Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Walton Family Foundation

Fresh Water Initiative Sustainable Tourism PlanningBuilding sustainable tourism growth along at-risk waterways along the Mississippi River and in the Verde River Valley of Arizona.

  • Client: Walton Family Foundation
  • Partners:YellowWood
  • Tourism Project Duration: June 2013 – September 2014

The Challenge

The Walton Family Foundation Freshwater Initiative contracted Solimar International in the summer of 2013 to assess the tourism development potential of areas throughout the Lower Mississippi River Basin and in the Verde River Valley of Arizona.

Helena, Arkansas, and its surrounding communities demonstrated raw potential as a hub for cultural and nature-based tourism, appealing particularly to the short-haul markets in Memphis and New Orleans as well as a stop-over destination for those traveling in circuits throughout the region. In Arizona, the blend of assets – including rich history, beautiful nature, wine culture, and several art galleries – comprise an extremely attractive experience for short-haul travelers in the Phoenix area, visitors to Sedona, and those on extended trips through the Southwest United States.

However, in both cases, local businesses, attractions, and municipal governments lack the coordination, branding, and active marketing necessary to fully realize the region’s potential as a high-value, environmentally-conscious tourism destination. A number of raw assets remain underutilized, underdeveloped, or in need of significant investment.

The Solution

Solimar is working with the local tourism industry, protected area managers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to develop a comprehensive tourism development strategy to maximize the tourism potential of each destination in a way that conserves and enhances their adjoining waterways. The program develops a number of catalytic activities to engage stakeholders around a shared vision for tourism development and creating tangible short- and long-term results in tourism marketing, product development, and investment.

Major Activities

  • Convene a destination wide summit in the Verde River Valley to present a Geotourism strategy for sustainable tourism growth and conservation awareness,
  • showcasing the value of place-based authenticity
  • Build a tourism working group in Helena, Arkansas, consisting of public, private and non-profit members
  • Identify significant financial and human resources necessary to strengthen destination management partnership among stakeholders
  • Build consensus on desired short-term and long-term activities (including but not limited to the formation/strengthening of a formal regional destination partnership, branding initiatives, marketing activities, product development and infrastructure)


  • Increased cooperation among tourism stakeholders and local residents
  • Actionable tourism development and tourism marketing strategies for Helena and the Verde River Valley
  • New revenue available for nature- and culture- based product development
  • Mechanisms and channels for investment in hospitality enterprises in Helena

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“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”

-Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services
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