The MCC-funded “Conservation Destination” campaign reaches over 6 million people through social media, education and a sweepstakes to raise awareness for Namibia’s exceptional conservation-based tourism assets. Four animated characters were used as ambassadors for the campaign.
Launched on Earth Day 2012, “Conservation Destination” wasdesigned and implemented by Solimar International for the Namibia Tourism Board as an innovative social media and inbound marketing campaign to raise awareness of the country’s diverse tourism products – specifically wildlife-oriented travel opportunities.
For six weeks, a high-profile sweepstakes and rich educational content about Namibia’s conservation activities and the role they play in creating exciting travel opportunities were pushed through Facebook , Twitter , and the Namibia Tourism Board’s blog.
The campaign led to significant growth in the size of the NTB’s online communities, over 6 million global impressions, and nearly 3,000 new sales leads.
Namibia’s excellent conservation record offered a competitive advantage when considering destination branding. Market research indicated that travelers are more likely to select a destination that preserves its natural, historic and cultural sites. Highlighting “wildlife conservation” rather than just “wildlife observation” as a travel activity also allowed for broader outreach to communities in non-traditional tourism marketing audiences such as zoos, wildlife conservation and non-profit organizations.
In order to strengthen the of the campaign, Solimar enlisted the support of four groundbreaking Namibian conservation organizations: Cheetah Conservation Fund , Nambian Coast Conservation and Management Project , Namib Desert Environmental Educational Trust and the Save the Rhino Trust . These organizations added significant global credentials and supported the development of unique content for the two elements of the campaign: a conservation-focused sweepstakes and cross-platform educational engagement activities.
The unique content, contest and conversation were promoted through several online channels:
- "Conservation ambassador” characters were created on Facebook and Twitter to represent each partner and highlight real-life conservation issues while driving traffic to the NTB Facebook page and sweepstakes.
- Over 30 blog entries, 100 Facebook posts and 200 tweets were created to ensure that the country remains the world's "greatest conservation story ever told."
- 53 campaign distribution partners such as international tour operators, environmental non-profit organizations, world-renowned zoos, were enlisted to help spread the “Conservation Destination” message.
- Facebook advertising was used to target specific groups and interests within the Facebook community such as wildlife conservation and safaris.
Needless to say, wildlife conservation is a topic that inspires people all around the world. Namibia’s commitment to conservation and the tangible results that enhance the visitor experience have inspired a new global audience interested in traveling to the country.
- The tourism board’s Facebook community size grew nearly 3000% over the duration of the campaign – welcoming nearly 3,000 new members into Namibia Tourism Board’s online family.
- The number of individuals interacting with the Facebook page – those stopping by to read an article or watch a video – was over 8,000.
- The campaign’s reach - the number of people exposed to the campaign as a result of the NTB’s Facebook activities, was 1.6 million.
- Including the community reach of the conservation partners, the campaign’s total reach was over 6.4 million.
- More than 2,700 new “leads” were created from individuals who registered on the website, allowing the NTB to continue to supply the new online community with targeted messages about Namibia – driving them from interest to bookings.
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.
Solimar International has teamed up with Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) and the International Institute for Tourism Studies at George Washington University to build a comprehensive online resource for destination marketing organizations. This practical toolkit will include templates, meeting agendas, how-to-guides, and case studies related to building and operating a world class destination marketing organization.
As tourism has emerged as one of the largest economic sectors in the world, a greater number of destinations have invested significant funds in destination marketing, attracting visitors and making the industry a powerful driver in economic growth and infrastructure development.
This new resource is designed to support tourism professionals seeking to build a new DMO or enhance a currently operating organization in order to meet the requirements of DMAI's Destination Marketing Accreditation Program. Core areas of focus will include destination dialogue, management/operations, governance, finance, technology marketing, sales, visitor services and sustainability.
The toolkit is being designed in a phased approach that includes:
- Research and discovery: Thorough background research of academic publications and useful tools developed by global tourism organizations.
- Interviews: Interviewing DMO professionals that have displayed excellence or innovation in each of the toolkit categories. DMOs with different locations, operational budgets and management structures will take part in interviews.
Pilot testing: As an example, Solimar International is currently working to create DMOs in Arizona's Verde Valley, the northeastern part of Sri Lanka and Malawi.
- Final review and multi-platform publication: Tourism professionals will conduct a final review, perform a layout design and publish the toolkit in print and online.
Furthermore, the toolkit will provide national and regional DMOs information on how to support smaller communities within their destinations as well as improve local resources and quality of life. And according to Jim McCaul, the director of communications at DMAI, it will help community leaders "looking to organize and consolidate private, public, and social sectors around the tourism industry under a new destination marketing and management organization."
For more information on how Solimar can provide assistance in launching a DMO, click here.
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Tourism strategic planning is a comprehensive process for determining what a business or destination should become and the steps needed to achieve that goal. Many times when consultants are hired to create a strategic plan, the plan is at risk of remaining on the shelf and never being fully implemented. Why? Because those most affected by the tourism development plan may not have been fully integrated into the development of the strategy, and may not agree with the ideas. This is an ongoing issue the tourism industry faces, and a difficult one in which to find a solution.
The World Bank and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA) recognized this problem in the past. As part of a World Bank initiative, Solimar was contracted to develop a tourism strategy for the Caucasus nation. We were asked not to lead the development of the strategy, but rather facilitate and guide the GNTA through the strategy development process to ensure it was collaborative and comprehensive as possible.
Between the years 2009 and 2013, Georgia’s international tourism arrivals grew over 300%. This was largely in part to its envious location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as increasing amounts of exposure in international press as a unique, exciting destination. Georgia is the birth place of wine, has an exquisite culinary tradition, a rich early Christian history, and an abundance of natural assets - including 7 national parks. These attributes – if developed practically – demonstrate a significant strength to the country’s tourism sector within the high-value European marketplace, while improving the industry’s ability to contribute economically.
To keep pace with the increasing demand for tourism in Georgia, additional financing for private and public investments will be necessary. “The joint World Bank and IFC collaboration [in Georgia] focuses on fostering entrepreneurship and access to finance, improving the investment climate, and developing Georgia’s tourism strategy that will determine how to improve the sector’s performance, align implementation priorities and enable job growth.” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus.
Georgia’s tourism development approach has generally been focused on regional advancements rather than a cohesive national-level plan. Within the past decade, the World Bank and Solimar have worked on projects in the areas of Kakheti, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, and Samtskhe-Javakheti, each with creative solutions to grow the local tourism economies while conserving the natural and cultural resources. However, to maximize tourism’s national impact, a national strategy is required that takes into consideration large scale infrastructure and marketing activities that cannot be achieved by the regions alone.
“The tourism sector currently provides nearly 20 percent of export earnings. The national tourism development strategy is, therefore, an instrument to take full advantage of Georgia’s potential and position it globally as a rich, diversified and high quality destination.” Ahmed Eiweida, Program Leader for Sustainable Development Programs in the South Caucasus.
Where is the Georgia National Tourism Administration now?
With the support of the World Bank, the Solimar team, and several Georgian experts, the GNTA produced a 2025 strategic plan that articulates the country’s current position, its vision for the future, and the key activities required in order to get there.
To build buy-in for the strategy, the GNTA led regional workshops, communicated with inter-government committees, issued press events and integrated action plans from other tourism-related sectors. The final document describes how the GNTA and its partners will deliver creative marketing to attract to higher income markets and statistical projections on how the GNTA will achieve a minimum of 5% growth rate over the next 10 years.
Where does Georgia National Tourism want to be in 2025?
The GNTA envisions the country as a premier, year-round, high quality tourism destination - a destination centered on its unique cultural and natural heritage, its world-class customer service, and timeless tradition of hospitality. The GNTA will be at the forefront of tourism competitiveness, through strategic investments in infrastructure, education, marketing, and the development of unique Georgian visitor experiences that appeal to high-value markets around the globe.
How does the GNTA lead the tourism industry to reach it’s vision?
Extensive stakeholder consultation resulted in the identification of 50 priority actions that have been grouped around the following 8 strategic objectives.
1. Respect, enhance, and protect Georgia’s natural and cultural heritage
2. Create unique and authentic visitor experiences centered on those natural and cultural assets
3. Enhance competitiveness, through delivery of world-class visitor services
4. Attract higher spending markets, through increased and more effective marketing and promotion
5. Expand and enhance Georgia’s ability to collect and analyze tourism data and measure industry performance
6. Enhance the business environment, to facilitate increased foreign and domestic investment
7. Expand public and private sector investment in the tourism sector
8. Build partnerships between government, industry, non-governmental organizations, and communities that will be needed to achieve all of the above
What will the challenges be?
Even though the GNTA has completed their strategic plan and found positive monetary incentive to start implementation; the national and regional tourism stakeholders must work as a team to have success. And most importantly, the 2025 strategic plan will only be effective if the GNTA continues to be committed and take ownership of this visionary strategic plan.