Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Thursday, 21 February 2013 00:00

New National Geographic Travel Website Highlights Portugal's Douro Valley

Written by Katie Hardin

With breathtaking landscapes and a distinctive wine culture, there’s nothing not to love about Portugal’s Douro Valley. It might be wine enthusiasts best kept secret right now, but that won’t last long as more people are introduced to this remarkable region. 

To celebrate the local people who have loved and cultivated the Douro Valley for centuries, Solimar supported National Geographic develop a collaborative online Mapguide – DiscoverDouroValley.com. The aim of the website is to promote and preserve the unique culture and history of the Douro Valley while offering visitors a chance to experience this destination as the winemakers, farmers and traders of Douro intended. 

The website features historic and natural landmarks, wineries, hotels, and many other sites that are nominated by the local people as being distinctly Douro. As the website touts, “The best travel advice comes from the people who live there,” and that invaluable advice is exactly what you’ll find on the website.  

The website officially launched in December at the Douro Museum in Regua, overlooking the Douro River and celebrating Port wine. (Port is a fortified sweet red wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley – one of the Valley’s many claims to fame.) The event was part of the 10th anniversary of the Douro Valley wine region being granted cultural landscape status by the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The Minister of Tourism along with local partners, National Geographic representatives, media and press were in attendance.

Solimar’s Jim Dion described the launch as "an inspiring event in an inspiring locale. Beyond the promoting tourism aspect of these projects is the inspiration of local people in the pride of their geography and special sense of their own place that makes these projects Important." Another event is planned this spring at the start of the tourist season. 

And we aren’t the only ones excited about the Douro Valley these days. Afar Magazine just listed Portugal as a must-see destination for 2013:

"… It’s the beautiful Douro Valley that’s getting all the buzz these days, emerging as the next great wine destination—and not just for the country’s namesake Port. At the mouth of the Douro sits the beautiful city of Oporto, dating from the Roman period and offering diversions both modern (fresh new boutique hotels) and ancient (the baroque Torre dos Clérigos bell tower). And in the rural Alentejo region to the south, hotels like Villa Extramuros offer visitors home-away-from-home style and comfort."

To learn more about our geotourism projects in partnership with National Geographic, visit our sustainable destination program page, where you can request a proposal or check out other geotourism websites!

 Douro Valley

Published in General
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 00:00

Putting Armenia on the Map

Written by Simon Jones

When I told friends I was off to Armenia to help the country develop a national tourism website, I always got the same reaction: "Where in the world is Armenia?" Many had heard of the Armenian people as there are three times as many Armenians living outside the country as there are in the country, but very few people knew where the country was or anything about it. There is a need for a national tourism website that better promotes the country and informs people about its unique tourism attractions. 

The process we are following in Armenia to put them on the tourism map is based on Solimar’s solutions for Destination Management Organizations (DMO’s). Although Armenia has an existing entity, the National Competitive Foundation of Armenia (NCFA), that is managing tourism in the country, they requested that we help them develop a national tourism portal that could more effectively promote the country. We will also develop a business plan that can help them sustain the website without additional cost to the organization.

Based on our DMO approach, but tailored specifically to their online activity needs, we are working with NCFA to assess their website and online needs (Phase 1), and create a website development strategy that describes, in detail, the architecture and functionality of the site. The implementation will be a step by step action plan for creating the website (Phase 2). We are also developing a practical business plan and helping NCFA establish business units in their organization that can generate income streams that will support the site as well as the organization in their efforts to promote Armenia (Phase 3).

Once completed, the website will act as a central tool through which Armenia can be marketed (Phase 4), but a website is only as effective as the marketing and management that is done around it. As part of the business plan, and based on Solimar’s unique inbound marketing approach, an online marketing strategy will be developed that integrates with the architectural design and functionality of the site to optimize the impact of the site. The website is developed with marketing and outreach in mind and the marketing strategy is developed with the website architecture in mind so they both work effectively together for the greatest results. 

As I mentioned earlier, the goal is to work with NCFA to provide Armenia with an online tool that can enhance the promotion of the country. Ultimately, when someone says they are going to Armenia, I would like the response to be, “Oh Armenia, I know where that is!” It’s a hidden gem that the world should know about.

To learn more about our DMO and marketing work around the world and the approach we take in supporting destinations, click here. 

Published in General
Tuesday, 02 April 2013 00:00

Generating Sales Leads Through Travel Guides

Written by Karen Megarbane

One of the most important components of inbound tourism marketing is the initial offer that prompts website visitors to submit their personal information. This is the offer that turns them into a sale “lead.” In the travel industry, two of the most effective offers for potential clients are trip planning tools and travel guides. Your business or destination can use these as an opportunity to demonstrate industry expertise and objectivity, and most importantly, build trust with potential future customers.

Here are 7 ways you can maximize your offers and create stronger leads:

1: Fill the information void

Conducting preliminary research is essential. Writing a good travel resource takes plenty of time and energy, and you don’t want to waste that on developing something your competitors have already published.

Find what content has been published on your chosen topic. How will your travel resource be different? What will it offer that existing travel resources don’t? If your topic needs refining or changing altogether, find out what your target audience is looking for so you can write with confidence and authority. What gap or void could your travel resource fill for your audience? What problem could it solve?

Our client, the Namibia Tourism Board, does this brilliantly on their website. They offer tourists a variety of travel resources intended to fill an information void.  

2: Your title is everything

Well, not quite everything, but it's certainly important. Your title should be eye-catching and unique. Convey the essence of your topic and the value it brings to your readers with a cleverly placed keyword. The following are examples of good titles:

  • “How to...” titles imply that your travel resource is going to teach readers something.

  • Titles with “tips,” “tricks” or “secrets” instantly intrigue readers. After all, who doesn't want to be in on a good secret?!
  • Numbers are also a good way to capture attention, particularly with lists such as “10 things to do in...”

Come up with several names for your travel resource and do a test marketing activity with your coworkers, friends, family, customers, and vendors to find out which title attracts the most attention.

3: Less is more

As with most writing, less is more. Avoid long sentences and especially long paragraphs. Your readers downloaded your content to find out more about an important topic, not so you could ramble off topic. Need help with content delivery and presenation? Our content creation Ebook is a great resource!

4: Design Matters

Having great content doesn’t matter if your travel resource is poorly designed. A sloppy, unprofessional layout is going to hurt your brand image and your company’s ability to increase visibility and, ultimately, to generate leads and sales.

Good design can enhance travel content, but it doesn't mean overly decorative layouts and templates. Instead, use styles that reinforce your brand messaging with colors and fonts present on your website or other collateral.    

We love the design of the following two travel guide examples (available for download on the Experience Scottsdale Arizona website). Even though the resources cover two completely different topics, their similar design, color, and layout complement and accentuate Scotdales' branding and messaging.  

5: Sell your expertise NOT your products

Let’s say you are a rafting tour operator in Uganda writing an e-book on adventure travel. It may be tempting to insert some tour summaries from your own brochures into the travel guide, but resist the temptation!

Remember, the point of travel guides and planning tools are to draw website visitors into your sales funnel so you can build a relationship with these travelers and demonstrate your expertise. Once they are ready to book a trip to your destination, they will automatically turn to you and your travel partners. You cannot rush the lead nurturing process; the goal of inbound tourism marketing is that when a consumer is ready to book a trip, they will come to you. 

6: Reuse and Recycle

These travel resources that you have worked so hard to prepare are a testament of your travel expertise and knowledge. Repurposing this content wherever you can will help you get noticed! You can distribute the content in different formats across your other communciations channels. Tweak the content a little and write a series of blog posts or join travel forums and review sites and offer these blog links as useful resources to people’s travel queries. This way you can raise brand awareness and really establish yourself as an industry expert!

7: Use CTA’s to command a lead’s attention

Never forget that the main goal of a travel resource or guide is to give your readers the information they are seeking, but you should also give them additional benefits by enhancing your content with hyperlinks and calls-to-action that will help move readers along the sales cycle. This absolutely DOES NOT mean trying to sell a tour or service upfront, but instead linking to landing pages on your website where they can download other offers corresponding to their position in the travel planning process. For example, other travel resources or guides are great for people who are at the beginning stage of the planning process, while free or discounted trip offers, trip planning consultations, and product materials are ideal for people who are ready to book a trip. 

Still stuck on creating offers? Need help maximizing your leads? Experiencing writer's block?

Don't fear! If you want to learn more about creating valuable travel guides and resources that convert leads, take a look at some of Solimar’s tourism marketing services

Published in General
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 00:00

Understanding & Improving Your Sales Funnel

Written by Karen Megarbane

Your sales funnel is the backbone of your tourism marketing plan. Without a properly defined sales funnel, your tourism marketing plan is missing a key component. Utilizing a sales funnel approach not only guides your marketing activities, but it also pushes you ahead of your competition. 

What is a sales funnel and how does it relate to the travel industry?

Your sales funnel is a road map that illustrates how your prospective clients learn about your brand, are drawn to your website content, and are slowly converted into sales via a suite of inbound marketing tactics. This process is referred to as a funnel because as clients get closer and closer to purchasing, they are essentially moving down a funnel.

The travel sales funnel revolves around the same premise, but with a twist. 

As we know, the Internet has revolutionized how people are motivated to book their travel and share their experiences. This has expanded the traditional buying cycle from “Interest > Research > Purchase” to the “The Five Stages of Travel” outlined below:

  1. Dreaming: The traveler is made aware of the destination and/or tourism product and wants to learn more about it.  

  2. Planning: The traveler decides that they want to visit the destination, take a tour, or stay in a hotel and begins planning their trip using the Internet.  

  3. Booking: The traveler books their trip.

  4. Experiencing: The traveler takes their trip.

  5. Sharing: The traveler shares their experience with their friends and family and the travel community usually via social media, a review site or forum.  

Solimar’s approach to tourism marketing embraces new tactics and technology that pull highly targeted travelers into a sales funnel that is designed around the way consumers plan their trips. By focusing on your sales funnel, you can ensure that visitors are provided with the information they are seeking at each stage of the process. This approach mandates that a travel business or destination really understands the potential target markets and their behaviors so they can effectively transform website visitors into leads, and leads into bookings.

The diagram below illustrates a mock up sales funnel for the destination of Jordan and its tourism board website. Note how each component of the funnel helps travelers learn more about the destination and, in turn, drives them closer to booking a trip. But once they have taken a trip, they are not out of the funnel. Visitors are encouraged to share their experiences with their online communities, which will hopefully help drive more potential travelers to their website. Be sure to download our Free Ebook Marketing With a Purpose for a more detailed guide on how to effectively align your tourism marketing tactics with your funnel.

Does your destination or company have a sales funnel?

If not, here are some basic questions to help get you started and/or gauge the effectiveness of your funnel if you already have one. You must make sure that all the marketing tactics you use in your sales funnel align with the responses to these questions. 

  • How do most travelers find out about your destination or tourism products?
  • Where do these travelers live online, and, more specifically, what social media sites and forums do they frequent most?
  • How does your target market use these sites in the travel planning process? Is it more to perform travel research or obtain inspiration?
  • What search terms are travelers using to get to your site or to perform travel research? 
  • What information do they take into consideration when planning a trip and choosing between tourism competitors? In other words, what is your competitive set?
  • What travel resources, guidebooks and trip planning guides can you offer travelers to help them in the travel planning process?
  • What tools can you offer travelers while they are on their trip that will enhance their experience?
  • How can you incentivize travelers to share their travel experiences online? 
If you are still stuck creating your own sales funnel or have a funnel that needs improvement, take a look at some of Solimar’s tourism marketing services or marketing solutions for businesses and destinations.

 

Published in General
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 00:00

Tourism Marketing Project Update: Armenia Destination Website

Written by Simon Jones

Solimar is working with the USAID funded EDMC Project in supporting the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia (NCFA) to develop a national tourism website designed to raise awareness of the country in key international markets .

Tourism in Armenia has experienced high rates of growth in the past few years, made possible by a combination of the national government's prioritization of tourism development, investments in infrastructure and internatioanl tourism promotion (including this parachute-focused television spot below). Solimar's goal is to augment this growth through smart tourism marketing.

Our first step in tackling destination websites is to develop a comprehensive website strategy that takes into consideration target market preferences, user experience, architecture requirements, and content needs. As a national tourism portal, this site will have a significant amount of practical travel information, including over 100 pages of rich informative content, interactive maps, photo and video viewers, and the ability for Armenian tourism business to upload and manage content about their businesses. A mobile-compatible app is also in the works.

Long-term sustainability of the website after development funding ends is an important consideration for us.  A new not-for-profit company owned by the NCFA and overseen by a six-member private sector advisory board will manage the portal and offer membership, advertising and booking functions to fund its operations. 

The website is presently in development and is anticipated to be launching by the end of 2013. Once launched it will provide NCFA and the country with a high-quality marketing tool through which to promote the country to prospective travelers and drive those travelers to tourism business, increasing awareness and tourism sales. 

 

Published in General
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00

Geotourism Update: Newfoundland & US Gulf States

Written by Simon Jones

It's an exciting time for our geotourism projects! In partnership with National Geographic, Solimar has been working hard to complete a project in Newfoundland and start a new project in the U.S. Gulf States. The geotourism program aims to highlight the unique and authentic tourism experiences within a destination as selected by the local people. The final product is an online, interactive mapguide that serves as an incredibel travel planning resource for visitors.  

Newfoundland

After several months of hard work, the Newfounland Geoutourim Mapguide is complete! The official launch event was held last month in St. John's. The Newfoundland mapguide has been a huge success. Over the course of the project, 800 locally-nominated points of interest, landmarks, events, artisans, and attractions were received. Many of these nominations are captured in the final product, which displays Newfounland's unique character and beauty. 

The finished product is really just the beginning. Now the online mapguide can serve its real purpose as it connects website visitors and travelers to authentic Newfoundland for years to come. Other sites and events will also be added as the mapguide continues to grow and capture new features. 

To learn more about this exciting destination and their newly launched website, visit the Newfoundland Geotourism Mapguide and follow them on Facebook or Twitter

U.S. Gulf States

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of activity with our U.S. Gulf States Geotourism Program. The kick-off project orientation meeting was held in late February with partners from all four states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi). In the two-day gathering it was decided that the project would cover the entirety of all four states and highlight the unique attributes of the 'Southern Crescent.' Our team has been busy gathering the information and approvals required to publicly launch the nomination phase of the project, where people from the region are asked to nominate the tourism sites, attractions, stories, and businesses that make their destination unique. 

On April 15th, we launched the nomination website. This site will be available for select partners to ensure we have the major sites and attractions on the website when the public nomination phase starts this month. The select partners, including state tourism organizations and public land representatives from the region, have been asked to fill in their top 10 sites as a way of initiating the nomination phase for the region. In addition to this, a suite of nomination materials have been developed, including fact sheets and information about the program, print nomination forms and guidelines (for those who prefer to fill out nominations by hand), as well as postcards and businesses cards encouraging people to nominate. These will be used in the public nomination phase starting this week!

To learn more about the nomination process, please visit the US Gulf States Geotourism website.

 

Published in General
Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00

5-Step SEO Checklist for Tourism Marketing

Written by Karen Megarbane

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is one of those words that makes the majority of travel marketers cringe. 

It's not surprising that SEO causes so much panic. Almost every individual SEO expert and company has a different approach to implementing SEO, often through a seemingly blind or over-complicated mish mash of different elements from keywords, descriptions, backlinks, titles, structure, site code, alt text, anchor text, etc. To make it even more maddening, these concepts continue to get more complicated as Google continues to change its algorithm to help deliver stronger search results. 

So what do you do if:

You can't hire SEO experts.

or

You don’t understand these complex Google algorithms, not to mention the updates that we so frequently hear about.

The answer is simple: go back to basics by understanding the premise of SEO.

The biggest downfall of most travel marketers is that they get so caught up in SEO jargon and technicalities that they end up optimizing their travel site for search engines and NOT people! Therefore the quality of their brand, products, and expertise are often muffled by their attempt to over-optimize their website to gain the attention of search engines. 

Remember: SEO is not really about search engines- it’s about the searchers, in this case, the travelers. Providing them with the information they are looking for at every stage of the travel planning process is the most important factor. The updates search engines constantly undergo are not to make the lives of marketers more difficult, instead, they are intended to benefit both the traveler and business (or destination) as they try to pair travelers with the highest quality search results.

Search engines update their algorithms on a constant basis to try and provide more authentic results. Google, for instance, tends to favor sites with fresh, high-quality content, strong design, a lot of inbound links (people linking to your website content from their own sites), a heavy social media presence, and clear branding. They try to determine a site's legitimacy the same way a searcher would.  

So focus less on the nitty-gritty and more on the bigger picture. Now that you understand the basic rational for SEO and SEO updates, here are five steps to make sure that you have your travel site optimized to obtain the maximum targeted traffic through search engines. 

  • Do you have a nice blend of quality content and keywords? 

Great content is the ultimate key to any inbound strategy. It's how you establish a connection with future customers and drive them towards your site to be captured in your your sales funnel. Content creation is two-fold: determine what your travel audience is looking for at every stage of the travel panning process and couple this with a few keywords that your audience will be searching for. Avoiding stuffing keywords on your site - Google will see right through that. Finally, make sure that you have enough quality content to keep a traveler engaged and coming back to your website for more. 

Grupos Rosario's newly-launched website is a fabulous example of a site that has carefully optimized content, ranging from a strong blog to informative trip planning and down loadable guides, geared towards travelers in different stages of the travel planning process. Check out their site for ideas on how to optimize your own content!

  •  Do you have key backend elements optimized?  

This does not just mean keyword research and content optimization, but also that the title tags and meta-tags on the backend of your website are properly optimized. Other important SEO precautions that must be taken into account include an XML site map and 301 redirect codes. So just take care in filling out the following articles. Make sure you are not simply entering strings and strings of non-sensible keywords in your tags and page descriptions. Everything has to make sense and resemble what you searchers will be looking for. 

  • Is your site consistently branded and are you raising brand awareness? 

The infamous panda updates (a series of recent Google search engine algorithms improvements) had one huge takeaway: Google now cares heavily about branding. Remember, to a traveler, a strong brand is usually synonymous with a strong product or travel experience. Therefore, a business or destination must make sure that they have a clear online brand promotion strategy and that their website contains enough branding elements.   

Branding is the pinnacle of any destination and/or business marketing strategy and now, it's also an important party of any SEO strategy. Pearls of Uganda is an association of community run enterprises that Solimar has helped with their branding and website optimization. 

  • Do you have a blog and is it constantly updated? 

Search engines obviously want to give travelers the most up-to-date information possible so they tend to rank travel sites with fresh content higher than sites that are not frequently updated. This is why having a blog is so crucial to getting your business or destination noticed.  Aside from the fact that it allows you to speak directly to your consumer and showcase your brand personality, blogging on a regular basis is the best SEO trick to keeping your content up-to-date. 

The Namibia Tourism Board, one of Solimar's clients, is the perfect example of a destination with a strong blogging schedule whose goal is to draw in targeted website traffic. Check out their blog for ideas on how to optimize your own! 

  • Is your website content shareable?

Social media is one of the biggest traffic attractors to websites, and thus Google updated its algorithms to reflect this. Today, social media channels are carefully factored by Google and other major search engine algorithms. In turn, you need to make sure that all your website content is shareable by inserting calls to action that prompt visitors to "like" your blog posts and pages or by simply adding share buttons at the end of interesting content. The more your travel content is shared online the more pull you get in Google results.

Think about what social media sites are most fitting for your content to be spread across and be sure to add in the corresponding "share button" icons to your site.  

Still stuck on SEO, creating killer content, or optimizing your website? No fear, Solimar has a world of FREE tourism resources at your disposal. Check out our library of free marketing eBooks and if you are looking for a little more in-depth consultation, visit our marketing services page!

Published in General
Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Destination Management in our own Backyard

Written by Natalie Sellier

As a consulting firm focused on the greater good, we are always thinking about ways to give back to our own community. We’ve participated in a number of volunteer projects (highlights over the years have included pulling weeds and painting fences), but have always felt we could better serve through utilizing our unique skills and expertise. 

After moving to 11th Street in February of 2012, we began witnessing incredible growth of the independent business scene around our office. We felt the story of 11th Street (dubbed D.C.'s "hip strip" in the New York Times), and the independent businesses that make the neighborhood so unique, was just too exciting not to be told. From speaking with the individual business owners, there was also a desire to connect with each other to tackle mutual issues and work together on community projects.  

Replicating what we’ve done in so many other destinations around the world, Solimar convened the business owners between Monroe and Kenyon Street and helped to form the 11th Street Business Alliance. Through a virtual connection and monthly meetings, the alliance is now providing advocacy and support to the local businesses while fostering a greater community dialogue within the neighborhood. We are currently discussing formalizing the organization as a non-profit in order to increase our impact by generating revenue and applying for grants.

As one of our first initiatives, the Alliance developed an 11th Street marketing campaign, website and social media presence. Through 11thStreetDC.com, there is a listing of all neighborhood businesses as well as a blog feature to keep DC residents updated with the latest happenings on 11th Street. The “Insider’s Guide” section of the website features exclusive information on what makes the neighborhood such a unique place to live, work and play—including guest posts from the people behind 11th Street’s thriving business scene. The “Upcoming Events” page includes details on upcoming events, festivals, menu specials and more. Just last weekend, hundreds of people came to celebrate the neighborhood's marquee event - Oktoberfest!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates, features and specials. In the meantime, be sure to check out 11th Street on FacebookTwitter & Instagram!

Published in General
Friday, 04 April 2014 00:00

Geotourism MapGuide and Website Launches in U.S. Gulf Coast States

Written by Evita Broughton

No one knows a destination better than the people that are from there. These people are connected by language, culture, commerce, music, food, but most strongly by geography. They are all from a place that is inextricably linked by land and water, the U.S. Gulf Coast, a geographic continuum from Louisiana, through Mississippi and Alabama, to Florida.

To celebrate what’s unique and authentic about this region, the team at Solimar and public and private representatives from all four states worked with National Geographic to create an online interactive map, app and print map of the area through the voices of the people that live there. Visitors looking to travel to the area will find locally-sourced destination information about cultural, natural and historic attractions that define the Gulf States. 

 Nat Geo Map Good One

In addition to state support, The U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism Project is being advanced with financial support provided by BP’s Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotion Grant Funds and an initiating grant written by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and funded by, the U.S. Public Lands Highways Discretionary Grants program. 

This past week, the U.S. Gulf Coast States Geotourism website, app and map were officially rolled out in a series of press events hosted by the Alabama Office of Tourism in Montgomery, Mississippi Office Tourism in Jackson and Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism in Baton Rouge, respectively. 

Keynote speakers included National Geographic’s James Dion, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Laura Gates of the United States Park Service and Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne. Each outlined the importance of geotourism in helping the U.S. Gulf Coast prosper by telling the story of its people and lesser-known gems as well as supporting public lands and local communities. 

Rollout Event USGC

From left to right:  Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, Laura Gates of The United States Park Service and James Dion of National Geographic.

The official launch event in The Sunshine State will be held in September as part of the Florida Governors Tourism Conference. In the meanwhile, we’ll continue to capture stories from the U.S. Gulf Coast States, highlight some highlight some hidden treasures and be a voice for some of the people from the region. Stay tuned!

Published in General
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 00:00

Ethiopian Tourism Project Wins UIAA Mountain Protection Award

Written by Annabel de Braganca

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with destinations in development is seeing them recognized for achievements in tourism management and sustainability.

This type of recognition reinforces and reminds us of the impact our work can have when we use our skills to bring awareness to developing destinations brimming with potential.

We recently discovered that the Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area (GCCA) project, an Ethiopian mountain community project we participated in, has become the first recipient of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award, designated by the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission. We are proud to have been part of the team that worked with the GCCA in 2012 and are excited to see such a deserving community and area become the recipients of this award.

Background: UIAA Mountain Protection Commission

The UIAA (the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) founded the Mountain Protection Commission in 1969 to promote and protect mountain environments worldwide.  In founding this award, they launched the initiative to encourage responsible mountain tourism and to recognize the efforts of stakeholders dedicated to the cause. The GCCA was selected from a pool of seven exceptional mountain-area projects around the world to be a pioneer in the UIAA’s dedicated endeavor to supporting sustainability in mountain areas. 

Laura Ell, Solimar’s Marketing Project Manager for the GCCA project, spoke with me about the region, the project’s impact, and Solimar’s participation in helping put the GCCA on the map.

Why the GCCA?

Laura explained that before the project launched, several important tourism and development stakeholders, including the Frankfurt Zoological Society, had already identified the GCCA as an exceptional region. What makes it special? The secluded area is a pristine gem boasting breathtaking views and abundant wildlife, including the endangered and unique Ethiopian wolf and the gelada.

This remarkable achievement has allowed these communities to have an important stake in managing and benefiting directly from sustainable tourism development in the area. The president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission, Linda McMillan, has said that this gives the award recipient special value.But its natural beauty is only part of the reason it is a deserving recipient of the award. The area also features an involved community and a distinctive culture. Today, one of the most unique aspects of the GCCA project is that it has had success in involving the indigenous communities in the area. One prominent example is the GCCA's administrative executive board: it has been managed since 2009 by a council of community elders.

Solimar International & Community-Based Tourism Marketing

Solimar was already working with the Frankfurt Zoological Society in a larger-scale project in Ethiopia funded by USAID-Ethiopia. Solimar signed on to assist the team help put the GCCA on the map.  The team we worked with recognized that the biggest issue was the GCCA’s lack of visibility. Laura reiterated that the products were there, the community was engaged and motivated- the area just needed some recognition and a revamped business model.

Tourism Marketing Tools

Solimar participated in improving this problem by identifying and developing marketing tools to increase customer visibility.  Some of the tools created for the GCCA were:

In only two years the area went from being virtually overlooked to becoming the winner of an award that will help bring it more visibility. 

Who should visit the GCCA?

So what kind of tourist will get the most out of a visit to the GCCA? Since the GCCA is off the beaten track, Laura believes visitors from the SAVE travel niche (Science, Academic, Volunteer and Education) will appreciate the experience the most, as well as wildlife enthusiasts like birdwatchers and mindful outdoors travelers like backpackers.

The future of the GCCA is a lot more promising thanks to the efforts of the community and the stakeholders in the Ethiopian conservation project. Solimar is proud to have participated in its development for a sustainable future. 

For any questions about the work we do with destinations in development, feel free to contact us!

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