Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

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
Thursday, 23 May 2013 00:00

How Tourism, Conservation, and Local Economies Can Work Together

Written by Simon Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014 00:00

Why Devote Resources to Tourism Development?

Written by Jennifer Park

Of course we here at Solimar International believe that tourism is a critical industry, but recent data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) support this theory. The data is being used to call on world leaders and aid policymakers to devote more resources to tourism development.

The UNWTO called for higher support to tourism in international aid flows at the First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation in Mexico City, 15-16 April 2014: http://media.unwto.org/press-release/2014-04-28/unwto-calls-increased-support-tourism-development-agenda

Tourism’s global economic importance

Tourism accounts for 42% of the exports of services of emerging markets and developing economies and has been identified by half of the least developed countries as a priority instrument for poverty reduction.

International tourism to emerging and developing economies has been growing strongly in recent years. In 2013, emerging and developing economies received 506 million international tourists, or 47% of all international tourist arrivals in the world, as compared to 38% in 2000. UNWTO forecast this share to surpass that of advanced economies in the coming years and to reach 57% by 2030. 

Despite being a high-impact economic activity, a major job generator and key export sector—accounting for 6% of total trade, tourism receives only 0.5% of the total Aid for Trade (an initiative of the World Trade Organization) disbursements and a mere 0.13% of the total Official Development Assistance as measured by the OECD.

The potential for poverty alleviation and social development, particularly for women and youth

“Tourism is recognized as a crucial economic activity and engine for development in Mexico. Representing 8.4% of our GDP, the sector employs the largest percentage of young people between 16 and 24 years, and a majority of the tourism work force is women. The National Development Plan states that development policies in the tourism sector must include criteria aimed at increasing the contribution of tourism to reduce poverty and allowing social inclusion. Because of the importance of the sector, the President recently announced the National Tourism Policy, recognizing tourism as one of the economic activities with the greatest potential for growth and the capacity to generate employment and foster development” said Javier Guillermo Molina, Chief of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Mexican Ministry of Tourism.

A trend toward public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the need to strengthen the private sector

The Minister of Development Cooperation of Luxembourg, Roman Schneider stressed the importance of strengthening the role of the private sector. “Governments provide the enabling environment but growth has to be generated by the private sector. This is in tourism even more obvious. The national strategies that we support in our partner countries include a strong private sector component through the hotel industry as well as local small and medium enterprises (SMEs)”. “Luxembourg sees many opportunities in the tourism sector for innovative delivery models, such as public-private partnerships”, he added.

You can download the new, brief UNWTO publication, “Tourism: Driving Trade, Fostering Development and Connecting People” here:http://dtxtq4w60xqpw.cloudfront.net/sites/all/files/pdf/tourism_and_development_final.pdf

Sources: http://media.unwto.org/press-release/2014-04-28/unwto-calls-increased-support-tourism-development-agendaUNWTOOECD

Published in General
Tuesday, 01 July 2014 13:52

3 Questions Your Tourism Plan Should Answer

Written by Maria Fernanda

1. Where are we?

After you have identified an area prime for destination development, one of the next steps should be conducting a destination tourism assessment. This assessment will provide an analysis of the competition in your region as a tourist destination and help implement the steps you need to take for your tourism planning.

The market ultimately decides the boundaries of a destination as well as it’s physical and cultural limits, which is why you should keep in mind the following:

  • Attractions: What draws people to this destination? The culture, the biodiversity, landscapes, architecture, history, agriculture, festivals etc.

  • The Environment: The climate, safety, what are the cultures, religions, infrastructure, resources, facilities, services, etc.

  • The Policies: Government type, laws, you need to know what you can and can’t do when developing a tourism plan.

  • The Competitors: What is being implemented in your destination already? What are neighborhoring destinations offering?

  • Key Stakeholders: Who will be involved in tourism activities in this destination? How should they be involved in the planning stage?

  • Potential & Opportunities: In what areas can further development be useful? Is there untapped potential in the destination? 

You can learn more about destination assessments and read about assessments Solimar has completed here: http://bit.ly/1kMaQjM.

2. Where do we want to go?

After assessing the destination, you can move toward the planning stage. One of the most important aspects of planning is visioning. You need to have an ultimate vision for the destination. This vision will help you set goals and determine how your destination can acheive the desired outcomes. These goals should be attainable and feasible, some examples are:

  • Increased visitation

  • Higher sales

  • Increase awareness of destination among target markets

  • Increase awareness of vision (eg: ecotourism, community-based tourism, protect natural resources, improve water quality, help local economy) among target markets

  • More tourism products offered

3. How do we get there?

After creating a vision for your destination, the real work begins. How do you get where you want to go? In order to reach your vision and meet your goals, you need to create strategies and tactics that will engage community members & key tourism stakeholders while raising awareness among your target markets to drive sales & visitation. Here are a few inititiaves you might need to reach your goals:

  • Get community involvement from key tourism stakeholders

  • Focus on the creation or improvement of tours, lodging, attractions, events, and visitor services that can enhance the visitor experience. This in turn can increase your opportunity to attract investments.

  • Set up social media platforms & integrated marketing efforts

  • Implement marketing contests and campaigns.

  • Create partnerships with investors, government agencies, etc. 

If you follow these general guidelines, your tourism plan should be effective. Remember to monitor and evaluate your plan by collecting data and analyzing the success of the destination initiative. For more information on tourism plans, please contact us! Solimar offers strategic planning services which include destination assessments, tourism marketing strategies, and many more services which you can read about in this section: http://bit.ly/1n2q05t

 

Published in General
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 18:38

Your Road Map to a Great Tourism Business Plan

Written by Natalie Clark

Any great tourism business begins with a great “road map.” This road map serves as your business plan with actionable steps for moving forward with developing the enterprise. There are seven key components to your road map.

1. Clear Concept- Before you can dive into the road map, the essential first step is to clearly articulate your enterprise concept. What is your enterprise? What do you do? What are you trying to achieve? What impact do you expect your enterprise to generate? Before you move further down the road map, be sure that you put some thought into these questions and can clearly define the concept of your tourism enterprise. Try to condense this concept into a simple one to two sentence pitch that clearly articulates your business concept.

2. Market Analysis- Your market analysis includes the international, regional, and national tourism statistics and travel trends, the profiles of your target market segments, and a value chain/ industry analysis. Begin by getting an idea of the relevant tourism trends and statistics. What percentage of tourists coming to your destination region, country, or city are country nationals versus international visitors. When is the peak season that tourists come to visit? What are the typical demographics of visitors? Has the number of international tourists to your destination been increasing or decreasing? Addressing these questions will help you to better understand your market before moving forward.

From here, you can develop the profiles of your target market segments. Determine the nationality of your market, their wants and needs, their budget, etc. Think about whether your target traveler is seeking adventure and physical challenges, luxury and relaxation, or service and learning opportunities. Additionally, you will need to analyze the existing tourism industry in your destination. Especially if your enterprise will work with intermediaries; investigate the existence, success, and business models of tour operators, travel agents, and hotels; as they relative to your business concept to market or sell tourism products.

directions

 3. Sales and Marketing Strategy- At this stage of your road map, it is important to determine strategic positioning in terms of the pricing, placement, and promotion strategies of your business. There are numerous factors, both short and long-term to consider for pricing including the value provided compared to that of competitors, the price the market is willing to pay, the revenue needed to enable the business to reach its financial goals, and profit maximization. Your placement, or distribution, may be conducted either through direct or indirect sales. Your promotion strategy will describe the sales and marketing techniques used to reach your target market and should include online and social media marketing.

4. Competitive Analysis- Complete a summary of competing businesses and products, and determine your competitive advantage. Begin by defining your business competition- the people and businesses that offer similar products and services and seek the same markets. Research these competitors and assess their products or services on a number of factors, such as pricing, product quality, and customer service. Porter’s Five Forces Analysis is a useful tool to use for a through investigation of your competition. By assessing your business competition against your proposed enterprise, you will gain a better understanding of where your business stands and how best to leverage your strengths against your competition’s weaknesses. To determine your competitive advantage, simply outline the major advantages that your enterprise holds over the competition.

5. Operations and Training Plan- Consider your business structure and the key personnel and training needs that will be required to support it, while also keeping in mind any legal considerations. Will your enterprise be a private company, a partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC), a cooperative, a non-profit organization, or an association? There are pluses and minuses to each, and it is extremely important to think carefully to determine the best structure for your enterprise. Once the structure is determined, consider the number of employees needed and the roles and responsibilities of each. Consider the hierarchy of employees in your business and how profits will be shared.  Finally, the legal environment is key to consider; think about potential requirements like business registration, employee/membership agreements, permits, and insurance coverage.

road

6. Community and Conservation Support- Consider sustainable tourism as a cornerstone to your business plan. Sustainable tourism has the potential to not only mitigate potentially harmful impacts of visitation to a site, but it can also support conservation of the resources upon which it depends. At Solimar, we employ a market-based approach that links jobs and revenue generated by sustainable tourism to support conservation of the resources upon which the tourism depends. To develop a sustainability plan, begin by assessing the conservation threats related to your tourism enterprise. Once these threats have been assessed, you can choose tourism conservation strategies that address those threats, such as an environmental education program or a trail monitoring and research program. Lastly, be sure to budget for the implementation of your sustainability plan, including salaries, equipment, materials, and trainings.

7. Key Milestones and Workplan- Lastly, now that your business plan has been fully considered, you can create a timeline of the major activities related to the establishment of your enterprise and its tour products and services. Create a comprehensive list of the milestones to be completed for the successful establishment of your business and determine the order in which they shall be addressed. With each milestone completed, you are one step closer to being the proud founder of a great tourism business!

Business planning is a key part of the work Solimar International performs in destination marketing. To learn more about how to create your own tourism business plan, please download our free e-book on business planning

Busplanningtoolkit

Published in General
Thursday, 25 September 2014 15:40

The Basics of Integrated Marketing Programs

Written by Liz Heimann

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

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

Namibia Dune
Photo: Frank Vassen Source: Flickr

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download our free eBook on Inbound Marketing below:

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014 15:15

Myanmar Investment Outreach Forum with Don Hawkins

Written by Jeff Yerxa

On September 24th, Solimar International Chairman Don Hawkins was a panel speaker at the first Myanmar Investment Outreach Business & Investment Forum, held in New York City. The event, which was headed by Myanmar Minister at the President’s Office U Soe Thane, was organized to promote and encourage foreign direct investment in the Southeast Asian country, which is undergoing significant political and economic reform. The panel convened to discuss a myriad of topics across all sectors of the Myanmar economy.

 Don Hawkins
Photo Credit: Peninsula Press

Dr. Hawkins’ panel was asked about Myanmar’s tourism sector. After opening its doors in recent years for the first time in decades, Myanmar shows promise in becoming a major tourism destination. The Minister of Hotels and Tourism, Htay Aung, announced foreign tourist numbers have been steadily rising, up from 800,000 in 2011 to about 2 million in 2013. Such a surge in visitors has put a blatant strain on the industry, which suffers from a lack of development and infrastructure.

With such great potential, how can the sector become a pillar of the economy?

Dr. Hawkins emphasized investment. Myanmar’s international visitor arrivals are growing at about 46% a year, and in the first five months of 2014 tourism generated US$ 552 million. This figure is expected to easily surpass $1 billion by the end of the year. This is fast growing tax base which should be used to finance investment in health, education, and infrastructure, Dr. Hawkins explained.

Another important aspect Don pointed out was the industry’s high labor intensity. The tourism sector is forecasted to create over 1 million new jobs in Myanmar by 2020. The sector’s growth is poised for success, Dr. Hawkins explained, because of its foundation. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is one of the few ministries to have prepared a sector master plan, which lays out strategies and actions focusing on poverty alleviation, community involvement, environmental protection and good governance.

How does the country implement sustainable tourism, retaining the profits while adding value for the international players involved?

In addressing the development of sustainable tourism, Dr. Hawkins was keen to call attention to the Smithsonian Institution’s involvement in Myanmar. The Smithsonian Institution has joined the Ministry of Environmental Conservation & Forestry (MOECAF), UNDP, and Green Economy Green Growth Myanmar (GEGG) to organize a stakeholders workshop—“Building the Foundation for Natural Resources Stewardship for Sustainable, Inclusive and Equitable Development: Towards a Ten-year Strategy Framework (2015-2025)”. This workshop, which brought together Myanmar environmental NGOs and international NGOs, aims to develop a national plan for natural resource management and begin a targeted program for expanding and managing protected land and seascapes. This workshop is just one of many that are being held with regional and international stakeholders in the pursuit of sustainable development.

Over 350 people participated in the Myanmar Investment Forum, almost 150 more than expected. Such turn out reflects the promise and buzz around Myanmar’s potential.  Phyo Wai Yar Zar, chairman of the Myanmar Tourism Marketing and joint secretary of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, recently announced the possibility of a “Visit Myanmar” promotion year in 2016. The tourism sector is growing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down. Sustainable development of the sector will be of utmost importance moving forward to ensure continued success.

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

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014 15:58

Environmental Indicators in Measuring Tourism Impacts

Written by Carmela Otarra

The task of measuring tourism impacts is often conducted by identifying certain economic indicators, such as the contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the overall employment, and measuring their base before tourism, after a tourism project begins, and monitoring them as the project progresses. Here is an example infographic from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC):

Namibia Infographic
Source: WTTC

With sustainable tourism development, we aim to manage the consequences of tourism in such a way to maintain a balance between its economic, environmental, and socio-cultural impacts. Therefore, it is important to identify environmental and socio-cultural indicators to measure as well.

Solimar has compiled a list of possible indicators that you can use in evaluating and measuring tourism impacts particularly environmental ones. Although this list is not comprehensive, these indicators are the most commonly used and can guide you in your initial tourism planning.

Effect on Air, Water, and Soil Quality

Environmental Indicators Tourism Impacts 1

Tourism relies heavily on natural resources, so its impact on the environment is crucial when measuring tourism impacts. Ideally, tourism should be able to improve the quality of air, water, and soil in a destination. Some example questions to consider when measuring this indicator:

  • Has tourism been able to maintain the quality of water in the destination?
  • In places that promote pristine and endless strips of beaches, how clear is the water from coliform bacteria contamination?
  • Is there sufficient drinking water for the communities in the destination?

Sometimes, tourism businesses use up most of the water in a local area because of the needs of the tourists, such as providing showers in hotels. This transfers resources from the locals to the tourists and sustainable tourism developers should be wary of this.

Effect on Conservation Goals

Environmental Indicators Tourism Impacts 2

At Solimar, we believe that tourism should be able to enhance and improve the conservation efforts in a destination. When measuring tourism impacts on conservation, use these guide questions to help you:

  • Is tourism helping in protecting wildlife and other environmental resources?
  • Has the number of endangered species increased or decreased?
  • Does tourism support forest regeneration and marine conservation?

Effect on Waste

Many tourist establishments generate a relatively higher volume of waste compared to the locals' waste. Well-implemented waste management strategies are crucial to prevent negative impacts on the environment such as high levels of dangerous bacteria. Consider:

  • How much solid waste is generated by tourism?
  • Is there a proper waste management system to prevent negative environmental impacts?
  • What is the ratio of the tourism establishments waste compared to the locals?
Environmental Indicators Tourism Impacts 3

Measuring tourism impacts using these environmental indicators is helpful in sustainable tourism planning as a guide in designing strategies to achieve the positive side of these indicators. Of course, your indicators will need to be customized to your destination.

Solimar has a thorough understanding of the indicator measurement practices and worked with various clients including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the World Bank. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you in this regard, ask one of our experts.

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Wednesday, 04 February 2015 21:31

Solimar’s Top 10 Destinations For Your 2015 Bucket List

Written by Mallika Saini

Can you believe we’re already a month into 2015? We hope your year is off to a great start and that you are still keeping with those New Year’s Resolutions. One resolution we think you shouldn’t forget about: Travel more! To help you out, Solimar has compiled a list of the top 10 places we think should be on your bucket list for 2015. Check out these great sustainable travel options for ideas to inspire your next trip.

1. Myanmar

From gorgeous Buddhist temples to snaking, serene rivers, Myanmar has much to offer the adventure traveler. The rich cultural diversity of this “untouched” country makes it a must-visit for those looking for a unique Southeast Asian escape.

2. Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal

Nepal is on the bucket list for many adventure travelers because of the legendary Himalayas, but they tend to visit the same well-trodden destinations. The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) is a network of trails that span across the mountain range. Trekkers enjoy spectacular views on these challenging trails, while also meeting and interacting with Nepali locals. In late 2014, Solimar started work with the GHT to ensure effective online promotion of trekking in Nepal. A must for the truly adventurous! 

Great Himalaya Trail Trek
Trekkers on the Great Himalaya Trail

3. Tanzania

Home to the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is the adventure traveler’s dream. Don’t be alarmed if you spot the king of the jungle during your visit – the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa.

4. Colombia

The Colombian archipelago of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina are the epitome of beauty and relaxation. Visitors are sure to enjoy the islands’ picturesque, sandy beaches and waterfalls. Make sure to explore the plethora of colorful marine life that live there! Solimar is currently working with National Geographic to create a strategic business plan and marketing strategy to provide a long-term geotourism solution to Colombia.

Waterfall in Colombia
Gorgeous waterfall in Colombia

5. The Mississippi River

Looking for a unique adventure in the heart of North America? Try a Mississippi river tour! The largest river system in the US, the Mississippi is an excellent option for exploring the geographic, ecological, and cultural diversity the US has to offer. Solimar’s Mississippi River Geotourism Project is working to create a destination marketing and branding strategy to provide the Mississippi River area with attractions to support geotourism in the area.

6. Namibia

No surprise here – Namibia has been and will continue to be one of our favorite sustainable travel destinations! The gorgeous sunsets over desert and coastal landscapes, big game encounters, and rich culture is truly unparalleled. 

Namibian Cultural Art
Namibian Artwork

7. Nicaragua

Nicaragua is 2015’s Central America travel hotspot. Boasting a rich tapestry cultural history (home to one of the oldest cities in the Western Hemisphere) and amazing natural wonders like Pacific Coast beaches and volcanoes, Nicaragua has something for everyone. Nicaragua is also home to Solimar’s newest ecolodge development project.

Ethiopia wildlife
Ethiopia is great for bird-watching

8. Ethiopia

Ethiopia is an excellent place to see the crossroads of African and Middle-Eastern cultures. For the history and culture lover, Ethiopia is sure to not disappoint. But don’t forget the wildlife! Ethiopia is also a perfect spot for bird-watchers and animal lovers.

9. Bethlehem

While most people know Bethlehem as the historic birthplace of Christ, this Palestinian city has so much more to offer. Along with the Church of the Nativity, travelers must also visit the ‘Land of Olives and Vines’, a hiking trail through ancient Roman terraces, and the desert Monastery of Ma Saba: just for a glimpse of the area’s long and rich cultural history. Solimar is currently working to create a master plan and strategic marketing plan for the Bethlehem governorate to make this location a competitive sustainable tourism destination.

10. Malawi

Get up close and personal with a rhino, lion, or giraffe in Malawi at one of its numerous wildlife reserves. The friendly, charming people and beautiful, varied landscapes are wonderful attractions for any traveler. 

For more information on our favorite destinations, please visit our website and sign up for our newsletter.

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