Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

With the holidays coming up, we decided to look at traditional Christmas celebrations in some of the places where we work!

Colombia

Christmas in Colombia is largely structured around the Catholic calendar. The Christmas season starts on December 7th, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, widely known as "El Dia de las Velitas" or the day of candles. At dusk, tall, thin candles are placed on long pieces of wood and lit, illuminating houses, churches, and shops. The night continues with dancing, music, food, and drinks, like the famous Colombian liquor "Aquardiente".

Starting on December 16th, families gather together to pray "La Novena de Aguinaldos", a special occasion to get closer to their faith and remember the birth of Christ. This gathering continues every night until December 24th. Each evening includes food and traditional songs.

On "La Nochebuena", Colombians get the chance to indulge in traditional foods for the "Cena de Navidad" or Christmas Eve dinner. Between pork, ham, chicken, families have a wide variety of dishes to choose from. A traditional Christmas dessert is called "Natilla", made with cinnamon, milk, sugar and cloves. At midnight, there is a toast with aguardiente, rum or champagne.

Ethiopia

For Coptic Christians in Ethiopia, Christmas, known as Ganna, is celebrated on January 7th rather than December 25th. Many people fast on Christmas Eve, January 6th, and wake up at dawn to attend mass, dressed in traditional white cotton garments called "shammas". Mass is typically accompanied by singing and candles,  and is followed by a feast of traditional Ethiopian foods. The most iconic Christmas dish is a spicy stew made with meat and vegetables, served on a plate of "injera", or flat bread.

Twelve days after Christmas, the three-day celebration of Timkat, or Jesus' baptism, begins. Children walk to church services in procession, wearing crowns and robes, while adults wear "shammas". Traditional musical instruments are played during the procession, such as "sistrum", akin to a tambourine, and "makamiya", a prayer stick used to keep rhythm. It's a time of religious celebration, eating food, and celebrating with friends and family.

Georgia

In the Republic of Georgia, the majority of the population is Orthodox Christian, meaning they also celebrate Christmas on January 7th. On that day, large processions, called "Alilo", make their way through the streets of cities, towns and villages, led by clergymen. Dressed in traditional garb, people congratulate each other and collect money for charity during Alilo.

Georgian Christmas trees, called Chichilaki, are carved from the branches of walnut trees and decorated with curled strands of white wood. The Georgian version of Santa Claus, know as "tovlis papa" (Grandfather Snow), is usually depicted wearing traditional Georgian fur clothes. He does not have a sleigh or reindeer, but brings children gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is full of family, friends, and food, as well as candlelit church ceremonies, hymns, and traditions.

These are just a few of the unique and dynamic Christmas traditions around the world. At Solimar, we are proud to support cultural and heritage preservation to keep such amazing traditions alive.

How do you celebrate the holidays? 

In sustainable tourism development, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council maintains that an enterprise is considered sustainable if it impacts the local economy by employing capable local people. Sustainable enterprise development requires tourism services training in order to equip staff with the capacity to manage and operate the enterprises and organizations.

Tourism Services Training 01

The challenge in developing countries, however, is finding local people with all the skills needed to run a successful tourism enterprise. As such, high quality tourism services trainings are key in developing local employees to be more qualified.

The first step in tourism services training is to assess the needs of your workforce. Creating an education module to address the identified. There are several types of training modules that you can provide your staff depending on the skills they need.

The following is a selection of the possible tourism services training modules you can offer for workforce development in sustainable tourism development. These are based on Solimar's experience working in partnership with local businesses and organizations throughout the years.

Tourism Assessment

If you are a new tourism organization or business seeking to develop a destination, then you might need to conduct a tourism assessment to determine what products or services you offer about your destination.

You can train your local staff on how to conduct a tourism assessment and teach them why it's important. This will encourage them to be creative in developing other products that could be linked to your core business. For example, if you are a tour operator, locals who know about tourism assessment can recommend new possible tourist routes you can offer.

Tourism Services Training 02

Business Planning

Sustainable tourism development requires sound business planning skills including being able to find a strategy that balances economic, environmental, and sociocultural development. Local managers need to know how to protect their natural resources while at the same time gain a profit.

Training your local management staff on sustainable business planning will help them develop these strategies rooted in their own knowledge of the destination and their local culture.

Customer Service & Guide Training

The heart of the tourism industry is good customer service at all levels. Whether you are a business in the food, accommodation, tours, or airline industry, training your staff on how to offer good customer service is essential to success.

Look at your competitors and read about the best customer services practices in your field to have a sense of what you want your staff to achieve.

For businesses that offer tours, training locals how to be good tour guides will be vital. This not only ensures proper and meaningful interpretation of the sights that will be visited but also improves customer service to match the needs and expectations of the visitors.

Tourism Marketing

Tourism Services Training 03

One of the challenges facing sustainable tourism development and local social enterprises is being able to effectively market a product or destination to the right market segments. Most of the time, they have the product, but are not aware of strategies to connect and reach out to potential customers. You may have a very sustainable tourism product, but if the market does not know about it or cannot access it, then your efforts will go to waste.

Providing your staff with marketing training helps them understand the importance of looking at what the market needs, what the consumer behavior patterns are, where the potential customers are, how to reach these potential customers, and how to convince the target market to visit a destination, join a tour, purchase a product, or stay in your lodge.

If you feel that you need all of these services but are not sure if you can afford all of them for your staff, prioritize the most urgent and significant needs and begin there. Solimar can also help you in developing your own tourism services training module.

Download the Tourism Workforce Development toolkit to guide you in assessing and designing your own programs.

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In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, it is difficult for destinations to compete without a well-trained workforce capable of delivering quality experiences for visitors. This is especially true when developing sustainable tourism in remote destinations—which is a challenging task. Engaging in sustainable practices requires a relatively high level of education and residents of remote destinations often lack adequate resources for education and proper training.

 What does tourism training/workforce development look like on the ground? Let us look at a project Solimar finished earlier this year in the Chocó Department of Colombia to better understand the implementation of workforce development in sustainable tourism enterprises.

choco
Chocó, Colombia

About the Project

In December of 2012, Solimar International was contracted to conduct a thorough destination assessment of Nuquí and Bahia Malaga, Colombia. The assessment identified two major weaknesses: lack of organizational and business capacity and insufficient marketing outreach. Then in November 2013, Solimar International was again contracted to address these weaknesses. This was part of an ongoing project funded by USAID called Biodiversity – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (BIOREDD+).

A series of strategies and techniques were then enacted and implemented to address the lack of organizational and business capacity in 4 community tourism enterprises (CTEs). To build capacity Solimar conducted a tourism operations and management training course in each of the 4 CTEs. Prior to the first course, a baseline evaluation was held to serve as a benchmark for further assessments. The first course covered:

  • Introduction and Roles and Responsibilities
  • Financial Planning
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Personnel Management and Client Satisfaction
  • Emergency Action Planning
  • Conflict Management
  • Sustainable Tourism Best Practices

Following the course, a second evaluation was conducted to evaluate incremental increased capacity. When not in session, Solimar Sustainable Tourism Training Specialist Lucia Prinz traveled to the four CTEs, aiding them in implementing their new skills in day-to-day operations. Lastly, a final exam was conducted to evaluate the overall achievement of the training course since the baseline assessment. Participants were given quizzes and an exam to test their increased knowledge as a result of the course. On each of the tests, participants outperformed the previous exam’s average. 

choco training
Chocó, Colombia

Workforce Development Methodology

The Chocó Department of Colombia is one of the poorest departments of Colombia with 70% of the population living in extreme poverty. Solimar’s training methodology has been developed and revised over the years to best target informally educated learners. One important aspect of this methodology is constant monitoring and evaluation. Solimar recruited an intern to assist in the implementation of the newly acquired business operations and marketing skills. The intern also developed evaluation worksheets to gauge the CTE’s increased capacity. The results of these evaluations found that capacity increased in each of the 13 indicators used to measure the project’s progress.

The training courses mentioned above directly resulted in an increased business and organizational capacity which led to increased visitation to the area. Workforce development meant stronger economic growth, increased productivity, and expanded employment opportunities. This goes to show that the competitiveness of the tourism industry in an area rests ultimately on the capacity of its people to support it through their skills and enterprise.

For more information download our Tourism Workforce Development guide.

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What is a Public Private Partnership and Why Is It Important?

In sustainable tourism development projects, there are inherently multiple goals in which an array of parties maintains interest. From tour operators to local governments and communities, these stakeholders all have expected outcomes for tourism development. In order to properly represent these interests and create mutually beneficial outcomes, public–private partnerships are essential to a great tourism strategy. The most important piece of this puzzle is maintaining strong relationships and a clear understanding of divergent yet symbiotic objectives.

Solimar maintains strong relationships with a wide range of actors in the tourism sector, which is vital to the negotiation of these partnerships. These partnerships leverage financial and technical expertise and promotional benefits from private and government partners in exchange for improvement in stakeholder relations, marketing, and improved product and service delivery. Increased sales revenue and jobs, improved visitor experiences, alternative incomes for local communities, decreased levels of conservation threats in areas of high biodiversity, diversified production and increased production for small farms, and overall improvement of sustainability of destinations have all been marked results of these arrangements.

Geotourism
Photo: finchlake2000 Source:Flickr

Public–Private Partnerships in Solimar's Geotourism Programs

Solimar's Geotourism programs, in association with the National Geographic Society (NGS), are some of the most focused on public private partnerships. At the onset of each program, a destination Geotourism Stewardship Council is organized, made up of a variety of stakeholders, including communities, non profits, businesses, and governments representing the interests of the natural, cultural, scenic, and historic features of the destination. This group then works with Solimar and NGS to develop the regional tourism strategy, defining the vision, goals, timeline, and objectives of the project. The Stewardship Council also plays a key role in implementing the strategy by meeting regularly to generate local nominations, review the information and materials created, and utilize the products established to sustain and promote the destination.

Public–Private Partnerships in Conservation

Another area of tourism that benefits from strategic public–private partnerships is conservation. In areas of high and rare biodiversity, Solimar builds partnerships between a number of public and private stakeholders, including protected area authorities, government bodies, conservation NGOs, the local tourism private sector, and communities living around the area. Generally categorized as Protected Area Alliances, these groups, similar to the Geotourism Stewardship Councils, play a key role in the development of the tourism strategy as well as its implementation. The alliances continue after the initial implementation of the program, allowing the community to continue supporting and sustaining the protected area. Through these partnerships, multiple goals and interests can be achieved, such as increased protection for the environment, increased revenue for the tourism sector, and increased economic opportunities for the local governments and communities.

Public–private partnerships are essential to sustainable tourism development, as they allow stakeholders across the globe to participate in the development of tourism strategy, communicate and achieve their goals and interests, and successfully implement tourism programs, all while collaborating to achieve a common goal.

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