Lucia Prinz and I are currently in Colombia completing a tourism sector assessment along Colombia’s Pacific coast for the USAID Colombia BIOREDD+ Program (Biodiversity - Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.
Tourism sector assessments help destinations and development organizations plan strategically for tourism development. Similar to a feasibility study or value chain analysis, the purpose of a tourism sector assessment is twofold: it provides an analysis of the competitiveness of a region as a tourism destination and it helps deliver recommendations for the implementation of next steps toward tourism development. Solimar’s tourism sector assessments help projects, destinations, and individual enterprises get set up for success.
BIOREDD+ is an innovative USAID program reinforcing Colombian efforts to sustainably manage and utilize environmental assets in mitigating and adapting to climate change, preserving biodiversity, and promoting economic growth. BIOREDD+ plans to implement a set of activities to strengthen community ecotourism in the Nuquí (including Utría National Park) and Bahía Malaga (including Urambá National Park) areas on the Pacific coast.
In both areas, government and private institutions have recognized sustainable tourism as an alternative livelihood for local communities, one that promotes environmental awareness and conservation.
Solimar is providing BIOREDD+ with a sustainable tourism strategy that includes a comprehensive approach for strengthening community-based tourism development in Nuquí while improving products and services in Bahía Malaga that are tied to biodiversity conservation.
We'll be providing the following information as part of the site assessment:
Infrastructure and Services
Supply and Competitiveness
Human and Institutional Capacity
Value Chain Analysis
To learn more about how Solimar can assist you with a tourism sector assessment, check out our tourism assessment Ebook:
Sierra de la Giganta is one of the last remaining wild stretches of Baja California Sur’s coastline, but it is increasingly coming under the pressure of developers who are eager to replicate Mexico’s other tourism mega-destinations. It is also one of Mexico's poorest regions, with existing economic options limited to fishing, mining, and other resource extractive activities. With the support of the Resources Legacy Fund, Solimar and our local partner, RED Sustainable Travel, are working to identify the opportunities to link tourism, conservation, and rural development in this region.
In order to ensure the long-term protection of Sierra de la Giganta's natural and cultural resources, solutions must address the region’s conservation goals while also providing real economic opportunities for the local population. These goals present a perfect opportunity for sustainable tourism, as it is an economic activity that depends upon the preservation of natural and cultural resources rather than its extraction.
Solimar and RED's initial tourism assessment revealed a number of interesting potential tourism models for the Sierra de la Giganta region, concepts that will be developed and documented in business plans that can then be used to attract donors and investors to the region.
The first potential model focuses on marine tourism. Establishing a network of coastal community tourism service providers would allow locals to benefit from the marine tourism activities already taking place in the region in the form of kayaking tours, sailboat rentals, and private yacht owners. Local communities could provide complimentary experiences such as mule trekking tours, salt-water fly fishing guide services, and restaurant/food services.
Secondly, a private reserve eco lodge could boost the current tourism offerings. A local conservation organization that established a private coastal reserve is considering the development of a small-scale ecolodge that would enable visitors to not only spend a night in the reserve, but also to participate in the organization's terrestrial and marine monitoring and research activities. From checking bighorn sheep motion cameras to conducting fish counts in the Sea of Cortez, the lodge would give visitors a chance to be "biologists for a day". Such a lodge would also create needed jobs and revenue for local communities, as well as begin to better integrate those communities into the reserve's conservation activities.
With the assessment complete, we look forward to further developing these business plans into a shared vision of sustainable tourism for this unique region.
El Pardito fishing community inhabits a tiny island in the Sea of Cortez, surrounded by ocean and soaring desert mountains.
Part of the cultural attraction of Sierra la Giganta is the continuation of traditional economic activities like fishing. The goal of sustainable tourism is not to replace those activities entirely, but rather introduce additional economic alternatives to reduce the pressure on the region’s natural resources.
Local artisans show off their handiwork in El Pardito.
Solimar & RED team members assess new tourism opportunities in Sierra de la Giganta.
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.
The 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.
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 gringotrails.com/screenings.
For more information on Solimar’s tourism assessments download the free Tourism Assessment Process EBook.
In late 2014, Solimar International began working with the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) in Nepal. The GHT is a network of trails that currently span across the Nepali Himalayas. The experiences offered along these trails are rough, but unforgettable. Trekkers are afforded spectacular views of the most breathtaking mountain range on earth, they have meaningful exchanges with Nepali people and push their own physical limits in some of the world's most challenging trails. The GHT also seeks to promote responsible tourism in Nepal, and is used to unite the trekking industry around this concept.
Nepal is on the bucket list of most adventure travelers, specifically, the Everest Base Camp Trek, which is accessible but adventurous and provides a glimpse of one of the world's great natural wonders. As a result, most tourists to Nepal visit the same well trodden destinations. The GHT encourages tourists to get out and explore the rest of the mountain range, which stretches across the entire country.
The GHT is currently being managed by the Samarth-Nepal Market Development Project, which is funded by DFID and contracted to Adam Smith International. They inherited this tourism product from a former DFID project and needed support from tourism experts to help transition the GHT to new management.
Management of the GHT comprises several components, namely product development, marketing and trail management.
Solimar was initially asked to focus on GHT tourism branding, a destination assessment and identify an organization to take over the GHT website. During this contract period, our team traveled to Nepal and met with GHT stakeholders from associations, tour operators, guides and government organizations. We provided Samarth-NMDP with seven possible scenarios for moving forward.
We were delighted to renew our contract with Adam Smith for 2015, and in the coming year Solimar will be working with GHT stakeholders to build a fresh website for the GHT, including compelling content for social channels and support the transition to a new management structure.
The GHT has the opportunity to be a truly iconic product for Nepal: it provides both a base for activities and a unifying concept for the variety of attractions the destination has to offer. It exemplifies the concept of site doing, not site seeing. Solimar is looking forward to working with Samarth-NMDP in 2015 to help the GHT realize its full potential.
With the tourism industry booming, competition amongst destinations is fierce. Hundreds of variables and thousands of runners in this race means that by 2025, anything could happen. But the good news is that with the right preparation today, any underdog has a shot at being the winning destination. Here are some tips to help you out.
1. Conserve Your Resources
We all know that climate change has the potential to drastically change the tourism game. Without intervention, many of our sunny beaches will be eroded and our crisp mountain air replaced by pollution. Temperature-wise, nobody really wants to be the “hottest destination”. This is why sustainable tourism development is so important.
Every location, including yours, has something intrinsically unique to offer the world. But the challenge is, can you conserve it? Whether your destination is home to a rare breed of lion, the best coffee beans in the world or an unparalleled kayaking experience, you’ll want to be able to flaunt it like a peacock forever (or flaunt your actual peacocks). Strategies like the ones we implement to conserve these resources will make you stand a head above the rest.
Solimar proudly works with Namibia, the first African country to incorporate conservation into its constitution. Today, 42% of the country’s land is preserved by communal conservancies- and Namibia has simultaneously earned its place as a must-see destination.
2. Tourism Services Training
When your visitors are greeted by the smiling faces of your well-trained staff, they will not only love your destination, they will brag about you to all their friends. Too many local tourism services in the past have left visitors feeling either disappointed, lost in translation or downright scammed. By 2025, travelers will be more globally aware and will be tired of subpar services, making this component of your travel marketing wildly attractive.
We at Solimar International have identified that guide services, as well as food, lodging, transportation and craft services are key areas to work on. Investing in your workforce’s development creates a positive cycle that will last to 2030 and beyond. Visitors to your destination will be happier with your product, leading to satisfied feedback and widespread positive reviews producing economic benefits for you and your employees, simultaneously enriching the work experience and the tourism product for visitors. But in order to be ahead in the future, sustainable tourism development and training needs to start today.
3. Create Tourism Partnerships
The new generation is searching for authentic experiences and real connections. The quickest way to flush authenticity down the drain is to stamp all over local culture, make them feel marginalized or to drown out the traditions with external influence.
Public-private partnership (PPP) between stakeholders such as tourist operators, local governments, farmers and communities is integral to creating an incredibly appealing destination, particularly for destination marketing purposes.
PPP encourages action and communication among all stakeholders in a project, so that no voice is left unheard and unrepresented in the finished tourism product. It creates positive economic outcomes and conserves authenticity, and also ensures that there is stability in the social environment in addition to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
4. Create a Tourism Marketing Strategy
Unfortunately, without solid destination marketing, your nation’s “best kept secret” will stay exactly that: a secret. Marketing means more than just sticking up a billboard on the highway, especially in this constantly evolving world of technology and social media. It will mean creating relevant and creative strategies intended for targeted audiences, which tackle everything from strategic planning and branding to website development, as well as travel trade marketing, social media marketing, and integrated marketing programs. These strategies can have people everywhere scrambling to put your irresistible destination on their bucket list.
After years of experience in travel marketing, we have seen the powerful effect of good marketing proven over and over again with our various projects in over 40 countries. Even more exciting is the pride of marketing a destination which has flourished by following these tips, conserving resources, training tourism services and creating harmonious partnerships.
A lot can happen over the next ten years. But just like in any other race, being prepared with the right resources and strategies can mean all the difference between winning and losing. So play your cards right and start equipping your running belt with these strategies today. Who knows, your destination could win the race and be the hottest destination of not only 2025, but of the entire century.
To see how your destination or tourism business is doing- check out Solimar’s Self-Assessment!
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