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; and
- Mutual understanding, peace and security.
At Atma 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 be able to provide both the tourist and the host, the ability to see that the world can co-exist with understanding, collaboration and in a sustainable manner that does not destruct our heritage or environment.
The trips are created in partnership between Atma and local social enterprises. We work directly with these social enterprises to train local staff to run and manage the trips. This ensures the trips are managed by the community they visit and the impact can be directly managed 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.
We partner with existing social enterprises so that all the profit from the trips goes to support the inspiring work they are already doing. One such is the work Mann Deshi does in rural Maharashtra in Western India - educating and training local women to become entrepreneurs, building dams to make the area more drought resistant and providing financial services and education for the local women. It means that our travellers get to meet these inspiring people and see the incredible work they are doing to improve the lives of the community they serve.
However, one significant issue that currently faces the tourism industry is what 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 place it between 40-80% of total expenditure 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. Partnering with local social enterprises and training local staff to run and manage the trips will ensure that the maximum amount of wages stays within the community. Atma Journeys also stay in locally owned houses with all food being prepared on premise by local chefs purchasing food from local markets.
In addition, to all of this Atma is a not for profit so 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.