International tours can generate tremendous benefits for people around the world, but only if local communities are embedded throughout their supply chain. We developed a tour evaluation system to help one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies, G Adventures, evaluate and boost their local impact.
Tourism’s Ripple Effect on Local Communities
Employing 1 in 10 people on the planet, tourism is an incredibly diverse, global industry. Just consider how many different pieces come together to make up a single trip! From travel agents and flight attendants to trekking guides and money changers, tourism touches the lives of many people all around the world.
Because it is so far-reaching, tourism can create profound ripple effects within local communities. Tourist dollars can bring greater financial stability and improve living conditions for the people who need it the most. By staying in a hotel that decorates with locally crafted artwork and serves dishes made with locally grown ingredients, a traveler will in turn be supporting local artisans and farmers.
Yet, while there is great potential for tourism to benefit local populations, this isn’t always the reality. Instead of remaining in the hands of local communities, a large portion of travel dollars end up lining the pockets of big, foreign-owned companies.
International tour operators, for instance, partner with suppliers all around the world – hotels, restaurants, boat operators, and more. If these suppliers are locally owned and operated, it can stimulate a huge amount of benefits for local communities. But if their tour offering does not integrate local goods and service providers, then their local impact will be negligible. In fact, for every $100 spent on a vacation tour to a developing country, only $5 actually stays in the local economy.
Improving a tour operator’s impact requires understanding how their trips are currently benefiting local economies and where they’re coming up short. For a company with hundreds or thousands of suppliers, this is easier said than done.
Creating a Tour Evaluation System to Measure Local Benefits
With well over 700 different small-group tour itineraries in more than 100 countries, G Adventures is one of the world’s largest adventure travel companies. From its inception, G Adventures has firmly believed that travel has the power to change lives and they embrace community tourism as their core philosophy. Yet, while G Adventures always strived to positively impact the local communities they visit, they never had a way to measure how well they were actually delivering this.
In 2016, we teamed up with G Adventures to devise a better way to monitor and improve the real-world impact of their trips on the communities they visit. To accomplish this, we created “G Local,” a customized supply chain assessment system. Through a combination of supplier surveys and on-site inspections, this system allows G Adventures to evaluate the extent to which their tours are actually benefiting local communities. For example, is the supplier locally owned and operated? Do they purchase most of their products from local farms and markets? Are their food dishes rooted in the traditional local cuisine?
Using the results from the G Local assessment, G Adventures now calculates a “Ripple Score” for each of their trips which shows what percentage of the money spent on that trip remains in the local economy. In order to be as transparent as possible, they actually list the Ripple Score for each itinerary on their website. If a trip has a Ripple Score of 100, for instance, that would mean that all of the suppliers that make up that tour are locally owned. The average Ripple Score across G Adventures’ tours is currently 93%.
But the buck doesn’t stop here. G Adventures is using this knowledge to improve the local impact of their trips. Since launching their assessment system, G Adventures has decided to phase out certain suppliers that don’t align with their values, while supporting other suppliers in improving their practices.
While G Adventures is a trailblazer in responsible tourism, they aren’t the only company that can adopt this type of approach. We hope G Adventures’ leadership inspires other tour operators to dive deeper into their supply chains and take steps to improve their social and environmental impact.
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