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.
It is estimated that 84% of leisure travelers use the Internet for planning their trips. Knowing this, a creative and effective online tourism marketing strategy is essential for every tourism destination.
The US Gulf Coast States (USGCS), more popularly known as the "Southern Crescent," comprising of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida has actively sought to enhance its online tourism presence and to interconnect its travel experiences across states. The results have proved promising: At the conclusion of Solimar's year-long involvement with the USGCS Geotourism Program, the region has succeeded in creating a regional website of around 1,800 unique and authentic local sites, attractions and businesses that has attracted over 35,000 unique visitors to its pages to date. The program has also built a Facebook community of over 3,000 followers.
The USGCS Geotourism Program, in partnership with National Geographic, seeks to promote tourism that sustains and enhances the natural, cultural and historic attributes of the four Gulf States and that benefits local communities. The goal is to highlight what’s unique about a place through the voices and stories of the people that live there.
The challenge for Solimar was to facilitate collaboration among industry stakeholders including the government, local businesses, public lands and residents to develop marketing tools that promote the region as a world-class tourism destination.
Solimar's strategy included the establishment of a Geotourism Stewardship Council composed of representatives from the four state tourism offices as well as private and public sectors stakeholders from the region. The Council’s role was to oversee and implement the Geotourism Program in the region with the vision to help promote the lesser-known jewels of the states. Upon the creation of the Stewardship Council, Solimar worked with National Geographic and local partners to promote the USGCS region.
The Geotourism team used a tested methodology to gather content and stories from local people to create an online Geotourism website, highlighting the lesser-known attractions of the region through the voices of the people that live there. The website and its accompanying mobile app and print MapGuide are high quality tools, co-branded with National Geographic, to help travelers explore the region.
Once the Geotourism website, apps and print maps were created, Solimar worked with our local partners to implement two social media campaigns to promote the Geotourism website. A Geotourism Program Facebook page and related social media channels were established and used to engage travelers with the content and stories of the region.
Through these campaigns, Solimar helped the Geotourism Program generate over 35,000 unique visitors to its website, build a community of over 3,000 Facebook followers and generate over 1.8 million media impressions using the content from the website.
Solimar is proud to have been a part of the USGCS Geotourism team. Ultimately, this campaign shed light on the importance of using smart online tourism marketing strategies. Developing useful marketing tools, targeting the right campaigns and involving locals in telling their stories are all part of what made the program a success.
If you would like to learn more about tourism marketing strategies for your own company or destination's or learn more about the Geotourism Program in collaboration with National Geographic, ask an expert.
In 2010, Solimar partnered with National Geographic, USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank and other key stakeholders to improve market access for small and medium sized tourism businesses in Bocas del Toro, Panama and Roatán, Honduras. The economies of Bocas del Toro and Roatán rely heavily on tourism and fishing, the growth of which jeopardizes their respective natural beauty and biodiversity.
In response to this impending problem, Solimar and its partners rolled out the Go Blue Central America (GBCA) project with its core product being a National Geographic co-branded website. The interactive website creates a platform for local communities to tell their stories and showcase their unique and sustainable attractions, activities, products and experiences. In doing so, the GBCA program drives increased visitation to the region and attracts visitors most likely to enjoy and care about the cultural and natural experiences of the areas. To be featured through GBCA, a business must meet certain sustainability criteria; this incentivizes businesses to adopt sustainable practices.
GBCA proved to be successful. Solimar documented a $1.3 million increase in sales of GBCA businesses, and established a Geotourism Stewardship Council working closely with the Coral Reef Alliance to direct and sustain the program over the long term. Social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, were also pushed forward.
Solimar's contract ended in 2013. It is always a challenge for development projects to sustain momentum and support after the end of the contract. A year later, we are happy to report that GBCA continues to flourish, in many ways due to the tireless efforts of Manlio Martinez, a consultant and coordinator for the local Geotourism Council in Roatán. Mr. Martinez has successfully rallied stakeholders in Roatán to develop new attractions & product nominations for the website, and to create and publish valuable content to GBCA's Facebook page. At the end of Solimar's contract, the Facebook page had approximately 200 likes; the page now has 556 likes. And while Facebook likes are not the end goal of our efforts, they are an important intermediary step in building awareness around the two regions' sustainable tourism products and initiatives.
We had the pleasure to chat with Mr. Martinez the other day and hear his story. Prior to working with GBCA, Mr. Martinez was writing his own travel and tourism blog in Honduras. He was interested in writing a piece on the conservation efforts of a local dive site—Cordelia Banks—which put him in contact with the Coral Reef Alliance. Members of the Coral Reef Alliance quickly realized that Mr. Martinez would be a perfect fit for the GBCA. Mr. Martinez is a renaissance man of sorts—he's a travel blogger, photographer, loves to make videos, and is dabbling in graphic design.
Mr. Martinez revealed that his efforts generating content for the GBCA blog and Facebook have proven worthwhile. Facebook, Mr. Martinez explained, is the most used social media channel in Honduras and therefore receives the majority of his focus and efforts. GBCA's work is gaining exposure and he personally notices the word being spread; "Go Blue is being revived", Mr. Martinez said. At the end of the day, Mr. Martinez is nothing short of an inspiration. A man truly dedicated to his work—"This is not a job for me", he explains, "I am doing what I love".
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Solimar, in conjunction with the National Geographic Society Maps Division, recently wrapped up work in the Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina. The Geotourism program focused on improving market access for small and medium sized tourism businesses on the islands by sharing and promoting the stories of local people and the unique attractions of the islands.
Even though the project is over, we’ve reached a new milestone!
We are pleased to announce the launch of a brand new destination video, featuring local voices from San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina that tell the stories of their islands.
The video, created by project partner Gregg Bleakney gives a breathtaking overview of the region, and most importantly, introduces the viewer to the region from a local perspective- an aspect that makes it unique among most destination videos.
This destination video reflects the very important work the Geotourism program implemented in the Colombian archipelago, prioritizing and working with local communities, and making them the focus of sustainable tourism development in the region.
The archipelago lies in the heart of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, one of the world’s largest biosphere reserves. Given this location, there are myriad activities and attractions for tourists; yet due to environmental problems, high population density, and increasing poverty, the region has struggled in recent years. As tourism was identified as a key component to the stimulation and revival of the local economy, our challenge was to enhance the archipelago’s tourism offerings in a sustainable manner, incorporating preservation of local environments, cultures, traditions and people by improving market access for local businesses and tourism stakeholders to the tourism sector.
To this end, the video does a fantastic job of highlighting the people and places that make the archipelago and its environment so special. By combining the songs and voices of the people with beautiful, iconic imagery, the viewer gets a great sense of what the island has to offer.
SOLIMAR AND THE GEOTOURISM PROJECT
Solimar’s main role in this project was contributing to the creation of a National Geographic cobranded Geotourism website that would act as a platform for local businesses and vendors to tell their stories and select key messages, attractions, and experiences in the region to convey to potential visitors. The Geotourism website not only increased the number of visitors to the region, it also attracted the type of visitors most likely to enjoy the cultural and natural experiences of the archipelago.
After building the website, Solimar and its partners came up with a marketing strategy and targeted key travel markets that would be interested in the region. Aside from social media and online campaigns, a key component of this marketing strategy is this video, which has just been finished up and can be viewed right here:
THE DESTINATION VIDEO
As we have seen, videos have become more and more important to destination marketing campaigns and brand recognition. A 2013 study by Google reveals videos influence the choice of next travel destination of 63% of leisure travelers and 66% of business travelers. See the graphic below on how the travel funnel works, and the significant role videos play in the initial steps of the process.
The video tells the unique story of the locals and what they love most about their region through a combination of stunning visuals and beautiful audio. It stays in line with the theme of the campaign, conservation and preservation, while effectively marketing the magnificence of the location and its attractions to potential visitors, like the beaches, scuba diving, food, and music. It successfully conveys the authentic sense of place of the region and stands out from the advertisements you see everyday.
We’re convinced to go, how about you?
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Being flexible and current are two important characteristics to a successful online marketing campaign. The social media landscape is constantly evolving—whether it is the changing of an algorithm, a new feature, new trend, or even the inception of an entirely new social media platform. To run a successful online marketing campaign you must be knowledgeable of these alterations and have the ability to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
Adapting to Changing Rules
To understand what a change in “social rules” looks like and how it could be a game-changer in your online marketing campaign, take a look at this recent example. Just a week ago Facebook instituted a change which disallowed requiring someone to “like” your page before entering your contest, promotion or giveaway. This feature, coined “like-gate”, has been a significant factor in online marketing campaigns. In many cases, the main purpose of offering a contest or giveaway is to enhance a company’s social media presence.
In fact, many online marketing campaigns use “likes” as a metric for success. Does your contest now serve a purpose if it isn’t generating “likes”? If not, how can you modify your strategy to accommodate for this?
These are crucial questions in ensuring your online marketing campaign meets its objectives.
In 2013, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi partnered with National Geographic and Solimar to promote Geotourism development and contribute to the region’s competitiveness as a tourism destination. Solimar pushed forward an online marketing campaign focusing on the Geotourism MapGuide, which promoted the US Gulf Coast States (USGCS) through an online interactive map, mobile application, and print map. USGCS’s first marketing campaign was called “Hidden Treasures” and was designed to demonstrate the MapGuide’s utility as a resource for lesser-known attractions in the region. The mechanism behind this campaign was a giveaway in which participants could win a trip to one of three weekend getaways in Vicksburg, MS; Lake Charles, LA; or Miramar Beach, FL.
In early 2014, radical shifts in the brand page design and user feed algorithm on Facebook forced a shift in how the platform could be used for marketing and engagement. Facebook applications, on which the “Hidden Treasures” campaign was largely built, were sidelined. This meant that apps were no longer a central component in a page’s interaction with a user. As a result, driving traffic to the application was more difficult, entries into the contest were low, and the campaign did not achieve its intended result. This algorithmic change was largely focused to drive advertisers to pay for sponsored or boosted content. To adjust for this, Solimar rolled out a second campaign, “Summer in the South” which was adapted to better thrive in this environment by utilizing Facebook’s pay-for-play services. The adjustment proved successful, driving over 12,000 visits to the USGCS Geotourism website—nearly a third of the website’s 5 month total traffic in two weeks’ time.
Integrating New Platforms
In other instances, an entirely new social media platform may start trending. In 2012, while working on the North American Destination Marketing Campaign (NADM) for Namibia, Pinterest emerged onto the social media scene. Solimar’s online marketing team recognized the captive audience that Pinterest was garnering, joined the network, and adapted their content calendar accordingly. Solimar had to quickly learn the ways people used the platform and then generate content aligned with what was trending. Specific content focusing on recipes and weddings, for example a board for “Weddings in Namibia”, were created. By staying current and on top of trends, a completely new audience was reached.
These are just a few examples of how Solimar keeps a close eye on changes in “social rules” and trends when running online destination and tourism marketing campaigns. Being able to quickly shift to enhance clients’ performance is key to success. To achieve this, a campaign needs to be flexible. Flexibility may be reached through diversification, as seen in the USGCS example. If the USGCS online marketing campaign solely relied on the “Hidden Treasures” campaign, the entire project would have failed. Being current is also extremely important. The NADM’s campaign would not have been as successful had it not been adapted to the social environment and utilize Pinterest. In an environment that is constantly changing, effectively running an online marketing campaign that is both flexible and current will help ensure that your campaign reaches its objectives.
For more information on inbound marketing for the travel and tourism industry, download our free E-book.
One of the greatest, and perhaps least recognized aspects of the sustainable tourism industry is the potential for economic growth and peace building in post conflict areas of the world. Solimar has recently worked in several regions that have seen conflict, such as Sri Lanka, Colombia, Jordan, and Palestine. Working in these areas proved that not only does sustainable tourism have the incredible ability to preserve natural and cultural resources, it can play a key role in the revival of economies and communities shattered by conflict.
THE STATE OF TOURISM IN POST CONFLICT AREAS
Some of the major problems faced by post conflict destinations are security based. The first hurdle in the revival of the tourism industry is making sure the destination is absolutely safe for visitors and pushing that message consistently across all channels of communication.
Another issue that arises in regard to security is rebuilding the destination's image, as these locations are often perceived as degraded during times of conflict and violence. It's important to highlight that a destination's cultural and natural heritage is alive and well by sharing high quality content about the destination, such as images, videos and copy.
The second set of issues facing post conflict destinations relates to infrastructure and human capital. Many times, after a long-lasting conflict like the civil war in Sri Lanka, many forms of infrastructure and many of the industries that service tourists are in poor condition, making it difficult for them to visit in a number of ways. For example, in some areas, roads may have become impassable; buildings may be dilapidated and need to be rebuilt. In order to sustain a tourism industry, these areas need rebuilding and basic resources restructured in order to revive their destination’s appeal and functionality.
When setting goals for these destinations, Solimar's approach tends to mirror that of a brand new, undiscovered destination, even if they had a tourism industry before the conflict. Through clear and coordinated communication between all stakeholders, the first phase of these strategies focuses on building the structures necessary to sustain the tourism industry.
A great way to kick start the tourism presence in these areas is to focus on regions that have not been affected by the conflict. Solimar's approach oftentimes is to promote off the beaten path, adventurous destinations and target tourists who are interested in those types of places. In each destination this might look different, but strategic marketing and promotion allows for such burgeoning markets to flourish.
BENEFITS & OUTCOMES
First and foremost, tourism in these countries means an influential source of capital. It provides economic opportunity through employment, ownership of businesses, and an increased market size. It also perpetuates personal and community empowerment by offering renewed opportunities for self-sustaining businesses and economies.
Tourism can also play a key role in reconciliation. It often unites communities that may have been broken or displaced during conflict around common interests and goals, fostering a sense of peace and cooperation that may not otherwise occur. In some cases, tourism can contribute to preventing the revival of a conflict in destinations with increasingly well-established tourism industries, as it contributes to a virtuous cycle of development and economic growth that would be threatened by the renewal of violence.
By rebuilding and strengthening culture, economy, and infrastructure, the tourism industry provides post conflict regions a chance to make a statement about their future to the world. These communities are able to showcase their homes as more than just what people see on TV news.
To read more about Solimar's projects in post-conflict areas, please visit our website: http://solimarinternational.com/our-work/projects
What is a Public Private Partnership and Why Is It Important?
In sustainable tourism development projects, there are inherently multiple goals in which an array of parties maintains interest. From tour operators to local governments and communities, these stakeholders all have expected outcomes for tourism development. In order to properly represent these interests and create mutually beneficial outcomes, public–private partnerships are essential to a great tourism strategy. The most important piece of this puzzle is maintaining strong relationships and a clear understanding of divergent yet symbiotic objectives.
Solimar maintains strong relationships with a wide range of actors in the tourism sector, which is vital to the negotiation of these partnerships. These partnerships leverage financial and technical expertise and promotional benefits from private and government partners in exchange for improvement in stakeholder relations, marketing, and improved product and service delivery. Increased sales revenue and jobs, improved visitor experiences, alternative incomes for local communities, decreased levels of conservation threats in areas of high biodiversity, diversified production and increased production for small farms, and overall improvement of sustainability of destinations have all been marked results of these arrangements.
Public–Private Partnerships in Solimar's Geotourism Programs
Solimar's Geotourism programs, in association with the National Geographic Society (NGS), are some of the most focused on public private partnerships. At the onset of each program, a destination Geotourism Stewardship Council is organized, made up of a variety of stakeholders, including communities, non profits, businesses, and governments representing the interests of the natural, cultural, scenic, and historic features of the destination. This group then works with Solimar and NGS to develop the regional tourism strategy, defining the vision, goals, timeline, and objectives of the project. The Stewardship Council also plays a key role in implementing the strategy by meeting regularly to generate local nominations, review the information and materials created, and utilize the products established to sustain and promote the destination.
Public–Private Partnerships in Conservation
Another area of tourism that benefits from strategic public–private partnerships is conservation. In areas of high and rare biodiversity, Solimar builds partnerships between a number of public and private stakeholders, including protected area authorities, government bodies, conservation NGOs, the local tourism private sector, and communities living around the area. Generally categorized as Protected Area Alliances, these groups, similar to the Geotourism Stewardship Councils, play a key role in the development of the tourism strategy as well as its implementation. The alliances continue after the initial implementation of the program, allowing the community to continue supporting and sustaining the protected area. Through these partnerships, multiple goals and interests can be achieved, such as increased protection for the environment, increased revenue for the tourism sector, and increased economic opportunities for the local governments and communities.
Public–private partnerships are essential to sustainable tourism development, as they allow stakeholders across the globe to participate in the development of tourism strategy, communicate and achieve their goals and interests, and successfully implement tourism programs, all while collaborating to achieve a common goal.
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.
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.