Photo by Hayk Melkonyan, My Armenia
Last week, the My Armenia program kicked off a seven week-long tour guide training in the three regions of Armenia where we are currently working; Syunik, Lori, and Vayots Dzor. Each week, current and potential tour guides of each region will get training on different topics, starting off with history classes last week. At the end of the seven weeks, all guides will also be given a hands-on practical training on how to work with tourists and how to guide each tour that My Armenia is developing.
I joined the My Armenia team to the Syunik region last week. Together with Hayk Melkonyan, our training expert and photographer, we geo-tracked most of the tours that are being developed in this region. Hayk guided us and took a lot of photos during our trip, while I wrote down all the stops of each tour and the information that would be given to tourists. In general, this work is a lot of fun and often I can’t believe that I am working as I am feeling like a tourist myself!
However, after the tour ends, reality kicks in and we have to develop the scripts of each touristic experience. The scripts include all information of the tours; where do we start/end, what is being said at what stop, how long will we stay at each stop, and how long does it take to walk/drive from one stop to another. To write the content, I am not only relying on the information given to me by Hayk and the owner of the experience, but My Armenia has also invested in an ethnographic research of each region. The information in these reports are very detailed and descriptive, and are a good representative of the rich cultural heritage of each region in Armenia. Having this information definitely makes my work much easier.
Writing the script has to be done in such a way that it can be used by the tour guides so that they can give these tours themselves. It is quite challenging at times, considering I want to ensure that the Armenian cultural heritage is at the heart of each tour, showing its value to tourists. It is also rewarding, realizing that the product you are developing will support the Armenian tourism sector as a whole in the end. The support from Solimar on this end is great, and the experience and expertise that they share with me has taught me a lot about what it takes to work in the field of tourism development.
Of course, my work is not done yet as we don’t only have to do this work for the Syunik region, but for Lori and Vayots Dzor as well. This means we will be busy the coming weeks with field trips to each region, exploring all the touristic experiences, geo-tracking, taking photos, and developing scripts. I can’t complain, life as a Solimar intern in Armenia is everything but dull!
Solimar and the SAVE Travel Alliance are thrilled to have recently launched the new and improved SAVE Travel Alliance Website. We have partnered with the SAVE Travel Alliance team to create a fresh, updated, and comprehensive website dedicated to linking travelers from all walks of life to amazing experiences at our seven global destinations: Jamaica, Nicaragua, Bhutan, Myanmar, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and Campeche, Mexico. Our team has been working hard to develop and establish SAVE centers to act as headquarters that promote Scientific, Academic, Volunteer, and Educational tourism experiences. These locations each bring their own traditions and diversity to SAVE Travel, but their common goal is to encourage ethical tourism and bring passionate travelers to their nations.
Travel should make a positive impact on travelers and the destinations they visit. Our goals are to connect with areas of the world that are in need of positive and responsible tourism and to serve as a bridge between travelers and destinations. SAVE travelers include university students, professors, researchers, volunteers, tour groups, and many more! We have been researching and gathering information on amazing travel experiences, including volunteering at a school in Namibia and enjoying a 7-day Mayan culture tour in Campeche! These regional centers will establish lasting economic and social benefits for their communities by increasing international travel to these destinations, boosting responsible tourism, and advocating for the success of local businesses. Our revamped SAVE website beautifully showcases the history and culture of each destination through a modern and welcoming layout, stunning images, and captivating text. We are continuing to add unforgettable travel experiences to each of our destination’s pages to ensure that there is an opportunity for every type of responsible traveler.
Through this exciting SAVE project, we at Solimar and the SAVE Travel Alliance act as facilitators for travelers, organizations, universities, and our destinations’ local businesses. We are able to link travelers to our destinations’ amazing opportunities as they become available, and this easy access is invaluable to a passionate traveler. If a student is seeking a meaningful academic opportunity, such as a semester studying abroad, we point him in the direction of our academic experiences. If a scientist is looking to engage in biological research, we guide her to our global scientific experiences. It is then up to these potential travelers to decided to reach out to the organizations and make their dreams a reality!
We will make sure to keep you posted on the exciting happenings and progress of our new SAVE website. In the meantime, check it out and let us know what you think!
Solimar International is starting off the New Year right – we’re proud to have just launched a new project in Sri Lanka on January 4th of this year! This project is called Entrepreneurship and New Product Development in the Tourism Sector of the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. With the International Finance Corporation as our client, we look forward to working hard on this project until its intended end date of December 31st, 2016.
Sri Lanka is a small island south of India, boasting gorgeous beaches, diverse wildlife, and lush rainforests as well as awe-inspiring ancient Buddhist ruins. Generally, Sri Lanka’s Western coast has been its tourism hub, but the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka have recently been experiencing an emerging shift in the tourism industry. Although these parts of the nation encounter obstacles with respect to providing top-notch quality to tourists, we know that there is opportunity for growth and positive change. We intend to help develop these provinces into high quality destinations for international tourists with the goal of attracting visitors, both international and regional, for years to come. In this year’s project, led by Lucia Prinz, we are working towards boosting meaningful conversations in the Northern and Eastern provinces, specifically the Mannar, Batticaloa and Ampara districts, aiming for the advancement of improved policies and services between the private sector and government.
During our year working towards improving the Sri Lanka tourism sector, we will be busy with essential tasks including: collaborating with local tourism providers to ensure the most up-to-date client services, and implement skills development training to these tourism providers in geographical areas using our Small Tourism Enterprise Operations and Management training course as a model. We will also provide workshops, sales training, and technical assistance and enhanced market access to promote our designated Sri Lanka provinces. In addition, we aim to organize local festivals to promote Sri Lankan provincial culture and tradition.
By the project’s end, our anticipated results include: implementation of a Small Tourism and Enterprise Operations and Management Course; creation of measures for best practices to submit a work plan to the IFC; enactment of a relationship between government and private stakeholders in tourism; expansion of tourism products or services, and implementation of a marketing strategy. These are just a few of our anticipated results, and we will keep readers posted on our progress throughout the year. Solimar is excited to start this new journey towards improving Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka tourism!
In January, Pacaya Lodge & Spa celebrated a soft opening with a New Year’s party for staff and guests.
The resort, located 20 minutes from Granada, Nicaragua, overlooks the iconic Laguna de Apoyo and offers stunning views over the canopy to the crater lake below and Granada in the distance. The 26-room luxury resort features exceptional service, an infinity pool, gardens, restaurant, bar, spa, and beachfront access.
Solimar’s Involvement with Pacaya Lodge & Spa
Solimar began working on sales and marketing for the lodge in January 2015. Our partnership with the lodge began when we were approached by Opportunity International Nicaragua in 2012. The NGO asked us to develop a strategy to leverage tourism to fund a high school operated by the organization. Solimar delivered a feasibility analysis for a luxury resort on the site which became the blueprint for Pacaya Lodge & Spa.
Solimar is thrilled to see years of hard work come to life and we are excited for the next phase. The lodge will celebrate a grand opening in March.
A Lodge with a Social Focus
This beautiful resort has a mission to support the local school. Currently, 240 students attend Escuela Tecnica Emprendedora, where they study either agriculture or tourism, the largest industries in the country. Pacaya Lodge & Spa will serve as a lab for tourism students and will help refine the school’s hospitality and English language curriculum and provide hands on experience through internships in the lodge itself.
Furthermore, Pacaya Lodge will source its produce from the school’s working farm. The goal of the program is to train students to grow produce without the use of pesticides so that when they graduate they will have the knowledge to work on or develop their own organic farms.
Upon stabilization, Pacaya Lodge has committed to cover 40% of the school’s operating expenses. Pacaya hopes to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in Nicaragua’s rapidly expanding tourism sector and to ensure the sustainability and future of tourism and agriculture in Nicaragua.
Delivering an Exceptional Nicaraguan Travel Experience
Keeping these objectives in mind, one of our main roles in the Pacaya project was to develop the marketing and branding strategy for the lodge. Our goal was to deliver an exceptional Nicaraguan travel experience that differentiated Pacaya Lodge & Spa from other Latin American resorts.
The solution was simple: grow from within the community. While many upscale resorts in Latin America seek to shield guests from local communities, Pacaya Lodge & Spa embraces its sense of place. The lodge highlights local artists and artisans, offers unique cultural excursions, and promises the opportunity to engage with the community.
The lodge features furniture, fixtures, and art from 16 local artisans. These artisans live and work in Masaya and Los Pueblos Blancos. Rotating galleries and exhibits on the property feature local artists. Spotlighting these skilled artists and community members strengthens the local economy and creates a guest experience that is authentically Nicaraguan.
Customized excursions bring guests to nearby cultural and natural attractions, such as nature reserves, volcanos, and cultural sites. In developing these excursions, we wanted to create a one-of-a-kind travel experience and support the development of new tourism destinations.
We know that visitors are seeking more meaningful travel experiences with rich stories and authentic experiences. It was important to us to create an genuinely Nicaraguan story in order to present the colorful history and culture of the destination.
Solimar is thrilled to be working with the lodge to develop a strong brand based on the lodge’s unique location, local partnerships, and rich Nicaraguan history. We believe that a successful strategy is designed at the community level. We can’t wait for the grand opening!