Presenting: Danielle Weiss Talks about Sustainable Tourism

– Protect local water systems
Use only biodegradable soaps and shampoos while camping. Avoid sunblock while snorkelling as the chemicals are harmful to the coral reef – wear a T-shirt instead.

– Respect cultural differences
Local customs and traditions may be different from our own. Take the time to learn what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t.

– Take photos with care
Always ask permission to take photos of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. If you do take a photo, offer to send copies back to them and make sure to follow through with your promise. If your subject wants immediate compensation in return for the photo taken, offering a piece of fruit or bread, or a souvenir from your home are ways to do it.

– Learn a few phrases
Take the time to learn about the country you are visiting. Learning about the customs and a few words in the local language can go a long way and is appreciated by the local people. It also makes your interactions more meaningful and memorable.

– Giving gifts
G.A.P highly discourages offering money to people begging on the streets of Latin America. Parents often send their children out into the streets, since a child can make more than their parents make begging on the street. This promotes further dependency and encourages more parents to send out their children. Instead, we would suggest offering a piece of bread or fruit.

– Support Local Artisans
Support local artists and artisans by purchasing locally made goods. Many communities sell handmade crafts that you may purchase while on tour. You may also ask your Tour Leader for recommendations about where to find local markets, stores and cooperatives.


The lost city of Machu Picchu, Peru

6. Please tell us more about Planeterra as well as about your Community Projects?

The Planeterra Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of people and communities around the world through support of community projects, local organizations and international charities.

The Planeterra Foundation was developed by G.A.P Adventures, and provides us as a company, our travellers and other donors with a way to give back to the people and places we visit on our tours.

G.A.P Adventures pays all administration costs and matches each donation dollar-for-dollar so that 100% of each donation goes to support Planeterra projects. By identifying projects and organizations that specialize in different areas, our donors are provided with a variety of worthwhile projects to choose from and support. Based on the individual needs of each project, resources are delivered on an annual basis in the form of funds and/or materials.

We support a number of community projects throughout Latin America which our travellers are given the opportunity to visit while on our tours. These projects focus on the areas of health, education childcare, women’s projects, wildlife conservation and the development of community-based ecotourism.

To learn more about the individual community projects that we support please visit:
http://www.planeterra.org/community.html

7. Why did G.A.P Adventures become so committed to the concept of sustainable tourism?

Planeterra is a labour of love and a dream that has come together after years of planning. As a company that strives to give back to local communities, developing our own foundation has long been on the agenda and is now a reality. We have been very successful as a company and part of our mission statement is to never forget what really makes our company and programs great.

Bruce Poon Tip, G.A.P Adventures’ founder and C.E.O. has the following to say about his company’s commitment to sustainable tourism:

“It’s about community, people and cultural exchange. It is our duty to show ultimate respect for the privilege we all have with modern international travel. In appreciation of the people and places that have provided us with unforgettable memories and experiences, we encourage you to help us give back to the country in which you have travelled. We ensure that 100% of your donation goes back to the people and supports community development with the goal of promoting long-term sustainability. It is my duty as the founder and CEO of G.A.P Adventures, to help preserve our planet, her people and to make sure her treasures are around for the next generation of eager travellers and wide-eyed explorers.”


Visiting with children in a village in the Amazon

8. What additional sustainable tourism initiatives are you working on?

a) Raising $100,000 to help build a home for street kids in Peru
Every year donations made to the Planeterra Foundation are dispersed amongst the community projects and international charities that we support. In addition to raising funds for the various local projects and charities we support, the Planeterra Foundation currently has a goal of raising $100,000 which will be used to purchase land and build a home for street children in Cusco, Peru.

We are working together with Inti Runakunaq Wasin (IRW), Quechua for “house of the people of the sun”, a local non-profit organization that acts as a haven for children who live in extreme poverty. IRW currently rents a small apartment space and is operated by a group of social workers, teachers and other professionals who volunteer their time to provide support programs for children and their families. Children are given the opportunity to voluntarily drop-in and participate in a variety of classes and workshops that teach them valuable skills including reading, writing, carpentry, handicrafts, shoe repair, cooking, music and English.

IRW currently works with 50 children but have a goal of establishing a bigger home outside of Cuzco in order to provide services to more children in need. The Planeterra Foundation is organizing fundraising events and is relying on matched donations from travellers and other donors in order to make this dream a reality.


Helping Street Children in Peru

b) Upcoming Fundraising Events
We have just recently hired a full-time Fundraiser, Elinor Schwob, who comes to us with 15 years of fundraising experience. With Elinor’s help we aim to raise a minimum of $250,000 for our projects in 2006 through matched donations from travellers and some exciting fundraising events. We will continually be updating the Planeterra Events page with information about these events:

http://www.planeterra.org/support.html

c) New Volunteer Tours

For many people, travelling is about gaining an understanding and appreciation of new cultures and developing relationships with local people. This year we have developed a new style of tour that incorporates a volunteer component so that travellers have the opportunity to help improve the basic living conditions of the local people while having an unforgettable cultural experience. In 2006 our goal is to research and develop more of these types of tours.


Building stoves in Peru

PROJECT PERU
Travellers have the opportunity to work alongside local host families to build a Peruvian cooking stove. Without the help of travellers that want to make a difference, these communities do not have the resources to build safe and clean cooking stoves for themselves. Benefits of the stove include the removal of smoke from the kitchen, a 50% reduction in wood used and the reduction of eye and lung infections especially among women and children. Travellers will also have the opportunity to visit Cusco, a women’s weaving project in the Sacred Valley and the lost city of Machu Picchu .

For more information about this tour please visit Project Peru

PROJECT GUATEMALA
Working alongside members of the community and international volunteers travellers will participate in a project that provides villagers with clean drinking water in Guatemala ‘s eastern highlands. Travellers may also have the opportunity participate in other cultural aspects of village life such as learning to make tortillas with the women, helping with the corn harvest, and teaching English to the children. We will also visit the colonial town of Antigua , relax on the shores of Lake Atitlan and explore the colourful Sunday market in Chichicastenango.

For more information about this tour please visit Project Guatemala

No training or special skills are required, just a desire to help make a difference.

3) Planeterra in Africa
In 2006, we will be expanding the scope of Planeterra to support community and conservation projects in Africa.

Danielle, I appreciate that you took your time to educate us about the concept of sustainable tourism and what all of us can do to show respect to the people and places that we have the privilege to visit. Good luck with your work for the Planeterra Foundation……

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