Melissa Reiter – G Adventures
During this daunting time of a world-wide pandemic, the idea of traveling to Japan to sleep in a Buddhist temple, surfing in Cosa Rica or taking a river tour in France to snack on wine and cheese may feel like a hallucination of the pre-COVID-19 days.
But while travel is still possible—albeit restricted in certain circumstances—those types of trips will return and may even be improved, says Melissa Reiter, the director of legal affairs and privacy officer for Toronto -based G Adventures.
To resuscitate the industry and alleviate traveler worries, G Adventures created two new initiatives—its Travel with Confidence Program and its new Retravel campaign—to benefit both tourists and to help businesses reliant on tourists rebound economically in a safe, supportive and sustainable manner.
Although Reiter says its challenging to evaluate travel regulations that change daily, she notes that G Adventures is fine-tuning its operations and employing safety protocols, including masks and social distancing, among others.
“There are many ways travel can change your life,” says Reiter. “We’re helping people tap into that transformative power by creating safe, meaningful connections to guide them as they explore the world.”
A different type of experience
G Adventures started in 1990. The goal: helping people explore and engage in the world by creating meaningful experiences.
Through G Adventures, travelers can be connected to communities far off the beaten path in more than 100 countries. They can experience anything from its popular Gorilla Adventure tour developed in partnership with the Jane Goodall Foundation, to a private “bubble” group sailing experience in Greece or Croatia.
With all, Reiter says there’s a concerted effort to be environmentally sustainable and ethical—to protect the welfare of wildlife, children and even the environment with the reduced use of plastics. Also, she notes, the business strives to support local economies through business generated through tourism—specifically having the lion’s share of those dollars remain in the communities.
One way the company does this is through its established partnerships with organizations like Planeterra, a nonprofit which seeks to reduce poverty through community tourism.
“We want to create meaningful small group experiences that help our partners keep tourist dollars in their communities to positively impact the local economies,” she says
If you’ve been under a stay-at-home order in your country, the idea of venturing out into the world can be unnerving—one of the reasons why G Adventures responded quickly to a changing world and adapted its programming and policies, Reiter notes.
In its Travel with Confidence Program, she says physical distancing and cleaning protocols have been instated. G Adventures was also awarded the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Safe Travels Stamp, which provides travelers with assurance it’s implemented the latest health and hygiene protocols.
“We want to protect people and make them feel safe without taking away the opportunity for them to have the time of their life,” she says.
As a lawyer, Reiter says her legal team has been “amazing” during these challenging times by monitoring rapidly evolving travel guidelines in multiple countries.
“They have done a remarkable job of responding to the ever-changing demands of the business during a pandemic,” says Reiter, “I’m proud of the strong relationships our team has built—they’ve established themselves as advisors and strategic partners across the global business which has been even more valuable during these challenging times.”
Right at home
G Adventure tourists are not the only ones having a good time. Reiter admits she found her dream job here when she was hired in 2015. A world traveler in her own right, she says it was hard to beat the perk of immersing herself in Japanese culture during her first company trip. After all, she says, the company wanted her to experience its tours first-hand.
Equipped with a degree in English earned from McGill University in 2006 and a JD from Queen’s University earned in 2009, Reiter gained experience working in-house at a private equity firm and at large firms in New York and Toronto.
Her areas of practice included corporate and commercial law; securities; mergers and acquisitions; and handling licensing rights in entertainment, fashion, technology, hospitality and sports. Her duties included licensing matters for a brand development, marketing and entertainment company which owns a global portfolio of media, entertainment, sports and lifestyle brands.
Given her love of travel, when she saw the position at G Adventures advertised, she didn’t hesitate to apply.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to put it all together,” she says. “Now almost six years later I still love every minute of it, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Once hired, she assessed the company’s risk tolerance profile and developed a risk management program; fine-tuned internal operations; built a legal team from the ground up, leveraged technology to improve internal processes and helped G Adventures grow its brand through acquisitions including TruTravels, Just You and Travelsphere.
“There was a lot of opportunity to define my role in organization and I did that by talking to people to see where the needs were and how a legal executive could make a positive impact,” she says.
That legal guidance and re-evaluation of best practices is needed now more than ever, she says, but the future looks bright.
“I’m working on so many projects that will in the long-term help us return to travel better than before,” Reiter says. “We just have to weather this storm.”
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