One of the most rewarding aspects of working with destinations in development is seeing them recognized for achievements in tourism management and sustainability.
This type of recognition reinforces and reminds us of the impact our work can have when we use our skills to bring awareness to developing destinations brimming with potential.
We recently discovered that the Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area (GCCA) project, an Ethiopian mountain community project we participated in, has become the first recipient of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award, designated by the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission. We are proud to have been part of the team that worked with the GCCA in 2012 and are excited to see such a deserving community and area become the recipients of this award.
Background: UIAA Mountain Protection Commission
The UIAA (the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) founded the Mountain Protection Commission in 1969 to promote and protect mountain environments worldwide. In founding this award, they launched the initiative to encourage responsible mountain tourism and to recognize the efforts of stakeholders dedicated to the cause. The GCCA was selected from a pool of seven exceptional mountain-area projects around the world to be a pioneer in the UIAA’s dedicated endeavor to supporting sustainability in mountain areas.
Laura Ell, Solimar’s Marketing Project Manager for the GCCA project, spoke with me about the region, the project’s impact, and Solimar’s participation in helping put the GCCA on the map.
Why the GCCA?
Laura explained that before the project launched, several important tourism and development stakeholders, including the Frankfurt Zoological Society, had already identified the GCCA as an exceptional region. What makes it special? The secluded area is a pristine gem boasting breathtaking views and abundant wildlife, including the endangered and unique Ethiopian wolf and the gelada.
This remarkable achievement has allowed these communities to have an important stake in managing and benefiting directly from sustainable tourism development in the area. The president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission, Linda McMillan, has said that this gives the award recipient special value.But its natural beauty is only part of the reason it is a deserving recipient of the award. The area also features an involved community and a distinctive culture. Today, one of the most unique aspects of the GCCA project is that it has had success in involving the indigenous communities in the area. One prominent example is the GCCA's administrative executive board: it has been managed since 2009 by a council of community elders.
Solimar International & Community-Based Tourism Marketing
Solimar was already working with the Frankfurt Zoological Society in a larger-scale project in Ethiopia funded by USAID-Ethiopia. Solimar signed on to assist the team help put the GCCA on the map. The team we worked with recognized that the biggest issue was the GCCA’s lack of visibility. Laura reiterated that the products were there, the community was engaged and motivated- the area just needed some recognition and a revamped business model.
Tourism Marketing Tools
Solimar participated in improving this problem by identifying and developing marketing tools to increase customer visibility. Some of the tools created for the GCCA were:
- Logo creation
- Travel tips for visitors
- Print materials (brochures, posters and postcards)
In only two years the area went from being virtually overlooked to becoming the winner of an award that will help bring it more visibility.
Who should visit the GCCA?
So what kind of tourist will get the most out of a visit to the GCCA? Since the GCCA is off the beaten track, Laura believes visitors from the SAVE travel niche (Science, Academic, Volunteer and Education) will appreciate the experience the most, as well as wildlife enthusiasts like birdwatchers and mindful outdoors travelers like backpackers.
The future of the GCCA is a lot more promising thanks to the efforts of the community and the stakeholders in the Ethiopian conservation project. Solimar is proud to have participated in its development for a sustainable future.
For any questions about the work we do with destinations in development, feel free to contact us!