Sustainable Tourism 101

Planeterra funds over a dozen projects to provide supportive solutions to local problems in travel destinations around the world. Learn more about our projects.

Planeterra is part of a global movement to make tourism sustainable.

  • Sustainable Tourism minimizes impacts on the environment, respects local people and cultures, and offers economic benefits to local businesses and communities.  

Two other names you'll often hear are ecotourism and responsible tourism, but all forms of tourism can strive to be more sustainable.

  • Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.
  • Responsible Tourism is defined as travel that respects the host country, its history, its environment and its cultural resources.

In many parts of the world, local communities have sought to attract tourists to their rural farms and villages as a way to improve their daily lives.  This is called community based tourism.

  • Community-based tourism allows travelers to spend time in local communities, learn about local ways of living, environmental resources and cultures.   Communities have worked around the world to ensure that this type of tourism is beneficial to them, promotes community pride, improves the quality of life for local families and fosters respect of local world views. It is managed and/or owned by community associations, cooperatives or some other management structure that allows for full participation of its members.

Planeterra is taking some bold and innovative steps to integrate the best of all of these principles into our portfolio of projects.

  • Planeterra supports community based tourism in Guatemala with investments in the Mayan Community Homestay Project.  We have developed a variety of community based products together with G Adventures to provide immediate market access for villages in key destinations where travelers are looking for unique, local experiences.   
  • Planeterra supports responsible tourism by making certain travelers are respectful of local people and their cultures.  We are dedicated to financing local solutions in such important needs as education and training, such as the New Hope Cambodia Vocational Training Restaurant.  
  • Planeterra supports the conservation of ecosystems in destinations where travelers are enjoying being ecotourists in beautiful natural sites that need protection, such as the Galapagos Oil Spill Prevention Project, or the Save Lake Atitlan Project.

Other important trends which have an important influence on Planeterra’s work include micro and small enterprise development  

  • Microenterprise development was launched by Nobel prize winner Muhammud Yunus as a way to help the poorest people on earth to start businesses which might only require a loan of $5-10 dollars!  Many of these people live on $1-2 a day, and they do not have the ability to raise any capital even to sell produce at local food stands or raise chickens at home. Yunus launched the Grameen Bank to meet this need.  These loans are without collateral and rely on community circles, almost entirely women, to monitor the loans.   Yunus created a revolution in lending, and microloans are now offered to the poorest sectors of society worldwide to help them to help themselves.
  • Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) development follows the same principals as microenterprise development but focuses on businesses that are not usually in villages but rather in towns and cities where local entrepreneurs are working.  In the travel community, many of our suppliers are SMEs.  They frequently lack credit and could expand with grant or loan support.  This expanding sector is the bedrock of economic growth in most countries around the world.
    • Planeterra supports SMEs and works closely with G Adventures to support suppliers that are developing green products for our customers, such as the Inca Trail Biodegradable Soap Project.  
    • Voluntourism Guidelines

      • In 2011 Planeterra supported The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) to develop guidelines for involving volunteers in commercial tourism products.  An advisory committee was established and 2 international meetings were held.
      • In 2012 the Voluntourism Guidelines were published and launched at the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference in Monterey, California.