Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

In 2010, Solimar partnered with National Geographic, USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank and other key stakeholders to improve market access for small and medium sized tourism businesses in Bocas del Toro, Panama and Roatán, Honduras. The economies of Bocas del Toro and Roatán rely heavily on tourism and fishing, the growth of which jeopardizes their respective natural beauty and biodiversity.

In response to this impending problem, Solimar and its partners rolled out the Go Blue Central America (GBCA) project with its core product being a National Geographic co-branded website. The interactive website creates a platform for local communities to tell their stories and showcase their unique and sustainable attractions, activities, products and experiences. In doing so, the GBCA program drives increased visitation to the region and attracts visitors most likely to enjoy and care about the cultural and natural experiences of the areas. To be featured through GBCA, a business must meet certain sustainability criteria; this incentivizes businesses to adopt sustainable practices.

GBCA proved to be successful. Solimar documented a $1.3 million increase in sales of GBCA businesses, and established a Geotourism Stewardship Council working closely with the Coral Reef Alliance to direct and sustain the program over the long term. Social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, were also pushed forward.


Solimar's contract ended in 2013. It is always a challenge for development projects to sustain momentum and support after the end of the contract. A year later, we are happy to report that GBCA continues to flourish, in many ways due to the tireless efforts of Manlio Martinez, a consultant and coordinator for the local Geotourism Council in Roatán. Mr. Martinez has successfully rallied stakeholders in Roatán to develop new attractions & product nominations for the website, and to create and publish valuable content to GBCA's Facebook page. At the end of Solimar's contract, the Facebook page had approximately 200 likes; the page now has 556 likes. And while Facebook likes are not the end goal of our efforts, they are an important intermediary step in building awareness around the two regions' sustainable tourism products and initiatives.

We had the pleasure to chat with Mr. Martinez the other day and hear his story. Prior to working with GBCA, Mr. Martinez was writing his own travel and tourism blog in Honduras. He was interested in writing a piece on the conservation efforts of a local dive site—Cordelia Banks—which put him in contact with the Coral Reef Alliance. Members of the Coral Reef Alliance quickly realized that Mr. Martinez would be a perfect fit for the GBCA. Mr. Martinez is a renaissance man of sorts—he's a travel blogger, photographer, loves to make videos, and is dabbling in graphic design.

Mr. Martinez revealed that his efforts generating content for the GBCA blog and Facebook have proven worthwhile. Facebook, Mr. Martinez explained, is the most used social media channel in Honduras and therefore receives the majority of his focus and efforts. GBCA's work is gaining exposure and he personally notices the word being spread; "Go Blue is being revived", Mr. Martinez said. At the end of the day, Mr. Martinez is nothing short of an inspiration. A man truly dedicated to his work—"This is not a job for me", he explains, "I am doing what I love".

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Last week, 700 international delegates from various sectors of the tourism industry gathered in Killarney, Ireland for the 2014 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS). The Summit aimed to promote Ireland as an adventure travel destination, connect hundreds of like-minded travel leaders from around the globe, foster peer-to-peer exchanges on best practices and operational strategies, and promote business development.

Two of our staff members, Natasha Martin and Gabe Seder, represented Solimar at the four-day summit. I spoke with Natasha, a seasoned veteran of the Summit, and Gabe, a newcomer, about their ATWS 2014 experiences in more detail.

The growth of adventure travel made ATWS a must-attend for Solimar. “When we did the first study in 2010, it was worth $89 billion, and now its nearly $250 billion – so more people are choosing adventurous holidays - which is great news for Solimar because we work, nearly exclusively, in adventure destinations,” said Natasha. “Adventure tourism is a great segment for emerging markets because adventure tourists don't care about developed infrastructure and fancy hotels– they want exceptional experiences.”

The Summit offered much more than just lectures and workshops. “Destinations compete to host world class events like ATWS because they create a unique opportunity to highlight the best of the destination to movers and shakers in all sectors of the tourism industry. Ireland made sure delegates got out of the conference center to go on a ‘Day of Adventure’—doing things like hiking, kayaking, climbing, etc. They also subsidize ‘pre-summit adventures’ for delegates to go on 3-4 day adventure tours around Ireland,” Gabe said. Therefore, said Natasha, “It’s a great networking opportunity as well as a chance to experience some adventure tourism.”


Natasha commented on the different experiences offered in this year’s host country, Ireland, and last year in Namibia, which she helped facilitate: “The Summit in Ireland was much different from that in Namibia -- but equally as exciting, fun, and inspirational. The ATTA and Ireland team did a great job of organizing a seamless event and they brought together a great diversity of delegates from around the world." And even as a newcomer, Gabe had a similar perspective on his first Summit experience this year, “This was my first time at ATWS. The bar for the event had been set really high because I've been hearing Natasha and other coworkers talk about the Summit for years, but it exceeded my expectations because everyone you meet is eager talk about their experience in adventure travel, discuss the industry, and learn about Solimar.”

A talk on conservation travel stood out to both Gabe and Natasha as particularly important for Solimar’s work,. “The session on Conservation Travel was particularly interesting - we discussed how tourism can be a type of insurance policy for conservation. In many types of tourism, visitors want to see wildlife, so it has an economic value,” said Natasha. “The ‘Conservation Travel’ session also spoke to Solimar's approach of creating a business case for conservation by demonstrating the quantifiable value of wildlife preservation for a destination,” commented Gabe. Other highlights: “The session on ‘Going Head-to-Head with your Digital Future’ included a Q-and-A with representatives from Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor, who advised tour operators and destinations on how to leverage the expanding reach of these platforms to engage and convert audiences around the globe,” said Gabe. “Several sessions discussed ideas on how to raise awareness of this type of tourism- I think it’s something we can bring into our work at Solimar,” commented Natasha.

Overall, the Summit was a great success, for our Solimar representatives as well as the rest of the adventure travel community. Solimar is excited for #ATWS2015 in Chile!

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The importance of sustainable tourism development is increasingly recognized throughout the sector. However, it has been a challenge for many organizations to integrate sustainability into tourism management and operations.

US Gulf Coast States Geotourism website

Here are a few tips and examples on how to incorporate sustainability in your destination's tourism management and operations.

Involve Local Residents and Communities in Tourism Planning

Sustainable tourism development requires the participation of local residents and businesses at the planning stage. By consulting with local stakeholders, you gain their support and reduce conflict as the plan progresses.

In Solimar's Geotourism projects, which seek to highlight the unique culture and heritage of a region through the voices and stories of the people that live there, local residents are invited to nominate places of interest. This provides more economic benefits to local businesses especially those that are less known. The nominations are reviewed by a Stewardship Council, composed of representatives from the region, before being used to create an interactive website, a MapGuide, and a Smartphone app.

Solimar International and USAID in Uganda
Establish Partnerships with Different Stakeholders

Effective collaboration among different stakeholders from the government, tourism boards, businesses, and local communities is crucial to successful sustainable tourism management and operations. This facilitates a more balanced system of decision making as the priorities of various sectors are considered.

To assist Uganda in tourism development, Solimar actively involved stakeholders from each part of the tourism and conservation sectors. The cooperation among the stakeholders was important to enhance tourism products, build strong community enterprises, strengthen linkages among different attractions, and bolster the success of the program.

Develop Products Based on the Destination's Strengths

What are the local assets that your destination can highlight? Destination assessment should be conducted to identify the strengths of a destination and determine the best tourism products based on the findings.

In our destination assessment for the Sierra de la Gigante region, Solimar and RED Sustainable Travel identified potential conservation models that leverage the region's strengths in order to address conservation goals and provide economic opportunities for the local population.

Solimar International in Ethiopia
Strengthen Local Capacity to Manage Tourism

Sustainable tourism management and operations need to equip local businesses with skills to succeed. Workforce development and training is therefore integral to a successful strategy.

To strengthen the capacity of the Ethiopia Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA), Solimar conducted workshops and created materials to train personnel in using the necessary tools and activities to implement community tourism in Ethiopia.

Target High-Yield Market Segments

High visitor numbers aren't inherently valuable for your destination. In sustainable tourism management and operations, it is important to serve the proper target markets. Fortunately, there has been a growth in the number of travelers who demand more responsible travel and have higher visitor expenditure.

The Namibia North American Destination Marketing Campaign targeted travelers who would most appreciate the country’s strong conservation and special interest selling points. These include curious conservationists and experience seekers. This is why a destination assessment of strengths is so important—you must know what you are marketing and to whom.

Use Guidelines to Limit Impact

Creating guidelines is important in sustainable tourism management and operations. It not only helps the destination preserve its ecological value, but also helps businesses limit their negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts. Educating visitors and locals on best-practices matters.

Solimar is part of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) Initiative , which fosters increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and promotes the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles.

Have you used any of these tips at your organization? Are there others you would like to share? Your ideas and comments are welcome in the comment section below.

To learn more about becoming a more sustainable tourism enterprise, download the Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Development Tool Kit.


A great business plan and strategy are important first steps in developing sustainable tourism in an area, but real results are a direct reflection of the operations and management on the ground. Take for example, Solimar’s work in the Pearl Cays region of Nicaragua or Big Bend-Rio Bravo, Mexico. Both of these projects, which started in 2012, required developing sustainable tourism strategies that empowered conservation efforts—among these, in both destinations, was protecting sea turtles.

baby sea turtle
Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Source: Flickr

But how does a destination go about implementing the strategy to ensure the protection of sea turtles?

The destination will develop operating guidelines or a ‘code of conduct’. These operating guidelines will build off regulations that may already exist in the protected area and incorporate further regulation with scientific input to mitigate the negative effects of tourism. It is also extremely important to successfully develop and promote these operating guidelines before a destination becomes popular. Operating guidelines will be more difficult to implement and much less effective if the destination is already a popular tourist spot.

Educate Visitors

One strategy to optimize the effectiveness of those operating guidelines is promoting them to your visitors. When visitors know the sustainable guidelines, they become empowered to make sound judgments and decisions when visiting the natural areas.

In the cases of Pearl Cays and Big Bend-Rio Bravo, the code of conduct addressed restrictions of flash photography, group size, waste management, and visitor behavior around the turtles. You can promote these operating guidelines through 4 main avenues:

Turtle Sign
  1. Guided Interpretation – Local guides are the most effective strategy in promoting your code of conduct, because they have a deep knowledge and appreciation for the destination. The effectiveness of guided interpretation relies heavily on educating and training the tour guide. In Pearl Cays and Big Bend-Rio Bravo, Solimar conducted a one-day guide and tourism training workshop to community members and provided a “Tourism Toolkit” for future trainings.
  2. Interpretive Signage – Because beaches where the sea turtles lay their eggs are typically unmanned and open, visual signs are essential to reaching visitors. Signs should be in all languages common in the area, and provide interesting information in addition to restrictions. 
  3. Signed Statements of Understanding – The code of conduct may also be presented to visitors on a document that requires them to review and sign, acknowledging their understanding of the code.
  4. Promotional Materials – Websites, brochures, and other promotional material are platforms to display your code of conduct as well. Displaying the code of conduct on these materials not only prepares visitors by exposing them to the code, but also appeals to potential eco-savvy clients.

Promoting the code to your visitors is only one possible avenue. Ideally, the promotion of your operating guidelines will take a multifaceted approach—promoting to visitors, through the travel industry, and through social media. How well you can promote these operating guidelines will directly impact how effectively you can reduce the negative impacts of tourism on species and habitats in a destination, and will be helpful when seeking sustainable tourism certifications.  

For more information on tourism management and operations, download our Tourism Destination Management Toolkit.



One of Solimar international’s current projects is helping develop tourism strategies for two fairly small regions of the Republic of Georgia, Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti. The project is kicking into gear, with timelines and projects being identified and implemented.

Last week, Solimar International’s president Chris Seek spent several days in the Republic of Georgia for a series of meetings and events to assess the tourism strategies that Solimar has developed for the two regions. He presented the proposed strategies to Georgian and World Bank officials, who will discuss and decide on a finalized plan. 

In the coming weeks, a list of objects to be rehabilitated will be revealed within the framework of this regional development project. We are looking forward to seeing where the project will take us from here!

Georgia Mountains
Photo: Levan Gokadze Source: Flickr

Project Beginnings

International tourism is one of the largest contributors to the Georgian economy and there is demand for the development and improvement of the tourism sector, with the aim to stimulate local economies and provide much needed employment throughout the country. 

Through a grant from the World Bank, in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA), Solimar developed a national tourism strategy that has improved planning, developing, managing, and marketing the country’s many rich natural and cultural resources, and has resulted in an increase of money spent per visitor. 

Previous Work in the Kakheti Region

Recently, Solimar completed another project in Georgia. Based in the Kakheti region, this project was sponsored by the World Bank in a region with a low level of tourism competitiveness primarily because it lacked professional tourism services and was therefore not well-known in the major international tourism markets. To stimulate tourism and generate income for local communities, Solimar and its partners increased awareness of the Kakheti region’s tourism assets and improved tourism capacity of stakeholders. 

Through this strategy, the region has seen a tremendous boost in the economy, the creation of much needed employment, and a rise in private sector investment. This sustainable strategy has been critical for the success of the region and its people since the project’s implementation. 

Georgia Church
Photo: Igor Source: Flickr

Designing a Strategy for the Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti Regions

Using this work as a template, Solimar has produced similar strategies for the Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti regions, to be implemented by 2020. These strategies will focus on two components: product development and marketing. 

The product development aspect will focus on urban recovery, such as rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure and conservation of cultural heritage buildings and facades, and the development of tourism routes, which envisages urban landscape and parking area development among other projects. 

The marketing aspect will work to develop a Georgia brand, which can then be perpetuated professionally and efficiently through a number of markets: online, traditional, and public relations campaigns. This campaign continues to develop the tourism industry in order to promote economic development and improve the standard of living for the local communities. 

To learn more about tourism development and strategy, download our Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Development Tool Kit:


At Solimar we are often confronted with the question, “Why tourism?” How do our driving passions, sustainable economic development and conservation, fit with the tourism industry?

World Tourism Day 2014
World Tourism Day 2014 Source: The Dunloe

The answer is simple. Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. When developed responsibly, tourism is a powerful tool for promoting economic and social development on local, national, and regional levels. World Tourism Day (WTD), sponsored by the UNWTO, is celebrated every year on September 27th to highlight this social, cultural, political, and economic value.

This year, official WTD celebrations are being held in Guadalajara, Mexico and focus on the theme of Tourism and Community Development—exploring the ability of tourism to empower local communities with skills and resources that create positive social change. For tourism to drive community development it must be done sustainably: economically, environmentally, and socio-culturally.

According to the WTD website:

With the special focus on the community, WTD 2014 highlights how tourism can be conducive to advancing sustainable development from the grassroots level. Community based tourism involves the local population in the decision making process according to local priorities. The opportunity to become part of the tourism value chain actively involves host communities in the development process. Tourism thus becomes a catalyst of social cohesion, going beyond the immediate impact of job creation and its positive economic consequences and enhances, for instance, local governance capabilities which multiply the tourism impact even further.

You may be wondering how large the tourism sector actually is. Take a look at some of the figures:

wtd stats

Source: The Dunloe Hotel

The sector is growing in all regions of the world,

‘International tourist arrivals increased by 5% worldwide in 2013, reaching 1087 million’

  • Myanmar’s tourist arrivals increased by 52%
  • Peru’s tourist arrivals increased by 11%
  • Morocco became the 1st African country to have surpassed 10 million international arrivals 

This growth is especially evident in developing countries.

‘The market share of emerging economies is expected to reach 57% by 2030, equivalent to over 1 billion international tourist arrivals.’

Tourism is the leading export in over half of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). No other industry commands this kind of impact. Sustainable community-based tourism presents a unique and lucrative way to tackle incredibly difficult development goals in LDCs. Tourism is a labor-intensive industry, which means job creation in areas where tourism is being developed. Sustainable tourism also creates economic value for wildlife, culture, and natural resources which, in turn, incentivizes their protection. Job creation means reduced migration (from rural to urban areas) which contributes to overall political stability in an area.

The full potential of tourism’s transformative power can only be reached with everyone’s participation. The conscious traveler must be a sustainable one.Tourism’s major role in economic, social, and sustainable development gives us all important parts to play. That’s why we do what we do.

Solimar wishes everyone a happy World Tourism Day!

To learn how you can improve your impact as a traveler, follow these 10 steps.


Solimar has been talking a lot about our work with integrated marketing programs recently, so you might be wondering, what exactly is an integrated marketing program? And why is it important?

Simply put, an integrated marketing program in the travel trade is a comprehensive marketing solution specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications are unified across all channels and strategically focused to attract the customer- travelers. 

Namibia Dune
Photo: Frank Vassen Source: Flickr

It is a concept based on the principles of inbound marketing: providing valuable content to highly targeted consumers, which attracts and engages them, moving them down the funnel towards buying your services , product or in our case- a destination. This way, businesses and destinations spend their valuable resources in the most productive way, and consumers are delighted by content relevant to their interests. 

There are seven essential steps to creating a great integrated marketing program, each of which Solimar makes a point to include in the programs we develop, like in Namibia and Rwanda. Through these steps, your business will be able to develop and maintain a simple yet productive integrated marketing campaign. They are:


1. Marketing Strategy – After a thorough analysis of the business or destination’s features and attraction, an integrated marketing strategy must be developed. The strategy will serve as a roadmap for the implementation of an integrated marketing program—and should be tailored to your product’s needs. The strategy should integrate social media, search engine optimization, blogging, content and lead nurturing, public relations and trade relations.

2. Brand Analysis – Prior to implementing any integrated campaigns, a specific brand or logo should be developed in order to improve your look and focus your message. 

3. Website and Content Development - Once a consumer finds your website, the goal is to make it so captivating that they want to stay on the site, engage in your content, and share it with others. To do this, both content and a schedule for posting it should be generated. 

4. Social Media Strategy and Blogging – Social media gives you a place to talk to your consumers before they travel, while they travel, and after they have returned. This includes social networks, blogs, micro-blogging sites, and third party sites. It is important to determine the best channels to use for your target markets, and what content to post.

5. Creative Campaigns - With all pieces of your marketing foundation in place, now is the time to develop and implement creative campaigns and sweepstakes designed to draw visitors to both your site and social media platforms, while synchronizing your marketing message and brand value for maximum effectiveness. 

6. PR/Media Outreach Strategy – In creating a PR/Media strategy, it is important to employ simple but effective monitoring tools to allow you to identify influencers in your market. Then you can "listen" to the conversations taking place online, join ongoing conversations, build trust, and demonstrate expertise. It is critical to develop a database of contacts and design effective outreach campaigns to reach local and national media, relevant bloggers, guidebooks, and sales intermediaries. 

7. Trade Distribution Strategy - If you work with business to business (B2B) sales, it is most effective to take your relationships online by developing a dynamic database that tracks all communication with trade partners; from the initial email/call, to in-person meetings at trade shows, and shares on social media sites by each partner. Having a detailed record of your communication history with your partners helps you strengthen your business relationships. 

In sum, integrated marketing programs provide an effective and streamlined solution to marketing, which is thus more productive for both the businesses and the consumers. They create a pleasant marketing/consumption experience, ultimately leading to more concrete results for businesses.

To learn more about Solimar’s Integrated Marketing Programs, click here.

Download our free eBook on Inbound Marketing below:





It is estimated that 84% of leisure travelers use the Internet for planning their trips. Knowing this, a creative and effective online tourism marketing strategy is essential for every tourism destination.

The US Gulf Coast States (USGCS), more popularly known as the "Southern Crescent," comprising of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida has actively sought to enhance its online tourism presence and to interconnect its travel experiences across states. The results have proved promising: At the conclusion of Solimar's year-long involvement with the USGCS Geotourism Program, the region has succeeded in creating a regional website of around 1,800 unique and authentic local sites, attractions and businesses that has attracted over 35,000 unique visitors to its pages to date. The program has also built a Facebook community of over 3,000 followers.

The Project 

Mobile Bay Alabama
Mobile Bay, Alabama (Source: Alabama Tourism)

The USGCS Geotourism Program, in partnership with National Geographic, seeks to promote tourism that sustains and enhances the natural, cultural and historic attributes of the four Gulf States and that benefits local communities. The goal is to highlight what’s unique about a place through the voices and stories of the people that live there.

The challenge for Solimar was to facilitate collaboration among industry stakeholders including the government, local businesses, public lands and residents to develop marketing tools that promote the region as a world-class tourism destination.

Solimar's strategy included the establishment of a Geotourism Stewardship Council composed of representatives from the four state tourism offices as well as private and public sectors stakeholders from the region. The Council’s role was to oversee and implement the Geotourism Program in the region with the vision to help promote the lesser-known jewels of the states. Upon the creation of the Stewardship Council, Solimar worked with National Geographic and local partners to promote the USGCS region.

The Geotourism team used a tested methodology to gather content and stories from local people to create an online Geotourism website, highlighting the lesser-known attractions of the region through the voices of the people that live there. The website and its accompanying mobile app and print MapGuide are high quality tools, co-branded with National Geographic, to help travelers explore the region.

US Gulf States Website
US Gulf States Website

Once the Geotourism website, apps and print maps were created, Solimar worked with our local partners to implement two social media campaigns to promote the Geotourism website. A Geotourism Program Facebook page and related social media channels were established and used to engage travelers with the content and stories of the region.

The Results

Through these campaigns, Solimar helped the Geotourism Program generate over 35,000 unique visitors to its website, build a community of over 3,000 Facebook followers and generate over 1.8 million media impressions using the content from the website.

Solimar is proud to have been a part of the USGCS Geotourism team. Ultimately, this campaign shed light on the importance of using smart online tourism marketing strategies. Developing useful marketing tools, targeting the right campaigns and involving locals in telling their stories are all part of what made the program a success.

If you would like to learn more about tourism marketing strategies for your own company or destination's or learn more about the Geotourism Program in collaboration with National Geographic, ask an expert.

free consultation 

In July 2013, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the managers of Rwanda’s parks and tourism assets, contracted Solimar to assess the feasibility of creating an independent organization to take on management of the country’s parks and tourism assets as well as create a business plan for the proposed entity.

RDB is a government organization with the mission to transform Rwanda into a dynamic global hub for business, investment, and innovation. As such their focus is on economic development across all sectors of Rwanda’s economy. The RDB recognized that they needed to take a new approach to management of the country’s parks and tourism assets outside of their existing structure and had formulated a concept to establish a new organization to achieve this goal.

rwanda landscape
Photo: CIAT Source: Flickr

After an initial assessment, Solimar spent several months conducting a feasibility analysis of RDB’s concept. During this phase, Solimar worked extensively with RDB staff and other stakeholders in the tourism and conservation sectors to tackle a series of questions and create a common understanding of the concept proposed by RDB.

The major questions included: what did RDB and local stakeholders want for the future of tourism and their national parks and how did they see it being sustainably managed and successful for both conservation and the national economy. Stakeholders involved included tourism industry leaders and conservation organizations.

These conversations and Solimar’s analysis eventually led to a proposition, that RDB would transfer management and operations of two of its three national parks (the third being already independently managed by African Parks Foundation) and tourism assets to an independent organization, ‘The Rwanda Parks and Ecotourism Trust,’ that would be owned by RDB but able to operate independently to manage the parks and tourism assets on behalf of the country.

The feasibility report was used as a template for RDB and other stakeholders to review and comment, and then for the creation of a business plan, which provided the rationale, strategy, financial projections, and an implementation plan for the creation of the new organization. The proposed ‘Rwandan Parks and Ecotourism Trust’ will, if approved by the Rwandan Cabinet, be set up as a corporation under RDB and aim to increase efficiency and returns while remaining a leader in conservation and high quality ecotourism.

We are happy to announce that the innovative business plan Solimar created with our Rwandan partners was approved by the Senior Management of RDB in September, 2014 and the recommendations in the report will be submitted to the Rwanda Cabinet for review and approval. If approved, Rwanda will establish a new and innovative model for park management, conservation and tourism in the region.

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new letter cta

Namibia North 1
Photo: Frank Vassen, Source: Flickr

After four amazing, rewarding years, Solimar wraps up its work in Namibia.

Last week, the 4-year North American Destination Marketing (NADM) Campaign came to an end. The project was managed by Cardno and implemented with four other companies, including Solimar.

In 2010, when the campaign began, traditional source markets for Namibia, specifically European tourism, were lagging due to economic recession and market saturation. The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), with support from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), decided to aggressively pursue the North American tourism market to boost their visitor numbers, and contracted Cardno, who then put together the NADM team to create a comprehensive marketing program. Separately, Solimar was contracted to develop an integrated online marketing campaign.

Within the NADM campaign, Solimar was responsible for the online tools component. Our role was to create educational and sales tools, trade campaigns and then market these to North American travel trade. Ultimately, our goal was to help North American operators sell more Namibia. We found that agents and operators knew and loved Namibia, but were facing a challenge: their clients were not asking for it. We began to develop tools that would help them create demand among their client base: campaigns that helped them engage with their communities about Namibia, as well as incentives to encourage them to sell more of our destination.

Over the course of four years, our team developed four targeted campaigns, which had trade and consumer components. These campaigns were fueled by interactive contests, which created a buzz among the communities of our trade partners through social networks.

The success of the NADM campaign was due to its integrated nature, the team tackled different sectors of the tourism sector at the same time. For example, at the same time as Solimar was creating tools and working with agents, our colleagues from the Business Tourism Company were training local businesses and business owners in destination management and marketing to optimize the opportunities available to them. The NADM campaign made it a priority to broaden local knowledge of the complexities and opportunities available through the use of online marketing and to build a foundation of understanding of destination marketing and the North American tourism value chain and market sectors. The campaign’s focus on training and education allows for more long-term and sustainable business practices, ultimately benefitting the local communities in a significant and effective way.

Namibia North 2
Photo: Frank Vassen, Source: Flickr

Likewise, Cardno was coordinating attendance at trade shows and road shows. There were three North American Road Shows, two trade shows, and 34 other travel trade events held during the course of the campaign, which established linkages with North American operators, expanded Namibia’s presence in the market, and increased its market share in North America. The team from STI worked to strengthen Namibian festivals and events by developing a strong relationship with the city of Windhoek and supporting the relaunch of the /Ae//Gams Arts and Cultural Festival in 2014, linking market-ready festivals and events to the North American market.

Another essential component of the campaign was the Public Relations (PR) platform, which focused on raising the profile of Namibia and its products and experience offerings among North American target consumers. It involved creating a dynamic campaign and taking it to road shows, airlines, and news outlets both in Namibia and North America. The campaign earned multiple destinations in Namibia press coverage in a variety of influential North American media outlets, through newspapers, websites, and television.

An exciting highlight of the campaign was the opportunity Namibia was granted to host the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) in October 2013. As ATWS is the largest gathering of adventure travel professionals in the world, with over 700 attendees, this was a key opportunity for Namibia to assert itself as a heavyweight in the adventure travel industry. The NADM campaign decided this it was crucial to capitalize on this opportunity, allocating energy and resources to pursue Namibia’s bid to host the campaign, as well as the organizing all of the logistics once it was awarded. This was the first time ATWS was hosted on the African continent, and support from the NADM campaign was critical to the Summit’s success.

Overall, Solimar and its partners were able to significantly increase the awareness of Namibia as a tourism destination in the North American market through this campaign. These efforts have left a legacy of strong business relationships between Namibian and North American travel trade, and increased awareness for Namibia and the Namibia Tourism Board to build upon. To get updates on Solimar’s projects and programs around the world, sign up for our newsletter:

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