Thirteen years after its founding, in 2003, G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip created the nonprofit Planeterra Foundation. The purpose of the new foundation was “to improve people’s lives by creating and supporting social enterprises that bring underserved communities into the tourism value chain.”
To achieve this, Planeterra helps fund numerous social enterprise ventures. These small, local businesses (there are presently almost 50 worldwide) are created with the objectives of empowering women, employing and training youth and conserving indigenous culture.
Once a small business has been identified, Planeterra helps it develop a detailed work plan, and contributes funds to provide training and build capacity so the business owners can ultimately make it on their own.
G Adventure travelers often have the opportunity to visit these small businesses, purchase their products ensuring the immediate profitability of the business, and setting them up for long-term success.
Planeterra has a new program, 50 in 5, with a goal of opening 50 new social businesses and raising $5 million in 5 years (by 2020). It’s well on its way to achieving that milestone.
Planeterra has several interesting projects in Peru, most of which G Adventures travelers can experience personally. They include the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op, a community campsite on the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu, a seed conservation program for potatoes called Parque de la Papa, a women-led biodegradable soap program for trekkers on the Inca Trail, and the Parwa Community Restaurant.
Located in Huchuy Qosqo, a small village only 30 miles from Cusco, the Parwa Community Restaurant is owned by the Huchuy Qosqo Association, a community-based tourism enterprise developed by Planeterra and G Adventures.
Since it opened in 2014, the restaurant serves an average of 1,500 travelers a month, mostly from G Adventures. All income earned by the restaurant is used for investment in social projects for the community. The ingredients used in the restaurant are bought directly from the local farmers, providing a local market for direct sales.
“Travelers get the chance to meet people on their own turf,” Sweeting says. “It’s not a hand-out, but a business exchange between equals.”
Restaurant employees have monthly salaries, health insurance, pension funds, and other labor benefits. Over 25 micro entrepreneurs received technical assistance and funds to establish new businesses to supply the restaurant, or sell their goods to Huchuy Qosco travelers.
Planeterra President Jamie Sweeting notes that the restaurant not only benefits the community, but provides a unique opportunity for travelers, as well. “Travelers get the chance to meet people on their own turf,” Sweeting says. “It’s not a hand-out, but a business exchange between equals.”