Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Friday, 21 November 2014 15:53

How Sustainable Tourism Development Protects the Wilderness

Written by Jeff Yerxa

Sustainable tourism, when done well, celebrates cultures, alleviates poverty, empowers women, enhances education, creates jobs, improves the wellbeing of local communities, and conserves natural resources. This is a cornerstone of Solimar International’s work.  Understanding these transformative effects is mostly intuitive. For example, sustainable tourism development often showcases local culture and employs local people in doing so—this alleviates poverty and increases the wellbeing of the community, which in turn creates revenue that can be reinvested in education. The association between sustainable tourism development and conservation, however, is indirect and less intuitive. Many people associate any form of development with a bulldozer. So how can sustainable tourism development actually conserve natural resources? The answer involves a bit of economics so hold on tight.

kayak
Photo: Jamie In Bytown Source: Flickr

The Economics Behind Sustainable Tourism Development and Conservation

Let us envision a fictitious (and yes, impossible) tropical rainforest in the middle of the United States. A thriving sustainable tourism industry has developed around this rainforest, attracting thousands of people from all over the world. Then reports come out indicating the high probability of a large oil deposit under the jungle. The government begins plans to develop an oil field, but before doing so conducts a cost-benefit analysis. In this situation, the government is a benevolent social planner, therefore accepting or rejecting the project is determined by the equations below; where Bp is Private Benefit, Cp is Private Cost, and Cs is Social Cost.

BP – (CP+CS) > 0 è Accept the Project

BP – (CP+CS) < 0 èReject the Project

The private benefits and costs for the owner of the project (the government in this case) are simply calculated using projections of sales, prices, costs and so on. The social cost, however, is much more difficult to calculate. This is because it is extremely difficult to quantify the indirect benefits of a jungle. A large benefit of a rainforest is the ecological services it provides—crop pollination (bee habitat), maintenance of soil quality, carbon sequestration, conserving biodiversity, providing habitat, etc. New technology and methods to capture these indirect benefits are continually emerging. NASA recently launched a satellite equipped to map the earth’s forests in 3D. These new maps will allow scientists to better estimate the amount of carbon stored in trees and monitor forest degradation.

Again, these ecological services are indirect values. Given there is an established tourism industry that relies on the jungle as an attraction there are also direct values. How much revenue is being generated from the tourism industry? How many jobs? These values can easily be accounted for and calculated into the social cost. Developing sustainable tourism therefore increases the social cost which increases the likelihood of the oil project being rejected and protects the jungle from deforestation.

Real World Examples

Many of the projects that Solimar is involved with aim to develop sustainable tourism around national parks. Take for example, Solimar’s role in developing an eco-lodge to Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia. Solimar spent the first months of this project conducting extensive market research and visits to numerous Ethiopian destinations to determine which was most promising for eco-lodge investment. The clear winner was an area outside Bale Mountains National Park because of its pristine natural beauty and relatively low tourism numbers. Building an eco-lodge here taps into the region’s potential. As a result of this project, tourism in and exposure to the Bale Mountains National Park increased, which raised its economic value (social cost) too.

BALE 2
Photo:Ron Knight Source: Flickr

 In other projects, Solimar has worked with established sustainable tourism destinations to help promote and market them to the world. An example of this is our Nambia NADM campaign, where we pushed forward an innovative marketing campaign focused on increasing both arrivals from the North American market and the number of North American travel trade that offer tours and packages to Namibia. Again, effective marketing of Namibia as an ecological wonder has increased visitation to the country and in turn brought economic value to the land. Today, over 43% of Namibia’s surface area is under conservation management.

To learn more about the interesting dynamic between tourism and conservation download our free toolkit

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Published in General
Friday, 06 February 2015 19:05

Four Ways to Become the Hottest Destination of 2025

Written by Clinton Tedja

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.

Morocco City Sunset
Sunset in Morocco

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.

Boquillas del Carmen Mexico Canoe River
Canoeing in Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico

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!

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Published in General
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 16:34

Solimar Conducts Workshops in Malawi to Develop Five-Year Tourism Strategy Plan

Written by Mallika Saini
Malawi Girl
Malawian girl carries fresh fish to local village

Solimar International has partnered with Via Via Tourism Academy, at the request of the Ministry of Information, to develop a five-year tourism development strategy for Malawi. From February 1-8, two workshops were conducted with over 100 individuals from the private, public, non-profit, and donor sectors to identify the country’s unique tourism assets and create a shared story of Malawi’s tourism future. Participants were very enthusiastic and the presentation was very well-received. The information presented at the workshops was based on a year’s worth of research and conversation with the local industry. Through facilitation, Solimar was able to lay the ground work for several initiatives like the creation of a new public-private partnership destination marketing organization and a network of regional tourism management committees.

The “Malawi 2020 Tourism Development Strategy” is currently being finalized. The plan will document Malawi’s vision forward based on the outcome of the workshops, and will include a brand profile and marketing strategy. Representatives from both the public and private sector will work together to implement the actions in "Malawi 2020” starting June 2015. In addition to working with the Destination Management Organization (DMO) and the local tourism committees, there are a number of issues, like handing the required infrastructure, education, and taxes, that will also start being addressed through ongoing cross-sectorial dialogue and ministerial task forces.

Solimar is very excited about this new relationship with Malawi and looks forward to helping it grow as one of Africa’s up-and-coming destinations. With its numerous wildlife reserves, unique varying landscapes, and friendly people, Malawi is sure to amaze its travelers. Workshop instructor, David Brown, describes Malawi’s charm and beauty,

“Visiting Malawi is always an uplifting experience. It’s called ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and that’s not just some empty advertising. Malawians are incredibly friendly and happy. You’re hard pressed to go anywhere without hearing laughter. The landscapes are immense but still humble. On the drive from Lilongwe, the capital, to Blantyre, the commercial hub, it’s easy to get lost in the big open spaces pierced with solitary mountains. Big plateaus full of zebra dominate areas in the North and the South and when you look around can feel like you’re surrounded by sky. Anyone coming to Malawi will surely be headed to the “inland ocean” of Lake Malawi which runs almost the entire length of the country. When you arrive and see the big blue expanse and the golden sand, you feel like you’re David Livingstone discovering something truly incredible for the first time. There’s something very tropical and peaceful about being there, especially when the sunset turns everything pink and the only thing you can see on the horizon are local fishermen bringing their boats to shore and the children splashing around.”

Lake Malawi
Sunset at Lake Malawi

Interested in learning more about tourism destination management? Check out one of our toolkits.

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Published in General
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 08:28

Solimar Developing a Destination Management Organization Toolkit with DMAI

Written by Rashaad Jorden
Ethiopia training
A Solimar-run training course in Ethiopia

Solimar International has teamed up with Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) and the International Institute for Tourism Studies at George Washington University to build a comprehensive online resource for destination marketing organizations. This practical toolkit will include templates, meeting agendas, how-to-guides, and case studies related to building and operating a world class destination marketing organization.

As tourism has emerged as one of the largest economic sectors in the world, a greater number of destinations have invested significant funds in destination marketing, attracting visitors and making the industry a powerful driver in economic growth and infrastructure development.

This new resource is designed to support tourism professionals seeking to build a new DMO or enhance a currently operating organization in order to meet the requirements of DMAI's Destination Marketing Accreditation Program. Core areas of focus will include destination dialogue, management/operations, governance, finance, technology marketing, sales, visitor services and sustainability. 

The toolkit is being designed in a phased approach that includes:

  • Research and discovery: Thorough background research of academic publications and useful tools developed by global tourism organizations.
  • Interviews: Interviewing DMO professionals that have displayed excellence or innovation in each of the toolkit categories. DMOs with different locations, operational budgets and management structures will take part in interviews.  
  • Pilot testing: As an example, Solimar International is currently working to create DMOs in Arizona's Verde Valley, the northeastern part of Sri Lanka and Malawi. 
  • Final review and multi-platform publication: Tourism professionals will conduct a final review, perform a layout design and publish the toolkit in print and online.

Furthermore, the toolkit will provide national and regional DMOs information on how to support smaller communities within their destinations as well as improve local resources and quality of life. And according to Jim McCaul, the director of communications at DMAI, it will help community leaders "looking to organize and consolidate private, public, and social sectors around the tourism industry under a new destination marketing and management organization."

For more information on how Solimar can provide assistance in launching a DMO, click here.

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

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Published in General
Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:49

8 Tips for Organizing a Fam-Trip for North American Tour Operators

Written by Clinton Tedja

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.

Namibia Sunset Jeep
A Trip to Namibia

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.

Colombia River Kayak
A Trip in Colombia

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.

Fam-Trip Rwanda
One of Our Fam-Trips in Rwanda

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!

 

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Published in General
Wednesday, 15 April 2015 15:36

Bhutan For Life - The Challenges and Opportunities of Ecotourism in Bhutan

Written by Clinton Tedja
Bhutan Prayer Flags
Photo by RadioFreeBarton, via Flickr

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.

Bhutan River
Photo by Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn), via Flickr

Urban Sprint

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.

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

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Published in General
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 13:52

Cultural Tourism Leads the Growth of Travel Industry

Written by Natalie Sellier
Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico
Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico

With the tourism industry growing steadily, we became curious to see if cultural tourism is a key contributor. Over the past couple of weeks, we have found that an expanding number of travelers are more interested in cultural heritage and cultural activities when planning a trip now than ever before. Their search for cultural exposure  brings them to off the beaten path destinations in search of authentic experiences. Today, more and more people seek to learn something new during their travels. 

Significant Statistics

Numbers often tell stories by themselves, so let’s see how cultural tourism stacks up in the industry:

International tourist arrivals reached 1.138 billion in 2014 - 4,000% higher than the 25 million annual tourists in the 1950s and 4.7% increased compares to 2013

The travel industry contributed $7.6 trillion of world GDP in 2014, which equates to 9.8% of the total world GDP

The tourism industry employed nearly 277 million people in 2014 and projected to increase to 356 million by 2025

81% of the U.S. tourists are considered as ‘cultural tourists’

Over one-third of U.S. tourists agree that specific arts, cultural or heritage events will influence their choice of destination

Many travelers extend their stay in a destination because of cultural activities

These positive statistics indicate huge potential for cultural tourism to continue to thrive in the industry. Its upward tendency makes it a force, driving the industry forward. 

Benefits of Cultural Tourism

Many destinations are famous for their cultural elements: Spain, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom. However, the benefit of cultural tourism is more recognizable in developing countries. 

One of the examples is China, which is becoming a mecca for cultural tourism with its long and profound history. There are numerous historical encounters and human moments that should not be missed. And its long distance from source markets like North America and Europe is not a hindrance. In 2014, China received 3,846 million tourists. They brought in a total revenue of about ¥3,380 billion, a 14.7% increase compared with 2013. Travel industry contributes over 4% to the growth of the China’s GDP and greatly enhances employment and economic development.

The concern is how to promote cultural tourism sustainably, so it brings positive benefits to a destination instead of harm.The Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s criteria for destinations and travel trade addresses this and, replete with its own set of project indicators, offers destinations in development a measureable way to protect cultural heritage in parallel with the rising success of tourism. 

Solimar & Cultural Tourism

Solimar deeply understands the value of cultural tourism. For more than a decade, we have been devoted to supporting small, developing and amazingly beautiful countries, exploring, enhancing and promoting their sometimes-overlooked cultural treasures. Our mission is to tell their stories and link them to curious & conscious visitors.

The power of cultural tourism is unlimited. We appreciate the fascinating plethora of cultures around the globe and believe it is possible to promote cultural tourism without exploiting local populations via sustainable tourism practices.

If you are interested in learning more about cultural tourism, check out our Tourism Destination Management – Achieving Sustainable and Competitive Results Toolkit!

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Published in General
Georgia Monks
Georgia Monks at a Feast

Tourism strategic planning is a comprehensive process for determining what a business or destination should become and the steps needed to achieve that goal. Many times when consultants are hired to create a strategic plan, the plan is at risk of remaining on the shelf and never being fully implemented. Why? Because those most affected by the tourism development plan may not have been fully integrated into the development of the strategy, and may not agree with the ideas. This is an ongoing issue the tourism industry faces, and a difficult one in which to find a solution.

The World Bank and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA) recognized this problem in the past. As part of a World Bank initiative, Solimar was contracted to develop a tourism strategy for the Caucasus nation. We were asked not to lead the development of the strategy, but rather facilitate and guide the GNTA through the strategy development process to ensure it was collaborative and comprehensive as possible.

Between the years 2009 and 2013, Georgia’s international tourism arrivals grew over 300%. This was largely in part to its envious location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as increasing amounts of exposure in international press as a unique, exciting destination. Georgia is the birth place of wine, has an exquisite culinary tradition, a rich early Christian history, and an abundance of natural assets - including 7 national parks. These attributes – if developed practically – demonstrate a significant strength to the country’s tourism sector within the high-value European marketplace, while improving the industry’s ability to contribute economically.

To keep pace with the increasing demand for tourism in Georgia, additional financing for private and public investments will be necessary. “The joint World Bank and IFC collaboration [in Georgia] focuses on fostering entrepreneurship and access to finance, improving the investment climate, and developing Georgia’s tourism strategy that will determine how to improve the sector’s performance, align implementation priorities and enable job growth.” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus.

Georgia’s tourism development approach has generally been focused on regional advancements rather than a cohesive national-level plan. Within the past decade, the World Bank and Solimar have worked on projects in the areas of Kakheti, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, and Samtskhe-Javakheti, each with creative solutions to grow the local tourism economies while conserving the natural and cultural resources. However, to maximize tourism’s national impact, a national strategy is required that takes into consideration large scale infrastructure and marketing activities that cannot be achieved by the regions alone.


The tourism sector currently provides nearly 20 percent of export earnings. The national tourism development strategy is, therefore, an instrument to take full advantage of Georgia’s potential and position it globally as a rich, diversified and high quality destination.” Ahmed Eiweida, Program Leader for Sustainable Development Programs in the South Caucasus.

Georgia Landscape
Georgian Landscape

Where is the Georgia National Tourism Administration now?

With the support of the World Bank, the Solimar team, and several Georgian experts, the GNTA produced a 2025 strategic plan that articulates the country’s current position, its vision for the future, and the key activities required in order to get there.
To build buy-in for the strategy, the GNTA led regional workshops, communicated with inter-government committees, issued press events and integrated action plans from other tourism-related sectors. The final document describes how the GNTA and its partners will deliver creative marketing to attract to higher income markets and statistical projections on how the GNTA will achieve a minimum of 5% growth rate over the next 10 years.

Where does Georgia National Tourism want to be in 2025?

The GNTA envisions the country as a premier, year-round, high quality tourism destination - a destination centered on its unique cultural and natural heritage, its world-class customer service, and timeless tradition of hospitality. The GNTA will be at the forefront of tourism competitiveness, through strategic investments in infrastructure, education, marketing, and the development of unique Georgian visitor experiences that appeal to high-value markets around the globe.

How does the GNTA lead the tourism industry to reach it’s vision?

Extensive stakeholder consultation resulted in the identification of 50 priority actions that have been grouped around the following 8 strategic objectives.

1. Respect, enhance, and protect Georgia’s natural and cultural heritage
2. Create unique and authentic visitor experiences centered on those natural and cultural assets
3. Enhance competitiveness, through delivery of world-class visitor services
4. Attract higher spending markets, through increased and more effective marketing and promotion
5. Expand and enhance Georgia’s ability to collect and analyze tourism data and measure industry performance
6. Enhance the business environment, to facilitate increased foreign and domestic investment
7. Expand public and private sector investment in the tourism sector
8. Build partnerships between government, industry, non-governmental organizations, and communities that will be needed to achieve all of the above

What will the challenges be?

Even though the GNTA has completed their strategic plan and found positive monetary incentive to start implementation; the national and regional tourism stakeholders must work as a team to have success. And most importantly, the 2025 strategic plan will only be effective if the GNTA continues to be committed and take ownership of this visionary strategic plan.

Published in General
Thursday, 21 January 2016 19:36

Solimar Launches Tourism Development Project in Sri Lanka

Written by Marisa Mansueto
Sri Lanka at dusk

Solimar International is starting off the New Year right – we’re proud to have just launched a new project in Sri Lanka on January 4th of this year! This project is called Entrepreneurship and New Product Development in the Tourism Sector of the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. With the International Finance Corporation as our client, we look forward to working hard on this project until its intended end date of December 31st, 2016.  

Background

Sri Lanka is a small island south of India, boasting gorgeous beaches, diverse wildlife, and lush rainforests as well as awe-inspiring ancient Buddhist ruins. Generally, Sri Lanka’s Western coast has been its tourism hub, but the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka have recently been experiencing an emerging shift in the tourism industry. Although these parts of the nation encounter obstacles with respect to providing top-notch quality to tourists, we know that there is opportunity for growth and positive change. We intend to help develop these provinces into high quality destinations for international tourists with the goal of attracting visitors, both international and regional, for years to come. In this year’s project, led by Lucia Prinz, we are working towards boosting meaningful conversations in the Northern and Eastern provinces, specifically the Mannar, Batticaloa and Ampara districts, aiming for the advancement of improved policies and services between the private sector and government. 

Buddhist monks
Buddhist monks

Specifics

During our year working towards improving the Sri Lanka tourism sector, we will be busy with essential tasks including: collaborating with local tourism providers to ensure the most up-to-date client services, and implement skills development training to these tourism providers in geographical areas using our Small Tourism Enterprise Operations and Management training course as a model. We will also provide workshops, sales training, and technical assistance and enhanced market access to promote our designated Sri Lanka provinces. In addition, we aim to organize local festivals to promote Sri Lankan provincial culture and tradition.

Outcomes

By the project’s end, our anticipated results include: implementation of a Small Tourism and Enterprise Operations and Management Course; creation of measures for best practices to submit a work plan to the IFC; enactment of a relationship between government and private stakeholders in tourism; expansion of tourism products or services, and implementation of a marketing strategy. These are just a few of our anticipated results, and we will keep readers posted on our progress throughout the year. Solimar is excited to start this new journey towards improving Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka tourism!

Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay
Published in General
Thursday, 04 February 2016 18:38

A New and Improved SAVE Travel Alliance Website is Live!

Written by Marisa Mansueto
Granada Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua

 Solimar and the SAVE Travel Alliance are thrilled to have recently launched the new and improved SAVE Travel Alliance Website. We have partnered with the SAVE Travel Alliance team to create a fresh, updated, and comprehensive website dedicated to linking travelers from all walks of life to amazing experiences at our seven global destinations: Jamaica, Nicaragua, Bhutan, Myanmar, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and Campeche, Mexico. Our team has been working hard to develop and establish SAVE centers to act as headquarters that promote Scientific, Academic, Volunteer, and Educational tourism experiences. These locations each bring their own traditions and diversity to SAVE Travel, but their common goal is to encourage ethical tourism and bring passionate travelers to their nations.

Travel should make a positive impact on travelers and the destinations they visit. Our goals are to connect with areas of the world that are in need of positive and responsible tourism and to serve as a bridge between travelers and destinations. SAVE travelers include university students, professors, researchers, volunteers, tour groups, and many more! We have been researching and gathering information on amazing travel experiences, including volunteering at a school in Namibia and enjoying a 7-day Mayan culture tour in Campeche! These regional centers will establish lasting economic and social benefits for their communities by increasing international travel to these destinations, boosting responsible tourism, and advocating for the success of local businesses. Our revamped SAVE website beautifully showcases the history and culture of each destination through a modern and welcoming layout, stunning images, and captivating text. We are continuing to add unforgettable travel experiences to each of our destination’s pages to ensure that there is an opportunity for every type of responsible traveler. 

Thingyan Festival in Bagan
Celebrating Thingyan in Bagan

Through this exciting SAVE project, we at Solimar and the SAVE Travel Alliance act as facilitators for travelers, organizations, universities, and our destinations’ local businesses. We are able to link travelers to our destinations’ amazing opportunities as they become available, and this easy access is invaluable to a passionate traveler. If a student is seeking a meaningful academic opportunity, such as a semester studying abroad, we point him in the direction of our academic experiences. If a scientist is looking to engage in biological research, we guide her to our global scientific experiences. It is then up to these potential travelers to decided to reach out to the organizations and make their dreams a reality! 

We will make sure to keep you posted on the exciting happenings and progress of our new SAVE website. In the meantime, check it out and let us know what you think!

Edzna
Edzná, Campeche
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