One of Solimar international’s current projects is helping develop tourism strategies for two fairly small regions of the Republic of Georgia, Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti. The project is kicking into gear, with timelines and projects being identified and implemented.
Last week, Solimar International’s president Chris Seek spent several days in the Republic of Georgia for a series of meetings and events to assess the tourism strategies that Solimar has developed for the two regions. He presented the proposed strategies to Georgian and World Bank officials, who will discuss and decide on a finalized plan.
In the coming weeks, a list of objects to be rehabilitated will be revealed within the framework of this regional development project. We are looking forward to seeing where the project will take us from here!
International tourism is one of the largest contributors to the Georgian economy and there is demand for the development and improvement of the tourism sector, with the aim to stimulate local economies and provide much needed employment throughout the country.
Through a grant from the World Bank, in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA), Solimar developed a national tourism strategy that has improved planning, developing, managing, and marketing the country’s many rich natural and cultural resources, and has resulted in an increase of money spent per visitor.
Previous Work in the Kakheti Region
Recently, Solimar completed another project in Georgia. Based in the Kakheti region, this project was sponsored by the World Bank in a region with a low level of tourism competitiveness primarily because it lacked professional tourism services and was therefore not well-known in the major international tourism markets. To stimulate tourism and generate income for local communities, Solimar and its partners increased awareness of the Kakheti region’s tourism assets and improved tourism capacity of stakeholders.
Through this strategy, the region has seen a tremendous boost in the economy, the creation of much needed employment, and a rise in private sector investment. This sustainable strategy has been critical for the success of the region and its people since the project’s implementation.
Designing a Strategy for the Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti Regions
Using this work as a template, Solimar has produced similar strategies for the Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti regions, to be implemented by 2020. These strategies will focus on two components: product development and marketing.
The product development aspect will focus on urban recovery, such as rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure and conservation of cultural heritage buildings and facades, and the development of tourism routes, which envisages urban landscape and parking area development among other projects.
The marketing aspect will work to develop a Georgia brand, which can then be perpetuated professionally and efficiently through a number of markets: online, traditional, and public relations campaigns. This campaign continues to develop the tourism industry in order to promote economic development and improve the standard of living for the local communities.
To learn more about tourism development and strategy, download our Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Development Tool Kit:
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.
With the tourism industry booming, competition amongst destinations is fierce. Hundreds of variables and thousands of runners in this race means that by 2025, anything could happen. But the good news is that with the right preparation today, any underdog has a shot at being the winning destination. Here are some tips to help you out.
1. Conserve Your Resources
We all know that climate change has the potential to drastically change the tourism game. Without intervention, many of our sunny beaches will be eroded and our crisp mountain air replaced by pollution. Temperature-wise, nobody really wants to be the “hottest destination”. This is why sustainable tourism development is so important.
Every location, including yours, has something intrinsically unique to offer the world. But the challenge is, can you conserve it? Whether your destination is home to a rare breed of lion, the best coffee beans in the world or an unparalleled kayaking experience, you’ll want to be able to flaunt it like a peacock forever (or flaunt your actual peacocks). Strategies like the ones we implement to conserve these resources will make you stand a head above the rest.
Solimar proudly works with Namibia, the first African country to incorporate conservation into its constitution. Today, 42% of the country’s land is preserved by communal conservancies- and Namibia has simultaneously earned its place as a must-see destination.
2. Tourism Services Training
When your visitors are greeted by the smiling faces of your well-trained staff, they will not only love your destination, they will brag about you to all their friends. Too many local tourism services in the past have left visitors feeling either disappointed, lost in translation or downright scammed. By 2025, travelers will be more globally aware and will be tired of subpar services, making this component of your travel marketing wildly attractive.
We at Solimar International have identified that guide services, as well as food, lodging, transportation and craft services are key areas to work on. Investing in your workforce’s development creates a positive cycle that will last to 2030 and beyond. Visitors to your destination will be happier with your product, leading to satisfied feedback and widespread positive reviews producing economic benefits for you and your employees, simultaneously enriching the work experience and the tourism product for visitors. But in order to be ahead in the future, sustainable tourism development and training needs to start today.
3. Create Tourism Partnerships
The new generation is searching for authentic experiences and real connections. The quickest way to flush authenticity down the drain is to stamp all over local culture, make them feel marginalized or to drown out the traditions with external influence.
Public-private partnership (PPP) between stakeholders such as tourist operators, local governments, farmers and communities is integral to creating an incredibly appealing destination, particularly for destination marketing purposes.
PPP encourages action and communication among all stakeholders in a project, so that no voice is left unheard and unrepresented in the finished tourism product. It creates positive economic outcomes and conserves authenticity, and also ensures that there is stability in the social environment in addition to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
4. Create a Tourism Marketing Strategy
Unfortunately, without solid destination marketing, your nation’s “best kept secret” will stay exactly that: a secret. Marketing means more than just sticking up a billboard on the highway, especially in this constantly evolving world of technology and social media. It will mean creating relevant and creative strategies intended for targeted audiences, which tackle everything from strategic planning and branding to website development, as well as travel trade marketing, social media marketing, and integrated marketing programs. These strategies can have people everywhere scrambling to put your irresistible destination on their bucket list.
After years of experience in travel marketing, we have seen the powerful effect of good marketing proven over and over again with our various projects in over 40 countries. Even more exciting is the pride of marketing a destination which has flourished by following these tips, conserving resources, training tourism services and creating harmonious partnerships.
A lot can happen over the next ten years. But just like in any other race, being prepared with the right resources and strategies can mean all the difference between winning and losing. So play your cards right and start equipping your running belt with these strategies today. Who knows, your destination could win the race and be the hottest destination of not only 2025, but of the entire century.
To see how your destination or tourism business is doing- check out Solimar’s Self-Assessment!
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It’s getting easier to communicate with travelers around the world, but destinations looking to target specific markets often turn to destination marketing representation firms.
A destination marketing representative (or “rep”) is your destination’s tourism ambassador within a certain region who can effectively reach local consumers, outbound operators, and local media – all in an effort to drive destinations sales and increase visitation. Marketing representatives come in all shapes and sizes, each with a different set of tactics and know-how.
Here are some key items to consider when trying to find the right representative for your destination:
1. Make an Informed Decision About Which Market You’ll Target
This seems obvious, but many tourism boards skip this step. Select a target country or region that has a large growth potential, is receptive to the your destination’s tourism offer, and is accessible enough for your destination to compete. Carefully weigh the market’s travel volume, your current market share, existing competitors in the market, the demographics and interests of your potential customers, and potential barriers for entry. For example, many destinations that we work with are overly eager to jump into China. They’re excited by the potential of a market of that size, but don’t fully weigh how the time and expense required to make a dent in that crowded marketplace could be used in other areas where there is already a demonstrable interest.
2. Understand What Success Looks Like and How They Measure It
Be clear about what kind of results you expect from this market. Are you looking just for an increase in visitor arrival number or to increase visitor arrivals among a valuable market segment like high-end group travel? Also, consider how your rep can provide intangible results like increased goodwill and increased market awareness. Think carefully about outcome-driven results such as number of new sales partners and number of articles published, rather than easy output activities like press releases or events attended. This will help ensure that your rep is not just busy but effective.
3. Examine Their Experience and Expertise
You want a destination marketing representative that can hit the ground running. This means experience working with the consumer base, travel trade and media outlets that will best service your target market. While years of experience is great, ask if the firm has worked with destinations that offer similar experience and attractions as your destination. This focus makes a representative more suited to understanding the obstacles you face, your destination’s advantages and the mindset of the market you’re trying to attract. Examine how connected the firm is to important industry networks and niche media platforms that will speak directly to your target market. Reading testimonials from their previous clients may give you a different perspective on their work and abilities.
4. Get Good Value for Your Money
Also, importantly, consider what kind of budgets the firm is used to working with. If you’re working with a limited budget – can they make big things happen for small amounts? Scrutinize what they exactly cover, and choose a package that has the best balance between the cost and the services that you need to reach your goals.
Typical representative activities include:
• Establishing a local office (phone line, answer inquiries, day-to-day duties)
• Developing marketing collateral (branding and positioning strategy, brochures, banners, fact sheets)
• Strengthening online presence (website, social media content kit, online ads)
• Establishing trade partnerships (list of tour operators and agents, sales calls, educational webinars, familiarization trips, follow-up surveys and interviews)
• Generating earned media coverage (list of publications and media contacts, media outreach, news updates, press kit, media clips)
• Participating in events (summits, trade shows, networking events)
5. Seek Out a Passion and Dedication
You are putting a lot of trust and resources into a firm. It’s important to feel that they will be the best possible ambassadors for your destination. What’s your first impression of the marketing representative? Do they appear to be easy to work with? Are they responsive? Are they passionate about tourism and your destination beyond any of your competitors? Do you share the same value as you do? After all, there is nothing better than working with a team that is as enthusiastic about your place as you.
A destination marketing representative is a powerful part of your destination marketing arsenal. Choose wisely and you could find yourself reaching new tourism heights.
Fam-Trips (short for Familiarization Trips) are integral and familiar strategies to anyone involved in the tourism industry. The concept is simple: Members of the travel trade are invited on a free trip to become familiar with a destination and to meet potential inbound partners with the goal being that they’ll add it to their portfolios. However simple the concept, the execution can be a little more difficult. Imagine the stress of booking a full week travel itinerary for a blind date you want to impress, with only a few days notice. Now multiply that by about 10, 20, even 50 people. Before you start sweating, here are eight tips we thought would come in handy.
1. Research the Trade
Scanning the wide world of potential trade to invite will take forever if you haven’t established a clear guideline of what you’re looking for. Be sure to know what your aim is, what your budget is and who your audience is. This will guide you to finding the right people. In other words - gluing a group of adventure tour operators to the chairs of coffee shops and museum halls- that’s the sort of square peg, round hole scenario that you want to avoid.
Consider the sum of parts. A well-rounded Fam trip with many features- nature, adventure, culture, etc means it’s possible to invite a variety of trade with varied clientele. Catering to different audiences is optimal, as you don’t want butting heads, or egos for that matter.
2. Court and Create - Relationships
From the very start, you will be initiating the relationship. You want to be wooing the trade with your expertise and professionalism, establishing yourself as an expert resource on the destination. This trust and rapport is important for not only now, but for future projects you may want to enlist their collaboration on.
3. Set and Manage Expectations; Communication is Key
You can never really give too much information. If it’s possible, make it easier by pulling collateral together with the places they will visit, time spent in each location, distances they will travel by car and boat, food, weather, background information, fact sheets and maps. Communication also goes two ways - Expectations from both sides need to be communicated and established. Be sure to ask the invited trade all the questions to capture the answer your client’s inbound tour partners need. For example, you want to ensure you know everything about the trade’s dietary restrictions and allergies.
4. Go above and beyond
On our recent Fam-Trip to Namibia, a client asked if she could deviate from the indicated travel protocol and return to a different city than her origin- she was delighted when we organized this for her. Another tour operator handed us a list of inbound operator companies he wanted to meet with in Windhoek at the end of the trip to inquire about partnerships - so we gathered the relevant contacts of all these tour operators for him. These kind of requests only take time, and they go a long way. But even if their requests land outside of the contours of your budget, you can make expert recommendations. These little things will make all the difference in creating a memorable experience.
5. Check the Host Country’s Entrance Requirements
Stay organized. Remember to check the passport information of each travel trade member. Clients with different passports may have different restrictions on travel, and therefore may require different visas.
6. Share Your Social Media Handles
This is so the trade can tag you in their experiences as they post them on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In addition to sharing these handles, social media is also an invaluable tool in the aforementioned research phase. Measuring and comparing their followings on social media platforms is a good way to determine their eligibility as an influencer in their sphere. The higher the influence, the higher the ROI.
7. Be Available for the Client - Go Above and Beyond
Be prepared to answer questions at all times of day while they’re on the trip - when weather issues or flight cancelations happen, make it your job to update clients and in-country operators at all times.
8. Continue to Nurture the Relationship
After the trip is over, the trade will being planning - and you don’t want them feeling like a chewed up toy as they work on developing their itineraries. By this point, you should be friends anyway! Be available to them, make suggestions and answer their questions. The trade will thank you for it, as will your client destination.
Feel free to learn more about our travel trade marketing work here.
And don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
So you have successfully selected a marketing representative for your unique destination. You have been working with them for a few months now, but how do you determine if the work they are doing for you is paying off? You want to ensure that they are marketing your location accurately and effectively. In order to evaluate your marketing rep’s performance, you must monitor them on a regular basis. Here’s how:
1. Determine the set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you are looking for.
It is important for your organization to determine what KPIs, or metrics, you would like to measure, and eventually see improve. You want to ensure that these metrics span across all marketing activities, and reflect the success of your organization accurately. Keep in mind that this varies from organization to organization. Most companies typically utilize Return on Investment as a KPI. However, you must ensure that you are calculating the return accurately. Are you carefully estimating how much you’ve gained from your marketing investment? Does this include retaining your customer base, as well as gaining new customer revenue? ROI is an essential KPI to track. Here are some more KPIs your firm can utilize, to ensure that you are recording your marketing performance accurately:
- Number of hits to website
- Performance indicators on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. These sites typically have their own performance metric tools that are easily accessible.
- Number of clicks, click-through rates – found through tracking tools like Google Adwords. This is effective for tracking how well your marketing rep is working on your search engine optimization (SEO)
- Revenue gained by traditional media marketing and advertisements
- Number of inquiries you receive for tours/activities you offer
- Actual travel volume – how many visitors are coming and going from your locale on a weekly/monthly basis? How many visitors are you receiving from your selected target market?
2. Find your baseline.
In order to see if your marketing representative has made any improvement to the KPIs you found above, you need to measure where you stand before they begin (or once they start). Make sure to record what level each KPI is at before any marketing campaigns have started. This is so you have a baseline to compare future numbers to and you will be able to track visible improvement.
3. Conduct performance evaluations on a regular basis.
Now that you’ve determined the metrics you want to measure and have established a baseline, it is important to regularly measure these metrics periodically. A good idea is to see how you are doing on a monthly or quarterly basis. Evaluating performance on a regular basis allows you to determine what aspects of your marketing rep’s campaign are succeeding and which are underperforming – allowing you to re-strategize sooner.
4. Analyze the change in performance
While you may be tempted to fire your marketing rep as soon as you see a dip in your ROI, don’t be so quick to make that decision. It’s important to analyze why certain KPIs are underperforming. For example, even though travel volume may not have increased over a few months, you may be seeing greater visitors to your website, which could mean greater awareness of your destination and more visitors in person in the future. However, if you see a consistent lag in the performance of KPIs across the board, it’s probably time to have a discussion with your marketing representative about their strategy and whether they are the best fit for your organization. It may be time to look elsewhere.
It’s important to measure the success of any marketing campaign, whether you’ve been working with your marketing representative for years or you just hired a new one last week. Finding a marketing rep that fits well with your organization is key, but consistent performance monitoring ensures that the door to your destination is open to the travelers you need and ensures that your marketing efforts continue to lead you down the road to success.
Do you have specific questions about the metrics your organization is using to measure your marketing performance? Ask an expert!
Bhutan is a land renowned for its pristine landscapes, diverse wildlife and its unswerving commitment to biodiversity conservation and cultural preservation. As Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tsobay came through Washington DC in March, he spoke on the history, the present situation, and what lies ahead for a nation that is small in size, but huge on sustainability.
Bhutan: A Legacy of Conservation
In the 1970s, Bhutan’s democratic leaders decreed in their official constitution that a minimum of 60% of the land would be under forest cover. Since then, they have achieved a laudable result, by not only maintaining this target, but exceeding it by 10%.
Today, ecotourism presents a whole new world of opportunity and challenges for the country. Needless to say, the decisions made in this time of dramatic global change concerning ecotourism will be imperative to securing a brighter future for not only Bhutan, but the entire region.
Tourism’s Impact on Bhutan
The wrong type of tourism may mean that this unparalleled natural wonder could be spoiled by forces of human progress. The right type of tourism would mean that it is preserved for and admired by future generations. The right choice here is a no-brainer - all the more reason why so many forces are now acting to ensure this legacy of sustainability lives on. Asides from the sheer magnificence of this region, the benefits afforded from ecotourism provide us with further reasons to care. Bhutan is in one of the world’s top ten most biodiverse regions, a region which provides water for 1/5 of the world’s population - It is even ranked by many studies as the number one happiest country in Asia.
Why Bhutan and Ecotourism Work
On a purely human level, ecotourism has the potential to create phenomenal advantages for the people of Bhutan. Employment opportunities from ecotourism could bring long-term livelihoods for rural communities, improving standards of living all over.
That being said, ecotourism in Bhutan is not without its challenges. In fact, there has been more change in the last 50 years of Bhutan’s history than in the entire 500 years preceding it. This also means that this magnificent part of the world has never been exposed to such large and diverse threats. Among these many threats are climate change and poaching, just as with many neighboring Asian nations.
However, one of the largest challenge may prove to be the change in mindsets and attitudes which have inevitably arisen with the proliferation of globalization. More than 60% of Bhutan’s population is under 35 years old - it’s median age is 22.3 years. Work needs to be done to ensure that the younger generation captures the vision and passion which their ancestors had for their natural land. This is no easy feat, with a huge proportion of Bhutan’s younger citizens moving to the city for work and education - thus increasing their disconnect with the environment. Rural opportunities will be difficult to develop if there is simply nobody left in non-urban areas.
‘Bhutan For Life’
As can be seen, both the challenges and the opportunities presented here are plentiful.
‘Bhutan for Life’, an innovative funding of conservation led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Royal Government of Bhutan, exists to overcome these challenges while also utilizing the great opportunities existing within its own forests. Among their many goals, ‘Bhutan for Life’ will be preserving the parks, maintaining wildlife and ensuring this can continue, daresay, forever. Much of this will be achieved through what they have describe as balance - that is, balancing economic development with the conservation of natural resources, balancing jobs in the cities with jobs in rural villages, as well as balancing ancient traditions with modern materialistic desires. With this balance in place, they hope that Bhutan will continue to not only remain a natural wonder, but to also establish itself as a beacon of light, pointing other nations towards the achievability of a more sustainable future.
For more information, feel free to download our free Tourism and Conservation Toolkit.
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In January, Pacaya Lodge & Spa celebrated a soft opening with a New Year’s party for staff and guests.
The resort, located 20 minutes from Granada, Nicaragua, overlooks the iconic Laguna de Apoyo and offers stunning views over the canopy to the crater lake below and Granada in the distance. The 26-room luxury resort features exceptional service, an infinity pool, gardens, restaurant, bar, spa, and beachfront access.
Solimar’s Involvement with Pacaya Lodge & Spa
Solimar began working on sales and marketing for the lodge in January 2015. Our partnership with the lodge began when we were approached by Opportunity International Nicaragua in 2012. The NGO asked us to develop a strategy to leverage tourism to fund a high school operated by the organization. Solimar delivered a feasibility analysis for a luxury resort on the site which became the blueprint for Pacaya Lodge & Spa.
Solimar is thrilled to see years of hard work come to life and we are excited for the next phase. The lodge will celebrate a grand opening in March.
A Lodge with a Social Focus
This beautiful resort has a mission to support the local school. Currently, 240 students attend Escuela Tecnica Emprendedora, where they study either agriculture or tourism, the largest industries in the country. Pacaya Lodge & Spa will serve as a lab for tourism students and will help refine the school’s hospitality and English language curriculum and provide hands on experience through internships in the lodge itself.
Furthermore, Pacaya Lodge will source its produce from the school’s working farm. The goal of the program is to train students to grow produce without the use of pesticides so that when they graduate they will have the knowledge to work on or develop their own organic farms.
Upon stabilization, Pacaya Lodge has committed to cover 40% of the school’s operating expenses. Pacaya hopes to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in Nicaragua’s rapidly expanding tourism sector and to ensure the sustainability and future of tourism and agriculture in Nicaragua.
Delivering an Exceptional Nicaraguan Travel Experience
Keeping these objectives in mind, one of our main roles in the Pacaya project was to develop the marketing and branding strategy for the lodge. Our goal was to deliver an exceptional Nicaraguan travel experience that differentiated Pacaya Lodge & Spa from other Latin American resorts.
The solution was simple: grow from within the community. While many upscale resorts in Latin America seek to shield guests from local communities, Pacaya Lodge & Spa embraces its sense of place. The lodge highlights local artists and artisans, offers unique cultural excursions, and promises the opportunity to engage with the community.
The lodge features furniture, fixtures, and art from 16 local artisans. These artisans live and work in Masaya and Los Pueblos Blancos. Rotating galleries and exhibits on the property feature local artists. Spotlighting these skilled artists and community members strengthens the local economy and creates a guest experience that is authentically Nicaraguan.
Customized excursions bring guests to nearby cultural and natural attractions, such as nature reserves, volcanos, and cultural sites. In developing these excursions, we wanted to create a one-of-a-kind travel experience and support the development of new tourism destinations.
We know that visitors are seeking more meaningful travel experiences with rich stories and authentic experiences. It was important to us to create an genuinely Nicaraguan story in order to present the colorful history and culture of the destination.
Solimar is thrilled to be working with the lodge to develop a strong brand based on the lodge’s unique location, local partnerships, and rich Nicaraguan history. We believe that a successful strategy is designed at the community level. We can’t wait for the grand opening!