[Updated September 2015] — Of all the days to observe throughout the year, one of them we at G Adventures pay very close attention to is United Nations World Tourism Day. Celebrated every September 27 since 1980, World Tourism Day seeks to raise awareness of the role that tourism plays throughout the international community and how it can affect social, cultural, and economic conditions around the globe.

The Maasia Clean Cookstoves project at work in Tanzania. Photo by Daniel Nol

As purveyors and vocal advocates of sustainable travel, G Adventures has always been cognizant of the huge potential for tourism to create good for people everywhere. “If done right,” says our founder, Bruce Poon Tip, “tourism can transform lives. As one of the greatest forms of wealth distribution the world has ever seen, tourism can help transform some of the poorest countries in the world.”

The numbers behind what Bruce says speak for themselves, and they’re staggering. For the world’s 40 poorest nations, tourism ranks just behind oil production as the largest source of income. The United Nations reports that for every $100 spent in tourism dollars, just $5 stays within the local economies in which the tourism occurs.

That last figure is really at the crux of what sustainable tourism is. Essentially, it’s about local people and local business having the opportunity to benefit from the influx of tourist dollars that come into their regions. When you stay at an all-inclusive resort, for example, there’s a good chance that the property is foreign-owned. Visitors to these resorts give their money to foreign owners, completely cutting out the local communities whose lands are being visited. Imagine if the people that lived around the world’s most-visited tourist sites were able to benefit directly from tourism revenue. It could quite literally transform the places we visit.

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Since our inception, G Adventures has been about forms of travel that benefit local communities as much as possible. We’ve always believed in eating at local restaurants and in booking with locally owned accommodations. Our own Planeterra Foundation helps establish grassroots businesses and development projects at many of our most popular destinations to ensure G Adventures travellers have the opportunity to give back something tangible to the communities that give so much to us.

We believe that a better form of tourism can make our world a better place. We believe that travel isn’t just about seeing new things; it’s about meeting our neighbours on other sides of the world and discovering how they live. It’s about learning to respect other cultures and observing them in ways that help preserve local identities.

Meeting our neighbours on other sides of the world and discovering how they live.

“When sustainable tourism is successful,” Bruce says, “we’re able to give back to many communities. Further, the support we’re able to give is part of the greater purpose for all of us.”

Join the discussion

What are your thoughts? How can you and those around you aim to make better decisions toward sustainability when it comes to your next great adventure? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag, #WTD2015. In benefitting those you visit, you’ll be benefitting all of us. Thanks for that.