Planeterra’s new Learning Hub in response to the Covid-19 crisis
Planeterra is a non-profit organization established in 2003 by tour operator G-Adventures’ founder Bruce Poon Tip, committed to turn travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. With 85 partners in 51 countries around the world, the impact model of Planeterra consists mainly in linking local organizations and social enterprises to an international traveller base, this way ensuring that social enterprises are sustainable by themselves and do not always require assistance.
This market-based approach has worked very well, benefiting over 65,000 individuals globally, until the Covid-19 pandemic has put a halt in the global tourism industry. This crisis has motivated the foundation to search for new ways to continue supporting its partners as well as to capitalize the expertise gained through 17 years of community tourism work.
First actions to tackle the crisis
One of their very first actions was to release the Turn Travel into Impact from Home emergency fundraising campaign at the end of March, to support those partners who were struggling to meet basic needs such as food and lifesaving medicine. The campaign was a great success reaching its initial goal of $50,000 Canadian dollars, which were distributed through 19 small grants to projects who needed most.
At the same time, Planeterra sent out a needs assessment survey, which asked all 85 projects to describe the challenges they were facing due to the Covid-19 crisis. Part of this survey also asked businesses what kind of assistance they needed in terms of coaching and training. This provided useful insights that were incorporated in the learning resources the organization was already working on for some time and was a further incentive to launch it as soon as possible.
“We saw through responses to our needs assessment survey, that our partners really wanted business planning support,” explains Planeterra Program Manager Rhea Simms, who led the Planeterra Learning Hub project. “They were all thinking, at a time without travellers, about how they could diversify their business, perfect their current experiences, and maybe prepare new ones for when travel returns.”
Planeterra Learning Hub
With the assistance of Planeterra’s Toronto-based team and the Community Development Specialists who work regionally to support projects around the world, the Learning Hub was built around a series of training modules. The purpose of the site is to allow Planeterra’s partners to improve their tourism experiences, explore new areas of potential income, better market their organizations, and improve their financial and human resource management, all leading to their ability to scale their impact in the future. Of course a big emphasis is given to adopt health and safety measures, making sure its partners adhere to the new security protocols to be ready to welcome tourists when travel starts again.
The launch of the Planeterra Learning Hub was on June 25th with the participation of 38 project partners in a live webinar. The site is privately accessible to all Planeterra’s projects and is filled with 30 different topics and about 50 practical worksheets, templates and videos, to make it a ready-to use tool. It’s worth noting that the resources are available in English and also in Spanish, as it is the second most-widely spoken language among Planeterra’s partners.
The plan for the weeks ahead is to continue to host live webinars to dig deeper into the topics included in the Learning Hub, starting for those that have been chosen by partners as highly important to re start activities. “Our global team will be following up with projects to make sure they’re getting the most out of the Planeterra Learning Hub,” says Simms. “It’ll ensure our partners come back even stronger when travel starts again, and will make them more resilient in the future.”