Projecting Change with Sustainable Tourism

The exhilaration of exploring a place much unlike your home and meeting strangers who don’t speak your mother tongue; the satisfying exhaustion after a long day of hiking through the countryside and scaling mountains to catch that perfect sunrise and sunset; that food you ate, that brew you drank, that photo you took with your new friend. Any traveler can appreciate these things, and Cynthia Connell is no exception.

Cynthia caught the travel bug when she was just two years old driving across England, Scotland, and France with her mom. When she began her solo adventures as an adult, she ended up in Mexico for five years and began working with GAP Adventures as a tour leader. She eventually moved back to Vancouver where she graduated from UBC with a degree in Latin American Studies and continued her love affair with the incredible travel organization, GAP Adventures as the Store Manager of the GAP Adventures Vancouver Concept Store. Check out my interview with her below!

1) What is GAP Adventures?

GAP is a Canadian company that specializes in small group adventure travel; the maximum group size is usually 15 people. There are a number of service levels to choose from so that travelers can decide if they want a bit more comfort or just the basics. We travel on local transportation, stay in locally owned and operated hotels; there is a tour leader along to take care of all of the logistics, arrange optional activities and basically take all the stress out of travel. We have over 1,000 trips to offer: safaris in Africa, hiking in Peru (our most popular destination), and volunteer trips like helping to save pandas in China, to name just a few. If you really want to get off the beaten path, we have a ship that sails to Antarctica and the Arctic.

2) How is GAP Adventures Projecting Change?

GAP is “projecting change” by encouraging people to explore the world in a responsible way, taking people to unusual destinations where they can learn more about the world and themselves through travel. We also have Planeterra, our non-profit organization, that helps to support community projects in countries that we visit around the world. Volunteering as a part of travel gives people the opportunity to see destinations in a completely different way and be more immersed in the local culture.

3) What sets you apart from your competition?

I think that our main core value says it all: “We love changing people’s lives.” This applies to our travelers, people we work with in the countries that we visit, and the people who work for GAP Adventures. There is a really strong company culture – everyone who works here has the title of CEO. It really is a large community of people who love to travel and are committed to making the world a better place on a daily basis.

A glimpse of our offices around the world:

4) What is “sustainable tourism” and what impact is it having on our world?

It’s about “taking only pictures, leaving only footprints.” Sustainable tourism means supporting local businesses, community projects and initiatives, and having a minimum impact on the places that we visit by keeping the groups small. To quote Bruce, “El Capo” and the founder of GAP Adventures: by “running our business in a way that respects people and the planet.” It is an action that is contagious.

5) Where is your favourite place to travel?

It’s really hard to say since all of my trips have been so different. Latin America is my first love, Mexico, and the Galapagos are definitely at the top of the list. Seeing the pyramids while riding a camel in Egypt, snorkeling in the Red Sea, and petting a lion in Zambia are up there, too!

From Australia and Thailand to Nepal and the Galapagos islands Cynthia has seen it all. When she’s not planning your vacations and adventures she can be found at the beach with her beloved basset hound or cheering on her favourite hockey team – go Canucks go!!!

- Lindsay (Jive Communications)

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