Travel Agent Appreciation

Planeterra Has 50 And More Reasons to Celebrate

Planeterra is already well on its way of reaching its Project 100 goal of supporting 100 social enterprises around the world by 2020, but last night (Nov. 5) the non-profit organization took the time to celebrate the successful completion of the initial 50 in 5 campaign launched in 2015.

“We’ve completed 50 in 5, we’re now embarking on this ambitious Project 100 to have 100 social enterprises up and running and in G Adventures tours by the end of next year,” said Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra, addressing the crowd gathered at the 50 Reasons to Celebrate event in Toronto. “We have about 14 months to go and we’re well on our way. To not let too much of the cat out of the bag, we now have 85 projects so that’s pretty awesome.”

Held at the Livelihood Cafe, a non-profit cafe where 66 percent of staff are refugees, Sweeting said the event space was purposely chosen.

Sweet 16 — all about speed

Telling the story of how Planeterra came to be, Bruce Poon Tip, founder of Planeterra Foundation & G Adventures, said he first worked with Sweeting in 1995 at Conservation International on an eco-tourism project in Guatemala.

“It was the first time we had a taste of how we could work with local communities and how tourism can have that impact and wealth distribution that we profess. Back then we were both very young and we both had a lot of passion and ambition and this fueling idea that travel could be a force for good before anyone could really define it,” he recalled. “Ultimately, it lead to us starting Planeterra. The problem that I had working with any non-profit was that they did things at a glacial pace and I was an entrepreneur that really wanted to put out product. Speed to market was really at a premium, being nimble within an organization is critical to being an entrepreneur and being innovative and staying competitive and that’s just not a priority of a non-profit. So I thought that we could just start our own non-profit in 2003 and do our own community project for the first time.”

Today the foundation has 85 projects in place that focus on empowering women, creating new paths for youth, conserving cultures and protecting the environment.

“It’s amazing just to see the work, speed to market, how Planeterra has followed us on this entrepreneurial journey as we continue to kick field goals everywhere and in everything we do,” he said. “We’re still achieving double-digit growth as a business 30 years later, continuing to be a high-growth company and we’re doing it with a social mission backed by all the hard work that’s done at Planeterra.”

Giving Tuesday

During the event, the Planeterra team also announced a fundraising initiative tied to Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3.

“This is a good trend I think, the idea of trying to focus everybody for one day a year to say this is the season of goodwill and we’re all going to be buying presents for each other but maybe we can give to somebody other than ourselves,” said Sweeting.

Kelly Galaski, director of programs at Planeterra, said the campaign will help empower local people in D’kar, Botswana with job creation and a sustainable income, in an area where about 2,000 people were living in extreme poverty and are subsisting on about .30 cents USD per capita per day. One of the newest Planeterra projects supports the Dqae Qare San Lodge in D’kar.

“They’re San people. You may have heard of the San bushmen over the years. They’re indigenous people. There’s a saying that if you stare into a grandmother San’s eyes you are looking at your own grandmother. It’s really the birthplace of humanity, but of course like indigenous people around the world they’re the most suppressed people in their countries,” she said. “In this case, 2,000 people removed from their land, put on a reserve and told you can no longer hunt and trap… so left with no economic opportunities. Indigenous people tell us that tourism is pretty much their only hope for their future generations to provide economic opportunities to share and celebrate their cultures and wisdom with everyone else who comes to visit them.”

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Pictured at the event are Bruce Poon Tip and Jamie Sweeting.

Posted in News, Responsible Travel, Tour Operators