A Business Approach to Conservation
Despite the importance of protected areas (PAs) worldwide to protect biodiversity, governments and protected area managers around the world struggle to adequately fund these areas to meet conservation goals. When thoughtfully developed, tourism is a vital strategy for increasing revenue to PAs through visitor spending. Solimar understands that market-based solutions can greatly benefit national parks and protected areas, but must be developed with proper management and guidelines to ensure the preservation of the natural resources upon which tourism depends.
Solimar has worked in over 180 parks and protected areas around the world to improve biodiversity conservation. Solimar’s business approach begins with our conservation and tourism planning process. We develop a comprehensive understanding of the direct and indirect threats to biodiversity at a site, with a focus on the human socio-economic conditions that often lead to environmental degradation such as lack of economic alternatives, awareness, and industry standards. With that knowledge, we then employ our “Tourism Conservation Models” that contain nearly twenty unique strategies that directly link sustainable tourism to on-the-ground biodiversity conservation efforts.
Once the threats to conservation are fully understood, Solimar conducts a destination assessment to identify key stakeholders and determine the touristic potential of the park or protected area. Similar to a feasibility study, this assessment helps PAs plan strategically for tourism development. For parks lacking the tourism infrastructure needed to attract and accommodate guests, Solimar helps to create the enabling environment necessary for private concessions, investment promotion, and tourism business and product development ranging from small community-run tours to large ecolodge developments.
In parallel with improving the touristic potential of PAs, Solimar works to build partnerships between the protected area authority, government bodies, the local tourism private sector, conservation NGOs, and communities living in and around the PA. This takes place through the establishment of a Protected Area Alliance and a series of catalytic activities, chosen by the alliance members, to enhance collaboration and trust among all partners. The program uses branding and marketing tools to incentivize partners to work together and in doing so, through an approach tested in a number of countries, builds a collaborative alliance and support network for the park system.
At the end of this comprehensive program, national parks and protected areas are left with improved tourist facilities, a marketing program to attract more visitors, and the necessary partnerships in place to ensure continued revenue generation and support for conservation at the destination level.
What to Expect
- Enabling Environment - Solimar follows a well-established and thorough methodology that begins with a deep-dive discovery process to fully understand the conservation threats as well as the current framework and enabling environment for tourism development—including any existing development or concession plans. Through addressing any barriers in the enabling environment, Solimar can help your destination successfully align both environmental protection and economic development—including paving the way for vast, privately-led preservation.
- Product Development – Through in-depth research and on-the-ground interviews and site visits, our destination assessment provides a comprehensive analysis of the destination’s assets, where are the biggest opportunities for targeted investments and growth, what are the contractual considerations for concessions, and how they can be most effectively developed and implemented. At the end of this process, PA’s are left with a strategic investments and concessions that enhance and promote conservation while increasing the economic value of parks and incentive for their conservation.
- Marketing Programs – Solimar will develop a brand, messaging strategy, website and collateral materials to promote the park. These materials will help to connect travelers with information about the tourism attractions and tourism providers in and around the protected areas. These materials will also provide the opportunity to communicate directly with visitors on the simple ways they can make sure their visit respects the environment and is good for the economic and social development of the communities that will serve as hosts. This marketing strategy can also be developed and implemented in partnership with National Geographic and its iconic brand. Click here to learn more about Solimar`s Sustainable Destination Program with National Geographic.
- Private Sector Conservation Commitments - Contributions to conservation help protect the assets that attract visitors and add to the value of the visitor experience, thus maintaining the viability of tourism businesses and sustaining tourism income and development in the region. This program will help to communicate this benefit to local businesses, and require a commitment to conservation in order to be a partner of the program and receive marketing benefits (such as being featured on the website). These conservation commitments will vary based on the needs of the destination, and can range from adopting aspects of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, to generating revenue directly for conservation efforts, to becoming certified in a program that shows a commitment to sustainable tourism practices.
- Increased Visitation to the Park - One of the main features of this program will be increased visitation to the park to generate funding through entrance fees and concession-based revenues. Communications materials designed during the marketing strategy will help educate these visitors on how to travel responsibly and reduce their environmental footprints. The influence of tourism business partners on visitor awareness, attitudes and behavior before, during, and after their visit can also have an impact on both local and broader conservation goals.
- Merchandising and Travel Philanthropy - Another complementary opportunity for generating revenues from tourism for protected areas is in the creation of mechanisms and funds to capture donations from visitors who wish to contribute more than the entrance fee. Money generated through a travel philanthropy fund can be managed by a local NGO and a board made up of park managers and tourism partners to ensure that proceeds go to the conservation of the park. A portion of sales of branded merchandise (such as t-shirts, hats, post cards, calendars, and maps) as well as local products (chocolate, local handicrafts) within participating businesses can also help to generate additional funding for conservation.