Although Northern Thailand is well known on the tourist trail, there are communities that have, until now, had little or no access to tourists and the tourism dollar. That is set to change when G Adventures and its community partners in rural Thailand welcome travelers on a new trekking route, beginning November 2.
During the five-day Northern Thailand Hilltribes Trek, passengers will experience a taste of local living when they share meals and cultural traditions with members of three indigenous communities, which have never before hosted organized tour groups. The intention of this tour, developed by G Adventures with the Community Based Tourism Institute in Thailand, is to not only offer unprecedented experiences for G Adventures travelers, but to help generate employment and sustainable income in areas that are far removed from the country’s economic power centers and where the average family’s income is just $690-770 USD per year.
The new northern Thailand trek will visit the Pang Mapha region, approximately four hours from Chiang Mai and include three days and two nights with Red Lahus, the Black Lahus, and a Karen tribe in their remote hill villages. These treks will be exclusive only to G Adventures.
Among the experiences that travelers will have the opportunity to experience are: learning about traditional and sustainable carp fish farming in Ban Meung; traditional smallholder agriculture in the cultivation of rice, bamboo, and corn; medicinal herb harvesting from the forest, along with harvesting of local fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms along the trekking route that travelers will enjoy for dinner; traditional cooking; and time permitting, the chance to learn traditional handicrafts such as basket weaving, wood carving, natural fabric dyeing, and looming.
Jamie Sweeting, Vice President of Sustainability for G Adventures and President of its nonprofit foundation Planeterra, described the project as one he is most proud of in his 20+ year career in sustainable tourism. “We’re looking to redefine something that’s become ubiquitous in Thailand: hilltribe trekking,” said Sweeting.
“Currently, local people are getting the crumbs off the table and seeing a fraction of the benefit, despite tens of thousands of travelers spending money in their country each year. Our goal is to bring these remote communities into the tourism supply chain by applying the G Adventures model: doing things with and through the local people, to show that we can do well by doing good. This isn’t made for tourism; it’s groundbreaking and genuine real world experience, which will help contribute to the sustainability of their traditions and livelihoods.”
The new route comes as the small-group adventure operator announces its new ’50 in 5’ initiative, a five-year plan to integrate 50 new social enterprise projects into G Adventures trips by 2020. This means more than 90% of travelers will visit one or more projects when traveling with G Adventures, changing the lives of local people in communities in more than 35 countries by providing them with access to the economic benefits of tourism. You can watch the video here.
Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of G Adventures, says sustainable travel has always been in the adventure tour operator’s DNA, but this initiative makes it a fundamental part of not just what G Adventures stands for, but the experience it delivers to travelers.
“Our new Thailand initiative is the perfect example of how the transformative power of travel is most real when our travelers see first hand the impact their travel choices have on others. I believe travel can be a force for good and has the power to become the biggest form of wealth distribution the world has seen. This is us doing our part to help achieve that, and at the same time enabling our travelers to experience the culture of the local people,” says Poon Tip.
Together with G Adventures, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has generously supported the initial infrastructure and training costs in these communities, which focused on improving sanitation facilities and practices and teaching hygienic meal preparation. The five-day Northern Thailand Hilltribes Trek (trip code: ATHH) is priced from USD $299, with longer itineraries also available.
In addition to Thailand, four more “50 in 5” social enterprise projects will be up and running by the end of 2015:
- Australia – Providing travel industry education to Queensland’s young Jirrbal Aboriginal people so they can work closer to home and preserve ancient traditions.
- Galápagos – Launching community-based tourism on Floreana, so the local economy can benefit from overnight stays, and creating employment for youth and women.
- Colombia – Working with indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada to help them benefit from tourism while protecting their heritage and culture.
- Women on Wheels – Empowering disadvantaged women in India to become drivers in the travel industry, while providing safe transport for female travelers.
All 50 social enterprise projects – known collectively as G Adventures for Good projects – are under development by G Adventures through its nonprofit foundation, which will invest more than $5 million CAD ($6.5 million USD) in social enterprises over the next five years.
G Adventures is constantly evaluating potential new G Adventures For Good projects, which are selected according to the biggest impact in terms of community benefit and traveler numbers. The projects are primarily located in communities where indigenous people, women, and youth have been disadvantaged by a lack of access to education, jobs, and income opportunities.
About G Adventures: Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015, G Adventures is an adventure travel pioneer offering the widest selection of affordable small group tours, safaris and expeditions to more than 100 countries on all seven continents. Powered by an international team of passionate travelers, it was the first adventure travel company to offer 100% guaranteed departures, starting in 2013. Its award-winning trips embrace authentic accommodation, exotic cuisine and local transport to put travelers on a first-name basis with the planet’s people, cultures, landscapes and wildlife. The intimate, authentic and sustainable approach to small-group travel introduces travelers to the highlights of a destination while offering the freedom to explore it on their own.
For more information about G Adventures please visit www.gadventures.com.