Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Friday, 28 September 2012 00:00

Solimar Continues Support for the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria

Written by David Brown

This year marks Solimar's fifth year working on the Global  Sustainable Tourism Criteria – a groundbreaking set of voluntary guidelines created to provide an international understanding of sustainable tourism. The long term goal: strengthen consumer confidence in  the tourism industry’s sustainability claims and provide a clear path for tourism business seeking more sustainability in their offers.

This movement has come a long way since 2007 when Solimar was first contracted to analyze nearly 3000 tourism criteria from around the world. After the original GSTC Criteria for hotels and tour operators  were launched in 2008, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) came to life out of the ad hoc coalition of partners such as the United Nations Foundation, UNEP, Sabre/Travelocity and Rainforest Alliance that helped finance and provide guidance to the initiative. Solimar has built websites, managed social media outreach, developed GSTC indicators and supported the ongoing technical review and revision of the GSTC Criteria as the Council has grown from a network of less than 50 to its current 200-strong membership.

Throughout 2011, the GSTC has focused on building a series of recognition processes  that will add additional strength to sustainable tourism standards and certification programs by ensuring that they meet global best practices. Standards –may apply to receive GSTC recognition, and several – including those from the Rainforest Alliance, EarthCheck, and Costa Rican Tourism Board have done so. Certification programs with GSTC-recognized standards can then apply to become GSTC Approved. The first GSTC Approved  standard is set to be announced soon.

This year, the GSTC is moving into its next phase as they develop a set of global criteria focused on sustainable destination management. Solimar Chaiman, Don Hawkins, has been involved in the development of the criteria set to launch in December. Like the criteria for hotels and tour operators, the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations will serve as an aspirational set of guidelines for places interested in conserving and strengthening their human, cultural, and environmental resources. Five pilot destinations, including the Okavango Delta  and Lanzarote have volunteered to pilot test the criteria and ensure that they are attainable and useful in a real context.

The GSTC Criteria have proven to be a useful tool for Solimar’s projects in Bolivia and the Western Balkans where they provide a previously unavailable starting point to assess current sustainable tourism efforts and a clear path for operator training, product management, and targeted marketing.

The GSTC hosted its 3rd Annual Meeting this week in Washington, DC, featuring an impressive line up of speakers from the travel industry.

Published in General
Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00

Sustainability in Progress: Adapting a Developed Destination

Written by Natalie Sellier

The winners of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)'s Tourism for Tomorrow awards were announced earlier this week, recognizing the global leaders in sustainable tourism best practices. This past February I had the privilege of serving as an on-site evaluator for one of the finalists - Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC). I spent three days on the island of Sentosa, meeting with various stakeholders and learning about the new sustainability initiatives taking place in this complex and fascinating destination.    

Sentosa Island, a small island off the mainland of Singapore, was reserved and developed exclusively as a tourist destination in the early 1970's. The island itself is a micro-chasm of the country of Singapore, and to understand its sustainability journey, I had to first understand the mindset and goals of the early developers. Early decisions were driven by rapid economic growth and urbanization plans for the country and the desire to create a very pro-investment, pro-business environment. With rapid development and over 19 million visitors in 2011, I'd say they've achieved great success!

With such a proven business model in place, why would an island like Sentosa even want to become more sustainable? With a new CEO and development plans for a large-scale integrated resort in place, Sentosa realized they needed to start planning for the island's long-term sustainability.  In 2009, a "Green Plan" was developed to prioritize a number of sustainability initiatives. As a result, they've seen renewable energy and recycling programs reduce their energy consumption and produce less waste. The construction of a green boardwalk has made it easier for residents to walk and ride bikes to the island, thereby improving their health. They've preserved the greenery that residents have grown to love by maintaining 45% green space on the island, with forest restoration efforts and the reintroduction of indigenous flora and fauna, along with strict monitoring to ensure cleaner water and air quality. Heritage buildings have also been restored and re-purposed. While there have been challenges and work still remains to be done, sustainable development for Sentosa has meant achieving the right balance of economic growth while also creating a quality living environment for residents. 

Since Solimar began working towards its mission in 2006, we've seen "sustainability" move beyond the narrowly defined concept of ecotourism to embrace all aspects and types of tourism—even in highly urbanised areas such as Singapore. Sustainability is not just about the environment anymore. It includes economic and social aspects, such as creating a thriving local business scene and ensuring that all segments of society can benefit from tourism.

How does an already developed destination like Sentosa Island, or a large city for that matter, actuallybecome sustainable? While the benefits are apparent, it is true that there is no clear "road map" for becoming a sustainable destination. Tourism is a complex industry with many independent actors - implementing sustainable tourism requires costs and trade-offs that may be viewed different from different levels within the industry. So how does a destination manage it all? Each destination community must determine what balance of environmental, social and economic activity meets their current and future needs. The most successful destinations are those who plan for their own success, and have a long-term and continuously evolving strategy that defines and refines how to become and remain sustainable—as well as competitive—within the market. Once these plans are in place, successful destinations are also those who utilize education and tangible benefits as a means of encouraging sustainable tourism adoption among all stakeholders. 

While there will always be challenges when it comes to initiating change, the good news is that there is a growing body of information available on sustainable tourism best practices. Organizations such as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council are also trying to address these challenges by developing a list of criteria for destinations to follow.

For more information on those working towards a more sustainable future, click here to read more about the Tourism for Tomorrow Award finalists.   

Published in General
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:00

Linking Tourism Development & Conservation in Baja California

Written by Matthew Humke

Sierra de la Giganta is one of the last remaining wild stretches of Baja California Sur’s coastline, but it is increasingly coming under the pressure of developers who are eager to replicate Mexico’s other tourism mega-destinations. It is also one of Mexico's poorest regions, with existing economic options limited to fishing, mining, and other resource extractive activities. With the support of the Resources Legacy Fund, Solimar and our local partner, RED Sustainable Travel, are working to identify the opportunities to link tourism, conservation, and rural development in this region. 

In order to ensure the long-term protection of Sierra de la Giganta's natural and cultural resources, solutions must address the region’s conservation goals while also providing real economic opportunities for the local population. These goals present a perfect opportunity for sustainable tourism, as it is an economic activity that depends upon the preservation of natural and cultural resources rather than its extraction. 

Solimar and RED's initial tourism assessment revealed a number of interesting potential tourism models for the Sierra de la Giganta region, concepts that will be developed and documented in business plans that can then be used to attract donors and investors to the region.  

The first potential model focuses on marine tourism. Establishing a network of coastal community tourism service providers would allow locals to benefit from the marine tourism activities already taking place in the region in the form of kayaking tours, sailboat rentals, and private yacht owners. Local communities could provide complimentary experiences such as mule trekking tours, salt-water fly fishing guide services, and restaurant/food services.  

Secondly, a private reserve eco lodge could boost the current tourism offerings. A local conservation organization that established a private coastal reserve is considering the development of a small-scale ecolodge that would enable visitors to not only spend a night in the reserve, but also to participate in the organization's terrestrial and marine monitoring and research activities. From checking bighorn sheep motion cameras to conducting fish counts in the Sea of Cortez, the lodge would give visitors a chance to be "biologists for a day".  Such a lodge would also create needed jobs and revenue for local communities, as well as begin to better integrate those communities into the reserve's conservation activities.

With the assessment complete, we look forward to further developing these business plans into a shared vision of sustainable tourism for this unique region.

El Pardito

 El Pardito fishing community inhabits a tiny island in the Sea of Cortez, surrounded by ocean and soaring desert mountains.


Part of the cultural attraction of Sierra la Giganta is the continuation of traditional economic activities like fishing. The goal of sustainable tourism is not to replace those activities entirely, but rather introduce additional economic alternatives to reduce the pressure on the region’s natural resources.

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 Local artisans show off their handiwork in El Pardito.

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Solimar & RED team members assess new tourism opportunities in Sierra de la Giganta. 


Published in General
Friday, 12 September 2014 13:22

Gringo Trails: A Must Watch before Your Next Trip

Written by Jeff Yerxa

Before you embark on your next adventure, take the time to view Gringo Trails. This feature-length documentary, directed and produced by American anthropologist Pegi Vail, sheds insight on the unanticipated impact of one of the world’s most powerful globalizing forces—tourism.

Gringo Trails illustrates three cautionary case studies that reveal the devastating effects tourism can have on local cultures and the environment: one deep in the Bolivian Amazon, another on the Salt Flats of Bolivia, and the third on Thailand’s small island, Ko Pha Ngan.

Haad Rin Beach 1979The film flashes back to a 21 year old backpacker, Costas Christ. Eager to find a tourist-free island paradise, Costas travels off the “gringo trail” to the small island of Ko Pha Ngan. It is 1979 and during his month on Haad Rin Beach, Costas finds his paradise—authenticity. The film then jumps forward to 1999 showing Haad Rin Beach jam packed with over 10,000 people celebrating New Year’s Eve. This once pristine and secluded beach is now home to the famous Full Moon Festival, which attracts thousands of travels from across the world. Local businesses have flourished but socio-cultural and environmental aspects of Ko Pha Ngan are devastated.

Full Moon Party


                                   Haad Rin Beach, 1979

As a local Thai admits, in Ko Pha Ngan, it is too late. Sustainable tourism development requires a thorough assessment. Context is key. This is why Solimar International stresses the importance of strategic planning, particularly destination assessments. Destination assessments provide in-depth analysis of the competitiveness of a region as a tourism destination and are key to identifying the next steps in sustainable tourism development.

Time and again throughout Gringo Trails, the viewer comes across tour operators, guides, and travelers who are not properly trained in sustainable tourism practices. The deterioration of the Salt Flats and the decreasing anaconda population in the Bolivian pampas, are partly due to a lack of professional training and education. Strategic planning can only be carried out to full potential if the destination has a trained workforce and educated travelers. Recognizing the instrumental role education has in cultivating sustainable tourism, Solimar works deeply to promote specialized training and education services geared toward sustainable tourism.

The case studies depicted in Gringo Trails demonstrate the importance and significance of sustainable tourism. Pegi Vail leaves the viewers with hope, as she takes us to a small indigenous village in South America where well-planned tourism development has proved to be a positive force in the village’s economic and social development as well as its environmental and cultural conservation. Gringo Trails truly is an eye-opener for the conscious traveler.

Gringo Trails made its theatrical release September 4-11 at Cinema Village in New York City. For a full list of screenings visit

For more information on Solimar’s tourism assessments download the free Tourism Assessment Process EBook.

Tourism Assessment Process


Published in General
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 17:03

Best Practices in Integrating Sustainability in Tourism Management and Operations

Written by Carmela Otarra

The importance of sustainable tourism development is increasingly recognized throughout the sector. However, it has been a challenge for many organizations to integrate sustainability into tourism management and operations.

US Gulf Coast States Geotourism website

Here are a few tips and examples on how to incorporate sustainability in your destination's tourism management and operations.

Involve Local Residents and Communities in Tourism Planning

Sustainable tourism development requires the participation of local residents and businesses at the planning stage. By consulting with local stakeholders, you gain their support and reduce conflict as the plan progresses.

In Solimar's Geotourism projects, which seek to highlight the unique culture and heritage of a region through the voices and stories of the people that live there, local residents are invited to nominate places of interest. This provides more economic benefits to local businesses especially those that are less known. The nominations are reviewed by a Stewardship Council, composed of representatives from the region, before being used to create an interactive website, a MapGuide, and a Smartphone app.

Solimar International and USAID in Uganda
Establish Partnerships with Different Stakeholders

Effective collaboration among different stakeholders from the government, tourism boards, businesses, and local communities is crucial to successful sustainable tourism management and operations. This facilitates a more balanced system of decision making as the priorities of various sectors are considered.

To assist Uganda in tourism development, Solimar actively involved stakeholders from each part of the tourism and conservation sectors. The cooperation among the stakeholders was important to enhance tourism products, build strong community enterprises, strengthen linkages among different attractions, and bolster the success of the program.

Develop Products Based on the Destination's Strengths

What are the local assets that your destination can highlight? Destination assessment should be conducted to identify the strengths of a destination and determine the best tourism products based on the findings.

In our destination assessment for the Sierra de la Gigante region, Solimar and RED Sustainable Travel identified potential conservation models that leverage the region's strengths in order to address conservation goals and provide economic opportunities for the local population.

Solimar International in Ethiopia
Strengthen Local Capacity to Manage Tourism

Sustainable tourism management and operations need to equip local businesses with skills to succeed. Workforce development and training is therefore integral to a successful strategy.

To strengthen the capacity of the Ethiopia Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA), Solimar conducted workshops and created materials to train personnel in using the necessary tools and activities to implement community tourism in Ethiopia.

Target High-Yield Market Segments

High visitor numbers aren't inherently valuable for your destination. In sustainable tourism management and operations, it is important to serve the proper target markets. Fortunately, there has been a growth in the number of travelers who demand more responsible travel and have higher visitor expenditure.

The Namibia North American Destination Marketing Campaign targeted travelers who would most appreciate the country’s strong conservation and special interest selling points. These include curious conservationists and experience seekers. This is why a destination assessment of strengths is so important—you must know what you are marketing and to whom.

Use Guidelines to Limit Impact

Creating guidelines is important in sustainable tourism management and operations. It not only helps the destination preserve its ecological value, but also helps businesses limit their negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts. Educating visitors and locals on best-practices matters.

Solimar is part of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) Initiative , which fosters increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and promotes the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles.

Have you used any of these tips at your organization? Are there others you would like to share? Your ideas and comments are welcome in the comment section below.

To learn more about becoming a more sustainable tourism enterprise, download the Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Development Tool Kit.


Published in General
Thursday, 30 October 2014 15:39

Innovating at the Travel + Social Good Summit

Written by Annabel de Braganca

On Friday, October 24th, innovators from the travel, tech and impact worlds convened in New York City for the Travel + Social Good summit. The event, organized by Gilad Goren of Only Six Degrees and sponsored by industry heavyweights, begged the question: how do we guide our industries to adopt meaningful social good into our missions?


The travel industry is sprawling, and as Gilad pointed out, 1 in 11 people around the world is employed by travel. Since it’s so powerful, how do we make sure our actions and the messages they spread to consumers do more good than harm?

Solimar sent two staff members to check out the summit and participate in the full day of learning, innovating and solution building.


The event kicked off with a welcome from Gilad, who foreshadowed the day’s activities by explaining what travel means to him: “bridging gaps, joining new communities: that’s travel.”

The event partners then took to the stage to pose three different challenges impeding social good from thriving in the travel industry.

  1. Transparency: Sophia Mendelsohn, Head of Sustainability at JetBlue, voiced the issue of transparency. How do we hold businesses accountable to social good? “We need to measure the financial value of corporate social responsibility”.
  2. Emotion: The Nature Conservancy’s Managing Director, Geof Rochester spoke to human emotion and the disconnect tourists have when they visit destinations- especially destinations in development. “How do we preserve the human touch in a digital world?”
  3. Innovation: Finally, Sue Stephenson, Vice President of the Community Footprints program at Ritz Carlton asked the participants to consider how we might innovate to encourage travelers to give back to the destinations they visit. “How de we foster a culture of social innovation in the world’s largest industry?”
Credit: Sue Stephenson


After hearing from the event partners, attendees broke into 3 groups based on the challenge that most interested them (transparency/ emotion/ innovation). Each group was broken further into subgroups of 6-person tables. Each table was tasked with coming up with solutions to the problems posed by the industry partners’ presentations.

The tasks were as follows:

  1. List 5 obstacles standing in the way of defeating the challenge
  2. Come up with a solution for each obstacle
  3. Pick your favorite 3 solutions and flesh them out
  4. Pick your best-reasoned solution, make it concrete and present it to the whole group (IE the whole Innovation group, Emotion group etc).
  5. As a large group, pick your top 3 favorite ideas to present to all the event participants.


The purpose of this was to come up with pathways to better integrate social good across the travel industry. We used our combined knowledge of travel, tech and impact to find answers.

I chose the Innovation challenge and my subgroup included individuals from the travel journalism, travel trade, travel PR, destination development and fashion worlds. Each of us approached the challenges with a different perspective, and when we combined our thoughts, an interesting thing happened.

We realized that because of the scope of the travel industry, it is difficult to hold each part equally responsible for contributing to social good. There is no ‘Mr. Travel’. There’s no face to this industry, like Elon Musk’s in Aerospace innovation (actually, that’s travel, too!) Or how Warren Buffet is the face of American business magnates. Travel has a handful of influencers spread through each segment of the industry, but in order to achieve a united goal, we need to have a united industry.

Obviously our little team of 6 was not asked to solve the issue then and there, but rather, think of ways to broach steps to doing so. We considered an industry-wide sustainability certification that airlines, hotels and destinations could apply for, having to undergo tests for transparency, eco-consciousness and social good, proving that they provide benefit to the communities they exist in. 

Some solutions were based on small steps and targeted one company (like the summit’s partners)- and were easy to implement. Others, like ours, were grander schemes that would take years to realize. Regardless, what made this summit so impactful was how each attendee carved out a few hours of their Friday to brainstorm as a group to look for solutions. Hearing the multitude of ideas to promote social good in travel was galvanizing.


Ultimately each sub-team was successful. Even if their ideas were somewhat far-reaching, it didn't matter. The conversations were rich and insightful, and each team was thoughtful in trying to improve the industry. As the industry heads towards a shift in thinking towards positive impact, we can also help travel consumers adopt the mindset, too. We, as an industry, have the power to make travel more authentic and positive for businesses, travelers, and the communities they join. Thank you, Travel + Social Good, and see you next year!

To learn about how Solimar International promotes social good through sustainable destination development, check out our website.


Published in General
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 20:41

Workforce Development and Training in Chocó, Colombia

Written by Jeff Yerxa

In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, it is difficult for destinations to compete without a well-trained workforce capable of delivering quality experiences for visitors. This is especially true when developing sustainable tourism in remote destinations—which is a challenging task. Engaging in sustainable practices requires a relatively high level of education and residents of remote destinations often lack adequate resources for education and proper training.

 What does tourism training/workforce development look like on the ground? Let us look at a project Solimar finished earlier this year in the Chocó Department of Colombia to better understand the implementation of workforce development in sustainable tourism enterprises.

Chocó, Colombia

About the Project

In December of 2012, Solimar International was contracted to conduct a thorough destination assessment of Nuquí and Bahia Malaga, Colombia. The assessment identified two major weaknesses: lack of organizational and business capacity and insufficient marketing outreach. Then in November 2013, Solimar International was again contracted to address these weaknesses. This was part of an ongoing project funded by USAID called Biodiversity – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (BIOREDD+).

A series of strategies and techniques were then enacted and implemented to address the lack of organizational and business capacity in 4 community tourism enterprises (CTEs). To build capacity Solimar conducted a tourism operations and management training course in each of the 4 CTEs. Prior to the first course, a baseline evaluation was held to serve as a benchmark for further assessments. The first course covered:

  • Introduction and Roles and Responsibilities
  • Financial Planning
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Personnel Management and Client Satisfaction
  • Emergency Action Planning
  • Conflict Management
  • Sustainable Tourism Best Practices

Following the course, a second evaluation was conducted to evaluate incremental increased capacity. When not in session, Solimar Sustainable Tourism Training Specialist Lucia Prinz traveled to the four CTEs, aiding them in implementing their new skills in day-to-day operations. Lastly, a final exam was conducted to evaluate the overall achievement of the training course since the baseline assessment. Participants were given quizzes and an exam to test their increased knowledge as a result of the course. On each of the tests, participants outperformed the previous exam’s average. 

choco training
Chocó, Colombia

Workforce Development Methodology

The Chocó Department of Colombia is one of the poorest departments of Colombia with 70% of the population living in extreme poverty. Solimar’s training methodology has been developed and revised over the years to best target informally educated learners. One important aspect of this methodology is constant monitoring and evaluation. Solimar recruited an intern to assist in the implementation of the newly acquired business operations and marketing skills. The intern also developed evaluation worksheets to gauge the CTE’s increased capacity. The results of these evaluations found that capacity increased in each of the 13 indicators used to measure the project’s progress.

The training courses mentioned above directly resulted in an increased business and organizational capacity which led to increased visitation to the area. Workforce development meant stronger economic growth, increased productivity, and expanded employment opportunities. This goes to show that the competitiveness of the tourism industry in an area rests ultimately on the capacity of its people to support it through their skills and enterprise.

For more information download our Tourism Workforce Development guide.


Published in General
Thursday, 08 January 2015 18:55

Solimar Delivers First of Five Sustainable Tourism Training Courses to Ethiopian Officials

Written by Natalie Sellier
Tourism training Ethiopia
Tourism Training in Ethiopia

On January 3rd, Solimar wrapped its Tourism Planning and Implementation Course, our first of five courses scheduled under the Ethiopia Short-Term Training Program. The 14-day course was delivered at the Ethiopian Management Institute in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, to a group of 35 participants from the Ethiopian government. At the national level, there were representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as well as the newly-formed Ethiopian Tourism Organization. All of the country’s Regional Culture and Tourism Bureaus were also represented. Finally, there were participants from nearly all of the country’s national parks. The background of the participants varied considerably, with some having only started engaging in tourism activities over the past several years and others that had been in the sector for over twenty years.

Overall, participants were highly active in discussions and displayed a strong eagerness to learn more about tourism. Some indicated that they would be engaged in specific planning activities in the coming year. The others, however, still felt that they would be able to put to use a number of the tools and techniques learned during the course. As such, nearly all felt that the course was quite relevant to their work and were highly appreciative of the opportunity that had been granted to them.

Brad Weiss served as the instructor of the course and was assisted by guest lecturer, Dr. Theodros Atlabachew. The course—primarily focused on tourism planning and policy—provided participants with critical skills required for public sector management of the Ethiopian tourism industry. A special presentation was delivered by Weiss and course coordinator Mekonnen GebreEgziabher that covered the basic principles of community tourism, another topic for which the group had indicated a strong interest. The instructors demonstrated the process utilized by the USAID-funded ESTA project, and highlighted keys to success.  

Brad Weiss Ethiopia
Brad Weiss Leads a Training Class 

All participants were provided with a flash drive with 35 practical documents (policies, plans, stats, manuals, worksheet, case studies, etc.) to use when they return to their officesTo reach even more people working within the Ethiopian tourism sector, participants were encouraged to think of the course as a “train-the-trainers” approach. Each person was provided with the course slides and encouraged to share key concepts and resources with their colleagues through short-courses or presentations.

Solimar instructor Matthew Humke began our second course on Integrated Destination Management and Planning course on Monday, January 12th, which will run for two sessions through March. We are excited about the impact these courses will continue to have in building capacity among those planning, managing and marketing tourism to Ethiopia.

For more information on the available courses, please visit

Published in General
Thursday, 26 February 2015 16:18

Tourism Conservation & Planning at Peak Park in San Andres, Colombia

Written by Rashaad Jorden
Peak Park in Colombia
Peak Park in Colombia

Solimar was recently contracted to support the development of a 5-year management plan for a protected area on the Caribbean island of Old Providencia, in the Colombian Department of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. Solimar is tasked with developing innovative ideas to engage stakeholders working within the park to generate a sustainable source of revenue through tourism.

The Project

Solimar is applying our Business Approach to Conservation to develop revenue models and a business plan for the park that actively mitigate threats to conservation in the protected area and generate economic opportunities for local residents.

The Challenges

Because this is a remote region of Colombia, there is a unique set of challenges that must be considered in its development as a tourism destination. The island of Providencia is home to about 5,000 residents and receives fewer than 20,000 visitors per year. As tourism develops in the region, it must be done carefully and in a way that ensure economic opportunity for local residents. As in any destination, the charm of the communities around the park lies on their authenticity, something that should not be disturbed or “packaged” in a way that misrepresents them or threatens their way of life.

The Park

Regional Natural Park (PRN) The Peak was developed to preserve the fragile dry forest ecosystems in the mountains run the length of the island. Threats to the ecosystem include activities related to unsustainable agriculture and unregulated tourism activity. 

Solimar’s work with the protected area comes as Colombian national government plans significant investments in tourism infrastructure on the island.

Tourism stakeholders receiving training

Our Work

Solimar’s Gabriel Seder recently completed a destination assessment on the island. During a five-day site visit, Solimar:
• Hosted workshops and community meetings with stakeholders, including community residents, guide associations, farmer cooperatives, conservation NGOs, and local government officials
• Completed a conservation threat assessment to identify direct and indirect threats to biodiversity conservation
• Conducted a tourism destination assessment to understand existing and potential attractions and supporting infrastructure and services
• Conducted a visitor survey to assess market demand for new tourism products
• Introduced business concepts for generating revenue in support of conservation
• Drafted a business plan to support the sustainable implementation of conservation and revenue-generating activities

In the next phase of the project, Solimar will develop a fundraising strategy that can be used to secure funding for key activities. Solimar will target funders and donors in Colombia and internationally to support the development of ecotourism products on the island.

Solimar’s previous work in Colombia incudes the development of a Geotourism interactive website on the islands of San Andres and Providencia, in partnership with National Geographic and funded by a loan from the InterAmerican Development Bank.

Solimar also worked in the region of Chocó to develop and market community-based tourism enterprises as part of the BIOREDD+ program funded by USAID.

Colombia was recently listed one of Solimar's top ten destinations to discover in 2015.

For more information on how Solimar’s business approach to tourism and conservation planning, click here.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! 

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Following the first training Solimar launched in Ethiopia, Matthew Humke delivered two individual 23-day Integrated Destination Planning and Management courses as part of Solimar’s Short Term Sustainable Tourism Training Program.

IMG 4149Ethiopia Training 2Ethiopia Training 3

Each course covered seven modules, including Destination Typology, Tourism Assessment Techniques and Tools, Tourism and Resource Conservation, Tourism Product Development, Destination Marketing, Managing the Visitor Experience, and Destination Management Planning. The purpose of the course was to offer Ethiopia tourism professionals a thorough overview of the types of destinations and the different modalities for their management so they can effectively incorporate these concepts into their work.

Ethiopia Training Group
Training Group in Ethiopia

There were a total of 68 participants in the two courses – 33 in the first course and 35 in the second. Participants included representatives from the Ethiopian government, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Regional Culture and Tourism Bureaus, Ethiopia’s national parks as well as cultural and historical sites. Within both courses, participants showed consistent interest and enthusiasm and were eager to learn the course content.

To ensure our content as relevant and applicable to the professional careers of the participants as possible, each module was structured in three sections. First, the instructor Matthew Humke introduced the course material with an emphasis on how it relates to Ethiopia as well as the professional context of the participants. Second, participants formed the 4-6 person “destination working groups” and picked an actual tourism destination in Ethiopia – ranging from national parks to cultural and historical sites – to which they applied many of the planning and management concepts during their practice and production activities. Finally, participants shared their discussion results with the class. Throughout the course, the destination working groups developed various aspects of an actual destination management plan step by step including tourism supply and demand, existing and potential market segments, and priorities at their destinations in tourism development, management and marketing.

Ethiopia Training
Training Workshop in Ethiopia

The course also included a series of weekly field trips designed to highlight some aspect of the content being taught during the course that week. For example, during the Tourism and Resource Conservation module, a field trip took place to Awash National Park where participants met with park management and staff to discuss the conservation objectives and challenges that park faces. During the Managing the Visitor Experience module, the participants traveled to Melka Kunture to see how that site interpreted its historical aspects and cultural heritage.

On the final day of the course, destination working groups presented their final project by taking all of their analysis and put it into a condensed destination management plans that identified strategic objectives for their sites as well as 1-5 year action plans.

Participants walked away the course not only with their certificates, but also materials from each of the seven modules, containing PowerPoint presentations, tools like worksheets, templates, publications, reports, videos and other complimentary materials related to the content provided in each module as well as photos and videos taken by the instructor during the course of field trips, participant presentations, etc.

Solimar marketing expert Natasha Martin will be the instructor of our two individual courses on Tourism Marketing and Branding course starting on March 16th and April 17th. For more information on the available courses, please visit

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