Bridge the Gap Villages Launches Funding Effort for First Responsible Tourism Project in Northern Fiji

Veteran Community Tourism Project Directors Kick-Off Countdown to Welcoming Guests to Vorovoro Island with a Call to Ethical Adventure Travelers for Support

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Bridge the Gap Villages co-founders, Jenny and Jimmy Cahill, with their children, Lucas, Oliver and Bethany, flanked by Fijian friends, Nemani and Boso

Bridge the Gap Villages co-founders, Jenny and Jimmy Cahill, with their children, Lucas, Oliver and Bethany, flanked by Fijian friends, Nemani and Boso

The Bridge the Gap Villages vision is to erase the line in the sand between locals and travelers, helping advance the trend of responsible tourism, through its unique model starting on Vorovoro Island in Fiji.

Indianapolis, Indiana (PRWEB) February 06, 2013

BTGV, an organization focused on empowering locally-owned hospitality, announced a partnership with the chiefly family of Vorovoro Island in rural Fiji to create a unique and culturally-rich community-based travel destination. The partnership provides local Fijians with education and mentorship opportunities to empower them as business owners in their communities and leverage revenue from tourism to drive the local economy.

The Bridge the Gap Villages (BTGV) vision is to erase the line in the sand between locals and travelers, helping advance the trend of responsible tourism. BGTV is making a long-term commitment through its unique model to Vorovoro Island to sow the seeds of true sustainable tourism over the next 10 years. During the next decade, primary ownership of the joint tourism venture will transfer from BTGV to the land-owning chiefly family, as measurable operational milestones are met.

Vorovoro Island is a remote tropical paradise located in the friendly north of Fiji - an under-developed region sitting on Cakaulevu Reef, the 3rd largest in the world. BTGV promotes sustainable community development, environmental and cultural pride, and preservation of this 3,000-year old indigenous area. As part of this local/global business partnership with the chiefly Mali family, income generated from tourism will go directly to education, training, and mentorship programs. Unlike the majority of tourism endeavors in Fiji, where more than 60% of earnings leak back into foreign-owned corporations, BTGV is committed to investing profits back into the success of the local host community of Vorovoro Island.

A crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood launches today, allowing responsible tourism supporters and adventure travelers worldwide to contribute to the refurbishment of the island infrastructure, in order to welcome visitors in April 2013, and also to pre-book time on the island, through their donations. In parallel, BTGV is seeking small seed capital from social impact investors to jumpstart the project.

BTGV is the vision of husband and wife partners, Jenny and Jimmy Cahill, who first encountered life on Vorovoro Island in June 2009 after they quit their jobs in Indiana to seek a more meaningful existence for their family, including their three children, aged eight-to-14. They landed on Vorovoro as visitors and soon decided to stay on as Project Directors for the project on-island at the time. After a year, they reluctantly returned to the United States but with a promise to the chiefly family that they would work to develop a business model that would more directly involve the community in collaboration and rewards of true sustainable tourism. Bridge the Gap Villages is the result of two years of those efforts – a for-profit business which drives all revenue directly back into the village until it’s thriving and run by the local community. This innovative model builds on valuable lessons learned from NGOs, non-profit and for-profit tourism endeavors, and input from leading venture philanthropists.

“We believe tourism is a powerful tool with the potential to address serious problem in the world such as poverty, environmental degradation, and cultural breakdown in positive ways,” says co-founder, Jenny Cahill. “Tourism can, and should, provide bi-directional benefits to native communities and visitors alike.”

BTGV guests live, and have the opportunity to work, as part of a cross-cultural village community. Visitors stay in accommodations built in traditional bure styles and enjoy access to activities ranging from reef diving to over-island treks to taking part in cultural activities such as song and dance. Visitors are also welcome and encouraged to create lasting impact by taking part in local community initiatives with the local school and villages. With the rapid growth in the responsible tourist market, and the trend by which travelers want to see their dollars directly invested back into the local economy, BTGV is perfectly positioned to redefine the community tourism model.

Tui Mali, the Chief of the Mali Tribe, says, “We have welcomed the world to our shores in the past, and we are excited to have a direct hand in shaping a bright future for our community with BTGV. The business mentorship program available to our young people through BTGV is unlike anything in Fiji. We hope our guests will take pride in knowing they are part of changing tourism practices, starting with our example on Vorovoro Island.”

All primary employees will be entered into a business mentorship and education program, to assist in planning for small business realization. The high level goal of the project is to help foster a robust set of complementary businesses within the local community. For example, talented artisans who run sessions with visitors will be set up to start their own commercial enterprise to market their handicrafts. Or the farmers who manage chickens on-island can be trained to run a chicken coop for fresh egg production, which could service both the island kitchen as well as the larger Mali tribe. All primary employees will be paired with an apprentice to help pass down the skill sets that are typicallu lost in more mainstream hospitality operations. When they “graduate” to launch their small business, knowledge transfer occurs smoothly and BTGV has empowered another tier of wage earners in the community. Additionally, BTGV: Vorovoro Island will act as a proof point for other social entrepreneurs interested in using this model to partner with indigenous communities.

If you are interested in supporting this BTGV project or booking time on Vorovoro Island, please donate through StartSomeGood here or follow our progress on Facebook here. Social impact investors are encouraged to contact us through info(at)btgvillages(dot)com.

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About Bridge the Gap Villages

Bridge the Gap Villages empowers motivated and under-developed indigenous communities to utilize the tourism industry in sustainable and positive ways by:

1) Partnering with these communities to establish a small-scale community based cultural tourism destination that they learn to operate for themselves.

2) Connecting them with business education and mentorship opportunities to support future business development endeavors in their communities and beyond.

Founded in 2012 by veteran community tourism project directors, Bridge the Gap Villages is formally headquartered in Indiana in the United States, with operations in beginning in Fiji in April. For more information, visit http://www.btgvillages.com.


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Attachments

A short introduction to Bridge the Gap Villages, including the responsible tourism model, background on the founders and key staff, and how you can help. A short introduction to Bridge the Gap Villages

A short introduction to Bridge the Gap Villages, including the responsible tourism model, background on the founders and key staff, and how you can help.


Tui Mali (Fijian Chief of the Mali tribe) in the back row second from right, surrounded by his extended family, the Mataqali, on Vorovoro Island, Fiji Tui Mali (Fijian Chief of the Mali tribe) in the back row second from right, surrounded by his extended family, the Mataqali, on Vorovoro Island, Fiji

Tui Mali (Fijian Chief of the Mali tribe) in the back row second from right, surrounded by his extended family, the Mataqali, on Vorovoro Island, Fiji


A view of the headland from one of the four peaks on Vorovoro Island, Fiji, the site of the first Bridge the Gap Villages project A view of the headland from one of the four peaks on Vorovoro Island, Fiji, the site of the first Bridge the Gap Villages project

A view of the headland from one of the four peaks on Vorovoro Island, Fiji, the site of the first Bridge the Gap Villages project