In November 2011, Solimar began working on a proposal for the AFM6 project from the L'Agence du Partenariat pour le Progrès (APP), a Moroccan government agency that was created by the Prime Minister’s office for the execution of Morocco’s 5-year, $697.5 million dollar award from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Solimar team worked tirelessly for 6 weeks to produce a well-executed 225-page proposal. On March 2, 2012, Solimar was officially notified by the APP that we had won the AFM6 project. The 13-month project titled Promotion des Circuits Touristiques Integrant L’artisanat (Promotion of Tourism Circuits that Integrate Handcrafts), aims to create and promote tourism routes in the medinas of the historic cities of Fes and Marrakech. Both Fes and Marrakech are imperial cities in Morocco and the medina in Fes is a UNESCO world heritage site. Marrakech is probably most famously known for its central square, Place Djemma el Fna.
The AFM6 project will create six tourism routes in each city that will integrate historically and culturally significant buildings, interpretive craft centers and artisan workshops. The routes will feature orientation signs for guidance and interpretive panels that will be easily identifiable and readable by both domestic and foreign visitors.
Aid to Artisans, Solimar’s technical partner for this project, will provide assistance with the craft interpretation component of the project and help create the content for interpretive panels as well as content for other promotional materials for the routes.
By the end of the project, the team aims to achieve the following five objectives:
1) Increase the number of tourists who participate in tours
2) Increase average spending of tourists in craft products while on the tour
3) Increase the satisfaction and interest of tourists for Moroccan craft
4) Increase use of tours by tour guides and travel agencies
5) Increase the number of artisans linked to the tours
This project is scheduled to kick off on May 23. This will be Solimar’s third project in Morocco. We hope to continue to have a strong presence in the country in the future.
On May 23, 2012, Solimar International kicked off its 13 month project: Promotion des Circuits Touristiques Integrant L’artisanat (Promotion of Tourism Circuits that Integrate Handcrafts, funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). This project aims to increase the convergence between the craft and tourism industries and increase revenue through the creation of tourism circuits in the Medinas of Fes and Marrakech. Since the project started, the team has been busy meeting with local stakeholders and working to organize workshops to introduce the project to the different regions. The team held its first workshop in Fes on June 22, 2012, and the second workshop in Marrakech on July 9, 2012.
For the June 22 workshop, the project required a minimum of 50 people in attendance, but there was an amazing turnout of 140 people. The State Secretary for Crafts, the Director of APP, about 15 journalists and other distinguished guests were present. The Chief of Party, Olivier Messmer, gave a very impressive presentation on the goals and objectives of the project, what the tourism circuits for Fes were and how the project would roll out its activities over the next 13 months. We have received a lot of positive feedback from APP as well as the Ministry of Crafts for this opening workshop. Special thanks to Shawndra, Olivier and the entire Morocco team for putting together such a successful workshop. We look forward to continued success for the next workshop in Marrakech!
Carpets, one of Morocco's most remarkable crafts, are all intricately hand woven on looms. The carpets that are most recognizable are probably the Berber carpets. Berber carpets date back to the Paleolithic era and the hand spun cloth that was used to make the carpets are from natural materials.
In just a few short weeks, Solimar's Promart (Promotion d'Artisanat) Project will see the culmination of months of hard work with the placement of orientation and interpretation signs along the newly-created circuits in the Medinas of Fes and Marrakech. Medinas, translated as “the old city,” are the historic Arab sections of North African cities known for their artisan wares. The circuits are established pedestrian routes that will guide and inform visitors as they explore the art, history and culture of the Medinas.
Six thematic circuits are being created in Fes: Monuments and Inns, Artisans, Fes Jdid, Palaces and Gardens, Knowledge and Knowhow, and Walls and Ramparts. There will be five circuits in Marrakech: Iron and Clay, A Thousand and One Doors, The Art of Wood, The Leather Route, and One Souk to Another. The circuits highlight the architectural, cultural and historical gems that these two Moroccan cities have to offer.
Each circuit showcases the types of crafts that can be found in the Medinas - leather goods, wood carvings, mosaic tiling (zellige), metal works and pottery. The historical monuments found along the circuits date back to the 9thcentury and were built by artisans themselves. These edifices show the extreme attention to detail, the complexity of the craftsmanship and the expertise and talent that Moroccan artisans possessed to create such beautiful works of art.
The inauguration of the artisan themed tourism circuits will take place in Marrakech on March 18-19, and in Fes on April 1-2. These two-day events will bring together all the project partners, artisans, artisan associations, international tour operators, local travel agencies, and media. An official ceremony will be held along with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the beginning of a circuit in each city.
A press trip, a familiarization trip and a Business-to-business workshop will also be organized during these two days to introduce the new tourism circuits as well as highlight the marketing and promotion tools that will be used. The online promotion and social media campaign has already experience early success. In just two months, the Visit Medina Facebook page has reached over 3,400 fans. Plans are currently underway for a website and interactive map, printed map, and Medina-specific guidebooks.
Solimar is very pleased to be working on this project and looks forward to the official launch of these products over the next few weeks. To learn more about how we could help your destination or tourism project with circuit or route development, visit this page.
The second in a series of destination highlights featuring places where we have worked and traveled, explore the wonders of Marrakech, Morocco.
Winston Churchill once stated, “Marrakech is simply the nicest place on earth to spend an afternoon.” Situated to the north of the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert, Marrakech is one of the busiest cities in Africa serving as a major economic center and tourist destination. Inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, Marrakech’s history is still greatly reflected today as the city offers a hybrid of the old world (the Medina) and new (Ville Novella) divided into two distinct halves. Marrakech has managed to preserve all the mysterious charm of the Orient within a sophisticated society. Whether you are seeking luxury in a European-inspired oasis or a culturally rich experience, Marrakech caters to a traveller’s every whim.
Boasting tremendous amounts of sites and activities, Marrakech has plenty to choose from. While you’ll want to see and do as much as possible, spending time in the Medina visiting the traditional Berber markets known as the souks, and the UNESCO World Heritage site Jemaa el Fnaa cannot be missed. Nicknamed the “red city,” the ramparts surrounding the Medina are made of distinct orange-red clay and chalk color. Filled with markets, gardens, palaces and mosques, the Medina is a wondrous maize of never-ending streets and alleyways. Exploring this part of Marrakech gives you the opportunity to submerge yourself into a remarkable part of a truly old Moroccan city.
The souks are the largest traditional Berber markets in Morocco offering an incredible shopping and cultural experience. Crowded with every conceivable sort of workshop, the souks contain a massive range of items. The souks are divided into retail areas consisting of leather, carpets, metalwork, pottery, textiles, and spice markets, making it easier to navigate. They are not for the faint of heart and can be overwhelming. Come prepared to embrace the hustle and bustle.
Keep in mind that trade and crafts are extremely important to the local tourism-fueled economy so merchants will be vying for your attention encouraging you to stop and look. If you are not interested, a friendly “no thanks” will be more than enough to pass by without any frustration. Haggling is expected when purchasing goods and is considered an important part of trade. This is a good time to put your negotiating skills to the test. But never fear, the Moroccan people are hospitable, accommodating, and possess a real sense of community.
Located at the entrance of the Medina, Jemaa el Fnaa, meaning “the assembly of trespassers,” is the intellectual, cultural, and religious center of Morocco. The square attracts people from a diversity of social and ethnic backgrounds and tourists from all around the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985, the square is a delirious assault of sights, sounds, and smells. By day, most of the square is just a big open space, in which a handful of snake charmers bewitch their cobras with flutes, medicine men display their cures, tooth-pullers wield fearsome pliers, and fortune telling, henna tattooing, water carrying, and fresh fruit juicing populate the square.
As dusk approaches lanterns around the square are lit while acrobats, magicians, mystics, musicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, storytellers, and entertainers in medieval garb amuse the masses, reaching a climax. The smoke of sizzling kebabs illuminates the night air as numerous food stalls surround the square offering every kind of local cuisine imaginable, including Tangine (a slow cooked meat stew with vegetables and spices), Couscous, roasted whole lamb and Harissa soup. For the more adventurous palate, cooked snails, sheep and goat brains are also available. This is where locals come to eat, making it a good place to sample the cuisine at a fairly reasonable price.
If the scene becomes too overwhelming, head to an outdoor cafe where you can take in the colorful spectacle at a distance while enjoying a glass of sugared mint tea. You can also head to a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy the panoramic view of Marrakech. As the muezzin sounds the evening call to prayer, you can experience the enchanted moment during a Moroccan sunset when the final rays of sun catch the peaks of the Atlas Mountains. It is no wonder this enchanted city has been called the “Paris of the Sahara.”
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.
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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A destination’s culture is manifested in its art, local traditions, colorful landscapes, and the diversity of the human intellect. Its most unique and alluring elements are derived from culture- and perhaps this is why the demand for cultural tourism in increasing.
Now, more than ever, it is vital for tourism industry leaders to preserve the cultures of destinations. Thanks to our numerous partners, Solimar’s team has had the pleasure of working with various people in dozens of destinations around the globe, and we want to share a few highlights from our favorite destinations for promoting cultural tourism:
Chris Seek, President/CEO: Integrating Local Communities into the Tourism Experience
“Our traditions and culture define who we are, our heritage reminds us where we come from. We must find a way to preserve and support traditional villages like Nobgang, that have tremendous cultural value to Bhutan.”
-Dorji Wangmo (Queen Mother) stated to Chris Seek, as they were discussing the importance of how to preserve the traditional architecture and way of life of the village she was born in, Nobgang.
Bhutan’s tourism industry continues to steadily increase, at a 10.25% growth rate. With this type of rapid development and a culture with deep traditional roots, responsible tourism is required. The Bhutan Ministry of Culture, the World Bank, and Solimar have teamed up to help integrate local communities and Bhutan’s rich culture into the tourism experience. Solimar understands that demand-driven products and experiences can greatly benefit heritage villages in Bhutan. When thoughtfully developed, cultural heritage products, such as the 13 traditional crafts of Bhutan, are a vital strategy for increasing revenue to rural villages that can directly support cultural heritage preservation.
Natalie Sellier, Director of Finance and Operations: Mapping Artisan & Cultural Heritage Routes
“Walking into the Jemaa el Fna (the night market) in Marrakech is something I’ll never forget. It’s one of the most chaotically beautiful places I’ve ever been. The whole area has such an incredible energy of sounds, smells and activity. Can’t think of anywhere else you’ll find monkeys wearing hats, snakes being charmed, African drummers, talented artisans, incredible food stalls… it’s such a magical place!” Natalie Sellier
Morocco is a country with rich cultural heritage and artisan traditions. Despite the success of Moroccan crafts in the international market, there is a lack of direct selling. With the help of Aid to Artisans, and Ministry of Crafts (Government of Morocco), Solimar linked the handicraft and tourism markets through the creation of artisan and cultural heritage routes in the cities of Fez and Marrakech. These routes—aided with over 500 interpretive signs--make stops at artisan workshops in each city, increasing awareness of Moroccan culture and craft traditions. The routes have also helped increase artisans' revenue by allowing them to sell their products directly to tourists instead of through a retailer or wholesaler. As a result of our work, the routes have had a direct impact on 6,603 points of sales in Marrakech and Fez.
David Brown, Marketing Director: Strategic Marketing in Rwanda
Rwanda is usually visited for its wildlife attractions - particularly the mountain gorillas. In addition to the country’s wildlife, it is rich with cultural heritage. With cultural tourism on the rise, the country’s cultural attractions have become an increasingly important component for the Rwanda experience. The Government of Rwanda and the World Bank partnered with Solimar’s Program Director to create a new strategic plan for the EAC region.
Through the new strategic plan, cultural tourism increased annual visits and the new marketing campaign reached 850,000 people. An example of this change can be seen at The Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village. This village sits just steps outside the gates of the Volcanoes National Park, and was designed to create opportunities for former gorilla poachers to find livelihoods in a more sustainable activities - demonstrating Rwandan traditions of food, dance, music, architecture, and healing to visitors. In addition, local artisans also use the cultural village as a marketplace to place to sell baskets and woodcrafts. This program has been an incredible example of how cultural tourism can support conservation efforts and create economic opportunities.
Annabel de Braganca, Marketing Coordinator: Marketing a Culture of Fusion
A traveler's first exposure to Namibia begins in a city, and one of the most interesting aspects of this encounter is taking in the unmistakable fusion between German-colonial influence & Namibian tradition. Take Swakopmund: even stopping for food or coffee is a unique experience. Visitors are able to enjoy classic Namibian barbecue in a cozy German-style café nestled somewhere between the arid Namib Desert and the wild Atlantic coast.
As a traveler heads to Northern Namibia, the unique and beautiful handicrafts and traditional dances of the Himba interest travelers. This semi-nomadic indigenous group attract a lot of interest from travelers, but exploiting this community is all too possible.
During the North American Destination Marketing Campaign (2010-2014) Solimar and its partners went to lengths to ensure that the local and North American travel trade was educating clients on appropriate behavior and interactions with native Namibian tribes; allowing cultural tourism to flourish, not degrade in Namibia. Solimar continues to connect sustainably minded North American travel trade members to well-informed Namibian ground handlers. As a team, we seek to introduce travelers to Namibia's wild & unique culture in a celebratory manner, not in what otherwise could be exploitative or invasive.
Simon Jones, Vice President: Revenues Generated by Cultural Tourism
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited park. It is home to tree-climbing lions, buffalo, hippos, and numerous other species. In addition to having vast bio-diversity, it is also where a group of women, known as the Kikorongo sell their intricate woven baskets. These women are part of an organization called Pearls of Uganda. This organization partnered with Solimar to increase the Kikorongo women’s revenue. We aided the Kikorongo Womens Group in establishing a small craft center appealing to visitors, and assisted them in developing craft workshops for visitors. Through the collaboration of Pearls of Uganda, Solimar, and strong work ethic of the Kikorongo women; the women were able to significantly increase their revenues and pay for a full time teacher at the local primary school and renovate the school building.
Gabriel, Director of Enterprise Marketing: Creating a Cultural Tourism Product
The largest nation in Central America, Nicaragua, encompasses many aspects of culture with its colonial seaside cities, scenic waters, and areas of deep cultural heritage. The regions of Masaya and the Pueblos Blancos are no exception. These areas contain several rural villages known for traditional crafts, including hammock making, artwork, ceramics, leatherwork, and furniture making. These artisans usually live in remote parts of Nicaragua, and needed a facet to distribute their goods. This is why Gabriel helped start a much needed partnership between a local Nicaraguan resort, Pacaya Lodge & Spa, and the local artisans. This partnership has developed cultural tourism products; artist workshop tours, interactive and educational tours, and art workshops for travelers. In addition, the Pacaya Lodge & Spa, has started to facilitate a sales and distribution for these tour products as well as the artists’ work itself.
Chris Seek, President/CEO: Tourism Strategy Resonates With Cultural Heritage
“Georgia is known for it’s Supras (feasts) that they have with guests - I have been to three now. These feasts are some of the most memorable travel experiences of my life. In addition to the excellent food, the practice of Tamada or making multiple toasts throughout the meal is incredible even if translation is required for non-Georgian speakers. They even maintain culture in the way they drink wine - proud to be the birthplace of wine and still use the Kvevri clay jars which is now on the UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage list” -Chris Seek
Georgia resides at the crossroads of Europe and Asia making the culture rich in cathedrals and churches, cuisine, customs, and folklore. In addition, Georgians have smaller enthno-cultures residing in different areas of the country. Each entity has produced its own values and traditions, but the country desired a national tourism strategy versus a regional one. The Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA) turned to the World Bank and Solimar to consult them in creating their own national tourism strategy, while highlighting the country’s rich culture.
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