Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Tuesday, 15 May 2012 00:00

Solimar Wins New Project in Morocco

Written by Shawndra Herry

In November 2011, Solimar began working on a proposal for the AFM6 project from the L'Agence du Partenariat pour le Progrès (APP), a Moroccan government agency that was created by the Prime Minister’s office for the execution of Morocco’s 5-year, $697.5 million dollar award from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Solimar team worked tirelessly for 6 weeks to produce a well-executed 225-page proposal. On March 2, 2012, Solimar was officially notified by the APP that we had won the AFM6 project. The 13-month project titled Promotion des Circuits Touristiques Integrant L’artisanat (Promotion of Tourism Circuits that Integrate Handcrafts), aims to create and promote tourism routes in the medinas of the historic cities of Fes and Marrakech. Both Fes and Marrakech are imperial cities in Morocco and the medina in Fes is a UNESCO world heritage site. Marrakech is probably most famously known for its central square, Place Djemma el Fna.

The AFM6 project will create six tourism routes in each city that will integrate historically and culturally significant buildings, interpretive craft centers and artisan workshops. The routes will feature orientation signs for guidance and interpretive panels that will be easily identifiable and readable by both domestic and foreign visitors.

Aid to Artisans, Solimar’s technical partner for this project, will provide assistance with the craft interpretation component of the project and help create the content for interpretive panels as well as content for other promotional materials for the routes.

By the end of the project, the team aims to achieve the following five objectives:

1)    Increase the number of tourists who participate in tours

2)    Increase average spending of tourists in craft products while on the tour

3)    Increase the satisfaction and interest of tourists for Moroccan craft

4)    Increase use of tours by tour guides and travel agencies

5)    Increase the number of artisans linked to the tours

This project is scheduled to kick off on May 23. This will be Solimar’s third project in Morocco. We hope to continue to have a strong presence in the country in the future.

Published in General
Monday, 09 July 2012 00:00

Project Kicks Off in Morocco

Written by Shawndra Herry

On May 23, 2012, Solimar International kicked off its 13 month project: Promotion des Circuits Touristiques Integrant L’artisanat (Promotion of Tourism Circuits that Integrate Handcrafts, funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). This project aims to increase the convergence between the craft and tourism industries and increase revenue through the creation of tourism circuits in the Medinas of Fes and Marrakech. Since the project started, the team has been busy meeting with local stakeholders and working to organize workshops to introduce the project to the different regions. The team held its first workshop in Fes on June 22, 2012, and the second workshop in Marrakech on July 9, 2012.

For the June 22 workshop, the project required a minimum of 50 people in attendance, but there was an amazing turnout of 140 people. The State Secretary for Crafts, the Director of APP, about 15 journalists and other distinguished guests were present. The Chief of Party, Olivier Messmer, gave a very impressive presentation on the goals and objectives of the project, what the tourism circuits for Fes were and how the project would roll out its activities over the next 13 months. We have received a lot of positive feedback from APP as well as the Ministry of Crafts for this opening workshop. Special thanks to Shawndra, Olivier and the entire Morocco team for putting together such a successful workshop. We look forward to continued success for the next workshop in Marrakech!

Published in General
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 00:00

Batwa Trail Upgrade Attracts More Visitors in Uganda

Written by Simon Jones

The Batwa Trail, located in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, offers a nature walk tour that introduces visitors to the Batwa culture.

Batwa are indigenous communities who previously inhabited the Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda. A marginalized hunter-gatherer tribe, the Batwa have a wealth of knowledge about the forests and maintain a rich non-destructive heritage with the forests. The current population of Batwa people in Uganda is estimated at only 6,705. In the 1990s, when the Uganda government creation the Mgahinga and Bwindi national parks to protect biodiversity and endangered mountain gorillas, the Batwa people were evicted from the forest. They now live in adjacent agricultural communities as landless squatters.

On June 27, 2012, the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, USAID Mission to Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority and other private and public sector representatives commissioned several new developments for the Batwa Trail. These planned improvements include a shorter trail, artistic cave shelter, lunch shed and improved solar lighting worth over $31,000.

Roughly 2,500 tourists visit Mgahinga Park each year. In addition, 206 tourists have visited the Batwa Trail. Over a 2-month period, Batwa cultural trail had registered 22 (6.3% of all tourists) paying tourists. With investment in volcano hiking infrastructure and increased marketing, tourism numbers are expected to increase 50% by 2014.

There is great optimism that this revamped trail, a unique initiative that allows the Batwa tribe access to the land from which they were evicted in the 1990s, will allow tourists to explore the cultural site of Africa’s last forest people and add about $12,500 a year to the tourism revenue with 50% of it going to the Batwa people.

This project has been jointly developed by Solimar International under USAID STAR, the USFS, the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC), United Organization of Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU), and Kisoro District Local Government.


Published in General
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:00

Morocco: A Land of Mystery & Beauty

Written by Shawndra Herry

Carpets, one of Morocco's most remarkable crafts, are all intricately hand woven on looms. The carpets that are most recognizable are probably the Berber carpets. Berber carpets date back to the Paleolithic era and the hand spun cloth that was used to make the carpets are from natural materials.

Essential oils and perfumes are a very important part of Moroccan culture and are used on a daily basis as well in traditional ceremonies. One of the most coveted Moroccan oils now, especially in the cosmetic industry is Argan Oil. Argan oil comes from the kernel of the Argan tree (Argania Spinosa L), because the kernel is very hard to press, traditionally, it was fed to goats whose digestive system would remove the harder outer shell leaving the rest to pass through and the women would collect the kernel, clean them and press out the oil. Argan is an endemic species to Morocco.
Photos- Henri Vergnes hamsa
Hamsa, also known as the hand of Fatima, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, is a common symbol that can be found throughout Morocco, depicting an open right hand, which is a sign of protection that also represents blessings, power, and strength, and is seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye. This symbol is often seen in jewelry or as door knockers on homes.
Photos- Henri Vergnes photo minarette
The Holy month of Ramadan is a time for fasting and praying for the followers of Islam. This month happens at various times every year and lasts about 29 days depending on the lunar cycle. From sun up until sun down, believers are to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual acts. At sundown families, break the fast with a meal called Iftar. The end of Ramadan is marked by the holiday know as Eid ul-Fitr, which brings about the next lunar month, called Shawwal in Arabic.
Photos: Henri Vergnes
Published in General
Thursday, 29 November 2012 00:00

Rwenzori National Park Adds New Tourism Products

Written by Simon Jones

Earlier this week, Ashley discussed our efforts in Uganda to boost conservation through tourism in national parks. One place where we have worked to accomplish this goal is in Rwenzori. Here we developed new tourism products to boost visitation and revenue, which is vital to conservation. Increased tourism has also helped provide new sources of income for the local community.  

The Rwenzori Mountains, the fabled "Mountains of the Moon," lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established in 1991 and was recognized as aUNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 and as an international Ramsar Wetland site in 2008. The national park hosts a variety of species of wildlife that include 70 mammals and 217 birds, including 19 species that are endemic to the region, as well as some of the world’s rarest plants.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination that offer multi-day treks around and up to the mountains peaks, which are among the highest in Africa, and one of only three locations that hosts glaciers on the equator. For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring communities also offer nature walks, cultural performances and accommodation. Despite this, the number of visitors to the region is limited, due in part to limited tourism activities and facilities offered in the area.

To address this gap, Solimar’s USAID-funded projectSustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift with support from US Forest Service, and in partnership with ECOTRUST, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Geolodges, worked to improve the tourism products being offered in and around the mountain to promote greater visitation to this incredible destination.

The New Rwenzori Mountains Visitor Information Center is a multi-function facility next to the National Park, providing information and services for visitors to the region. The Center offers information about the history and ecology of the mountains and their people; it also has space for UWA briefings and registration before entering the park, a restaurant and a craft shop. The Visitor Information Center will allow people traveling to the region to learn more about the National Park and the mountain, its people and their culture.

Solimar and our partners supported the Visitor Center through funding and technical assistance in the development of the building and the interpretive information within it. The Visitor Center is also paired with a private lodge concession that offers accommodations and a restaurant in partnership with the local community for travelers to the park. 

The New Mahooma Nature Trail is a 28 km loop-trail starting and ending at the main entrance to the park. Solimar, with support from the US Forest Service and in partnership with UWA, developed the trail as a way to diversify the options available to visitors to the region, which before hand only offered long treks into the park. The trail traverses the lower slopes of the mountains culminating at Lake Mahooma where the trail joins the existing ‘Central Circuit’ trail to return to the park gate. The entire circuit could be completed in 1-2 nights, or parts of it as a day hike.

We hope that the addition of these new tourism products will help increase tourism to the mountains. And even more importantly, help increase revenues for the people of the region as well as support the park in their ongoing conservation efforts.  

Published in General
Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00

Tourism Circuits Launch in Morocco

Written by Shawndra Herry

In just a few short weeks, Solimar's Promart (Promotion d'Artisanat) Project will see the culmination of months of hard work with the placement of orientation and interpretation signs along the newly-created circuits in the Medinas of Fes and Marrakech. Medinas, translated as “the old city,” are the historic Arab sections of North African cities known for their artisan wares. The circuits are established pedestrian routes that will guide and inform visitors as they explore the art, history and culture of the Medinas. 

Six thematic circuits are being created in Fes: Monuments and Inns, Artisans, Fes Jdid, Palaces and Gardens, Knowledge and Knowhow, and Walls and Ramparts. There will be five circuits in Marrakech: Iron and Clay, A Thousand and One Doors, The Art of Wood, The Leather Route, and One Souk to Another. The circuits highlight the architectural, cultural and historical gems that these two Moroccan cities have to offer. 

Each circuit showcases the types of crafts that can be found in the Medinas - leather goods, wood carvings, mosaic tiling (zellige), metal works and pottery. The historical monuments found along the circuits date back to the 9thcentury and were built by artisans themselves. These edifices show the extreme attention to detail, the complexity of the craftsmanship and the expertise and talent that Moroccan artisans possessed to create such beautiful works of art. 

The inauguration of the artisan themed tourism circuits will take place in Marrakech on March 18-19, and in Fes on April 1-2. These two-day events will bring together all the project partners, artisans, artisan associations, international tour operators, local travel agencies, and media. An official ceremony will be held along with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the beginning of a circuit in each city.  

A press trip, a familiarization trip and a Business-to-business workshop will also be organized during these two days to introduce the new tourism circuits as well as highlight the marketing and promotion tools that will be used. The online promotion and social media campaign has already experience early success. In just two months, the Visit Medina Facebook page has reached over 3,400 fans. Plans are currently underway for a website and interactive map, printed map, and Medina-specific guidebooks. 

Solimar is very pleased to be working on this project and looks forward to the official launch of these products over the next few weeks. To learn more about how we could help your destination or tourism project with circuit or route development, visit this page

Morocco Project

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