Sierra la Giganta in Baja California Sur, Mexico is a remote and remarkable desert landscape where soaring red rock mountains plunge into the clear and cool waters of the Gulf of California. Solimar International and local partner RED Sustainable Travel have been working in the region for the last year to develop a destination management and marketing plan that promotes Sierra la Giganta's unique natural and cultural resources, local communities and sustainability.
The following photo essay highlights our work in Sierra la Giganta, captured during a recent site visit.The region's stark desert landscape is juxtaposed by the Gulf of California, one of the most biologically diverse seas on the planet and home to many species of reef fish, sharks, whales, and marine turtles.
One of the main reasons Sierra la Giganta hasn't succumbed to the mass tourism model seen in other Mexican coastal destinations is its isolation. Accessible almost exclusively by boat, the region's stunning coastline is a playground for sea kayakers, divers, snorkelers and other adventure seekers.
Words carved into a rock by some of the region's earliest settlers share the most important rule to live by in a desert region with more than 300 days of sunshine and only about 6" of rain per year. "Water is Life".
Solimar & Geotourism
Alabama as well as Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi partnered with National Geographic and Solimar to promote Geotourism development. This partnership contributed to the region’s competitiveness as a tourism destination by facilitating collaboration between local business owners, governments, interest groups and residents, helping market the region’s sustainable tourism assets.
Solimar has managed activities such as: the establishment of the Stewardship Council and the development of marketing tools and strategies that contribute to the ongoing promotion of the unique region. The Geotourism MapGuide presents the U.S. Gulf Coast States region to the world through an online interactive map, mobile application and print map.
The Geotourism MapGuide focuses on authentic local attractions and service providers, and secures increased market visibility for smaller local businesses and attractions, which adds to the socio-economic benefits generated by tourism in the region.
Geotourism is defined as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place - its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents."
Geotourism involves regional communities by providing the visitor with an authentic, enriching experience and connects tourists with local culture, traditions, offering them in-depth opportunities to enjoy the area's unique natural beauty and biodiversity.
Geotourism also benefits the environment by encouraging a destination stewardship that keeps growth to sustainable levels and limits negative impacts such as overcrowding and resource pollution and benefits residents by promoting local services and employment.
The Tuskegee Human & Civil Rights Multicultural Center
The Tuskegee Center is a commendable example of what we are trying to promote with the Geotourism program. The National Geographic Society, in collaboration with the Alabama Tourism Department, unveiled a new four-state Geotourism project. As a result, some 341 Alabama listings are featured on the U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism interactive website.
The tourism project started more than a year ago with a call for organizations and citizens to nominate local points of interest. More than 100 Alabamians submitted nominations that included sites and attractions unique to their area such as local restaurants, wildlife and scenic trails, bed and breakfasts, historic attractions, fishing destinations, museums and art galleries. In Tuskegee, the sites featured include the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Tuskegee University and the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.
The Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center preserves and presents the stories about the history of Native, European and African Americans in Tuskegee.
The Center was established in 1997, originally to serve as a permanent memorial to the victims and survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The center showcases the historic past of Tuskegee in Macon County. The center represents one historic place, three historic cultures and the many tragedies and triumphs of the American South.
Check out this poster that is displayed at the entrance to the Tuskegee History Center in Alabama, approved by National Geographic:
22 Geotourism MapGuide projects have been completed or are underway in 14 U.S. states and 12 countries. More than 3 million MapGuides have been printed and distributed in hard copy, and 13 interactive websites have been created to promote sustainable travel to some of the world’s most important tourism destinations.
Because of National Geographic and Solimar International’s commitment to community-based tourism development, the Geotourism approach has the potential to succeed where many other tourism strategies have not.
Check out other destinations with the Geotourism Mapguide, and for more information on partnerships and destination marketing, contact us.
After four amazing, rewarding years, Solimar wraps up its work in Namibia.
Last week, the 4-year North American Destination Marketing (NADM) Campaign came to an end. The project was managed by Cardno and implemented with four other companies, including Solimar.
In 2010, when the campaign began, traditional source markets for Namibia, specifically European tourism, were lagging due to economic recession and market saturation. The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), with support from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), decided to aggressively pursue the North American tourism market to boost their visitor numbers, and contracted Cardno, who then put together the NADM team to create a comprehensive marketing program. Separately, Solimar was contracted to develop an integrated online marketing campaign.
Within the NADM campaign, Solimar was responsible for the online tools component. Our role was to create educational and sales tools, trade campaigns and then market these to North American travel trade. Ultimately, our goal was to help North American operators sell more Namibia. We found that agents and operators knew and loved Namibia, but were facing a challenge: their clients were not asking for it. We began to develop tools that would help them create demand among their client base: campaigns that helped them engage with their communities about Namibia, as well as incentives to encourage them to sell more of our destination.
Over the course of four years, our team developed four targeted campaigns, which had trade and consumer components. These campaigns were fueled by interactive contests, which created a buzz among the communities of our trade partners through social networks.
The success of the NADM campaign was due to its integrated nature, the team tackled different sectors of the tourism sector at the same time. For example, at the same time as Solimar was creating tools and working with agents, our colleagues from the Business Tourism Company were training local businesses and business owners in destination management and marketing to optimize the opportunities available to them. The NADM campaign made it a priority to broaden local knowledge of the complexities and opportunities available through the use of online marketing and to build a foundation of understanding of destination marketing and the North American tourism value chain and market sectors. The campaign’s focus on training and education allows for more long-term and sustainable business practices, ultimately benefitting the local communities in a significant and effective way.
Likewise, Cardno was coordinating attendance at trade shows and road shows. There were three North American Road Shows, two trade shows, and 34 other travel trade events held during the course of the campaign, which established linkages with North American operators, expanded Namibia’s presence in the market, and increased its market share in North America. The team from STI worked to strengthen Namibian festivals and events by developing a strong relationship with the city of Windhoek and supporting the relaunch of the /Ae//Gams Arts and Cultural Festival in 2014, linking market-ready festivals and events to the North American market.
Another essential component of the campaign was the Public Relations (PR) platform, which focused on raising the profile of Namibia and its products and experience offerings among North American target consumers. It involved creating a dynamic campaign and taking it to road shows, airlines, and news outlets both in Namibia and North America. The campaign earned multiple destinations in Namibia press coverage in a variety of influential North American media outlets, through newspapers, websites, and television.
An exciting highlight of the campaign was the opportunity Namibia was granted to host the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) in October 2013. As ATWS is the largest gathering of adventure travel professionals in the world, with over 700 attendees, this was a key opportunity for Namibia to assert itself as a heavyweight in the adventure travel industry. The NADM campaign decided this it was crucial to capitalize on this opportunity, allocating energy and resources to pursue Namibia’s bid to host the campaign, as well as the organizing all of the logistics once it was awarded. This was the first time ATWS was hosted on the African continent, and support from the NADM campaign was critical to the Summit’s success.
Overall, Solimar and its partners were able to significantly increase the awareness of Namibia as a tourism destination in the North American market through this campaign. These efforts have left a legacy of strong business relationships between Namibian and North American travel trade, and increased awareness for Namibia and the Namibia Tourism Board to build upon. To get updates on Solimar’s projects and programs around the world, sign up for our newsletter:
The importance of sustainable tourism development is increasingly recognized throughout the sector. However, it has been a challenge for many organizations to integrate sustainability into tourism management and operations.
Here are a few tips and examples on how to incorporate sustainability in your destination's tourism management and operations.
Involve Local Residents and Communities in Tourism Planning
Sustainable tourism development requires the participation of local residents and businesses at the planning stage. By consulting with local stakeholders, you gain their support and reduce conflict as the plan progresses.
In Solimar's Geotourism projects, which seek to highlight the unique culture and heritage of a region through the voices and stories of the people that live there, local residents are invited to nominate places of interest. This provides more economic benefits to local businesses especially those that are less known. The nominations are reviewed by a Stewardship Council, composed of representatives from the region, before being used to create an interactive website, a MapGuide, and a Smartphone app.
Establish Partnerships with Different Stakeholders
Effective collaboration among different stakeholders from the government, tourism boards, businesses, and local communities is crucial to successful sustainable tourism management and operations. This facilitates a more balanced system of decision making as the priorities of various sectors are considered.
To assist Uganda in tourism development, Solimar actively involved stakeholders from each part of the tourism and conservation sectors. The cooperation among the stakeholders was important to enhance tourism products, build strong community enterprises, strengthen linkages among different attractions, and bolster the success of the program.
Develop Products Based on the Destination's Strengths
What are the local assets that your destination can highlight? Destination assessment should be conducted to identify the strengths of a destination and determine the best tourism products based on the findings.
In our destination assessment for the Sierra de la Gigante region, Solimar and RED Sustainable Travel identified potential conservation models that leverage the region's strengths in order to address conservation goals and provide economic opportunities for the local population.
Strengthen Local Capacity to Manage Tourism
Sustainable tourism management and operations need to equip local businesses with skills to succeed. Workforce development and training is therefore integral to a successful strategy.
To strengthen the capacity of the Ethiopia Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA), Solimar conducted workshops and created materials to train personnel in using the necessary tools and activities to implement community tourism in Ethiopia.
Target High-Yield Market Segments
High visitor numbers aren't inherently valuable for your destination. In sustainable tourism management and operations, it is important to serve the proper target markets. Fortunately, there has been a growth in the number of travelers who demand more responsible travel and have higher visitor expenditure.
The Namibia North American Destination Marketing Campaign targeted travelers who would most appreciate the country’s strong conservation and special interest selling points. These include curious conservationists and experience seekers. This is why a destination assessment of strengths is so important—you must know what you are marketing and to whom.
Use Guidelines to Limit Impact
Creating guidelines is important in sustainable tourism management and operations. It not only helps the destination preserve its ecological value, but also helps businesses limit their negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts. Educating visitors and locals on best-practices matters.
Solimar is part of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) Initiative , which fosters increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and promotes the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles.
Have you used any of these tips at your organization? Are there others you would like to share? Your ideas and comments are welcome in the comment section below.
To learn more about becoming a more sustainable tourism enterprise, download the Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Development Tool Kit.
There are a plethora of emerging destinations around the world that could benefit from the presence of a Destination Management Organization (DMO) to facilitate cohesive, strategic development of tourism products and marketing. Unfortunately, there is a gap in funding, knowledge, and physical capacity to bring DMOs into being in many of these locations. To support DMO development in emerging destinations, Solimar recently received a grant from Destination Marketing Association International to develop a toolkit entitled “How to Start a DMO” that will be aimed at community leaders looking to organize and consolidate private, public, and social sectors around the tourism industry under a new destination marketing and management organization. The toolkit will help tourism authorities to create or enhance an institution that meets the requirements for DMAI’s Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP). It will cover each of the DMAP’s core concepts: Governance and finance, human resources and technology, marketing, individual and group visitor services, sales and communications, membership, management and facilities, destination development and research, and stakeholder relationships.
The toolkit will take 6 months to produce, starting with research and discovery, followed by pilot testing in three locations where Solimar is already working on developing DMOs, and finishing with publication. We will be working closely with colleagues at The George Washington University International Institute for Tourism Studies (IITS) to research and test the content of the toolkit.
We look forward to this collaboration and contributing to the positive growth of emerging economies.
In the meantime, you can check out one of our current toolkits:
Following the first training Solimar launched in Ethiopia, Matthew Humke delivered two individual 23-day Integrated Destination Planning and Management courses as part of Solimar’s Short Term Sustainable Tourism Training Program.
Each course covered seven modules, including Destination Typology, Tourism Assessment Techniques and Tools, Tourism and Resource Conservation, Tourism Product Development, Destination Marketing, Managing the Visitor Experience, and Destination Management Planning. The purpose of the course was to offer Ethiopia tourism professionals a thorough overview of the types of destinations and the different modalities for their management so they can effectively incorporate these concepts into their work.
There were a total of 68 participants in the two courses – 33 in the first course and 35 in the second. Participants included representatives from the Ethiopian government, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Regional Culture and Tourism Bureaus, Ethiopia’s national parks as well as cultural and historical sites. Within both courses, participants showed consistent interest and enthusiasm and were eager to learn the course content.
To ensure our content as relevant and applicable to the professional careers of the participants as possible, each module was structured in three sections. First, the instructor Matthew Humke introduced the course material with an emphasis on how it relates to Ethiopia as well as the professional context of the participants. Second, participants formed the 4-6 person “destination working groups” and picked an actual tourism destination in Ethiopia – ranging from national parks to cultural and historical sites – to which they applied many of the planning and management concepts during their practice and production activities. Finally, participants shared their discussion results with the class. Throughout the course, the destination working groups developed various aspects of an actual destination management plan step by step including tourism supply and demand, existing and potential market segments, and priorities at their destinations in tourism development, management and marketing.
The course also included a series of weekly field trips designed to highlight some aspect of the content being taught during the course that week. For example, during the Tourism and Resource Conservation module, a field trip took place to Awash National Park where participants met with park management and staff to discuss the conservation objectives and challenges that park faces. During the Managing the Visitor Experience module, the participants traveled to Melka Kunture to see how that site interpreted its historical aspects and cultural heritage.
On the final day of the course, destination working groups presented their final project by taking all of their analysis and put it into a condensed destination management plans that identified strategic objectives for their sites as well as 1-5 year action plans.
Participants walked away the course not only with their certificates, but also materials from each of the seven modules, containing PowerPoint presentations, tools like worksheets, templates, publications, reports, videos and other complimentary materials related to the content provided in each module as well as photos and videos taken by the instructor during the course of field trips, participant presentations, etc.
Solimar marketing expert Natasha Martin will be the instructor of our two individual courses on Tourism Marketing and Branding course starting on March 16th and April 17th. For more information on the available courses, please visit http://www.ethiopiasustainabletourismtraining.com
Solimar's Six Models that Link Tourism to Conservation, Part I
One of the ways that tourism benefits destinations is by augmenting conservation efforts. After conducting an analysis of both internal and partner projects, Solimar has identified six principal sustainable tourism models that link tourism to conservation:
1. Improve Tourism Operations and Guidelines:
This model emphasizes limiting or reversing the negative consequences on nature that can result from tourism. There are three principal strategies for improving tourism operations and guidelines to promote conservation efforts:
a. Promote Sustainable Tourism Guidelines with Visitors
By promoting a 'code of conduct', destinations can ensure that visitors, for example, do not leave trash, pick endangered flora, or use flash photography where it might be harmful or startling to wildlife. It is important that these codes of conduct are communicated effectively through signage, pamphlets, interpretive guides, or even on websites and social media so visitors have an understanding of conservation before they arrive. Myanmar, new to hosting significant numbers of tourists, provides a great example of a visitor code of conduct with their 'do's and don'ts' campaign.
b. Promote Sustainable Tourism Guidelines within the Travel Industry
By promoting effective guidelines within the travel industry, local businesses and organizations can work together to limit their impact on the natural environment. Agreeing upon certain standards, preferably before a destination attracts large numbers of tourists, can maintain the natural beauty of an area before it's too late. For example, businesses and organizations can work together to establish best practices for responsible seafood harvesting, responsible souvenir gathering, and responsible boating practices. Solimar International worked extensively with businesses and organizations in Bocas del Toro, Panama to guide the establishment of acceptable practices related to natural conservation.
c. Promote Sustainable Tourism Guidelines within Protected Areas
Promoting conservation efforts within protected areas requires significant interaction from a wide range of stakeholders, both public and private. Example guidelines to follow may include limiting camping to select areas within a park or limiting the number of fish to be taken from rivers or lakes each day. Once a plan has been formulated, effective promotion is imperative to the success of the plan.
2. Increase Tourism Awareness and Constituencies:
This model moves beyond simple education about tourism impacts to emphasize the active role that both visitors and residents can play in conservation efforts. This model incorporates three principal strategies to augment conservation efforts:
a. Increase Awareness and Conservation Support of Local Residents
It is important that conservation efforts begin with locals, as residents are as much of a conservation threat as tourists. Lack of awareness, lack of economic alternatives, and long-standing traditions are often reasons locals engage in damaging practices such as unsustainable extraction of resources. Ways to increase awareness and reverse damaging actions include teaching environmental education classes with local groups or organizing a local festival to celebrate the very resource being damaged. In Latin America, sea turtle educational classes and festivals have been organized to raise awareness about the importance of sea turtle conservation and the damaging effects of poaching their eggs.
b. Increase Awareness and Conservation Support of Visitors
Guides are vital to informing visitors about threats to conservation and explaining to the visitors how they can help whether that be through a donation or "adoption" programs. Programs such as these can help visitors develop an attachment to an area, increasing the likelihood of a donation, and also to spread the word about the importance of conservation when they go home.
c. Link Benefits of Sustainable Tourism to the Community as a Whole
As local residents see benefits from sustainable tourism increase, the likelihood of long-term sustainable practices increases, too. Direct beneficiaries include tour guides, hotel managers, and chefs while indirect beneficiaries include family members of direct beneficiaries as well as operators of ancillary services such as construction companies or grocery stores. Non-employment-based ways the tourism industry can benefit communities includes the organization of local clean-up events, improving sanitary services, or hosting volunteers.
3. Increase Income Diversification
If local residents realize sustainable tourism presents a livelihood, they are more likely to behave according to sustainable tourism principles. Two main strategies for assisting conservation evolve according to this model:
a. Target Resource Extractors with Sustainable Tourism Employment
It may seem counterintuitive, but poachers can become optimal tour guides. Poachers often know a lot about a particular animal and can share stories and knowledge on a unique level. "Reformed" poachers often provide a unique human interest story as tourists are very interested in how and why their behavior changed. Resource extractors are much more likely to change if tourism provides an increased wage through tips, salary, or a year-end profit sharing program.
b. Developing Tourism Products that Directly Mitigate a Conservation Threat
An optimal situation occurs when new products, jobs, and revenues develop and directly support conservation efforts. Local residents can create arts and crafts out of old newspaper, cans, bottles or other upcycling methods and sell them to visitors, eliminating solid waste and creating revenue simultaneously. Artificial coral reef creation has been effective in attracting divers and photographers away from susceptible natural coral reefs, where damage from tourists is common.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council provides a framework for destinations seeking to develop a sustainable tourism strategy. Many of their guidelines apply to the conservation-related ideas discussed in this post. For a more detailed look at these tourism conservation models, be sure to download Solimar's Tourism and Conservation Toolkit. Check back soon for Part of 2 Solimar's Six Models that Link Tourism to Conservation.
Johnny Cay, a small Colombian island in the Caribbean, faces significant conservation challenges. Although the park is a protected area, currently no license system or code of conduct exists for the tour operators who bring tourists to Johnny Cay from nearby San Andres. This lack of a tourism management plan has led to negative environmental consequences on the island, which in turn jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of businesses operating in Johnny Cay Regional Park.
Solimar has recently completed a Sustainable Tourism Strategic Plan for the park. The plan supports conservation and business development in Johnny Cay Regional Park by identifying conservation threats, creating a plan to mitigate those threats, and implementing sustainable tourism best practices.
Principal conservation threats include environmental degradation, mainly pollution, both on the island and within the surrounding waters. The island is also losing its cultural identity and turning into a daytime party spot, leading to an abundance of alcohol consumption and diminishing authentic cultural interaction. Operations must become more conservation-focused if tourism businesses hope to use Johnny Cay Regional Park as part of their long-term business strategy.
The Sustainable Tourism Strategic Plan addresses conservation threats by employing five specific strategies over the course of three years:
1. Creation of a Sustainable Tourism Department within Coralina (The Organization for the Sustainable Development of the San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina Archipelago).
This department will ensure that businesses comply with specific operational standards while operating within the park. The department will also develop training programs, implement environmental education programs, and act as a link between Coralina and tourism associations on the island.
2. Develop a Sustainable Tourism Certification Program within Johnny Cay Regional Park
This program will serve as a tool for setting operating standards and increasing sustainability awareness among local stakeholders. The program will provide best practices and codes of conduct for businesses and use the implementation of these practices as a filter to determine who can operate within the park. Businesses will be encouraged to gradually implement best practices and will receive recognition upon successful implementation. Businesses will also receive training related to different strategies for improving their product offerings. Ideally, this will serve as a pilot program for the region with possible extensions on the nearby islands of San Andres, Santa Catalina, and Providencia in the future.
3. Provide a Business Support Program for tourism businesses operating within the park
A relatively low standard of technical business knowledge emerged through the project's initial assessment process. This negatively impacted total revenues and product quality while poor marketing limited the ability for businesses to attract new clients. A business support program, run through Coralina, has been proposed to provide training in business planning, marketing, and monitoring and evaluation. A competition has also been proposed through which locals will develop their own business plans and compete for initial funding based on plan quality. Solimar launched a similar business plan and fundraising program with success on neighboring islands.
4. Develop a Communication Strategy to increase cooperation between tourism businesses and Coralina
Improving communication among local residents, tourists, businesses, Coralina, travel agents, and national tourism entities will be vital to the success of the sustainable tourism strategic plan. This communication strategy hopes to strengthen conservation efforts by ensuring that residents and visitors understand that Johnny Cay is a nationally-recognized regional park. The goal is to invoke a sense of pride within locals and operators to foster a culture of conservation. Additionally, the communication strategy aims to facilitate a smoother communication process between businesses and other entities while keeping businesses up-to-date on the implementation of the overall sustainable tourism strategic plan.
5. Develop a system for tourism businesses to pay a concession fee for operating within the park
The plan calls for this implementation to occur in year 3, after the above strategies have had time to take hold. Each business applying for a concession will have their tax calculated based on their financial projections. A maximum tariff will be established and businesses will have to comply with certain standards in order to apply. Very clear communication and successful implementation strategies 1-4 will be vital to establishing the concession system.
Johnny Cay faces serious conservation issues that threaten the long-term viability of its corresponding tourism economy. However, with the proper strategy and training, these negative consequences can be reversed.
The World Tourism Organisation tells us that cultural tourism accounts for 37% of global tourism, and furthermore affirms that it will continue to grow 15% each year. With all of this market interest, destinations should leverage what makes their societies unique and invest in developing cultural tourism programs.
What is Cultural Tourism?
Cultural tourism allows travelers to be immersed in local rituals and routines, taking away not only pretty photos but also shared memories of unique experiences. For destinations, it encourages local communities to embrace their culture and boosts economic growth. Developing culturally geared tourism programs encourages destinations to celebrate and promote what distinguishes their communities, and in doing so, provides the opportunity for authentic cultural exchange between locals and visitors.
Solimar has a long history of involvement in development projects that promote cultural tourism. Here’s a glimpse at four of them:
Morocco: Down the Road of Traditional Crafts
Before 2010, Morocco has a vibrant craft industry, yet artisans had insufficient opportunity for direct sales. Solimar collaborated with Aid to Artisans and the Moroccan Ministry of Crafts to facilitate direct linkages between artisans and tourists in Marrakech and Fez. This was achieved through establishing new or updating existing artisan and cultural heritage routes, and furnishing them with engaging creating marketing collateral. The team involved as many as 6,603 sale points and was successful in increasing artisan revenue. As a result of this project, crafts and tourism in the area are now more linked than ever before.
Ethiopia: Empowering Community Enterprises for Long-term Success
Ethiopia’s Bale Mountain area is lush and beautiful, and is the home of successful community-led tourism initiatives. In 2009 Solimar addressed the conservation and regulation problems in Ethiopia by affecting a sustainable tourism development project in partnership with the Frankfurt Zoological Society. The team created 7 community tourism enterprises as well as branding and marketing tools aimed at awareness-building among foreigners and locals alike. The local communities now leverage their cultural heritage, which includes expressive dances and crafts, in its tourism development. This offers them alternative livelihoods that in turn benefit environmental conservation.
Namibia: From North America to Local Villages
Namibia is a country of rich tourism potential that prior to 2010 had not been successful in fully captivating the North American travel market. Solimar launched a comprehensive trade-focused marketing campaign with the goal of increasing North American arrivals in Namibia over the course of 4 years. By fostering partnerships between Namibian and North American trade, and leading destinations awareness campaigns, this mission was successful.
Community-based tourism was a large component in promoting the country to the North American market. The campaign succeeded in increasing the number of tourists and routes visiting Namibia by 75% by 2013, exceeding expectations. This helped improve local employment opportunities and enhance cultural awareness among international visitors.
Colombia: More than Whales at Nuquí/Utría National Park
Nuquí/Utría National Park is famous for its prolific whale watching opportunities. However, it suffers from a lack of organizational and business capacity, as well as weak marketing outreach. In 2012, Solimar and its project partners tackled the challenge by creating a destination marketing alliance with four local community tourism enterprises, providing them capacity building trainings. The team developed and promoted new tour packages that incorporated cultural elements, such as visits to a typical Pacific Chocó village. The team liaised with the Colombian Ministries of Tourism and the Environment to feature the park as a model for sustainable tourism development in a protected area. Through this work, the team was successful in increasing the gross sales of each of these community tourism enterprises and the number of tourism products in this remote area.
Cultural tourism is economically advantageous for both destinations and the communities that reside in them. Solimar is dedicated to the development of cultural tourism that benefits destinations, communities and visitors. We hope to continue to be an active and positive support in promoting sustainable travel, protecting cultural heritage and improving the living standards of local communities around the world.
To learn more about cultural tourism, check out our Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Development Toolkit!
Follow Solimar on social media!
Tourism contributes significantly to the inflow of people and to the infrastructure development at cultural heritages. It is both a duty and an act of self-interest for the tourism industry to be invested in the conservation of these heritage sites. This cannot be handled by an external force; rather, the local stakeholders need to embrace the concept of sustainable tourism management using a “destination approach”.
Local destination management organizations (DMO) are usually in the best position to advocate holistic tourism development. They work to facilitate communication between different types of stakeholders, as well as to present commercial and community demands to policy-makers. For cultural heritage sites, without economic investment it can be difficult to maintain conservation of the site from internal and external pressures. For that same reason, destination management cannot effectively be carried out without the involvement of the local community.
Chris Seek, Solimar CEO, explained the destination approach at the “Analysis of the Sustainable Cultural Tourism Situation in the Colonial City (Santo Domingo)” workshop July 8, which was co-hosted by Solimar, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Dominican Ministry of Tourism, and UNESCO. The workshop was the first of three to be carried out under Solimar’s consultancy for the Tourism Development Program – Colonial City, Santo Domingo (the program’s official name in Spanish is “Programa de Fomento al Turismo – Ciudad Colonial, Santo Domingo”).
The ultimate goals of the consultancy are:
1. Enhanced understanding of the operational structure and understanding of the potential of a DMO by local managers and other stakeholders.
2. Active use by local asset managers and guides of the tools for development and implementation of a Sustainable Tourism Strategy.
3. Increased knowledge of local managers on structuring tourism management using a "destination" approach.
4. Integration of all the parties involved in the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism, using a destination approach for the conservation and empowerment of local communities.
5. Implementation of the proposed governance structure for the DMO, achieving interagency agreements and work commitments.
6. Design and implementation of mechanisms for the operation of the proposed governance structure.
7. Development of an Action Plan as a basis for the strategic implementation of the Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Strategy for the Development of a DMO.
These goals will be achieved in part by hosting three workshops in the Colonial City in order to:
• Conduct a thorough analysis of the current situation based on an analytical framework for sustainable tourism;
• Create a shared, strategic vision, mission, and priorities for a DMO for the Colonial City; and
• Develop a comprehensive strategy for the management of sustainable tourism that unites all Colonial City stakeholders around a common vision.
To achieve the Colonial City’s conservation, economic and social objectives there first needs to be a shared vision. The Colonial City, the place where native, European and African cultures had their first encounter and left their combined marks, has suffered from natural disasters and most importantly, human impact. Land conversion, the development of underground transport, visitation facilities and tourism itself are taking a toll on the old city. Solimar and the Tourism Development Program – Colonial City, Santo Domingo have set out to address these challenges.
Solimar believes that a successful strategy is one that was developed by the people who will be implementing it. Upon completion of the analysis of the current situation and after achieving consensus on the vision for the Colonial City and the DMO, Solimar will work with local stakeholders to draft the Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Strategy for the Development of a DMO. The strategies will emphasize the promotion and protection of cultural assets in the destination management practices, as they are crucial in attracting higher-spending tourist segments and maximizing tourist contribution.
Through appropriate destination management planning, development and implementation Solimar aims to minimize the possible negative impacts of tourism, improve economic and social development, and preserve cultural heritage sites so that they can share their tales for many more years to come.
To learn more about destination management, here's a useful toolkit: