poon Tip has not gone unnoticed. G Adventures and Bruce Poon Tip have been consistently recognized for leadership and outstanding business practices. G Adventures is among the Top 100 Employers and 50 Best Managed Companies in its country. Bruce has won Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year and has been honoured as one of Canada’s 100 Leaders of Tomorrow.

In recognition of G Adventures’ dedication to ethical business practices’ and responsible travel, Bruce received the Ethics In Action Award. He has also received the Global Traders Award for his groundbreaking ideas in exporting services. In January of 2002 Bruce was invited to speak at the United Nations launch of the Year Of Eco Tourism in New York and in 2006 he spoke about the commitment to responsible tourism at the World Trade Organization’s ‘Ethics in Tourism’ Conference and at the World Tourism Conference.

Just recently Bruce was asked by the World Bank and UNESCO to represent a team to visit the Peoples Republic of China to speak on sustainable development.

Here are just some of Bruce’s tips for business leaders…
• Look beyond the triple bottom line and understand how to make a real difference.
• Sometimes big business can be alienated by the difference the smaller brands can make – allow them to understand the difference they also make by bringing a deeper sense of purpose and passion into their corporations. Bruce calls this ‘The Quintuple Bottom Line’ – People; Planet; Profit; Passion and Purpose.
•Bruce runs G Adventures using a happiness business model, where happiness drives performance, allowing G Adventures to maintain a global company culture that delivers on a very aggressive brand promise that differentiates itself based on a purpose-driven business model.
• Engage your customers beyond the product with every sale. Make them aware of the difference they make and help them to feel that difference every time they engage with your business.
• Engage with all people who touch your brand beyond the product.
• A company’s core values are more than just a sign on the office wall. Your employees need to live and breathe the company’s core values each and every day, and those core values must guide all decision making in the company.

The guiding principle behind everything that G Adventures does is quite simple… They’re about running their business in a way that respects people and the planet. A perfect example of ROI+I – Return on Investment and Integrity.

For more information contact me at brian@precisionprofiling.com.au.

Until then… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less. Have a great week – Brian

Precision ProfilingWhat Makes You Tick? Through ‘Motivational Fingerprinting’ we uncover what you do, how you do it and why you do it, and most importantly, the hidden patterns that lead to your success, and that of your team.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here

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