Solimar is proud to announce the launch of the Roots of Ethiopia website. This unique portal promotes the wide range of community tourism products found in Ethiopia; thus helping to position it as a top community tourism destination in Africa. The website has been developed by the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance in partnership with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and Tesfa (Tourism in Ethiopia for Sustainable Future Alternatives), and features an array of activities including culture and nature walks, weaving and cooking demonstrations, horseback rides, boat tours and craft shopping, among others.
The portal's launch event took place in April in Addis Ababa. It was opened by Ethiopia's State Minister of Tourism and was attended by key tourism stakeholders from the public and private sectors and across the development industry.
The core of the event was the presentation of the website and its functions. Solimar International's Jessie McComb led this section in a fun and engaging way by describing how different types of tourists might use the website to learn more about Ethiopia and the community tourism products. She used the following real and fictional case studies:
- Ms. McComb's worry-wart mother, who would immediately ask about health, safety, transport and travel logistics. This information is all included in the "Plan Your Trip" section, which includes detailed FAQs for first-time travelers to Ethiopia and Africa.
- Anna, an imaginary, well-traveled German tourist, is coming to Ethiopia on a package tour, but also wants to discover local culture. Using the "Search by Destination" function, which displays the community tourism destinations on a country a map, she can see which communities are located close to the sites that she will already be visiting.
- Mike and John are expatriates living in Addis, with a good knowledge of Ethiopian geography. With the aid of the "Search by Activity" function, they can quickly find a tour that will fit their interests.
Roots of Ethiopia has been launched at a key moment for the tourism market. In 2009, over 105 million Americans used the Internet for travel planning – a 16% increase from 2007- while the number of Europeans booking travel online is now approaching 50% and growing. This new web presence offers a tremendous opportunity for rural Ethiopian communities to reach internet-savvy tourists around the world, to improve their livelihoods, create much-needed employment and generate income.
Our planet’s cultural and natural heritage sites are irreplaceable sources of travel inspiration. They include destinations as unique and incredible as Peru’s Machu Picchu, East Africa’s Serengeti National Park, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the Pyramids of Egypt. These amazing places make up our world’s heritage and often appear on the top of many travelers' “must see” lists.
We’re celebrating heritage this month at Solimar, and what better place to start than by highlighting UNESCO’s amazing collection of over 1,000 World Heritage Sites! Since 1972, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has been spotlighting the planet’s most fascinating—and sometimes most threatened—places and civilizations.
A site is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for many of the same reasons that millions of tourists choose to visit these places each year - they are incredible legacies left from our past and some of the most treasured spots on our planet. Given their popularity, responsibly managing tourism is an absolutely vital component to ensuring that they can be enjoyed by future generations. Developing tourism sustainably protects and maintains heritage sites, improves tourist experiences, and boosts local economies through generating increased opportunities from tourism.
Solimar has had the opportunity to contribute to managing tourism sustainably in and around several World Heritage sites over the years, including:
1) Panama/Costa Rica (La Amistad National Park): Solimar formalized a bi-national sustainable tourism alliance between Costa Rica and Panama to promote and further develop sustainable tourism activities in the transboundary region of Parque Internacional La Amistad. Alongside this alliance, Solimar facilitated the creation of “La Ruta Amistad”, a cultural route linking Costa Rica and Panama, and designed marketing materials to help visitors travel more sustainably. Learn more about our project here.
2) Ethiopia (Konso Cultural Landscape): Solimar created seven community tourism enterprises, which provided jobs and revenue for the communities living in the Central and Southern Rift Valley. Solimar also created a Traveler’s Philanthropy Program to encourage tourists to participate in conservation initiatives and worked alongside government institutions to improve the current tourism and conservation policy environments. Learn more about this project here.
3) Izabal, Guatemala (Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua): Solimar worked directly with local stakeholders to help position Izabal as a world-class, stay-over destination. We established the Izabal Geotourism Alliance, a Destination Management Organization (DMO) comprised of public and private sector stakeholders, and provided marketing services as an incentive to participants, which encouraged the protection of resources like the Quirigua ruins. Solimar also designed the Izabal Conservation Fund, a travel philanthropy fund to support regional conservation efforts. Learn more about this project here.
4) Jordan (Petra and Wadi Rum Protected Area): Solimar is helping to promote and increase Jordan’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination by establishing the proper institutional and regulatory framework that enables a private sector-driven approach to spur tourism growth while preserving the nation’s historic and natural treasures. Solimar is contributing to the achievement of this solution through marketing activities, improved destination management, human resource development and tourism product development. Read more about this project here.
5) Mali (Cliff of Bandiagara/Land of the Dogons): Solimar helped to diversify the economy of the Dogon people by building awareness of Dogon Country as a tourist destination and promoting its many tourism assets while enhancing the capacity of local tourism businesses to service international tourism markets. This has helped to provide the Dogon people with alternative sources of income to their traditional agricultural activities and has allowed them to further develop tourism assets and enterprises. By providing this alternative livelihood, some of the environmental pressures have been alleviated that are associated with a dominantly agrarian society. Learn more about this project here.
6) Montenegro (Durmitor National Park): Solimar worked to expand and more equitably distribute economic benefits through developing both community-based and eco-based tourism experiences with northern communities around Durmitor National Park.
7) Morocco (Medinas of Fez and Marrakech): Solimar linked the craft and tourism markets through the creation of artisan and cultural heritage routes in both Fez and Marrakech. These routes include stops at artisan workshops, increasing awareness of Moroccan culture and craft traditions and helping increase artisans' revenue by allowing them to sell directly to tourists rather than selling through a retailer or wholesaler. Solimar helped to market and promote these routes to the international travel market through online platforms, thus further increasing awareness of Morocco's cultural and artisanal heritage and enhancing both the craft and tourism sectors. Read more about this project here.
8) Portugal (Douro Valley Wine Region): In partnership with National Geographic, the Douro Valley Sustainable Tourism Initiative is promoting sustainable tourism development and facilitating collaboration between relevant business owners, local governments, interest groups, and residents and helping market the region's sustainable tourism assets. Solimar is assisting in the implementation of key Douro Valley Sustainable Tourism Initiative activities such as the establishment of a Douro Valley Geotourism Stewardship Council and the development of marketing tools and strategies that contribute to the ongoing process of promoting this unique region to the world. Read more about our project here.
9) Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park): Uganda’s national parks and protected areas, particularly these two World Heritage sites, are the country’s main tourism attractions. Solimar worked with a broad variety of stakeholders in the tourism sector to improve the tourism products in these national parks, build strong community enterprises linked to the parks and conservation activities, and invigorated the tourism sector by connecting tourism businesses to international and domestic tourism markets. Read more about our project here.
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!
With the holidays coming up, we decided to look at traditional Christmas celebrations in some of the places where we work!
Christmas in Colombia is largely structured around the Catholic calendar. The Christmas season starts on December 7th, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, widely known as "El Dia de las Velitas" or the day of candles. At dusk, tall, thin candles are placed on long pieces of wood and lit, illuminating houses, churches, and shops. The night continues with dancing, music, food, and drinks, like the famous Colombian liquor "Aquardiente".
Starting on December 16th, families gather together to pray "La Novena de Aguinaldos", a special occasion to get closer to their faith and remember the birth of Christ. This gathering continues every night until December 24th. Each evening includes food and traditional songs.
On "La Nochebuena", Colombians get the chance to indulge in traditional foods for the "Cena de Navidad" or Christmas Eve dinner. Between pork, ham, chicken, families have a wide variety of dishes to choose from. A traditional Christmas dessert is called "Natilla", made with cinnamon, milk, sugar and cloves. At midnight, there is a toast with aguardiente, rum or champagne.
For Coptic Christians in Ethiopia, Christmas, known as Ganna, is celebrated on January 7th rather than December 25th. Many people fast on Christmas Eve, January 6th, and wake up at dawn to attend mass, dressed in traditional white cotton garments called "shammas". Mass is typically accompanied by singing and candles, and is followed by a feast of traditional Ethiopian foods. The most iconic Christmas dish is a spicy stew made with meat and vegetables, served on a plate of "injera", or flat bread.
Twelve days after Christmas, the three-day celebration of Timkat, or Jesus' baptism, begins. Children walk to church services in procession, wearing crowns and robes, while adults wear "shammas". Traditional musical instruments are played during the procession, such as "sistrum", akin to a tambourine, and "makamiya", a prayer stick used to keep rhythm. It's a time of religious celebration, eating food, and celebrating with friends and family.
In the Republic of Georgia, the majority of the population is Orthodox Christian, meaning they also celebrate Christmas on January 7th. On that day, large processions, called "Alilo", make their way through the streets of cities, towns and villages, led by clergymen. Dressed in traditional garb, people congratulate each other and collect money for charity during Alilo.
Georgian Christmas trees, called Chichilaki, are carved from the branches of walnut trees and decorated with curled strands of white wood. The Georgian version of Santa Claus, know as "tovlis papa" (Grandfather Snow), is usually depicted wearing traditional Georgian fur clothes. He does not have a sleigh or reindeer, but brings children gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is full of family, friends, and food, as well as candlelit church ceremonies, hymns, and traditions.
These are just a few of the unique and dynamic Christmas traditions around the world. At Solimar, we are proud to support cultural and heritage preservation to keep such amazing traditions alive.
How do you celebrate the holidays?
Working in the tourism industry has opened our eyes to the overall diversity of times, customs, and traditions that are associated with welcoming the New Year around the world. For many in the United States, New Year’s Eve will be celebrated with friends and family over a bottle or two of bubbly, Chinese food, and some fireworks. In Greece, people will get ready for the New Year by hanging an onion on their doors (as a symbol of rebirth). To the Western Hemisphere and those who follow the Gregorian calendar this day of celebration and reflection is on January 1st. Many Eastern cultures however, typically celebrate the New Year in late January or early February (because they follow a lunisolar calendar). New Year’s is a unique holiday because it presents a dichotomy of emotion- a sober reflection of the year past alongside an optimistic celebration and hope for the year ahead.
Let us share with you some of the traditions from the places Solimar will be working in the New Year:
In October of this year Solimar started preparation to run a series of trainings for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and five regional tourism bureaus in Ethiopia. The trainings are focused on building public sector capacity to leverage sustainable tourism potential in the country.
Ethiopians follow a variation of the Alexandrian calendar and celebrate New Year’s, which they call Enkutatash, in mid-September. New Year’s Eve celebrations in Ethiopia include live music, cultural events, religious gatherings, parties and beer drinking. New Year’s Day begins with church services followed by a family meal where small gifts are given to the children.
Solimar began working in Nepal earlier this year developing and renovating an online platform that promotes trade and trekking along the Great Himalayan Trail. Through identifying and supporting a new legal entity to take over development, expansion, and maintenance of the website Solimar hopes to spur international visitors to trek in Nepal.
Nepal follows a lunar calendar and therefore celebrates New Year’s Day on the first day of the waxing moon. New Year’s EveDay fall during the Swanti Festival—a five-day festival celebrating the central role of women in the household and wishing family members good fortune. Newars observe New Year’s Day by performing Mha Puja, a ritual to purify and empower the soul. Outdoor celebrations, such as pageants, rallies, and cultural processions, take place throughout the day.
Beginning in February and extending into the New Year, Solimar will be working with USAID’s Biz+ program aiming to improve the economic climate, increase employment, and generate higher household incomes in Sri Lanka. Solimar is working with small tourism enterprises in Sri Lanka helping them develop business plans and strategies as well as improving their business capacity through a number of services.
The Sinhalese people of Sri Lanka celebrate New Year, or Aluth Avurudda, on the 13th of April, which marks the end of the harvest season. Interestingly, the Sinhalese New Year does not begin at midnight the day before, but is determined by astrological calculations. The time between the old year and the new is usually 12 hours and 48 minutes and is referred to as the Nonagathe (auspicious time). Cultural rituals including cleaning the house and lighting an oil lamp, begin once the New Year arrives and are followed by a celebration of fireworks and street parties.
From everyone at Solimar International, Happy New Year!
On January 3rd, Solimar wrapped its Tourism Planning and Implementation Course, our first of five courses scheduled under the Ethiopia Short-Term Training Program. The 14-day course was delivered at the Ethiopian Management Institute in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, to a group of 35 participants from the Ethiopian government. At the national level, there were representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as well as the newly-formed Ethiopian Tourism Organization. All of the country’s Regional Culture and Tourism Bureaus were also represented. Finally, there were participants from nearly all of the country’s national parks. The background of the participants varied considerably, with some having only started engaging in tourism activities over the past several years and others that had been in the sector for over twenty years.
Overall, participants were highly active in discussions and displayed a strong eagerness to learn more about tourism. Some indicated that they would be engaged in specific planning activities in the coming year. The others, however, still felt that they would be able to put to use a number of the tools and techniques learned during the course. As such, nearly all felt that the course was quite relevant to their work and were highly appreciative of the opportunity that had been granted to them.
Brad Weiss served as the instructor of the course and was assisted by guest lecturer, Dr. Theodros Atlabachew. The course—primarily focused on tourism planning and policy—provided participants with critical skills required for public sector management of the Ethiopian tourism industry. A special presentation was delivered by Weiss and course coordinator Mekonnen GebreEgziabher that covered the basic principles of community tourism, another topic for which the group had indicated a strong interest. The instructors demonstrated the process utilized by the USAID-funded ESTA project, and highlighted keys to success.
All participants were provided with a flash drive with 35 practical documents (policies, plans, stats, manuals, worksheet, case studies, etc.) to use when they return to their offices. To reach even more people working within the Ethiopian tourism sector, participants were encouraged to think of the course as a “train-the-trainers” approach. Each person was provided with the course slides and encouraged to share key concepts and resources with their colleagues through short-courses or presentations.
Solimar instructor Matthew Humke began our second course on Integrated Destination Management and Planning course on Monday, January 12th, which will run for two sessions through March. We are excited about the impact these courses will continue to have in building capacity among those planning, managing and marketing tourism to Ethiopia.
For more information on the available courses, please visit http://www.ethiopiasustainabletourismtraining.com.
Can you believe we’re already a month into 2015? We hope your year is off to a great start and that you are still keeping with those New Year’s Resolutions. One resolution we think you shouldn’t forget about: Travel more! To help you out, Solimar has compiled a list of the top 10 places we think should be on your bucket list for 2015. Check out these great sustainable travel options for ideas to inspire your next trip.
From gorgeous Buddhist temples to snaking, serene rivers, Myanmar has much to offer the adventure traveler. The rich cultural diversity of this “untouched” country makes it a must-visit for those looking for a unique Southeast Asian escape.
2. Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal
Nepal is on the bucket list for many adventure travelers because of the legendary Himalayas, but they tend to visit the same well-trodden destinations. The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) is a network of trails that span across the mountain range. Trekkers enjoy spectacular views on these challenging trails, while also meeting and interacting with Nepali locals. In late 2014, Solimar started work with the GHT to ensure effective online promotion of trekking in Nepal. A must for the truly adventurous!
Home to the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is the adventure traveler’s dream. Don’t be alarmed if you spot the king of the jungle during your visit – the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa.
The Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina are the epitome of beauty and relaxation. Visitors are sure to enjoy the islands’ picturesque, sandy beaches and waterfalls. Make sure to explore the plethora of colorful marine life that live there! Solimar is currently working with National Geographic to create a strategic business plan and marketing strategy to provide a long-term geotourism solution to Colombia.
5. The Mississippi River
Looking for a unique adventure in the heart of North America? Try a Mississippi river tour! The largest river system in the US, the Mississippi is an excellent option for exploring the geographic, ecological, and cultural diversity the US has to offer. Solimar’s Mississippi River Geotourism Project is working to create a destination marketing and branding strategy to provide the Mississippi River area with attractions to support geotourism in the area.
No surprise here – Namibia has been and will continue to be one of our favorite sustainable travel destinations! The gorgeous sunsets over desert and coastal landscapes, big game encounters, and rich culture is truly unparalleled.
Nicaragua is 2015’s Central America travel hotspot. Boasting a rich tapestry cultural history (home to one of the oldest cities in the Western Hemisphere) and amazing natural wonders like Pacific Coast beaches and volcanoes, Nicaragua has something for everyone. Nicaragua is also home to Solimar’s newest ecolodge development project.
Ethiopia is an excellent place to see the crossroads of African and Middle-Eastern cultures. For the history and culture lover, Ethiopia is sure to not disappoint. But don’t forget the wildlife! Ethiopia is also a perfect spot for bird-watchers and animal lovers.
While most people know Bethlehem as the historic birthplace of Christ, this Palestinian city has so much more to offer. Along with the Church of the Nativity, travelers must also visit the ‘Land of Olives and Vines’, a hiking trail through ancient Roman terraces, and the desert Monastery of Ma Saba: just for a glimpse of the area’s long and rich cultural history. Solimar is currently working to create a master plan and strategic marketing plan for the Bethlehem governorate to make this location a competitive sustainable tourism destination.
Get up close and personal with a rhino, lion, or giraffe in Malawi at one of its numerous wildlife reserves. The friendly, charming people and beautiful, varied landscapes are wonderful attractions for any traveler.
For more information on our favorite destinations, please visit our website and sign up for our newsletter.
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
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!
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2015 was an exciting year for Solimar International! The past twelve months have taken us around the globe--from tourism strategizing in Tanzania, marketing the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal, training Ethiopian officials, to launching a new ecolodge in Nicaragua. Check out our recap of some of the amazing projects that kept us busy this past year.
Campeche, Mexico: In July 2015 we began a partnership with the SAVE Travel Alliance Team and Fundación Avanza to create a SAVE Center in Campeche, Mexico. This program will promote Scientific, Academic, Volunteer, and Educational tourism experiences in the Campeche region while enacting economic and cultural benefits for local organizations and businesses for years to come. The SAVE Center will provide a way for travelers to directly experience Campeche’s rich heritage and biodiversity and help spread the word on what the destination has to offer to international visitors. The project will run through April 2016 to increase the number of SAVE tourism attractions as well as Campeche’s ability to sustain its SAVE projects over time.
Tanzania: In early 2015, Solimar teamed up with Dalberg Global Development Advisors and the Government of Tanzania to develop a conservation-friendly tourism strategy for Southern Tanzania. The plan included a universal blueprint for tourism development in this vast, lesser-visited region of the country; as well as a focus on four key tourism anchors for the area, including Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest reserves in the world and the Ruaha National Park, which boasts the largest density of lions in Africa. The plan took approximately 6-months to complete, including extensive stakeholders consultation, and was approved by the government in July 2015. The strategy is now a cornerstone for a $60 million World Bank loan to develop tourism in the region.
Armenia:In September 2015, Solimar built on its collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute through the launch of a 4-year cultural heritage tourism program in Armenia. The goal of the program is to enhance the cultural heritage tourism experience in the country, especially outside of the capital, to increase awareness about the destination and improve the skills of local people to benefit from tourism and sustain their cultural heritage. Armenia is not well known in the international market, and if it is, the focus tends to be on the long Christian history of the country. Solimar will be working with the Smithsonian and local partners in 2016 to tell the more diverse story of the country, including its food, wine, traditions, crafts and history.
Geotourism Program: 2015 was a busy year for our Geotourism Program! In January, we launched our largest National Geographic partnership program ever to create a Geotourism Stewardship Council and Interactive MapGuide covering the Mississippi River corridor. In June, we completed and handed over the National Geographic co-branded interactive geotourism mapguide to the World Bank / IFC-led Geotourism Stewardship Council of Eastern Sri Lanka. In September, we launched a Geotourism project to create a Geotourism Stewardship Council and Interactive MapGuide for the Tequila region of Mexico. More to come and even more exciting destinations in 2016!
Bhutan: Solimar has partnered with the Royal Government of Bhutan to help improve its in-country growth and source economic opportunities for Bhutan’s poorest communities - while remaining culturally aware. Our work to date has included suggesting tourism and development improvements to help the country preserve its cultural and natural resources. Through next year we will continue to assist the government with recommendations for modifying its tourism policy, pinpointing the tourism potential in Bhutan’s traditional villages, and boosting sales in local villages by providing opportunities for travelers to directly connect with Bhutan’s goods and communities.
Ethiopia: Solimar teamed up with The George Washington University to contribute to the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project. To assist the country realize its tourism potential, we developed and conducted a series of five training sessions for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and a handful of regional tourism bureaus. Our short-term trainings centered around five major areas: an overview of the tourism sector and how Ethiopia compared to competing nations, destination and site development, tourism marketing and branding, tourism planning and implementation, and management and technical skills, ensuring that the tourism officials will thrive in the industry. Our results were spectacular: we successfully trained 198 government officials in Ethiopia that will in turn benefit the entire Ethiopian tourism industry!
Myanmar: In January 2015 we launched a 3 year North-American Marketing Representation contract with the Myanmar Tourism Federation (MTF). In April Solimar opened its doors in Washington, DC as the brand new MTF headquarters in the US/Canada! Now with an optimized website launching this month, we are excited to promote Myanmar to North American travel trade and assist the country in developing important trade partnerships to bolster its tourism economy.
Nepal: Along with Adam Smith International, we spent 2015 working on a project for the Nepal Market Development Program, ensuring the effective online promotion of trekking in Nepal. Our project focused on supporting the marketing and promotion of destinations lesser-known by international travelers, using the framework of the Great Himalaya Trail that stretches from one end of the Nepali Himalayas to the other. A vast number of locals depend on tourism to survive, and we believed that showcasing hidden, less physically intense trekking during the off-season would help create a consistent income for Nepal’s rural poor. Our marketing work included organizing a trip of Instagram influencers, creating a short promotional video, and co-hosting AdventureWeek.
Jamaica: In August, we partnered with Jamaica Tourism Board (JTB), the Jamaica Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) to create a brand identity and marketing strategy for the Jamaica’s community-based tourism businesses. We are focusing on promoting rural enterprises across the island comprised of farmers, craft producers, and others who have organized themselves to carry out business activities. We have successfully created a national brand for community tourism with enthusiastic feedback from our partners and clients as well as a national strategy and action plan for community tourism, and we hope our project brings awareness to Jamaica as a community tourism destination.
Pacaya Lodge, Nicaragua: Pacaya Lodge and Spa is an ecolodge at Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua, and we have been working hard to prepare branding and marketing support for its upcoming opening. The lodge is located near villages known for their artwork, and we’ve developed the idea of showcasing local artisan goods in the lodge and collaborating with surrounding communities to implement craft tours and demonstrations to visitors. To date, our achievements include the development of a sales and marketing strategy, the creation of an engaging branding strategy, the management of a full time onsite volunteer, and the training of sales and marketing staff members.
Verde Valley, Arizona: Our project with the National Geographic Society Maps Division has been in action since November 2014, and by January 2016 it will be complete. We have helped a handful of local suppliers increase the value and importance of the Verde River in Arizona as an essential economic asset. To preserve this valuable but threatened natural resource, we are implementing a sustainable destination program in the Verde Valley region. Tourism is one of Arizona’s largest industries, and it is vital that we aid in its continued growth. To date we have managed an abundance of tasks, including content creation and design for a new destination website! We hope to raise awareness of and celebrate the Verde River while engage the Verde Valley community in conservation and sustainable tourism development efforts.