The United Nation has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development. The idea is to use tourism to promote a better world. Tourism is also an important driver to achieving the millennial goal. As an industry, it has enormous potential to stimulate economies around the world. There are over 1 billion tourists every year whose activities account for 10% of global GDP. Tourism also employs 1 out of every 11 people globally.
The impact is huge.
The International Year of Sustainable Tourism intends to promote:
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
- Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
- Cultural values, diversity and heritage
- Mutual understanding, peace and security
Creating Our Tours
It is these same values that drive us. We believe we can direct this huge potential of tourism towards helping local social enterprises and creating community-led small-group tours. This kind of tourism will not only plump up the local economy, but it will provide both the tourist and the host with the ability to see that the world can co-exist in a sustainable manner that does not destruct our heritage or environment.
The trips are crafted through partnerships with local social enterprises. We work directly with these organizations, training local staff to run and manage the trips. This ensures that the trips, and the impact of the trips, are controlled by the community themselves. It also means that the visitors get to see ‘real life in the country’ rather than the ‘touristy’ exotica that general travel companies promise.
The profits from our tours go to support the inspiring work of our partners. One example is the Mann Deshi Bank & Foundation. Located in rural Maharashtra, in Western India, this organization has several projects - educating and training local women to become entrepreneurs, building dams to make the area more drought resistant, and providing financial services. Our travellers get to meet the members of this foundation and see the incredible work they are doing to improve the lives of the community they serve.
One significant issue that currently faces the tourism industry is called leakage. This refers to the amount of money that leaves the visited country after all expenses are paid for outside the area, such as wages, taxes and profits. The exact level of leakage within tourism is hard to identify; however, various studies report that between 40-80% of total expenditure is leaving the country. This issue needs to be addressed in order to achieve the most economic benefit for the community.
Atma is addressing this issue in multiple ways.
- We partner with local social enterprises and train local staff to run and manage the trips. This ensures that the maximum amount of wages stay within the community.
- Our travellers stay in locally owned houses and eat meals prepared on site. The food is all purchased from local markets and local chefs are employed to cook.
- Atma is a not for profit. Any money leaving the visited country goes towards helping develop trips for other communities. There are no dividends or shareholders, only people dedicated to the mission of making positive change around the world.