• Responsible Tourism
  • 11 May, 2024

Breaking Down Barriers: Planeterra’s Global Community Tourism Network

Breaking Down Barriers: Planeterra’s Global Community Tourism Network
Senang Hati, Ubud, Indonesia provides a meal and cultural experience by people who are differently abled. Photo by Planeterra

Planeterra is the world’s leading non-profit organization using community tourism to uplift people and their livelihood. For the last 20 years, their efforts have centered on providing opportunities for local organizations and communities around the world to harness the benefits of tourism. Through Community-Based Tourism, Planeterra strives to see a world where people create their own economic opportunities, places are protected, and cultures are celebrated through travel. Through its work, Planeterra has successfully developed and supported over a 100 community-owned enterprises, proving that, when done right, community tourism can be a catalyst for positive change. Its work comprises the provision of capacity building training to local communities whose interests lay in building tourism related skills, granting small start- up funds, and more. As Planeterra celebrates its 20th Anniversary, Planeterra’s work directly impacts around 2708
women, 825 youth and 5218 community members and has indirectly impacted over 67,852 people. These are individuals who are part of a household benefiting from tourism income and activities such as running homestays, hiking tours, cycling, meal preparation experiences, environmental conservation experiences and handicraft making. These communities receive mentorship and much-needed training on aspects related to community tourism.

Planeterra’s GCTN member community – Aapshawara Community Dalit Homestay, Damauli, Nepal. Photo by Planeterra

With the world emerging from a global pandemic, a shift for the better can be seen in travelers who want to experience meaningful encounters that create benefits for both the communities they visit, and the planet. This is where Planeterra’s community partners fit in well as they use their local knowledge to provide a world class experience that allows travelers to get a taste of the local culture while fostering respect and understanding. More often than not, community tourism experiences also have positive impacts on the environment. Some of the practices travelers can learn and apply during their visits include eating locally, consuming seasonally grown vegetables, not using single-use plastics, or eating on biodegradable plates, which used to be a common local practice among communities before the influx of plastic.

To expand support and reach more communities during the Covid-19 pandemic, Planeterra launched the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN). This online platform offers a space for peer to peer learning and most importantly, it provides a sense of community for its members. Through the GCTN, communities get access to the Planeterra Learning Hub, an online learning platform that includes 30+ modules on thematic areas aimed at supporting community-led enterprises on how to successfully develop a tourism experience. These communities also get access to exclusive Facebook / WhatsApp groups for informal peer to peer sharing and the opportunity to participate and host community hours / webinars. Currently the GCTN members are at 450+ communities located in 78 countries. In 2023, continuing with work in mentoring communities, providing start-up grants and market connectivity, Planeterra launched the second edition of the Global Community Tourism Fund (GCTF). Through the GCTN, it seeks to promote entrepreneurship and innovation for community tourism enterprises (CTEs) within the GCTN, creating the ability for them to scale up and improve existing tourism experiences with high growth and impact potential. This year Planeterra is providing grants to 18 CTEs globally! These communities will receive mentorship and guidance by our regional team members.

Creating a positive impact on local communities worldwide in the last 20 years would not have been possible without the support of donors and partners, including travel companies, service providers, and international agencies. Having forged strong strategic partnerships with extraordinary organizations such as the Community Homestay Network (CHN) is something Planeterra takes great pride in. With their passion and experience to impact lives across Nepal, CHN continues to inspire all Planeterra communities globally and provide mentorship and training to partners of the GCTN within Nepal.
CHN has onboarded 10 communities from Nepal onto the GCTN, opening up their access to the benefits associated with the network. The first-ever GCTN in-person meeting in Nepal was a matter that caused great celebration. This event, co-hosted and co-executed by CHN, marked a remarkable milestone in the advancement of community tourism.

Life Monteverde – Costa Rica, tourism experience supporting sustainable coffee production, agriculture and education on sustainability. Photo By Planeterra.

One of the biggest rewards is hearing the positive feedback from community partners. Knowing that Planeterra’s work is empowering them is inspiring. One of Planeterra’s community partners in Africa says that, “I feel more confident knowing that I have access to these resources, other communities and the Planeterra Team.” This, for us, is the true power of Community-Based Tourism.

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