Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Solimar is proud to announce that we have won a bid from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop sustainable tourism in the island nation of Timor-Leste. The project titled "Turizma ba Ema Hotu", translated to "Tourism for All", will be implemented by Chemonics International in partnership with Solimar International and Planet Partnerships.

"This aid from the American people will help the government of Timor-Leste achieve one of its key development goals as it seeks to diversify its oil-based economy," said USAID Mission Director Diana Putman. "We look forward to working with the Ministry of Tourism and the private sector to make Timor-Leste a tourist destination for those seeking adventure, culture and natural beauty while preserving the country's unique environmental and cultural heritage."

Timor-Leste is ripe for tourism with tropical waters, white sand beaches, mountain ranges and a unique and proud culture with a history of Portuguese and Indonesian colonization and liberation. The larger USAID program in collaboration with product development and marketing assistance from Solimar will provide a much-needed economic boost to the island nation and create an environment to welcome travelers to one of the most undiscovered yet beautiful countries in the world.

The "Turizma ba Ema Hotu" project is designed to help the Timorese government accomplish its long-term tourism goals by initially stimulating the tourism sector with the help of USAID and consulting services from Solimar and others. USAID estimates that the project should provide $25 million in eco- and community-based tourism investment, create an additional 1,000 tourism related jobs, and raise household incomes in communities where the project is active by 15% over its duration. Solimar's work in Timor-leste is part of a broader plan by USAID to bring sustainable economic stimulation to a nation long plagued by colonialism and underdevelopment and help it become an active economic participant in the South Asia region.

Click here to access the official press release from USAID: https://www.usaid.gov/timor-leste/press-releases/jan-28-2018-usaidtimor-leste-signs-agreement-help-timor-leste

Dili Coastline with fishing boats, Timor-Leste 

 

This past week, Solimar President/CEO Chris Seek joined a panel organized by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The event was entitled "Travel and Tourism as a Strategic Sector for Development and Security." Chris was accompanied on the panel by Isabel Hill, Director of the National Travel and Tourism Office at the United States Department of Commerce, Hannah Messerli, Eisenhower Professor of Tourism Policy at the International Institute of Tourism Studies, John Perrottet, Senior Tourism Specialist at the World Bank Group, and Helen Marano, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the World Travel and Tourism Council. The five panelists used their diverse backgrounds and experiences to provide unique perspectives on travel and tourism, and shared their insights on how this sector relates to sustainable development.

Key Takeaways from the Discussion

All of the panelists emphasized how important tourism is to economies around the world. Helen Marano pointed out that it represents over 10% of world GDP, with 1.3 billion travelers per year currently, and an expected 1.8 billion annual travelers by 2030. She also stressed the importance of tourism to local communities, citing the fact that this sector has the ability to raise the standard of living as well as provide the opportunity to share the local culture and promote community pride. Hannah Messerli noted an interesting point about tourism that makes it unique compared to other exports: it is consumed at the point of production, meaning there is great opportunity for the industry to benefit the area in which it was produced. All panelists mentioned that the travel and tourism sector doesn't get as much attention as it deserves considering the potential benefits around the world. John Perrottet mentioned that the benefits of tourism are difficult to measure, despite being plentiful, and because of this, it is difficult to communicate how much good it can do.

Chris touched on Solimar's extensive ground-level experience with tourism, specifically noting that our clients are not just looking to grow tourism, they're looking to use tourism to achieve another development objective. He also talked about the fact that tourism can benefit all parties, from travelers, to the companies themselves (lodges, hotels, etc.), to local communities, if implemented correctly. Isabel Hill talked about other potential benefits of tourism, citing China as an example of a country that focuses on growing incoming tourism as well as outgoing tourism to countries with which it would like to maintain strong alliances.

One common theme throughout the discussion was the importance of protecting local communities from "over-tourism," which can be detrimental to culture and the environment. Chris talked about how we need to ensure that places with a rich culture are kept intact, and that their culture is a centerpiece for tourism. Isabel echoed this need, providing some optimism by mentioning that there is a new kind of traveler that is interested in cultural or experiential tourism, which is beneficial for sustainable tourism. She added that we need a more educated traveler; one who understands their role in this process, so education is a major part of tourism development.

Everyone in the panel was in agreement that one of the most important aspects of sustainable tourism is involving the local youth and ensuring that they benefit from increased travel. Hannah said that tourism often provides that first job where people are moving from an informal economy to a formal economy, and that this often starts with the youth. As tourism grows, their opportunities grow, as well as their skillsets. This can be beneficial even if these talented youth go off to different sectors after gaining skills from the tourism sector. Helen mentioned Hilton and Marriot as examples of companies that are working to hire local youth in developing countries. She also pointed out that it's not only important to hire young people, but also to hire disenfranchised groups, citing Peru for its work in helping women create businesses.

The panel concluded with a closing statement from each member. All five emphasized the potential for tourism to benefit developing nations throughout the world. Chris stressed the importance of policy to put the private sector in a position where it can participate in sustainable tourism. Hannah talked about how tourism can also work to prevent climate change, explaining that policies can help cut back on fuel consumption, and revenue can go towards investments in clean energy. This discussion was a unique take on an often overlooked but incredibly important sector, and hopefully there will be more talks like it in the future.

A video from the full discussion can be viewed here:  https://www.csis.org/events/travel-and-tourism-strategic-sector-development-and-security 

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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Tourism training Ethiopia
Tourism Training in Ethiopia

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

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

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

Brad Weiss Ethiopia
Brad Weiss Leads a Training Class 

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

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

For more information on the available courses, please visit http://www.ethiopiasustainabletourismtraining.com.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 00:00

Tips for Making Guided Tours Great

While independent travelers tend to shun organized tour companies, we think they can be quite amazing—exposing people to places and experiences they might not find on their own. They make traveling downright easier, and many destinations (such as the Serengeti, Inca Trail, and the Galapagos Islands) are either inaccessible without them or just wouldn't be the same without a knowledgeable guide by your side. Organized tours are especially great for first-time travelers unsure about setting out on their own or visiting that “intimidating” destination on their list.      

Given the service-oriented nature of the tourism industry, we here at Solimar believe that a well-trained workforce is critical to the success of any tour company. That is why we have spent the past 10 years developing an enterprise development and training program that brings tour businesses from a concept to a profitable enterprise that contributes to both conservation and communities.  

When developing an organized tour, here are some tips for giving your clients an experience to remember!    

1) Go Off the Beaten Path: When you limit sightseeing to the obvious—and ignore the obscure—you can end up missing the good stuff. Allow your clients to meet local people and travel in unconventional ways. When possible, join local residents on their modes of transport, in their local markets, and even in their homes.    

2) Specialize: It’s impossible to successfully be all things to all people, and you should structure your trips accordingly. Do you cater to more adventurous travelers, a certain age group, birding enthusiasts? Be sure to really highlight and market your area of specialization online so travelers can find you based on their specific needs and travel styles.

3) Lower Your Impact: Always travel in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. Some best practices to follow include:  

  • Travel in smaller groups to minimize environmental impacts. It can provide a more positive experience for clients too;  
  • Reduce litter in your destination by providing travelers with a reusable bag and encouraging them to use it when shopping;
  • Make potable water available when possible to reduce the need for purchasing multiple plastic bottles;
  • Encourage guests to give gifts of fruit to local children instead of money or candy;
  • Teach guests a few words of the local language so they can communicate with local community members. Providing a sheet of common words and phrases can be a helpful reference guide;
  • Ask first before photographing people. Encourage guests to show locals the digital picture or send back copies to help make it a two-way exchange;
  • Point out where the purchase of handicrafts can have the biggest impact; and
  • Monitor the communities visited during itineraries to ensure the interactions continue to be positive for both local residents and travelers. 

4) Hire Great Guides – We can’t stress the importance of using fantastic guides for any organized tour product. These folks are the main point of contact with your clients—acting as the “ambassadors” for your company, their communities, and the destination as a whole. Always use knowledgeable (preferably local) guides with great communication and customer service skills. They should be well trained and able to share experiences, stories, and traditions… all contributing to a more memorable experience, repeat customers, and referrals!

Interested in learning more about what other characteristics make a good tour guide? Find out by downloading our fact sheet:

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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.   

Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Destination Management in our own Backyard

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!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014 00:00

Tourism for Tomorrow Finalists Announced

It's officially award season, and for us at Solimar that means eagerly awaiting news about the World Travel and Tourism Council's annual Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. These awards are one of the highest accolades in the global Travel & Tourism industry, recognizing some of the best examples of sustainable tourism businesses and destinations worldwide.

As part of a comprehensive three-step judging process, several members of the Solimar team have been honored to serve as on-site evaluators for these important awards. It is truly fascinating and inspiring to see how these complex businesses and destinations are working tirelessly to integrate sustainability into their day-to-day operations. 

Eighteen finalists were announced yesterday in six categories—with two new award categories recognizing excellence in human resources and innovation. 

Just a sample of this year's finalists include:

  • Abercrombie & Kent - a world renowned tour operator integrating community benefits into their operations

  • Arviat Community Ecotourism - authentic cultural and wildlife viewing tours hosted by the indigenous people of Canada’s artic

  • Bonito, Brazil - a natural heritage destination working to mitigate the impacts of mass tourism.

  • Chepu Adventures Ecolodge - an eco-lodge built with sustainable materials and using only renewable resources

  • Tracker Academy, South Africa- a division of the South Africa College for Tourism (SACT), this is the only specialist tracker training school in the country.  Their indigenous skills training course includes modules in tracking, birding, guiding, animal monitoring and wildlife protection. 

We congratulate all 18 of the finalists and applaud their tremendous efforts at advancing the practice of sustainable tourism! The winners of the 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards will be announced on April 24th at the WTTC's annual Global Summit, taking place this year in Hainan, China. 

Our planet’s cultural and natural heritage sites are irreplaceable sources of travel inspiration. They include destinations as unique and incredible as Peru’s Machu Picchu, East Africa’s Serengeti National Park, the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the Pyramids of Egypt. These amazing places make up our world’s heritage and often appear on the top of many travelers' “must see” lists.

We’re celebrating heritage this month at Solimar, and what better place to start than by highlighting UNESCO’s amazing collection of over 1,000 World Heritage Sites! Since 1972, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has been spotlighting the planet’s most fascinating—and sometimes most threatened—places and civilizations.       

A site is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for many of the same reasons that millions of tourists choose to visit these places each year - they are incredible legacies left from our past and some of the most treasured spots on our planet. Given their popularity, responsibly managing tourism is an absolutely vital component to ensuring that they can be enjoyed by future generations. Developing tourism sustainably protects and maintains heritage sites, improves tourist experiences, and boosts local economies through generating increased opportunities from tourism. 

Solimar has had the opportunity to contribute to managing tourism sustainably in and around several World Heritage sites over the years, including: 

1)  Panama/Costa Rica (La Amistad National Park): Solimar formalized a bi-national sustainable tourism alliance between Costa Rica and Panama to promote and further develop sustainable tourism activities in the transboundary region of Parque Internacional La Amistad.  Alongside this alliance, Solimar facilitated the creation of “La Ruta Amistad”, a cultural route linking Costa Rica and Panama, and designed marketing materials to help visitors travel more sustainably. Learn more about our project here

2) Ethiopia (Konso Cultural Landscape): Solimar created seven community tourism enterprises, which provided jobs and revenue for the communities living in the Central and Southern Rift Valley. Solimar also created a Traveler’s Philanthropy Program to encourage tourists to participate in conservation initiatives and worked alongside government institutions to improve the current tourism and conservation policy environments. Learn more about this project here.

3)  Izabal, Guatemala (Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua): Solimar worked directly with local stakeholders to help position Izabal as a world-class, stay-over destination. We established the Izabal Geotourism Alliance, a Destination Management Organization (DMO) comprised of public and private sector stakeholders, and provided marketing services as an incentive to participants, which encouraged the protection of resources like the Quirigua ruins. Solimar also designed the Izabal Conservation Fund, a travel philanthropy fund to support regional conservation efforts. Learn more about this project here

 4) Jordan (Petra and Wadi Rum Protected Area): Solimar is helping to promote and increase Jordan’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination by establishing the proper institutional and regulatory framework that enables a private sector-driven approach to spur tourism growth while preserving the nation’s historic and natural treasures. Solimar is contributing to the achievement of this solution through marketing activities, improved destination management, human resource development and tourism product development. Read more about this project here

5) Mali (Cliff of Bandiagara/Land of the Dogons): Solimar helped to diversify the economy of the Dogon people by building awareness of Dogon Country as a tourist destination and promoting its many tourism assets while enhancing the capacity of local tourism businesses to service international tourism markets. This has helped to provide the Dogon people with alternative sources of income to their traditional agricultural activities and has allowed them to further develop tourism assets and enterprises.  By providing this alternative livelihood, some of the environmental pressures have been alleviated that are associated with a dominantly agrarian society. Learn more about this project here.

6) Montenegro (Durmitor National Park): Solimar worked to expand and more equitably distribute economic benefits through developing both community-based and eco-based tourism experiences with northern communities around Durmitor National Park.

7) Morocco (Medinas of Fez and Marrakech): Solimar linked the craft and tourism markets through the creation of artisan and cultural heritage routes in both Fez and Marrakech. These routes include stops at artisan workshops, increasing awareness of Moroccan culture and craft traditions and helping increase artisans' revenue by allowing them to sell directly to tourists rather than selling through a retailer or wholesaler. Solimar helped to market and promote these routes to the international travel market through online platforms, thus further increasing awareness of Morocco's cultural and artisanal heritage and enhancing both the craft and tourism sectors.  Read more about this project here

8) Portugal (Douro Valley Wine Region): In partnership with National Geographic, the Douro Valley Sustainable Tourism Initiative is promoting sustainable tourism development and facilitating collaboration between relevant business owners, local governments, interest groups, and residents and helping market the region's sustainable tourism assets. Solimar is assisting in the implementation of key Douro Valley Sustainable Tourism Initiative activities such as the establishment of a Douro Valley Geotourism Stewardship Council and the development of marketing tools and strategies that contribute to the ongoing process of promoting this unique region to the world. Read more about our project here.

9) Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwenzori Mountains National Park): Uganda’s national parks and protected areas, particularly these two World Heritage sites, are the country’s main tourism attractions.  Solimar worked with a broad variety of stakeholders in the tourism sector to improve the tourism products in these national parks, build strong community enterprises linked to the parks and conservation activities, and invigorated the tourism sector by connecting tourism businesses to international and domestic tourism markets. Read more about our project here.

A number of new businesses have emerged that are re-shaping parts of how the travel industry operate. Thanks to advances in mobile technologies, GPS enabled smartphones, and an increasing trust of the Internet and online payments, there has been a major momentum towards the “sharing economy”.  This economy refers to a wide range of companies that use social networks and smartphones to offer everything from clothes to cars, with business models that connect those with something to offer with those who want something.

A few sharing companies have grown remarkably fast, with many travelers replacing traditional hotel and taxicab travel experiences with these services:

Zipcar (http://www.zipcar.com/) – a membership-based carsharing company providing automobile reservations to its members, billable by the hour or the day

Car2Go (http://www.car2go.com/) - a great alternative to cabs, this membership based carsharing company is similar to Zipcar, except they provide one-way point-to-point rentals charged by the minute

Lyft (http://www.lyft.me/) - also revolutionizing traditional transportation, this mobile phone application facilitates peer-to-peer ridesharing by enabling passengers who need a ride to get in touch with drivers who have a car

Airbnb (http://www.airbnb.com/) - with over 600,000 listings across 160 countries, Airbnb is an amazing online marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique spaces around the world 

While shared services are competitive in price, the real competitive advantage may lie in the experience itself. Staying at a local’s apartment in an “off the beaten path” neighborhood or sharing a lift with a local person can provide a new and exciting experience. This has made these services popular not just among deal seekers, but for high-end markets, families and business travelers alike.      

"Getting things from your peers is faster and cheaper," said Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, which aims to help large traditional companies adapt to the new sharing economy. "People are doing this for selfish reasons. But it's actually sustainable, and this is good news for the planet. It's like healthy food that tastes good."

As users of many shared services, we here at Solimar are fascinated to see where this market is headed.  What began as an alternative market in select cities now seem to be an economic force to be reckoned with. Forbes recently reported that Airbnb is in funding talks that would value the company at over $10 billion, which is more than many long-established hotel companies! The real question is how will the shared economy impact the traditional travel industry--will access become more important than ownership? 

Interested in how you can become a part of the shared travel economy?  Contact us! 

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