Yaana Ventures has announced the launch of GROUND, a new community tourism development initiative.
GROUND will aim to help local communities in Asia by engaging with the student travel sector, including schools, colleges and specialist travel agencies. Students will be tasked with undertaking sustainable development projects in underprivileged villages, in areas such as healthcare, water supplies, sanitation, housing, education, environmental conservation, community infrastructure, capacity building and sports coaching.
Before helping the host communities, schools, colleges and companies will typically be required to raise the funds for the project.
“When GROUND does its job right, students’ knowledge will be tested, improved and used to the benefit of local communities,” said Pharatah Senapan, GROUND’s general manager. “What sets GROUND apart is our long-term community development approach as opposed to the ‘one-off come and go’ approach that doesn’t truly benefit the locals.”
The experiences are designed to “strengthen leadership skills, build resilience, and teach cross-cultural understanding”, according to GROUND, and students will be provided with updates on their project after they leave.
Another Yaana Ventures company, Khiri Travel, has been handling Asian trips for student groups for the last 10 years. These have included experiences in Cambodia for the American Youth Leadership Program, programmes in northern Thailand for international schools in Singapore, and BISJ students visiting the Mekong Delta.
“Along the way we learned that a destination management company or tour operator is not really set up to deliver the sustainability element of community development,” explained Willem Niemeijer, CEO of YAANA Ventures. “The focus must be on the needs of the community as much as on the quality of the experience of the visitor.”
GROUND has also become member of the World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation, and will participate in its conference in Belgrade in September.