Bruce Poon Tip is a Canadian social entrepreneur, quintuple bottom line pioneer, and founder of G Adventures, a travel business rooted in social innovation. He talks to Salt about how tourism has the potential to change the lives of locals.
WHAT IS G ADVENTURES?
We say G Adventures is more than just a travel company. Yes, we are the leader in our space in terms of small group adventure trips around the world, but there’s more to us than that. When you travel with G you’re doing more than just taking a holiday, you’re helping make a difference in the world.
WHERE DO YOU GO AND WHAT DO YOU PROVIDE?
We take travellers to more than 100 countries on all seven continents. We have eight different travel styles including sailing and rail trips, and Local Living trips – community- based tourism where you can stay with an Amazon tribe for a week. There’s something for everyone. All our trips give travellers from all over the world the opportunity to travel with likeminded people, experience new cultures and meet local people. We’re most excited about our new partnership with National Geographic where we’ll be offering accessibly priced trips with unprecedented National Geographic experiences.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT TO OTHER ADVENTURE COMPANIES?
We’re constantly innovating and always striving to do more and be the best, to give our travellers the best experience, and change people’s lives as we go. That’s what being a social enterprise is all about.
HOW ARE YOU PROVIDING SUSTAINABLE EXPERIENCES?
By making sure as much money as possible stays in destination. Sustainable tourism began when people started looking at the environments and cultural heritage of the places they were visiting. By simply being conscious of where their money is spent, travellers can help preserve cultures, educate children and alleviate poverty. We’ve been offering social enterprise experiences as part of our trips for years, such as our women’s weaving cooperative in Peru. We’ve just announced we’re committing to 50 more projects in the next five years which means 92 per cent of our trips will visit a community project related to travel. We’re bringing a ready market of travellers to these micro-businesses to ensure their success.
TO WHAT EXTENT CAN TOURISM HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON CULTURES AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT?
Quite simply, done right, travel could be the greatest distributor of wealth the world has ever seen and, I believe, the fastest path to peace.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START AN ORGANISATION DOING TRAVEL DIFFERENTLY?
My interest and passion for social enterprise, innovation and poverty alleviation is
what’s driven me. Our main purpose in life is to achieve happiness and travel is the perfect vehicle to achieve this, as well all accomplishing all sorts of other great things as we go.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY?
Tourism is at an all-time low. The rise of the all-inclusive has had a huge impact. Add to this the race to build bigger cruise ships and it’s just not a sustainable model right now. These companies are stuck with huge capacity and a shrinking audience, causing fire sales and leading to tourism being sold as a discounted commodity product. It’s just not sustainable. But the consumer is changing and becoming savvier as they have more information available to them than ever before.
WHY DOES IT NEED TO CHANGE?
Many reasons, namely cultural preservation. We need to preserve the world’s most beautiful places for future generations. Tourism can also be one of the biggest drivers of wealth distribution, eradicating extreme poverty when people travel to the world’s poorest countries. Tourism, done well, can be a force for good.
Bruce Poon Tip’s top five holiday destinations
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Photo credit: Moyan Brenn from Flickr