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G Adventures’ Ripple Score

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. 

Wiwa Community ColombiaYet, 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.

Our Role

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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Interested in learning more about how Sustainable Travel International can help your company transform its social and environmental impact? Click below to reach out – we’d love to hear from you! 

Our Partners

  • G Adventures
  • Planeterra

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Fiji Women Credit Maggie Boyle / DFAT via Flickr

Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Program for the South Pacific

The islands of the Pacific are a popular destination for many travelers looking to trade in city life for secluded beaches, cultural authenticity and stunning natural environments. While the small size and remoteness of these destinations makes for ideal getaways, these characteristics also bring along many challenges. Visitors often put increased pressure on the already limited supply of agricultural products, water and energy. This results in a further dependence on imported goods and contributes to excess waste production. On top of these challenges, the transportation of imported goods drives up carbon emissions, exacerbating the climate change impacts to which small islands are particularly vulnerable.

The Pacific islands also must cope with economic vulnerability due to their geographic isolation and small size. According to the Asian Development Bank, 31 percent of Fiji’s population and 26.9 percent of Samoa’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. Tourism is a key driver of economic development in these destinations. The industry has the potential to combat poverty by providing more jobs, growing incomes, and creating markets for local goods and services. However, there is still an opportunity for the tourism sector in the Pacific to be more inclusive of local suppliers and service providers and prioritize capacity building. This will help ensure that local communities are truly reaping the economic benefits of the industry.

What We're Doing

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, Heads of State adopted the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), a global framework for action to accelerate the shift towards SCP including resource efficient and low carbon tourism, in both developed and developing countries. In 2015, the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance (PSTA) was formed as a public-private partnership with the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) to help fast track sustainability in the region. Sustainable Travel International working with the SPTO under the auspices of the PSTA, was awarded a grant through the 10YFP Trust Fund call for proposals for Sustainable Tourism Programme to implement a pilot project focused on improving sustainable resource management in hotels in the Pacific.

The destinations participating in the preliminary stage of the project are Fiji and Samoa; however the eventual intention is to expand to other Pacific Islands. Through this work, the partners hope to inspire a new commitment to sustainability among members of the local tourism industry and empower them to improve their consumption and production behavior by:

  • Collaborating with local stakeholders to identify the barriers to sustainable consumption and production within the destination
  • Training 100 hotel managers on sustainable tourism best practices such as sourcing goods locally, using resources more efficiently, and utilizing a supply chain that is more inclusive of local people and cultures
  • Raising awareness among hotel managers on the financial and economic benefits of incorporating sustainability practices into their business operations
  • Equipping 100 hotels with a Sustainability Management System (SMS) – a digital tool to monitor energy-use, waste-reduction, water consumption, and sustainable sourcing

Long Term Impacts

By influencing the sustainability behavior in businesses and across destinations, this project will lead to a more robust economy and a better future for people and environments in the Pacific. The anticipated long-term impacts include:

Reduced consumption of nonrenewable resources (water, gas, electricity) and increased resource efficiency through recycling, greywater recycling and use of alternative energy sources

Decreased amount of waste and pollution generated by the tourism industry

Reduced dependence on foreign imports through local production and consumption

Less carbon emissions being generated from the transportation of imported goods

Increased tourism-related job opportunities and income streams for local people

Increased awareness and appreciation of local culture

For more information about this project, please contact Paloma Zapata.

Our Partners

  • 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme
  • South Pacific Tourism Authority
  • Fiji Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism
  • Samoa Hotel Association
  • Samoa Tourism Authority

Make the World a Better Place

Your gift will help us continue to work towards a more sustainable future for Pacific island nations and other destinations around the globe

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Climate Change

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Panama Coast

A Sustainability Standard for Tourism Enterprises in Panama

As ecotourism grows within Panama’s protected areas and their buffer zones, it is crucial to ensure minimum quality, sustainability and safety standards in the tourism operations. To accomplish this, Sustainable Travel International worked with the government and local stakeholders to create a sustainability standard for Panama’s tourism enterprises.

This standard will act as a regulatory framework for hotels, tour guides, land and marine transportation providers, restaurants, tour operators and community-based tourism enterprises. It will allow these tourism providers to assess their operations and practices in relation to a set of indicators on issues that affect the local environment, communities, and cultural heritage, amongst others. The standard will also serve as the basis for certification and will help travelers identify environmentally-friendly and socially responsible businesses.

To ensure that the standard is relevant and feasible within the local context, our field team hosted a series of participatory onsite workshops. During the workshops, over 90 business and government representatives provided input on what practices to evaluate in relation to water and energy conservation, business operations, supply chain management, and environmental protection. Once the final standard was established, we held trainings for the local authorities and auditors responsible for implementing it and confirming business compliance.

The sustainability standard has since been included in the national protected area services concessions law – making compliance mandatory for any businesses operating within protected areas. It has also been ​endorsed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry as  the “Panama Tourism Sustainability Standard.”

Our Partners

  • MiAmbiente
  • Ministry of Tourism Panama
  • APTSO
  • IDB
  • GEF

Protect the Places You Love

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Panama

Learn more about how we’re helping Panama work towards a more sustainable future.

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Learn more about our work in other protected areas and how we’re working to conserve our world’s land and forests.