UWI honours Poon Tip in Canada
BY ANGELA PIDDUCK Sunday, May 29 2011
The University of the West Indies (UWI) hosted its 2nd Annual Benefit Gala in Toronto on March 26 at The Four Seasons Hotel, to honour individuals and organisations that have made significant contributions to UWI and the Caribbean and Canadian communities. One of the organisations honoured was GAP Adventures, owned by 44 year old Trinidad-born Bruce Poon Tip, for its role in pushing the boundaries of sustainable travel.
Proceeds from the Gala, held under the patronage of Dr Raymond Chang, immediate past Chair of CI Financial, an honorary graduate of UWI, and Chancellor of Ryerson University – the second organisation honoured at the Gala for its contribution to the advancement of Caribbean people through its joint programmes with UWI – will benefit students through the UWI Scholarship Fund and the UWI Haitian Initiative.
In 1969, Bruce was sent to live in Jamaica with his aunt, while his parents Elsworth “Mow” and Lelia Poon Tip (nee Achong) settled in Calgary, Canada, with his five older siblings. In 1970, he joined the family which by then totaled seven . Bruce now lives in Lawrence Park, Toronto, with his wife and two daughters, but returns regularly to Trinidad where most of his family still lives.
In 1990, Poon Tip founded Gap Adventures in order to deliver an authentic travel experience to travellers who, like himself, craved adventures that went beyond all- inclusive resorts. He started the company with two credit cards when no bank was willing to give him a loan. Since then, Gap Adventures has grown to become a world leader in adventure travel, with offices in 17 countries, offering more than 1,000 small group experiences to over 100 countries on all seven continents, to more than 100,000 travellers a year.
.GAP employs over 800 staffers around the world and its revenues amounts to over 150M per year. It’s four head offices are in Toronto, London, Melbourne and New York, and says Poon Tip “I do travel regularly and work between these offices. GAP’s success is based on its purpose business model with a commitment to changing peoples lives and offering the best customer service on the planet. Our triple bottom line business model has won us many awards around the world.”
Determined to lead his industry in sustainable tourism and community development initiatives, Poon Tip founded the non-profit Planeterra Foundation in 2003 to make a positive difference in the lives of people around the world. He says “We have 38 projects around the world that include a street kids home in Peru, and Vision Camps in Tibet and Tanzania. Presently, for our 20th Anniversary we’re building the Gap Adventure 20/20 Vision Centre in Cambodia that will aid in the sight restoration of over 12,000 people who are blind in rural areas of Cambodia.”
In recognition of this dedication to ethical business practices and sustainable tourism, Gap Adventures was awarded the 2009 World Savers Award by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, as well as the 2009 Travel + Leisure Global Vision Leadership Award for voluntourism, and. National Geographic has named GAP the Best Adventure Company on Earth. While Poon Tip himself has been honoured in 2003 and 2007 as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Canada, and has been recognised twice as Travel Personality of the Year by the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies and by the Awards of Merit. He has been presented with the Global Traders Leadership award for excellence in exporting and international business; has been named in the Top 40 Canadians Under 40; the profit 100 for nine years in a row; and the 50 Best Managed Companies for the last seven years. Recently GAP was rated No 5 in Canada for the best places to work in the country.