In late 2014, Solimar International began working with the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) in Nepal. The GHT is a network of trails that currently span across the Nepali Himalayas. The experiences offered along these trails are rough, but unforgettable. Trekkers are afforded spectacular views of the most breathtaking mountain range on earth, they have meaningful exchanges with Nepali people and push their own physical limits in some of the world's most challenging trails. The GHT also seeks to promote responsible tourism in Nepal, and is used to unite the trekking industry around this concept.
Nepal is on the bucket list of most adventure travelers, specifically, the Everest Base Camp Trek, which is accessible but adventurous and provides a glimpse of one of the world's great natural wonders. As a result, most tourists to Nepal visit the same well trodden destinations. The GHT encourages tourists to get out and explore the rest of the mountain range, which stretches across the entire country.
The GHT is currently being managed by the Samarth-Nepal Market Development Project, which is funded by DFID and contracted to Adam Smith International. They inherited this tourism product from a former DFID project and needed support from tourism experts to help transition the GHT to new management.
Management of the GHT comprises several components, namely product development, marketing and trail management.
Solimar was initially asked to focus on GHT tourism branding, a destination assessment and identify an organization to take over the GHT website. During this contract period, our team traveled to Nepal and met with GHT stakeholders from associations, tour operators, guides and government organizations. We provided Samarth-NMDP with seven possible scenarios for moving forward.
We were delighted to renew our contract with Adam Smith for 2015, and in the coming year Solimar will be working with GHT stakeholders to build a fresh website for the GHT, including compelling content for social channels and support the transition to a new management structure.
The GHT has the opportunity to be a truly iconic product for Nepal: it provides both a base for activities and a unifying concept for the variety of attractions the destination has to offer. It exemplifies the concept of site doing, not site seeing. Solimar is looking forward to working with Samarth-NMDP in 2015 to help the GHT realize its full potential.
Positive perceptions of the destination dramatically increase; commitments secured from high-value tour operators to double destination sales.
In December 2014, Solimar hosted a group of 11 tour operators and travel agents from East Africa and the United States to explore Rwanda first hand as part of a program with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to expand global awareness of the country’s diverse attraction, increase the number of available Rwanda itineraries, and boost the volume of Rwanda itineraries sold.
Rwanda is home to one of the world’s most incredible wildlife experiences – an intimate trek with the Virunga Mountain gorillas. Visitors from all over the world descend on the iconic Volcanoes National Park to be close to the stately, playful primates. For many companies based in East Africa that service local and international clientele, Rwanda is only sold as a two-day gorilla extension to longer safaris in Kenya and Tanzania. But Rwanda is so much more.
The international tour operators visited a diverse set of cultural and natural attractions. Rubavu, Musanze, Volcanoes National Park, and Nyungwe National Park. The program concluded with a networking session with local Rwandan tour operators, hoteliers, and tourism service providers in order to create new working business relationships.
The program proved a great success. Surveys taken by the trip participants before and after their time in Rwanda showed a significant shift in positive perceptions of the destination – including better understanding of how both nature and cultural attractions would be relevant to their clientele. As a result, every operator will now list itineraries of 5 days or more in 2015 – nearly doubling the average itinerary length offered by the group before the trip. Over 80% of participants stated that the trip will help them boost sales by at least 50%.
The RDB has set an ambitious goal of 10% increase in visitation year-over-year. The East African market is an essential component in meeting this target. The timing of this familiarization trip with the East African operators was strategic.
Despite a 6% growth in visitation last year, travel to Kenya and Tanzania have been flagging in the wake of global press about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. According to National Geographic Tanzania’s hotels have reported a 30 percent drop in business while 2015 bookings have plummeted 50 percent.
Rwanda provides a salvation for many of the tour operators on the trip. The country’s perception as a safe, clean, and “undiscovered” destination provides a desirable sales alternative for travel companies that have heavily relied on safari bookings and Indian Ocean beach trips.
To learn how Solimar can help you plan and lead a familiarization trip to boost destination awareness and sales, click here.
There are a plethora of emerging destinations around the world that could benefit from the presence of a Destination Management Organization (DMO) to facilitate cohesive, strategic development of tourism products and marketing. Unfortunately, there is a gap in funding, knowledge, and physical capacity to bring DMOs into being in many of these locations. To support DMO development in emerging destinations, Solimar recently received a grant from Destination Marketing Association International to develop a toolkit entitled “How to Start a DMO” that will be aimed at community leaders looking to organize and consolidate private, public, and social sectors around the tourism industry under a new destination marketing and management organization. The toolkit will help tourism authorities to create or enhance an institution that meets the requirements for DMAI’s Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP). It will cover each of the DMAP’s core concepts: Governance and finance, human resources and technology, marketing, individual and group visitor services, sales and communications, membership, management and facilities, destination development and research, and stakeholder relationships.
The toolkit will take 6 months to produce, starting with research and discovery, followed by pilot testing in three locations where Solimar is already working on developing DMOs, and finishing with publication. We will be working closely with colleagues at The George Washington University International Institute for Tourism Studies (IITS) to research and test the content of the toolkit.
We look forward to this collaboration and contributing to the positive growth of emerging economies.
In the meantime, you can check out one of our current toolkits:
When I first told people that I was heading to Bethlehem to help develop a strategic plan to grow visitation from roughly half a day to multi-day visits, most people thought I was talking about Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
It was, in fact, the original Bethlehem in Palestine, but it was an easy mistake to make. If you Google “Bethlehem”, very little travel information can be found on the historic birthplace of Christ, but there are many results on the Pennsylvania town, as well as many other towns with the same name.
Our job is to work with tourism stakeholders in Bethlehem to develop a vision, action plan, and identify specific investment promotion opportunities for tourism that will help promote the region and extend the length of time people stay in the area from about half-a-day to two or three days. The longer people stay, the more they will spend and have a positive economic impact on the people of Bethlehem.
Luckily we are not starting with a blank slate, at the present time visitors to the region focus on two main attractions: The Church of the Nativity, where it is said Christ was born, and Shepard’s Fields.
However, in addition to these important sites there is a lot more to see. Among the region’s major attractions are the UNESCO World Heritage site known as the ‘Land of Olives and Vines,’ a hiking trail through ancient Roman terraces; the desert Monastery of Ma Saba; and the ruins of King Herod’s Palace. The food is also a tasty mix of Mediterranean and Arab cuisine, the culture demonstrates the area’s long and varied history, and the people are among the most welcoming I’ve met. All in all, it is a destination well worth visiting for more than just a couple of hours.
To learn more about Solimar International, please visit our website.