Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism


Conservation of Central American Watershed Program, Izabal, Guatemala – Izabal Geotourism Alliance

Supporting sustainable tourism and conservation stewardship in Izabal, Guatemala through improved destination management practices and marketing services.

  • Client: USAID - CCAW
  • Partners: Chemonics International, Sustainable Travel International (STI), Mar Fund, Asociacion Ak'Tenamit, Fundaeco
  • Project Duration: March – November 2009

The Challenge

Izabal is one of the largest ports in Central America and serves as a major destination for cruise-goers looking to explore Guatemala's Mayan culture and the unique Garifuna culture in Livingston. With over 50 cruise ships and around 1.7 million visitors each year, there are serious concerns about the environmental impacts of the cruise tourism industry, its benefits compared with those of stay-over tourism, and expansion plans that include accommodating even more ships. A need exists for greatly improved destination management practices, marketing efforts to promote the variety of attractions available, and scaled-up conservation efforts.

The Solution

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 the resource base on which tourism depends. Solimar helped the DMO establish partnerships with cruise ship ground handlers to increase their support of key conservation issues and improve sustainability, and we also designed the Izabal Conservation Fund, a travel philanthropy fund to support regional conservation efforts.

Major Activities

The solution was implemented through the following activities.

  • Managing relationships: established partnerships between various stakeholders and helped manage the relationships to facilitate improved destination management.
  • Branding: developed logos for both the Izabal Geotourism Alliance and the Izabal Conservation Fund following discussions with local stakeholder and a destination website promoting the region to consumers.
  • Incentivizing the Travel Trade: developed vibrant sales manuals of all Alliance members to be displayed at two local Geotourism Information Centers that provide information on local accommodations, tours, and attractions and used online and other in-print tools to market the destination and members to the international travel market.
  • Building awareness and education: created a six minute conservation awareness video to help cruise line ground handlers highlight Izabal's main attractions and educate tourists on how they can help conserve the region's natural and cultural resources.


  • Over 60 members were recruited to join the Izabal Geotourism Alliance—17 of which agreed to solicit donations for the Izabal Conservation Fund.
  • An executive council consisting of 7 members (2 from each regional stewardship council and a representative from CONAP) was formed that will make decisions on behalf of the Izabal Conservation Fund and carry this initiative forward
  • Solid Waste Committees were formed in both Puerto Barrios and Livingston, which developed plastic bottle reduction campaigns through the promotion of "Yo Relleno: I Refill".
  • 15 tour operators, representing 8 different companies, were trained in Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and how they can improve their practices to minimize the environmental impact of their tours

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Project Fact Sheet

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“Solimar’s in-depth knowledge on global tourism perspectives has transformed our ability to stay focused on the issues that matters most in our continued development."

-Mads Pihl, Destination Manager
Destination Arctic Circle (Greenland)

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