Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Before you embark on your next adventure, take the time to view Gringo Trails. This feature-length documentary, directed and produced by American anthropologist Pegi Vail, sheds insight on the unanticipated impact of one of the world’s most powerful globalizing forces—tourism.

Gringo Trails illustrates three cautionary case studies that reveal the devastating effects tourism can have on local cultures and the environment: one deep in the Bolivian Amazon, another on the Salt Flats of Bolivia, and the third on Thailand’s small island, Ko Pha Ngan.

Haad Rin Beach 1979The film flashes back to a 21 year old backpacker, Costas Christ. Eager to find a tourist-free island paradise, Costas travels off the “gringo trail” to the small island of Ko Pha Ngan. It is 1979 and during his month on Haad Rin Beach, Costas finds his paradise—authenticity. The film then jumps forward to 1999 showing Haad Rin Beach jam packed with over 10,000 people celebrating New Year’s Eve. This once pristine and secluded beach is now home to the famous Full Moon Festival, which attracts thousands of travels from across the world. Local businesses have flourished but socio-cultural and environmental aspects of Ko Pha Ngan are devastated.

Full Moon Party


                                   Haad Rin Beach, 1979

As a local Thai admits, in Ko Pha Ngan, it is too late. Sustainable tourism development requires a thorough assessment. Context is key. This is why Solimar International stresses the importance of strategic planning, particularly destination assessments. Destination assessments provide in-depth analysis of the competitiveness of a region as a tourism destination and are key to identifying the next steps in sustainable tourism development.

Time and again throughout Gringo Trails, the viewer comes across tour operators, guides, and travelers who are not properly trained in sustainable tourism practices. The deterioration of the Salt Flats and the decreasing anaconda population in the Bolivian pampas, are partly due to a lack of professional training and education. Strategic planning can only be carried out to full potential if the destination has a trained workforce and educated travelers. Recognizing the instrumental role education has in cultivating sustainable tourism, Solimar works deeply to promote specialized training and education services geared toward sustainable tourism.

The case studies depicted in Gringo Trails demonstrate the importance and significance of sustainable tourism. Pegi Vail leaves the viewers with hope, as she takes us to a small indigenous village in South America where well-planned tourism development has proved to be a positive force in the village’s economic and social development as well as its environmental and cultural conservation. Gringo Trails truly is an eye-opener for the conscious traveler.

Gringo Trails made its theatrical release September 4-11 at Cinema Village in New York City. For a full list of screenings visit

For more information on Solimar’s tourism assessments download the free Tourism Assessment Process EBook.

Tourism Assessment Process



Photo: Gunther Wegner  Source: Flickr

One of the most comprehensive services that Solimar International offers is our Integrated Marketing Program. The model entails a tailored, uniform marketing strategy across all platforms that highlights and meets the goals of a certain destination or business. We recently saw great success using this approach in our Namibia North American Destination Marketing (NADM) project, in which Solimar was asked to raise awareness of Namibia as a prime African tourism destination for North American travelers. The success of the NADM integrated marketing program led to an increase in North American arrivals and double the number of travel trade selling Namibia. Natasha Martin, the project’s leader, gives a more in-depth analysis of the strategy’s impact.

What were the reasons for selecting an integrated marketing program method in Namibia?

We knew we needed to match the changing landscape of online travel marketing with whatever solution we proposed.  And we had a limited budget, so using non-traditional marketing helped us stretch the budget further. As you know, it’s easier to target whom your messages reaches online because the tracking is so much better.

What were the first components you identified for launching the program?

We started in late 2011, so we identified a blog, Facebook, Twitter. But as the campaign progressed things changed. And we had to bring in Pinterest and Instagram. These were especially good for reaching niche markets. 

Namibia Leopard

Photo: Mazzali  Source: Flickr

What were the biggest challenges you faced in developing the strategy and how were they overcome?

The biggest challenge was probablytime management, you can spend forever digging deeper and deeper into social media communities, having one on one conversations, etc., but you can lose track of priorities. Having a content calendar really helped us to manage time and thematic posting, and ensure consistency.

As you’re wrapping up the project, in what ways do you feel the integrated marketing strategy has been effective?

It has increased awareness of Namibia, it has shared the key messages of the country - so that it’s not just "a country in Africa" but "an adventure destination" and hopefully more people can associate with its assets. I really feel that before we started the project there was much less awareness about Namibia, and now its on the adventure travel map. We appealed to a wide range of travelers from culinary tourists, adventure travelers and families as well.

Looking back on the program, what would you say were the keys to success with the Namibia campaign?

Flexibility, and the ability to make changes to the program (for example, when Facebook apps became redundant, we stopped making them). 

What are the advantages of using an integrated marketing program strategy? 

A multi-pronged approach is always better; otherwise you put all your eggs in one basket so to speak.

Through this approach, Solimar was able to expand existing and create new itineraries centered on a community-based tourism strategy, significantly increase the number of North American tourists traveling to Namibia, as well as double the number of North American tour operators offering trips to Namibia, speaking to the value of a practical and effective Integrated Marketing Program.

To learn more about integrated marketing programs in the tourism industry, download our free eBook:

Inbound Marketing eBook

 For more information on our services, visit our website.


Any great tourism business begins with a great “road map.” This road map serves as your business plan with actionable steps for moving forward with developing the enterprise. There are seven key components to your road map.

1. Clear Concept- Before you can dive into the road map, the essential first step is to clearly articulate your enterprise concept. What is your enterprise? What do you do? What are you trying to achieve? What impact do you expect your enterprise to generate? Before you move further down the road map, be sure that you put some thought into these questions and can clearly define the concept of your tourism enterprise. Try to condense this concept into a simple one to two sentence pitch that clearly articulates your business concept.

2. Market Analysis- Your market analysis includes the international, regional, and national tourism statistics and travel trends, the profiles of your target market segments, and a value chain/ industry analysis. Begin by getting an idea of the relevant tourism trends and statistics. What percentage of tourists coming to your destination region, country, or city are country nationals versus international visitors. When is the peak season that tourists come to visit? What are the typical demographics of visitors? Has the number of international tourists to your destination been increasing or decreasing? Addressing these questions will help you to better understand your market before moving forward.

From here, you can develop the profiles of your target market segments. Determine the nationality of your market, their wants and needs, their budget, etc. Think about whether your target traveler is seeking adventure and physical challenges, luxury and relaxation, or service and learning opportunities. Additionally, you will need to analyze the existing tourism industry in your destination. Especially if your enterprise will work with intermediaries; investigate the existence, success, and business models of tour operators, travel agents, and hotels; as they relative to your business concept to market or sell tourism products.


 3. Sales and Marketing Strategy- At this stage of your road map, it is important to determine strategic positioning in terms of the pricing, placement, and promotion strategies of your business. There are numerous factors, both short and long-term to consider for pricing including the value provided compared to that of competitors, the price the market is willing to pay, the revenue needed to enable the business to reach its financial goals, and profit maximization. Your placement, or distribution, may be conducted either through direct or indirect sales. Your promotion strategy will describe the sales and marketing techniques used to reach your target market and should include online and social media marketing.

4. Competitive Analysis- Complete a summary of competing businesses and products, and determine your competitive advantage. Begin by defining your business competition- the people and businesses that offer similar products and services and seek the same markets. Research these competitors and assess their products or services on a number of factors, such as pricing, product quality, and customer service. Porter’s Five Forces Analysis is a useful tool to use for a through investigation of your competition. By assessing your business competition against your proposed enterprise, you will gain a better understanding of where your business stands and how best to leverage your strengths against your competition’s weaknesses. To determine your competitive advantage, simply outline the major advantages that your enterprise holds over the competition.

5. Operations and Training Plan- Consider your business structure and the key personnel and training needs that will be required to support it, while also keeping in mind any legal considerations. Will your enterprise be a private company, a partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC), a cooperative, a non-profit organization, or an association? There are pluses and minuses to each, and it is extremely important to think carefully to determine the best structure for your enterprise. Once the structure is determined, consider the number of employees needed and the roles and responsibilities of each. Consider the hierarchy of employees in your business and how profits will be shared.  Finally, the legal environment is key to consider; think about potential requirements like business registration, employee/membership agreements, permits, and insurance coverage.


6. Community and Conservation Support- Consider sustainable tourism as a cornerstone to your business plan. Sustainable tourism has the potential to not only mitigate potentially harmful impacts of visitation to a site, but it can also support conservation of the resources upon which it depends. At Solimar, we employ a market-based approach that links jobs and revenue generated by sustainable tourism to support conservation of the resources upon which the tourism depends. To develop a sustainability plan, begin by assessing the conservation threats related to your tourism enterprise. Once these threats have been assessed, you can choose tourism conservation strategies that address those threats, such as an environmental education program or a trail monitoring and research program. Lastly, be sure to budget for the implementation of your sustainability plan, including salaries, equipment, materials, and trainings.

7. Key Milestones and Workplan- Lastly, now that your business plan has been fully considered, you can create a timeline of the major activities related to the establishment of your enterprise and its tour products and services. Create a comprehensive list of the milestones to be completed for the successful establishment of your business and determine the order in which they shall be addressed. With each milestone completed, you are one step closer to being the proud founder of a great tourism business!

Business planning is a key part of the work Solimar International performs in destination marketing. To learn more about how to create your own tourism business plan, please download our free e-book on business planning


“The business of a business is business” goes the famous saying. Simply put, it means that a business needs to be practical (has a sound model, makes money) and realistic (whatever you set out to achieve, you should be able to achieve it) to operate successfully. However, growing a business that is both practical and realistic is much easier said than accomplished. Businesses are complicated and they contain a lot of moving parts. Here are 5 common mistakes you should be wary of so that your business remains practical and realistic during the planning stage: 


1. Not understanding the difference between planning and a plan

Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software stresses that the value is never in the original plan. Rather, it is in the implementation. He stresses that a plan can serve as the foundation providing a strategic direction but it is never valuable unless it is put into action. Planning is a continuous cycle, which takes a plan, puts it into action, compares the outcome with the projected results, and uses this new data to adjust the plan and set goals accordingly. It is the planning that creates value and allows a business to learn it’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as the time goes by – not the original plan. Therefore, a planning cycle should be put into place and the plan needs to be reviewed & appropriately changed on an annual basis to guide the business towards the desired end. This in turn, makes your business practical and realistic in response to the market.


10589931 10152685597602502 343750118 n


2. Ignoring market realities

The market is of a crucial importance to every company operating around the world. Susan Ward, co-owner of Cypress Technologies and an IT Consulting business, illustrates that a company can have an amazing product or a service that they would like to sell, but if the consumer is non-responsive to the product and does not want to purchase it, then the company will never be successful.

For example, if a company sells umbrellas in a place where it only rains 5 days a year, people would not purchase the umbrella. If the same company sells an umbrella in a market where it rains 200 out of 365 days a year, the demand is higher and umbrellas will likely sell. Even then, there are several other factors that need to be taken into consideration. Take a look at a business’ environments and corresponding factors in diagram below: 

10601261 10152685597617502 339734800 n

Adequate research into market dynamics needs to be conducted annually to understand the business climate, set realistic goals and assumptions, understand the competition, and price the products/services appropriately.


3. Being everything to everyone

Bill Cosby has famously said, “I don’t know the secret to success; but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Pick a focus. Pick a problem to solve in the market. Solve it. It is crucial to pick a focus for your business and it is crucial to keep sight of it. It keeps things practical and realistic. Spreading yourself too thin trying to go in numerous different directions will most likely result in nothing working out too well. Ensure you have clear objectives when business planning and ensure that you tailor your plans to suit your business purpose. Whatever you pursue, make it your singular focus. Tim Berry defines strategy as “… focus. It’s as much what you aren’t doing as it is what you’re doing.” Therefore, be clear in what you do so that you can save time, money, and set goals that correspond with the purpose of the business. You don’t need to please everyone.


4. Thinking that big picture is the key!

Tim Berry states that a “good business planning is nine parts implementation for every one-part strategy”. Therefore, while it is commendable to have a vision and a strategy, as they act as the guiding forces, a detailed action plan is very necessary to achieve the desired end. You should have a goal and underneath list all of the steps that need to be taken to accomplish that goal. More so, you should detail who is responsible, the dates and deadlines for the tasks, forecast the outcomes, design suitable key performance indicators to measure success, measure success against projections, and review the efforts to make decisions for the future of the company. The point is to put planning into action in such a way that there is accountability for each task and action, and you can measure each component. That will provide a much-detailed outlook onto what is working for the company and what areas require improvement. The big picture paints a pretty sight, but the details and implementation make that sight a reality.


5. Treating it as a race or sprint

Being an entrepreneur is not a race. It’s a disciplined lifestyle, which demands time, persistence, and commitment. Therefore, to minimize risk, continuous business planning is essential and should become a natural rhythm rather than an activity you pursue irregularly. A plan should be carefully put into action. The actions then need to be measured. The new insight you gain should influence your plan. One also continuously needs to be wary of their market, consumer demands, their product/service offering, and pivot in response to the change to business’ environments.


A plan is not a final product, only a beginning. It’s the implementation, continuous planning, and the ability to adapt to the changes that will prove your efforts fruitful and help you retain an edge in the market.


In the end, business planning can indeed be a daunting task. As long as you ensure things are practical, realistic, and the plan is being implemented and reviewed regularly taking into account the change in business’ environments – your business should thrive.


Solimar International can help your tourism business or destination with business planning. Whether it is a start-up or an operating venture, Solimar can help plan, train, and set structures in place, so that your venture can flourish for years to come.


Click here for more information.

Namibia heritageA few weeks ago, the Solimar team got together for a group outing to see a play at D.C.’s classic Woolly Mammoth Theater. We were really excited because on paper it appeared to be a cultural portrayal of Namibia, a destination where we have ongoing projects- and February was our month to celebrate cultural heritage. It seemed to be the perfect outing.

Well, there is no question that the play was about heritage, but it didn’t exactly focus on Namibia. Instead it turned out to be a complex, geographically-unspecific analysis of cultural heritage and the various ways history is preserved and expressed in modern times. But despite its confusing message, the play was nothing else if not thought provoking. It shed light on Namibia’s multifaceted and proud cultural heritage. In real life, travelers are witness to Namibia’s unique, beautiful, tragic and inspiring heritage: and it is the community, from tour operators, to game guards, to neighbors, that isdedicated to preserving it.

The Namibian Travel Trade Delivers for Experience Seekers

Tourist and Himba

A recent conversation with a Namibian tourism representative highlighted the country’s cultural pride. She explained that it is possible for travelers to experience proximity to Namibia’s fascinating heritage in many ways, and that the bridge is the tourism operator who facilitates this process. She told me the story of a Namibian tour operator friend who had recently organized a trip for twelve young American college students. They wanted to explore the country, but were not content to travel in cars and stay in hotels. They wanted to spend a week living with the San Bushmen, immersing themselves totally in their way of life. They roamed the desert, slept beneath the open sky and ate raw ostrich eggs- and said at the end that it was the best experience of their lives.

Even without experiencing life as a San Bushman, curious travelers can still get a feel for traditional culture in Namibia.  Namibian tour operators can organize day trips to visit the Himba people of the Kunene region in the North. There, they proudly display their traditions and customs, from their ochre-tinted skin, dances and rituals to their handiwork and crafts. Responsible travelers will be made to feel welcome by the Himba, but they must remember to respect the people’s traditions and way of life. 

Cultural Heritage and Celebrations

For a taste of Namibia’s colonial cultural heritage, one doesn’t have to look further than the country’s bustling capital. In Windhoek, German influence is still present in its architecture, food and language. In October, visitors can even participate in Windhoek’s own Oktoberfest. Though they embrace the German influence today, they pay tribute and celebrate their own more ancient traditions in the form of annual festivals and celebrations. Maherero Day is a tribute to the tribal leaders of the Herero chiefs who fell during the Herero genocide in the early 20th Century. Women don traditional dress and line the streets of Okahandaja, north of the country’s capital, chanting and reciting poems as a military procession goes by. There is also Mbapira, the Enjando Street Festival in Windhoek, proudly displaying traditional art forms from dance, to music and costumes- busy, loud and bustling, visitors can experience the vibrancy of Namibia’s cultural heritage here every March.

Natural Heritage in Namibia

namibia natural heritage

In an arid land where desert accounts for a large portion of its geography, Namibian communities have banded together to protect the land’s native wildlife and natural resources. Government-mandated and community-organized conservancies protect 42% of the land, a commitment that emphasizes the community’s pride in its natural heritage. Tourists are constantly reminded of this commitment when visiting Namibia’s splendid national game parks. So devoted is the community to protecting the land, that big players in international tourism have taken notice. In 2013 REI chose Namibia for its Sustainable Tourism Award, donating over $100,000 worth of gear to 500 conservancy game guards. Natural heritage is a point of pride for Namibia’s people.

Travelers looking for an immersion in cultural heritage need not search hard in Namibia. The community is dedicated to exposing travelers to the heart of their country and features its heritage proudly. This is what makes a trip to Namibia truly authentic, and where experience-seekers will not be disappointed. The play was the perfect means of inviting the spectator to examine the relevance of one's cultural traditions to modern day society. In our own neighborhood here in D.C., we have seen that preserving and celebrating a culture’s legacy is paramount to keeping that culture alive. In Namibia, decades of colonialism have altered the landscape of its indigenous peoples, but the country’s roots and values are clearly visible and proudly displayed. 

Last June, I wrote a post on the Solimar blog about preparing for the Adventure Travel World Summit here in Namibia. Last week it finally happened. After two years of preparation, we successfully welcomed over 650 delegates from 60 countries!

I believe the Summit in Namibia was successful for three reasons:

1. Delegates left happy…

…and inspired and educated!

People from Mexico, Greenland, China and 57 other nations, left with a clear sense of what makes Namibia special, what products are offered here, and deep knowledge and insight into why the conservation story is so remarkable. We achieved this by working with the Adventure Travel Trade Assocation (ATTA) to put conservation and Namibia at the center of the agenda. It might sound like a given that the host country should be a main topic of conversation, but that isn't necessarily the case. 

Namibia is a global model for how tourism and conservation can work together, and so Namibia worked with ATTA to put together a compelling panel, consisting of the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Flip Stander - a guy who has tracked lions for over twenty years, a World Bank Development Expert and John Kasona, the son of a poacher who is now a leading conservationist, to tell the story first-hand during a keynote session.

In addition, Namibia, and specifically our friends at the World Wildlife Fund, worked hard to schedule important events, such as the Gift to the Earth award which was presented to His Excellency President Pohamba during the opening event and the REI conservation award, which was presented to communal conservancy game guards. By coinciding these events with the Summit, Namibia's conservation achievements were front and center during the entire Summit.

atws namibia
Delegates enjoyed dinner in the desert surrounded by Namibia's stunning landscape. Photo: ATTA/Cameron Martindell/

2. We put tourism at the center of the national conversation

Using the Summit as a catalyst, we succeeded in putting tourism at the center of the national conversation in Namibia. 

In the time since I wrote the last post, tourism in Namibia has jumped from the third most important sector to the second most important sector in the country- it now lags just behind mining for job creation and income generation. Tourism is a powerful force in Namibia - and our team leaders (two from the public sector and one from the private sector) knew this was the perfect time to inform the nation why tourism should be everyone's business. 

Our team worked with local media to ensure consistent converge of the Summit. We created "excitement events," including a day-long seminar with members of the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance, a seminar on Women in Tourism, city-wide clean-up campaigns in towns across Namibia - under the tag line "My Namibia, My Pride," and hosted several AdventureConnect Events for the industry. As these events included the broader Namibian population, we helped them understand what the Summit was about and why it and tourism in general are so important to the overall Namibian economy. 

We also created buttons that read "Tourism is my business" and gave them out for taxi drivers, waiters, airport staffers, etc. to wear during the conference so that people could become a part of the big event. As I walked around town today, 3 weeks later, I was delighted to see several people still sporting their buttons!

3. We created a legacy for the Summit

Hosting this Summit was a national initiative, and as mentioned above, the team went to great lengths to ensure that the entire nation felt involved and informed. However, it was designed to benefit the tourism industry – and perhaps the most important work our team did around the Summit was ensure a long-term legacy of economic and cultural benefits that will be delivered to tourism stakeholders long after 2013. 

When the government invests as much as Namibia did in time, money and resources to any event - it should have long-lasting benefits. The estimated benefits of ATWS are calculated to be N$51million - this is a result of the direct spending, hotel rooms, flights and tours sold, as well as the media value and other long-term benefits.  

By bringing in corporate sponsors, from beer companies to banks to mining companies, we've got them taking the message of adventure tourism to their constituencies - they are proud to support the event and the sector. By delivering solid return for their sponsorships, it is our hope they will continue to sponsor tourism events in the future as well. 

And the relationships that were formed at ATWS between Namibian companies and international ones will hopefully result in benefits for many years to come. 

The Summit was successful because it delivered value and benefit to many groups of stakeholders - delegates who had the time of their lives in Namibia, government who have made a good long-term investment in an important sector and the general civil society who now know how important tourism is to their local economy.  My advice to Ireland, who will be hosting the event next year is to also look to various groups of stakeholders, not just your delegates - to make it a truly impactful event, because it certainly has that potential.

It's no secret that Namibia is one of our favorite destinations. The first in a series of destination highlights featuring places where we work, explore the spookier side of Namibia...if you dare! 

Namibia is known for its wildlife. Safaris boast lions, giraffes, and the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs, and Etosha National Park is home to Africa's tallest elephants and the elusive, endangered black rhino. Namibia is also known for its vivacious townships, such as Katutura and Mondesa, where guests can experience the bustle of typical Namibian life in the open-air markets with adventurous cuisine. Your camera can capture close encounters with large carnivores and the beauty of the Himba tribe who cover their bodies with red ochre and fat for climate protection. But, when you've had your breathtaking-fill of wildlife and culture, why not venture to the lesser-known dark side of Namibia? It’s a place where whale skeletons scatter the beaches near haunted shipwrecks, sand dunes swallow creepy ghost towns, and an ancient, sun-scorched forest still lurks in the middle of the desert.  

13 Skeleton coast dunes resized 600To the west of Namibia's Etosha National park is The Skeleton Coast, occupying the northern third of the country's shoreline. The Bushmen called the region "The Land God Made in Anger," and Portuguese sailors called it "The Gates of Hell." This spine-chilling region is aptly named from the scatter of animal bones that line the beaches, but more than a few of the skeletons are human. Dark coastal fog, strong currents, and rough surf took its toll on ships and sailors passing by. Frightening stories are told of these men walking through the Namibian desert in search of food and water with no success.

The rusting remains of many of the ships pose as odd monuments on top of the soaring sand dunes that drop abruptly into the frigid Atlantic Ocean. A plethora of ship wreckage scatters The Skeleton Coast. On the southern tip of the Skeleton Coast lies the carcass of the passenger and cargo ship Eduard Bohlen, which lost its way in the dense fog and ran aground in 1909. Today, after a century, the rusting wreckage rests a quarter of a mile from the shore partially buried inside a sand dune. The remains of the Eduard Bohlen represent the desolation of Namibia's coast. Despite being a desolate region, wildlife does exist. The Skeleton Coast is home to desert-adapted elephants that can be seen meandering near the steep dunes. Guests at The Skeleton Coast National Park are only allowed in between dawn and dusk. Permits are available at the two entry gates of the Ugab River in the south and the Springbokwasser in the east. Thanks to German colonials, Namibia’s roads are safe and non-frightening to drive. All-terrain vehicles are recommended on The Skeleton Coast, although the shipwrecks are best seen from the air. 

In Namibia's southwestern region lies Namib-Naukluft Park, the world's oldest desert. Here, sunken in some of the highest sand dunes in the world, is Deadvlei, which means "dead marsh." Rising up from the crackled white clay ground is a graveyard of 900-year-old sun-scorched skeletons of the Acacia or "camel thorn" trees, which cast lurking shadows on the sand dunes twice a day. Deadvlei is a photographer's dream, reminiscent of a true-to-life sleepy hollow, and is best seen at dawn for a dramatic shoot against some of the clearest skies in this world. Since the park does not open until sunrise, the only way to capture this magic is to stay at Sossus Dune Lodge just inside the park entrance. From the lodge, you can get to Deadvlei before anyone else and even stay until after sunset. If you self-drive, the road is paved until 5 km from Deadvlei, where you can catch a 4x4 shuttle. 

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Photo courtesy of Mikael Castro.

Kolmanskop is Namibia's most famous ghost town and is located in the Sperrgebiet, or "forbidden territory," a few kilometers from the Luderitz township. In 1908, this southern town rose up when diamonds were discovered in the area. For a mere thirty years, the town was a roaring, cosmopolitan place, with the continent's first x-ray machine and bowling alley! However, the town's demise began when World War I caused a drop in value of diamonds and larger diamonds were found elsewhere. By 1956, the town was completely abandoned. Where a once booming diamond town was filled with laughter and business, today, is only filled with creeping sand. The encroaching sand dunes seem to be a warning from mother nature not to disturb her land again. Rows of early 20th century buildings are now crypts to days past when this town provided many modernities for its time. Ghost town tours take visitors around the town and even inside the abandoned homes. Since Kolmanskop is on private land, you must obtain a permit. Once you have your permit in hand, you can venture out to the township to join a tour. These tours provide the history of the previously vibrant diamond mining town and the history of today's booming diamond industry. When the tour finishes, you will be allowed to explore the ghost town on your own - if you dare! 

To experience this darker side of Namibia, we recommend that you start by driving down the eerie Skeleton Coast, then, visit the ancient skeletal tree remains at Deadvlei, and finish your adventure at the ghostly town at Kolmanskop. For Africa tourists, Namibia is a somewhat new destination, yet the country enchants more travelers each year. Honestly, your view of Namibia will never be the same once you experience the dark side, and your spellbinding travel conversations will be everyone else's envy!

Want to learn more about our work in Namibia? Check out some of our past blog posts and project highlights!

Did you know that 42% of the land in Namibia is under conservation management? It's a stunning number for such a young country. This passion for conservation has created a culture that values and promotes protecting wild things and wild places. In this video, the people of Namibia discuss what 42 means to them and represents for their country. It's not just about protecting their homeland, but also embracing how conservation helps create new economic, education, and tourism opportunites. And if you needed another reason to watch – the shots of the landscapes and wildlife are breathtaking! 

Feeling inspired? Plan a trip to Namibia today! 

While you are busy planning summer travels and trips to the beach, the Solimar team is hard at work organizing the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS), which will take place in Namibia this October. It's one of our favorite events of the year, and we are so excited to bring it to one of our favorite countries! 

atws 2013 logo 300pxATWS is an annual gathering of over 700 world leaders in adventure tourism - a tourism sector that revolves around, you guessed it, adventure travel. It's estimated to be worth $89 billion dollars a year. In 2013, ATWS will be coming to the African continent for the first time. 

ATWS is the perfect mix between MICE - meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions - tourism and a big FAM trip or familiarization trip. While delegates gather to discuss trends and topics of their industry (in this case, adventure travel), they are also offered a chance to explore Namibia through pre-summit adventures. Over 50% of the delegates are media members or trade partners, which means potential awareness and business will be generated for the Namibian tourism industry. 

In Namibia, tourism is the 3rd largest sector of the economy, and one of the largest job creators. It’s a truism, that in this part of the world, “tourism is everybody’s business,” which perhaps explains the nation-wide excitement that this event is generating. Many corporate sponsors, such as Standard Bank, First National Bank, Bannerman Resources and many, many more have offered their support.

ATWS 2013 will take place between October 26th and October 31st – also known as Namibia’s high season. This makes room blocking and booking transportation all the more challenging, but operators have done a terrific job of offering cost-recovery pricing in order to host all of the international delegates.

Namibia has gone above and beyond the requirements laid out in the initial bid document, seizing on the opportunity to introduce as much of Namibia as possible to the delegates. These include an unprecedented amount of hosted pre-summit adventures, TWO days of adventure (instead of the traditional one) travel prior to the Summit, presenting a carbon neutral summit, and so much more.

The hope is that this will give tourism in Namibia a boost, as it continues to open up new markets and position itself as an adventure tourism destination. For the past two years, Solimar has been working as part of a team to generate awareness of Namibia in the North American market. We can't wait to introduce this amazing destination to hundreds of adventure travel enthusiasts! 

PS: The Summit is 85% sold out. If you’ve been thinking of registering, don’t wait too long

The offline population now mirrors the online population. Everyone is online – my grandma, your kids, affluent travelers, even dogs. So it is fair to say that no matter what your target market is, you can reach them online.

Having said that, there are over a billion people on Facebook. Can you reach your exact target market? If you are a tourism destination, I have two tips for you.

1)   Facebook ads

2)   Influencers

In this blog post, I’ll explain how Solimar International helped two tourism destinations talk directly to their target markets using these two tactics.

Facebook Ads

In Namibia, Solimar ran themed campaigns at different parts of the year. Last year, we ran our first themed campaign, Conservation Destination, designed to highlight Namibia’s conservation success stories. Part of the campaign was a sweepstakes to win a trip to Namibia – this was a compelling offer, and one that could be used as a hook. At that time, we only had a small community, so we turned to Facebook ads. Facebook ads let you select who you want to show your ad to – you can select their location, gender, age, likes, interests and more.

We found that it was necessary to include a call to action around the sweepstakes (Win a trip to Namibia!) on the ads, in order to capture the attention of users.  

Using Facebook ads we managed to grow the size of our Facebook community considerably, and what we have found since then is that these were not just “empty likes.” Our community is highly engaged, sharing, commenting, liking. Facebook ads helped us create a real community. 

Tip: Remember – Facebook users are bombarded with competitions these days. Competitions can always be used as a hook to get people interested in the message you want them to hear. But remember, the level of effort you can expect people to put in needs to be equal to the size of the prize. People aren’t going to submit videos telling you why they want to visit your place for the chance to win one trip, but if you are offering them a year on paradise island (see Best Job in the World), they might. They will like your page in order to enter, as long as it takes under 20 seconds.


In Greenland, Solimar worked with a regional tourism board to promote land-based products (as these bring more economic and social benefit to locals than the cruise tourism). These products are often adventurous in nature, and appeal to niche groups, ones that we believe were passionate about their hobbies. So to talk to them, we sought out influencers with relevant communities: pro-athletes, travel writers, associations or groups, people who would share our content.

Having the influencers share our content ensured that our message was carried further than it would have gone had we been the only ones broadcasting the message. It came from sources people trusted and opted to follow, and it was presented to people who were already interested in that topic. 

Practically – how did this work? Well, take our heli-skiing episode. We sent out the link, in addition to Facebook posts and Twitter posts that people could post with the videos. We used Facebook to search for groups, tour operators or athletes who would post our content. We sent them the content the day before we wanted them to post it, and many of them did.

Pristine Peaks from on Vimeo.

Tip: everyone is looking for content so make it as easy as possible for your influencers to post your content. Do a bit of research to understand the link between the influencer and your content and craft a sentence or two that elaborates on that, so they can easily tell a unique story to their community.  

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