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Planeterra talks supporting women in tourism

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  •   03-09-2015  10:06 am

Planeterra talks supporting women in tourism

With International Women’s Day taking place March 8, PAXnews.com had a chance to sit down with Kelly Galaski, program manager at Planeterra, to discuss the ways in which the tourism industry impacts the lives of women in developing countries around the world.

Founded by G Adventures’ Bruce Poon Tip in 2003, Planeterra is a non-profit organization that works to link rural communities to the economy – often communities where G Adventures operates – by helping to create opportunities, an endeavour that often includes women.

“We’ve found more and more that a lot of the projects that we’ve been developing have led to women’s empowerment, by way of providing women with employment opportunities,” Galaski explained. “For women who have been excluded from formal education in the past, it tends to be an entry point into the economy.”

Mainly, Planeterra focuses on five areas of economic development: accommodation (mostly consisting of homestay arrangements); community tourism (set-ups that can be owned and run by communities); cultural tourism (targeted toward adventure travellers, offering unique experiences specific to the culture); food and beverage (family-run, in-home or community-run enterprises), and handicraft cooperatives (such as weaving and sewing).

Among Planeterra’s successful projects are a women’s sewing cooperative in Egypt, a program that helps survivors of human trafficking in Nepal develop skills in the hospitality industry, and an initiative called Women on Wheels, which assists women in Delhi with obtaining their drivers licenses, and provides them with employment as certified commercial chauffeurs for woman travellers. 

Collaborating with registered organizations and representatives from each community, Planeterra determines how to best improve their social, environmental and economic positions. Many of Planeterra’s projects are initiatives that have already been started by communities, but are in need of additional funding or guidance - which is where Planeterra comes in.

“It’s a whole other level of skills and type of work to get into a rural community and get [the local people] from point zero to [the point] where they’re running a business,” Galaski said of the company’s involvement with pre-established programs that may not be reaching their potential.

Often government-started, one of the issues is the placement of tourism-focused companies; if the co-op or shop is placed too far off the beaten path, less tourists are likely to visit with their business, resulting in low revenue. According to Galaski, it helps that Planeterra is partnered with a tour company.

“As a travel foundation, we’re looking for ways to create market-based opportunities, and to provide long term solutions. By including the enterprises in G Adventures itineraries, we can make them available to travellers, and thus provide a sustainable customer base,” Galaski said.

One example is a recent tourism project where Planeterra partnered with the Multilateral Investment Fund of the IDB Group to open a community restaurant in Sacred Valley, a rural area of Peru, located directly on a route used in a G Adventure’s tour.

The majority of the full-time restaurant workers were women, many without formal education or experience with household technology, who became trained in the use of high-tech industry-grade kitchen equipment. Due in part to the proximity of the restaurant to known tourist routes, the restaurant has been a success since its opening in March 2014. According to Galaski, many of the women who work there have now been able to send their children to university.

“You can see that the women who have been involved in these projects are more independent, opinionated, and feel so proud that they can contribute to their households in such a meaningful way,” she said.

With the operational and administrative costs provided entirely by G Adventures, Planeterra is able to allocate 100 per cent of donations and funds raised to its programs.

Although Planeterra intends to develop three new women-focused projects in Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Morocco in 2015-2016, its main concentration is to continue to provide support to the projects they’ve already established.

 “We feel we can have way more of an impact as a travel foundation if we can provide a long-term partnership, which we do using the continued funding that comes from our business [setup],” Galaski said, describing the symbiotic relationship between the G Adventures travellers and their patronage to Planeterra-established companies. “The travellers are purchasing a service, which means the women are making an income.”

 

 

Tips for how Canadians can support women while travelling abroad:

  • Research your destination beforehand, and try to patronize cooperatives and non-profit organizations that support women when booking accommodations.
  • When shopping for souvenirs, look for handicraft producers. Ask where, and by whom, handicrafts are made.
  • When visiting community establishments, look for businesses managed by women.
  • Donate to non-profits and charities that support women’s empowerment in your destination, either during your trip or after you’ve returned.
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