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Here’s How Canadians Can Do Good Every Time They Travel

On September 27 the United Nations marks World Tourism Day, highlighting the ways travel and tourism make a positive impact across the globe. This year, the UN’s theme focuses on jobs in the tourism industry and how they’re improving local communities. We asked Kelly Galaski, Director of Global Programs, Planeterra Foundation about the ways in which Canadian travellers can get in on all the good things that come from visiting another part of your own country or another part of the world.


It’s one thing to try to minimize your negative impact when you visit a place, but can you describe the kinds of things we can do to actually make a positive impact when we travel?

Kelly Galaski: Before you go, you may want to look up accommodations, activities or experiences that are owned, or run by a social enterprise, a community organization, a non-profit or an Indigenous business. Why? Tourism dollars going into a country often don’t reach the hands of locals, and even less tend to reach rural communities, marginalized groups of people, and Indigenous people. Seeking these kinds of businesses or initiatives can make a massive positive difference — they are often creating jobs, creating livelihoods, celebrating Indigenous cultures, and in general bringing opportunities to people who are most often excluded from education and economic opportunities.

There are many training restaurants supporting at-risk youth, walking tours led by migrants, meals and cooking classes provided by women, for example, that are great ways of supporting local people. Another great one is to buy direct from artisans and not to go for the cheap replica you may find in a bigger store. If you buy from the artist who has made something, not only will it be more unique, you will often have the chance to talk to the artist which is an experience in itself. You also know that your purchase is supporting that person’s livelihood directly.

An important way to make a positive impact in Canada, is to seek out Indigenous-owned businesses that offer cultural activities, or accommodations.

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How can the travel industry AND travellers go even further to make sure their travels have a positive impact — like, what are the next steps looking forward?

KG: Choosing low-impact activities, accommodations, and transportation as much as possible is going to be the most significant way to make an impact related to climate change that the industry and travellers can make. Travelling on trains, on public transit, biking, as well as using less single-use items are increasingly ways people can lessen their negative impacts. The industry is increasingly looking more and more at how they can reduce these impacts as well.

From the perspective of benefiting locals, it’s spreading the wealth. People’s travels and the industry’s focus should be on ensuring that the “destinations” visited — which are actually people’s homes — are respected and that economic opportunities reach local people. This ranges from thinking about what time of year you travel, picking a time that’s less busy, or looking into lesser travelled places within a country, so that you are contributing to that region’s economy as well.


When you visit a Planeterra project, what do you take home with you as a Canadian traveller? How does it change you?

KG: When you make a connection with a local woman, or family, or Indigenous person and you know that just by visiting and learning from them you are contributing to their livelihood, to their ability to support their families and the next generation, it is a truly special moment. Often Planeterra project partners are located in rural areas where there are few economic opportunities, or they are non-profit organizations working to create jobs and empowerment for the people who need it most, so you know your visit has made a difference. But not only that, there’s no better way to experience a new place by interacting with someone from there, who’s genuinely glad to meet you and impart some of their cultural traditions and learn about yours too. It makes you realize how different we all are, and also how similar we all are at the same time. As a Canadian, it’s also the chance to learn more about a country you may have heard of before, but didn’t know much about. When you get home, you may understand your neighbour a little better, and be glad we have the wonderful diversity of people from all over the world now calling Canada home.

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