30 SEP 2013: Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of G Adventures, knows how to stage a tourism event. His third Annual Future of Tourism Summit at the Winter Garden Theatre was a sold-out albeit free ticketed event. The room was packed. The lights dimmed. The anticipation was there and the night’s agenda was a tall order.


The idea was to discuss some of the projects for Planeterra - G Adventures charity arm, have a global launch party for his first book “Looptail: How one company changed the world by reinventing business,” and announce the winner of the G Project, a first time G Adventures sponsored initiative to fund someone’s idea for a good cause.

Planeterra


We heard from Paula Vlamings, executive director of the Planeterra Foundation, who gave an overview on the charitable wing of G Adventures. Her heart strings were yanked when she realized water was at a premium while staying at a safari camp in Tanzania years ago. “I thought why do I need that second jug of water?”

Planeterra we heard, has received a three year grant from the Multilateral Investment Fund, a light way of saying ‘foreign aid’ Paula noted. “It was kind of a ground breaking opportunity for us. It’s the first time foreign aid has partnered with a tour operator.”

The non-profit she explains has 25 projects in 15 countries and sets out to finance and develop new community based tourism projects. Most of the sustainable initiatives are based in Central America and South America in countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru. The company website reports, “Within each country we are focusing on a hub location where G Adventures has the ability to direct a high flow of travellers through their small group adventure tours

G Project

Months earlier Bruce who admits he was ambivalent about the G Project finally caved and gave it a 'yes.' He says the staff was eager to get the project moving forward. Interested souls were encouraged to submit a unique worthy cause to a company website. Four finalists and their ideas were selected. Off they went last week to participate in “The Summit in the Jungle” in Costa Rica facing celebrity judges like renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.

Now the winner was among us. “The pitch was so engaging I want you to see the pitch.” Said Bruce.

Lee-Ann Gibbs from Toronto won. Her humanitarian cause titled “Human trafficking survivors take back the streets” is based in Nepal, India and is to help young girls in the sex slave industry get off the street and train them as G Adventures' tour guides.

Lee-Ann explained, “I want to train these human trafficking survivors as tour guides and hospitality staff. Some are so young they can’t go to school; they don’t have access to school. I wanted to give them a chance and an opportunity. What if we were to have these women give G Adventures travellers half day tours and keep them safe and treat them to amazing lunches. I stayed there for six weeks and the women are fantastic.”

We watched on a jumbo video screen and got a close-up look on how this crime has impacted some of the survivors. A tough subject for Lee-Ann, she displayed a mountain of compassion for these unfortunate girls and had the audience’s full attention.

We all applauded her win and she was elated to win the $25,000 cheque for her G Project.

Early Days

During the evening’s presentation Bruce talked about the early days of tourism. He says the nature of mega cruising and the introduction of resorts with the all-inclusives where “you never had to leave” helped convince the marketplace bigger meant better experience.

“What do they tell you when you go to an all-inclusive resort? Don’t leave because it’s dangerous, right? The natives are restless,” he says. “It was the complete opposite to what I thought would be the G Adventures course,” he reflects on his business philosophy back in 1990.

G Adventures he reminded us is not a travel company but is there to create experiences - as his tee-shirt slogans say "Create Happiness and Community". It’s passion and purpose.

Looptail


“What would it take for tourism to be the greatest form of wealth distribution in the world? What would happen if you went on vacation and the money you spent was distributed locally? What would happen for that to happen? Bruce asks and answers, “This is really the motivation on how we changed our business over the last ten years. He continued by saying G Adventures has become a leader, a global brand, “all with the business philosophy on giving back. That was the motivation for the book Looptail.”

The audience got to walk away with a free copy of Looptail with a forward written by none other than the Dalai Lama himself. Looptail’s been a best seller in online sales. Bruce showed us a slide to prove it. Plus we saw a photo of him and the Dalai Lama together in a spirited pose.

We also were introduced to Delphin, a man living in the Amazon, whom Bruce describes as the reason he started his company.

“My success and my company all came because of a serendipitous meeting of one man – Delphin lives with his family in the Amazon. My first trip was to visit Delphin and his family,” says Bruce, describing the sparse sleeping conditions in his hut and the cultural traditions he was exposed to that led him on his passion.

The Surprise Moment

He says the two remain friends and to show how he couldn’t have had the book made without Delphin, Bruce did the impossible. Over a long hard year conversing with the Canadian government, Bruce got the guy living in the Amazon who has no ID at all - a visa - and there was Delphin on stage.

Now there’s an example on the future of tourism.





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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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