G Adventures Announces $1 Million Partnership with Inter-American Development Bank on Sustainable Community-Based Tourism Program

19 February 2013

 A project of the Multilateral Investment Fund

Canadian small-group adventure travel tour operator G Adventures announces the collaboration with the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB). The $1 million multi-year partnership will finance and develop a sustainable community-based tourism (CBT) program in Central & South America. This is the first time the MIF has ever partnered with a tour operator on tourism development, employing a unique, socially driven business model to improve social enterprise in tourism.

The aim of the project is to increase the competitiveness of micro and small enterprises (MSE) by optimizing their market access and efficiency in the tourism value chain. By partnering with a global tour operator on product development efforts, MSEs will gain access to a ready market, capabilities and the tools to serve the market demand.

"Tourism is one of the largest industries on the planet. Vital to the livelihood of 85 per cent of developing nations, it creates employment opportunities, battles poverty and strengthens economies," says Paula Vlamings, Executive Director, Planeterra. "Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on developing CBT 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 CBT 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."

Managed by the tour operator's corporate foundation, Planeterra, the program is being implemented in four destinations where G Adventures and other tour operators direct a high flow of travellers through organized tours – Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. Within each country, CBT products, services and small businesses will be developed in communities that have not historically benefited from the travel industry active in their country. The initiative will also provide the hosting communities with social and environmental grants to promote sustainable, long-term solutions.

"We're thrilled to be collaborating with the MIF on this exciting initiative. It's a testament to the positive impact travel can have on the lives of rural communities around the world when the power of the tourism engine is harnessed effectively. In addition to generating market demand in the regions, the program will stimulate local economic growth to ultimately preserve the cultures of these beautiful destinations," says Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures. "Not only will these tourism initiatives benefit the local communities, travellers will have the unique opportunity to experience meaningful and enriching cultural exchanges with indigenous people. The project is a perfect fit for us at G Adventures as we evolve more and more into a social enterprise."

"Industry leader G Adventures is the ideal partner for this project. Their approach to sustainable tourism, coupled with their operations experience and marketing expertise will undoubtedly provide the much-needed demand and market to ultimately bring visitors to the tourism projects," says Betsy Murray, MIF Senior Specialist. "We hope this initiative will motivate other institutions in the donor community and tour operators to collaborate to find sustainable solutions in the tourism industry."

MIF Projects
Five main hub CBT initiatives are being developed to serve as the principal elements to which other micro and small businesses will be linked, expanding the economic opportunities in each of the communities touched by the project.

"The anticipated results of this intervention include an estimated 40 per cent increase in occupancy/visitation of businesses in the project. In cases where businesses will go from zero or negligible customers to 50-100 travellers a week, the percentage of revenue increase will be much higher," explains Vlamings. "These will not be CBT businesses that sit unused, providing no benefits – they will be profitable from the start due to their collaboration with a global travel company."

  1. Coffee cooperative tour and restaurant, San Miguel de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

  1. Community homestay accommodation, San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala

  1. Community farm-to-table restaurant, Sacred Valley, Peru

  1. Community homestay accommodation, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

  1. Community-owned & managed campsite for trekkers, Lares Valley, Peru
Within each of these communities, further micro & small businesses will be developed and connected to each hub CBT enterprise. At least three MSEs will be developed and serve as providers of supplementary services such as tours, agriculture and food suppliers, laundry, theatre and more. Each of the MSEs will receive small grants as seed funding and training to launch their businesses.

For more information please visit www.planeterra.org.