Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Monday, 10 September 2012 00:00

Namibia Online Marketing Campaign Reaches 6 Million People

Written by David Brown

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 assetsFour 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.
Published in General
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 00:00

The Intersection of Politics and International Development

Written by Jennifer Park

On September 10, Devex published an article on the 2012 U.S. presidential candidates’ positions on foreign assistance. In this day and age, although the U.S. allocates far less than most developed countries in terms of percentage of GDP, foreign assistance is unlikely to not be part of any administration’s budget. We live in a complex, globalized world, and our successes, failures, threats, and opportunities cannot be unlinked from those of all other nations.

The article, therefore, focuses instead on the nuances between the “ways and means” in which each candidate would implement foreign assistance. The Republican platform proposes implementing more foreign assistance through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) as opposed to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Democratic platform intends to increase U.S. international affairs spending, while the Republicans propose to rein it in, contending that lower taxes will allow Americans to give to charities and private donors of their choice. Democrats propose supporting the agricultural development of host countries to accomplish food security; Republicans support consolidating efforts, which are currently shared between USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, into one agency. Mr. Romney stressed that the U.S. economy, not global climate change, would drive his agenda, whereas President Obama continues to voice his support for climate change mitigation and investment in clean energy technology.

What does this mean for Solimar?

The majority of our funding comes from the United States government, through contracts and subcontracts with USAID and MCC. For USAID Uganda, we are utilizing tourism as a tool for biodiversity conservation and community development. For MCC Morocco, we are bringing local artisans into the tourism value chain, showcasing traditional culture and generating income. For USAID Bolivia, we are assisting a rural municipality and its businesses improve their environmental sustainability.

It is extremely unlikely any administration would completely eliminate foreign assistance, although the “ways and means” could change. The current administration’s focus on global health, food security, and climate change could be diminished, or the agencies through which these efforts are carried out could shift.

As a consulting company that focuses on sustainable tourism, a multifaceted subject, Solimar’s work contributes to numerous aspects of development: environmental conservation, cultural preservation, more inclusive community development, alternative livelihoods and income generation, local capacity building and education, access to finance, national competitiveness; the list goes on and on. Sustainable tourism contributes to the current administration’s three focal areas; for example, by addressing local health efforts through improved water and waste management, through providing an alternative livelihood for fisher people whose stock has been depleted by overfishing, and even improving the ability for people to put food on their tables. In the broadest terms, sustainable tourism helps generate GDP for a country’s citizens, which is necessary to address health, food security, climate change, or any other concerns.

As a small business, Solimar remains nimble enough to respond to political changes. We have enjoyed working with USAID and MCC and hope to continue to do so. Yet we are eager to explore alternative financing mechanisms and methodologies for assisting the world’s citizens, as both President Obama and Mr. Romney suggest. Solimar is confident that tourism will continue to demonstrate its success as a mechanism for sustainable international development, and that no matter the funding mechanism or politics, we will continue to help affect that positive change.

Published in General
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00

How Tourism, Conservation, and Local Economies Can Work Together

Written by Simon Jones

I’m not a biologist, but my basic understanding of an ecosystem is an interconnected system of organisms that rely on one another to maintain their existence as they continuously transfer energy from one organism to another. It's nature's way of sustaining life. 

But what does this have to do with tourism? Aside from our focus on developing tourism in a way that protects and promotes the delicate ecosystems within a destination, there is also an interesting comparison between an ecosystem and all the moving parts of a destination. We believe that tourism, conservation and local economies can be and should be approached in a similar holistic, ecosystem way. Rather than focus on only one aspect of a destination, we need to look at the entire ecosystem - how tourism, conservation and local economies interact, what needs they have, and how they can support one another to benefit the entire destination. 

Just as energy and nutrients drive the biological ecosystem, money and experiences drive the destination ecosystem. Money helps fund peoples desire to travel, and money is transferred from a visitor to a tourism business in exchange for a unique travel experience. Conservation areas and local economies receive money from travelers and travel businesses (gate fees, hotel stays, guided tours, etc.) and use it to sustain their conservation activities and livelihood. This, in turn, helps protect and enhance the destination so that travelers continue to be inspired to travel to it, maintaining the flow of money to support the destination.  

Just like the biological ecosystem after which it is modeled, the destination ecosystem is a delicately balanced system relying on each component to work together to sustain the destination. If done well, tourism, conservation and local economies can sustain themselves; but when done poorly, the system collapses. Biologists realized this long ago and take an ecosystem approach to the areas they study and manage. However, for a destination, such an approach is often lacking, which results in damage to the destination as well as the organizations and people within them.

For example, if park managers decided that they wanted more antelope in their park and supported the growth of the population without looking at the entire ecosystem, they would soon find that their large antelope population had eaten all the grass, and the ecosystem would deteriorate. The same is true for a destination, if the focus is purely on one aspect of a destination like growing the local economy, attracting as many visitors as possible, or conserving the destination, without consideration for anything else, the system will crash and the destination will suffer. Rather than looking at a tourism business or a park or the communities around it in isolation, an integrated approach to destinations and the tourism, conservation and local economic activities within them is vital for long-term sustainability.

Integrated planning, implementation, and monitoring of activities within a destination helps ensure that the balance between all the key players is maintained and that each one can leverage the other for its own benefit and the benefit of the destination. It is only when this integrated ecosystem works together in balance that a destination truly thrives.

For examples of how this kind of approach was used in our work in Uganda, download our case studies on destination development and community tourism enterprise development.

Published in General
Monday, 14 July 2014 15:46

7 Components of a Great Integrated Marketing Program

Written by Maria Fernanda

What is Integrated marketing & why does it matter?


Integrated Marketing is a strategy that reinforces your company’s ultimate message and is consistent across all communication platforms. It is important because consumers are present online as well as offline. In the tourism industry, in order to be competitive, you need to be where the traveler is and create relevant content that travelers trust. Unifying all channels of communication is key to having an effective marketing plan. Solimar International’s approach to integrated marketing (or inbound marketing) does exactly this, and much more!






Here are 7 key components of a great marketing program:


+ Brand Analysis – Prior to implementing a campaign, Solimar will provide you with a brand analysis containing actionable recommendations to improve your look and focus your message. Our in-house design team can also help you update or refresh your current brand and logo.



+ Marketing Strategy – After a thorough analysis, an integrated marketing strategy is developed and will serve as a roadmap for the implementation of the integrated marketing program, which is tailored to the needs of a specific consumer. The strategy will integrate current and targeted use of all channels: social media, search engine optimization, blogging, content, public relations and trade relations.


+ Website and Content Development - Once a consumer finds your website, the goal is to make it so captivating that they want to stay on the site, engage in your content and share it with others. Developing a contant calendar and assigning content generation resposibilities will help you decide the type of content to post, where you will post it and how frequently. We know your day is already full, so Solimar helps engage your team, so that everyone participates in the content generation process.


+ Social Media Strategy and Blogging – Social media gives you a place to talk to your consumers before they travel, while they're on their trip and after they have returned. Social media strategy encompasses social networks, blogs, micro-blogging sites and third party sites. Solimar will help you determine the best channels to use for your target markets, and what content to post.





+ Creative Campaigns - With all pieces of your marketing foundation in place, Solimar will implement a series of creative campaigns and sweepstakes designed to draw visitors to both your site and social media platforms while synchronizing your marketing message and brand value for maximum effectiveness.


+ PR/Media Outreach Strategy - Solimar will help you employ simple but effective monitoring tools and indicators to allow you to identify influencers in your market. Then you can "listen" to the conversations taking place online, join ongoing conversations, build trust, and demonstrate expertise. Solimar will also help you develop a database of contacts and design effective outreach campaigns to reach local and international media, relevant bloggers, guidebooks and sales intermediaries.


+ Trade Distribution Strategy - If you work with business to business sales, Solimar will help you take your relationships online by developing a dynamic database that tracks all communication with trade partners; from the initial email/call, to in-person meetings at trade shows, and shares on social media sites by each partner.


A great example of an Integrated Marketing project that Solimar has implemented is the Namibia Online Campaign. The goal of this campaign was to ensure the necessary tools and capacity to combine online marketing activities with their current overall marketing strategy.


Solimar was able to increase quantity and quality of Namibian tourism information, created a globally integrated virtual marketing team to implement online cohesiveness, as well as significantly increased worldwide knowledge of Namibia as a tourist destination. Click on the picture below to check out the Namibia online website:


Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 10.44.36 AM.jpg



Also, click on the image below to see Namibia’s Facebook page:


Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 4.34.59 PM.png



Solimar’s integrated marketing program strategically focuses on attracting the traveler consumer and ensures that all messaging and communication strategies are unified across all channels. Solimar believes that marketing is about coordinated marketing strategies and tactics that earn people's interest, instead of trying to buy it. For more information, contact us and read more on What we do. Also, click on the images below for more tips on inbound marketing and website design!



Published in General
Thursday, 11 September 2014 14:44

Developing a Successful Integrated Marketing Plan for Namibia

Written by Liz Heimann
Namibia Integrated Development
Photo: Gunther Wegner Source: Flickr

One of the most comprehensive services that Solimar International offers is our Integrated Marketing Program. The model entails a tailored, uniform marketing strategy across all platforms that highlights and meets the goals of a certain destination or business. We recently saw great success using this approach in our Namibia North American Destination Marketing (NADM) project, in which Solimar was asked to raise awareness of Namibia as a prime African tourism destination for North American travelers. The success of the NADM integrated marketing program led to an increase in North American arrivals and double the number of travel trade selling Namibia. Natasha Martin, the project’s leader, gives a more in-depth analysis of the strategy’s impact.

What were the reasons for selecting an integrated marketing program method in Namibia?

We knew we needed to match the changing landscape of online travel marketing with whatever solution we proposed. And we had a limited budget, so using non-traditional marketing helped us stretch the budget further. As you know, it’s easier to target whom your messages reaches online because the tracking is so much better.

What were the first components you identified for launching the program?

We started in late 2011, so we identified a blog, Facebook, Twitter. But as the campaign progressed things changed. And we had to bring in Pinterest and Instagram. These were especially good for reaching niche markets.

Namibia Leopard
Photo: Mazzali Source: Flickr

What were the biggest challenges you faced in developing the strategy and how were they overcome?

The biggest challenge was probablytime management, you can spend forever digging deeper and deeper into social media communities, having one on one conversations, etc., but you can lose track of priorities. Having a content calendar really helped us to manage time and thematic posting, and ensure consistency.

As you’re wrapping up the project, in what ways do you feel the integrated marketing strategy has been effective?

It has increased awareness of Namibia, it has shared the key messages of the country - so that it’s not just "a country in Africa" but "an adventure destination" and hopefully more people can associate with its assets. I really feel that before we started the project there was much less awareness about Namibia, and now its on the adventure travel map. We appealed to a wide range of travelers from culinary tourists, adventure travelers and families as well.

Looking back on the program, what would you say were the keys to success with the Namibia campaign?

Flexibility, and the ability to make changes to the program (for example, when Facebook apps became redundant, we stopped making them).

What are the advantages of using an integrated marketing program strategy?

A multi-pronged approach is always better; otherwise you put all your eggs in one basket so to speak.

Through this approach, Solimar was able to expand existing and create new itineraries centered on a community-based tourism strategy, significantly increase the number of North American tourists traveling to Namibia, as well as double the number of North American tour operators offering trips to Namibia, speaking to the value of a practical and effective Integrated Marketing Program.

To learn more about integrated marketing programs in the tourism industry, download our free eBook:

Inbound Marketing eBook

For more information on our services, visit our website.

Published in General
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 14:40

Wrapping Up The Namibia North American Destination Marketing Program

Written by Liz Heimann
Namibia North 1
Photo: Frank Vassen, Source: Flickr

After four amazing, rewarding years, Solimar wraps up its work in Namibia.

Last week, the 4-year North American Destination Marketing (NADM) Campaign came to an end. The project was managed by Cardno and implemented with four other companies, including Solimar.

In 2010, when the campaign began, traditional source markets for Namibia, specifically European tourism, were lagging due to economic recession and market saturation. The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), with support from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), decided to aggressively pursue the North American tourism market to boost their visitor numbers, and contracted Cardno, who then put together the NADM team to create a comprehensive marketing program. Separately, Solimar was contracted to develop an integrated online marketing campaign.

Within the NADM campaign, Solimar was responsible for the online tools component. Our role was to create educational and sales tools, trade campaigns and then market these to North American travel trade. Ultimately, our goal was to help North American operators sell more Namibia. We found that agents and operators knew and loved Namibia, but were facing a challenge: their clients were not asking for it. We began to develop tools that would help them create demand among their client base: campaigns that helped them engage with their communities about Namibia, as well as incentives to encourage them to sell more of our destination.

Over the course of four years, our team developed four targeted campaigns, which had trade and consumer components. These campaigns were fueled by interactive contests, which created a buzz among the communities of our trade partners through social networks.

The success of the NADM campaign was due to its integrated nature, the team tackled different sectors of the tourism sector at the same time. For example, at the same time as Solimar was creating tools and working with agents, our colleagues from the Business Tourism Company were training local businesses and business owners in destination management and marketing to optimize the opportunities available to them. The NADM campaign made it a priority to broaden local knowledge of the complexities and opportunities available through the use of online marketing and to build a foundation of understanding of destination marketing and the North American tourism value chain and market sectors. The campaign’s focus on training and education allows for more long-term and sustainable business practices, ultimately benefitting the local communities in a significant and effective way.

Namibia North 2
Photo: Frank Vassen, Source: Flickr

Likewise, Cardno was coordinating attendance at trade shows and road shows. There were three North American Road Shows, two trade shows, and 34 other travel trade events held during the course of the campaign, which established linkages with North American operators, expanded Namibia’s presence in the market, and increased its market share in North America. The team from STI worked to strengthen Namibian festivals and events by developing a strong relationship with the city of Windhoek and supporting the relaunch of the /Ae//Gams Arts and Cultural Festival in 2014, linking market-ready festivals and events to the North American market.

Another essential component of the campaign was the Public Relations (PR) platform, which focused on raising the profile of Namibia and its products and experience offerings among North American target consumers. It involved creating a dynamic campaign and taking it to road shows, airlines, and news outlets both in Namibia and North America. The campaign earned multiple destinations in Namibia press coverage in a variety of influential North American media outlets, through newspapers, websites, and television.

An exciting highlight of the campaign was the opportunity Namibia was granted to host the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) in October 2013. As ATWS is the largest gathering of adventure travel professionals in the world, with over 700 attendees, this was a key opportunity for Namibia to assert itself as a heavyweight in the adventure travel industry. The NADM campaign decided this it was crucial to capitalize on this opportunity, allocating energy and resources to pursue Namibia’s bid to host the campaign, as well as the organizing all of the logistics once it was awarded. This was the first time ATWS was hosted on the African continent, and support from the NADM campaign was critical to the Summit’s success.

Overall, Solimar and its partners were able to significantly increase the awareness of Namibia as a tourism destination in the North American market through this campaign. These efforts have left a legacy of strong business relationships between Namibian and North American travel trade, and increased awareness for Namibia and the Namibia Tourism Board to build upon. To get updates on Solimar’s projects and programs around the world, sign up for our newsletter:

Published in General
Thursday, 25 September 2014 15:40

The Basics of Integrated Marketing Programs

Written by Liz Heimann

Solimar has been talking a lot about our work with integrated marketing programs recently, so you might be wondering, what exactly is an integrated marketing program? And why is it important?

Simply put, an integrated marketing program in the travel trade is a comprehensive marketing solution specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications are unified across all channels and strategically focused to attract the customer- travelers. 

Namibia Dune
Photo: Frank Vassen Source: Flickr

It is a concept based on the principles of inbound marketing: providing valuable content to highly targeted consumers, which attracts and engages them, moving them down the funnel towards buying your services , product or in our case- a destination. This way, businesses and destinations spend their valuable resources in the most productive way, and consumers are delighted by content relevant to their interests. 

There are seven essential steps to creating a great integrated marketing program, each of which Solimar makes a point to include in the programs we develop, like in Namibia and Rwanda. Through these steps, your business will be able to develop and maintain a simple yet productive integrated marketing campaign. They are:


1. Marketing Strategy – After a thorough analysis of the business or destination’s features and attraction, an integrated marketing strategy must be developed. The strategy will serve as a roadmap for the implementation of an integrated marketing program—and should be tailored to your product’s needs. The strategy should integrate social media, search engine optimization, blogging, content and lead nurturing, public relations and trade relations.

2. Brand Analysis – Prior to implementing any integrated campaigns, a specific brand or logo should be developed in order to improve your look and focus your message. 

3. Website and Content Development - Once a consumer finds your website, the goal is to make it so captivating that they want to stay on the site, engage in your content, and share it with others. To do this, both content and a schedule for posting it should be generated. 

4. Social Media Strategy and Blogging – Social media gives you a place to talk to your consumers before they travel, while they travel, and after they have returned. This includes social networks, blogs, micro-blogging sites, and third party sites. It is important to determine the best channels to use for your target markets, and what content to post.

5. Creative Campaigns - With all pieces of your marketing foundation in place, now is the time to develop and implement creative campaigns and sweepstakes designed to draw visitors to both your site and social media platforms, while synchronizing your marketing message and brand value for maximum effectiveness. 

6. PR/Media Outreach Strategy – In creating a PR/Media strategy, it is important to employ simple but effective monitoring tools to allow you to identify influencers in your market. Then you can "listen" to the conversations taking place online, join ongoing conversations, build trust, and demonstrate expertise. It is critical to develop a database of contacts and design effective outreach campaigns to reach local and national media, relevant bloggers, guidebooks, and sales intermediaries. 

7. Trade Distribution Strategy - If you work with business to business (B2B) sales, it is most effective to take your relationships online by developing a dynamic database that tracks all communication with trade partners; from the initial email/call, to in-person meetings at trade shows, and shares on social media sites by each partner. Having a detailed record of your communication history with your partners helps you strengthen your business relationships. 

In sum, integrated marketing programs provide an effective and streamlined solution to marketing, which is thus more productive for both the businesses and the consumers. They create a pleasant marketing/consumption experience, ultimately leading to more concrete results for businesses.

To learn more about Solimar’s Integrated Marketing Programs, click here.

Download our free eBook on Inbound Marketing below:





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