Author: Derek Schimmel

Solimar has written numerous tourism strategies over the last decade centered around Geotourism, which can be defined as “Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.” This methodology is hugely beneficial in identifying and developing asset inventories for a destination’s tourism landscape. Solimar’s methodology specific to Geotourism is centered around convening local stakeholders in order to develop an online MapGuide for a region. This website development process provides a platform to the residents of a destination to tell their story and promote the region’s tourism assets in their own words. After all, the best travel advice comes from the people who live there. 

Geotourism has been the nucleus in enhancing community engagement and buy-in for Solimar’s work along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Throughout 2020, Solimar has been working with a group of university students and recent graduates from across the United States to help build relationships with tourism leaders and business owners in destinations along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Below, each of these interns writes about their experiences in better understanding asset inventory as it relates to the Geotourism methodology of tourism strategizing along the LCNHT.

Beau Baiocchi: Desktop Research To Identify Inventory

When utilizing desktop research to discover more about individual destinations, it is important to focus on localization and remember that residents know best. One can typically start at the macro level, researching state tourism websites and county chambers of commerce to gain a general understanding of the values and attractions of a region. However, to uncover the most detailed and accurate information, it is necessary to dive deeper into local town or community tourism pages and read through literature and advertising put out directly by those who are involved in everyday operations at the destination. This way, the information you collect is up to date and truly encapsulating of the spirit of that location. 

Maintaining authenticity is important in order to stay true to the sustainability tenants of Geotourism — authenticity is only achieved by collaborating closely with local stakeholders and prominent local characters who have a great understanding of their destination. One simple Google search will not necessarily be enough. Many times it takes a scouring of all online materials available via Tripadvisor, local tourism blogs, or individual company pages. Oftentimes, links will be embedded in a county chamber of commerce web pages or local tourism sites. Even a simple Google Maps look could reveal to you a new destination that had not appeared anywhere else. Remember, while there may be a myriad of ways to get there, the destination is always localization.

Julia Fassero: Becoming a Member of the Community

When identifying and developing local assets – whether they are restaurants, boutiques, parks or trails – it is essential to have the aid of a community member.  This help can come from either a dedicated tourism director or from individual community members.  Both are valuable, but a key to efficiency and success is a partnership with the tourism leader or business director.  It is essential to have them engaged in the project because of their connections with and knowledge of their area. 

In western Iowa, for example, the Harrison County Development Corporation has latched on to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience project.  By providing details, materials, and connections to local communities and businesses, the HCDC is forging partnerships between their restaurants, stores, and parks.  The engagement of the Harrison County Development Corporation allows community tourism assets to be identified quickly and efficiently.  The involvement of a local tourism or business director allows the process of identifying and developing the sometimes hidden gems of an area to be streamlined. 

In contrast, if local leaders are not interested or do not have the time to engage with stakeholders for a specific project, outreach becomes more difficult.  The lack of a key contact means the process becomes decentralized and the success of the project falls to the local community members.  Attracting the interest and engagement of some regional tourism leaders can be difficult, and without the Chamber of Commerce or tourism director to tie community actors together, local residents might be asked step in.  From there, the process remains relatively unchanged, as individuals use their knowledge of the area and their personal experiences to identify the best attractions in their region.

Kari Barber:  The Personal Element of Developing Asset Inventory

As an outdoor enthusiast, I knew there would be endless outdoor opportunities to explore in attending the University of Montana in Missoula. Missoula is encircled by the Northern Rockies, beautiful rivers, and acres of wilderness areas, and as my time at the University of Montana comes to an end, I have had the opportunity to dive deeper into the tourism industry both here in Missoula and in other communities across Montana. 

Being given the opportunity to engage with Montana’s communities while learning about sustainable travel through the nature and history of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail has been a unique experience. Today, I am writing about sites and attractions in Montana along the Lewis and Clark Trail that I find attractive, based on my time in Missoula. I have researched and written about sites and attractions that bring me back to the reason why I ended up choosing Montana for school in the first place. I have also written about sites and attractions that are on my Montana bucket-list, and locations that friends and family have found interesting. Therefore, by using the local perspective I have gained, I am able to use Geotourism to promote tourism in Montana communities, all while allowing these destinations to tell their story in their own words.

Mary Haas: Linking with Local Tourism Leaders

Something that I have noticed while using Geotourism to build out inventory is the sheer importance of keeping up with community partners and local business owners. After all, as an outsider it’s difficult to get the same perspective on a town as someone who lives there. Though it becomes fairly easy to find promising tourist destinations after getting some practice with desktop research, it’s still difficult to represent these places, as well as the people who have a personal connection or leadership role in the establishments. Our community partners along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail are able to help us get some of that perspective.

Having a close connection to local partners also provides for a major source of information. While we work mostly with resources that we find online, not all of our destinations have a great deal of information available on their websites. This can make it difficult to tell the story of a location, even if it seems like a wonderful place to go based on reviews and images. This is where business owners and community partners can provide the backstory and provide the necessary information about their locale. Whether we need a picture of a location with a certain view or a bit about the establishment’s history to add to our description, these community partners can help.

After a few emails and phone calls describing the program, I have been able to reach the leaders of DMOs and chambers of commerce fairly easily, and the information and help that I’ve received in return has been priceless. By showing some interest in their communities, you can start a wonderful partnership that will allow content creation to take on the tone of the local stakeholders.

 

DMOs have been a part of your travel life, whether you recognize it or not.

Those commercials and advertisements you see suggesting you visit a certain state or country? DMOs are behind those…

The bed/lodger tax attached to the end of your hotel bill that you’ve undoubtedly questioned at one time or another? DMOs once again…

The convention you attended a few years back, or the visitor’s center where you pulled brochures during your summer road trip? You guessed it…

What is a DMO?

The D in DMO stands for destination. A destination can take on a variety of meanings, whether it be it a city, national park, country or any other clearly delineated region. In the simplest terms, a destination is a place that is marketed to travelers as a place to visit.

The O of DMO represents organization. Though seemingly self-explanatory, organizations can take on a variety of meanings depending on the destination. At the national level, NTOs (National Tourism Organizations) and Ministries of Tourism help dictate rules, regulations and financial obligations of the travel sector for entire countries. Beneath them live RTOs, or regional tourism organizations. These are the organizations that are most familiar to the general public and include state, county and city-run tourism offices. Chambers of commerce and convention & visitor bureaus (CVBs) are two of the most prominent and most recognizable RTOs in the United States.

But what about the M of DMOs? It is here when things become a bit convoluted for tourism leaders. Until recently, marketing was the primary objective of DMOs, and the rational was simple and unassuming: more visitors means more money and notoriety for the destination. Through advertising in travel journals and magazines, on billboards, and through radio and TV spots, DMOs have promoted their place to the masses for well over a century. Today, the world’s citizens have more disposal income than ever before, and when combined with an ever-growing appetite to explore and experience new places, travel has reached unprecedented levels. The UNWTO reported that there were 1.5 billion international tourists in 2019. These record number of travelers have begun creating rifts between local residents and the traveling community.

Overtourism widens economic gaps and has become a key-term in numerous cities All around the world, natural lands and resources are being threatened by overuse. Sociologically, cultures and traditions are being lost to a gentrifying and flattening world. The tourism ecosphere is in the midst of a cultural change, and as sustainability in travel becomes evermore important, the M of DMO is transitioning from marketing to management.

The Importance of Evolving from Marketing to Management

Research shows a unique ebb-and-flow of a tourism destination, known as Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC). The chart below gives a well-defined glimpse into how destinations evolve as time passes and tourism numbers increase.

The Importance of DMOs using Butler's TALC Model
DMOs: From Marketing to Management

Butler’s TALC was developed in 1980, well before the advent of budget airlines, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and other elements that make travel more accessible and desirable nowadays. Still, it provides the perfect template to show the importance of DMOs pivoting from marketing to management.

In almost all tourist destinations, marketing is designed to bring in increased numbers of visitors. Most DMOs are funded by government budget allocations and/or lodger (or bed) taxes. More visitors equates to more money, which results in more marketing. This cycle turned vicious in cities like Barcelona, Venice and Amsterdam, all of which have shown that this model is unsustainable.

Imagine, for a moment, that the solid line on the TALC chart above represented resident sentiment towards tourism. Happiness levels increase, until a state of apathy (stagnation) is reached. At this point, local constituents will either move in the direction of re-strategizing to further elevate their happiness levels, continue towards apathy, or move downwards towards anger and burnout. If the TALC chart were recreated today, perhaps stagnation would be replaced with resident/tourist discrepancy and land over-usage.

It is here – and why – that DMOs have been forced to become managers and advocates of their places. No longer is higher visitorship the main goal of these organizations. Instead, these ever-adapting travel organizations are now tasked with stewarding a more targeted market and developing plans to help conserve their destination’s environment and culture. Through public-private partnerships, destination management organizations act as the mediator between the general public, private industries, and government entities. It is a tall-task, no doubt, but when completed successfully these partnerships will enhance community engagement and relations, and ultimately create a more sustainable travel destination.

An Example of DMO as Destination Managers

In the Netherlands, and specifically Amsterdam, tourism had reached a breaking point. Residents were being priced out of homes towards the city center, bikes were being thrown into canals, and streets and shops were too crowded to stroll through leisurely. The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC) took note of this shift and made the exceptional decision to no longer market visitation to the city. Last year, NBTC published Perspective 2030 as an initiative to move tourism dollars away from marketing and towards creating a more wholistic travel structure that benefits all Dutch citizens. As the report reads, “The coming ten years will require a different view and approach compared to the previous ten years. The future needs new paradigms as a basis for new content and processes, new KPIs and changing roles…Our focus is on shared interests and putting local residents first.”

The Netherlands may be one of the first destinations to consciously and strategically use tourism as a means of endorsing the wants and needs of its constituents, but it is certainly not the last. In fact, some may argue that DMOs have acted as the managers of destinations since the first CVB was developed in Detroit, Michigan in the late 1800s.

Regardless of its history, there is no denying that the travel industry, and namely DMOs, must manage their destination and provide support for all area stakeholders, residents, government officials, and of course visitors. Involving all players will create a sustainable model that can support environmental, cultural, and economic preservation. In the end, the result of masterful destination management will be an organically-created marketing tool.

 

Most readers will recognize the National Park Service (NPS) as the preservers of natural and cultural resources in America’s most well-known protected lands, from Yellowstone and Acadia in the north to the Everglades and Grand Canyon National Parks in the southern portion of the US.

Most American’s may not realize, however, that NPS also acts as the stewards and protectors of the country’s numerous renowned trails, including the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail. One of the longest of these trails is the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail that stretches 4,900 miles through 16 states, from Pittsburgh PA west to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon.

The Purpose of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is to commemorate the 1803 to 1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition through the identification; protection; interpretation; public use and enjoyment; and preservation of historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the expedition and its place in U.S. and tribal history. The LCNHT passes through hundreds of counties and thousands of communities as it traces the footprints of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark along America’s great rivers. Each of these towns and cities, no matter their size or population, has it an opportunity to become connected to the Trail as a means of not only preserving a critical piece of US culture and history, but also to bring forward economic gains.

This is where Solimar International enters into the story.

Note: Before moving forward into the details of why the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail needed a tourism strategy, it should be noted that the National Park Service generally does not associate itself with tourism despite receiving millions of visitors each year. (NPS reported over 327 million recreation visits in 2019.)  The leadership team for the LCNHT showed enhanced awareness in recognizing the importance leveraging the tourism industry to support residents and stakeholders along the trail.

The Need for a Strategy

Interconnectivity is vital to achieve sustainability in the tourism industry. This is true at all destination levels, whether it be in an individual city, county, state or nation. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trial presented a unique set of opportunities in that it covers each of these four geographical (and political) points. Data suggests that over 3.1 million people visited at least one point along the Lewis and Clark Trail in 2017. These points include tribal museums, visitor centers and local/state/federal parks, not to mention the Trail’s countless hospitality enterprises. Despite a hugely eclectic group of stakeholders and millions of visitors, the LCNHT was lacking a common thread that allowed destinations and stakeholders to share a common identity.

A tourism strategy was necessary to unite the communities and individuals along the trail — all of whom have an underlying familiarity with the unique natural, cultural, historical and scenic assets of their destination – and provide a forum to build alliances. It was vital that the stakeholders acted as the storytellers for their individual community while still representing the mission and overstory of the Trail itself. This meant celebrating the character and culture of the destination while keening in on the overall sustainability of the trail. A strategy would have to be designed to allow these two forces operate in conjunction and in parallel with one another. Said another way, achieving sustainability successes along the trail would hinge on the celebration and preservation of a destinations’ culture and environment AND the trail would act as a catalyst for economic growth.

In this tourism strategy, the catalyst came in the form of Geotourism.

Geotourism Along The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

After discussion between NPS, Solimar, LCNHT partners and community leaders, it was determined that Geotourism would provide the framework for the most effective tourism strategy along the trail. Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of a place, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. It encompasses a range of travel including heritage, history, food, nature, adventure, the outdoors, water, music, and arts. iIn short, Geotourism celebrates any aspect of culture that makes a destination unique.

This strategy creates a link between the past and the present for communities along the trail, regardless of its place in history as it relates the Corps of Discovery. A small town in Western Iowa located on the banks of the Missouri River that is not mentioned in the Lewis and Clark journals may offer visitors phenomenal hiking trails or a brewery serving up beer made with hops from a farm across town. Ten minutes up-river and across the border in Nebraska, history buffs may find a plaque signifying camp site that the Corps of Discovery spent time hunting and fishing over 200 years ago. Bringing these two individual visitor experiences together onto one platform is a prime example of how Geotourism is being implemented along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The Platform: Lewisandclark.travel 

In addition to increased domestic and international awareness, Geotourism along the LCNHT lays the groundwork for an active community of public and private stakeholders working to conserve land and legacy. These linkages allow communities to connect with visitors that appreciate their authentic sense of place.

To bring these benefits to life, NPS and Solimar are working in conjunction to build a web platform where communities and stakeholders can write their own story and promote their brand. These stakeholders run the gamut of destination development and include:

  • Locally owned and family businesses
  • Events, ceremonies, and festivals
  • Cultural experiences such as heritage sites, museums, theaters, music,
  • Artist studios and galleries, craft workshops, and shops featuring handmade items
  • Operators of outdoor experiences such as rafting, hiking, biking, hunting
  • Historic sites such as trails, old homes, or places that features local architecture
  • Scenic routes including hiking trails, bike routes, water ways, birding trails
  • Local artist or artisan, storyteller, outdoor guide or historian

Any and all of these enterprises and sites are eligible to create an account and lewisandclark.travel and promote their own personalized page where they can write their own story through words and pictures. From a web-marketing perspective, these efforts will enhance the digital footprint of the business by creating linkages (backlinks) to the National Parks Service. Offline, participation in the program will assist local economies by bringing in more tourist dollars and increasing the tourism multiplier in communities along the trail.

Above all else, this tourism strategy for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail acts as a catalyst for community engagement and interaction along the trail. Bringing together an eclectic variety of different members from a city/town/county – government officials, restauranteurs, hoteliers, teachers, museum curators, historians, etc. – all with a common goal and shared visions in assisting the community at large. The tourism industry is in the midst of unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic, and enhanced community relations via sustainable tourism is one of the key steps in coming out of this strong than ever.

 

Solimar International is excited to introduce our Summer 2020 tourism intern cohort and future leaders of sustainable tourism development. Representing a mix of university students and recent graduates all pursuing a career in sustainable tourism, this group brings a plethora of global travel experience and will play an important role in supporting Solimar’s projects, research and communications efforts.

Matt Clausen

Matt is a current graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in International Sustainable Tourism at the University of North Texas. Matt grew up in central Missouri and completed his undergraduate studies in business administration at the University of Missouri – Columbia. In previous positions, Matt served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, taught English in the Republic of Georgia, and worked for the National Park Service. He enjoys all things adventure and the outdoors, from summiting mountains to mastering local public transportation abroad. Matt was drawn to Solimar for its emphasis and expertise on sustainable tourism and international development. Current and past projects with Solimar all pique his interest and he is excited to gain practical experience through working directly on projects. Matt places high importance on sustainable travel and conservation so that all may have the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of the world for generations to come.

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Rebecca Pierobon

Rebecca started her post baccalaureate career this year in London, as a business development analyst, and will intern with Solimar as she transitions to a Masters program in Accounting and Finance with a minor in Sustainable Tourism. Born and raised in Northern Italy’s bucolic Monferrato wine zone, she has been immersed in local tourism since childhood, helping her bicultural family with their accommodation  properties and guiding foreign guests through vineyards and villages. She volunteers with local organizations that orient incomers and work to develop responsible tourism in the land of Slow Food and Open Castles. Traveling in search of the world’s organic beauties is Rebecca’s passion, with regular trips to the Bahama Out Islands, around the USA and Europe. She plans to use her business skills and her Solimar experience to combine this passion with her future career path. “Who knows where it will lead me?”

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Micaela Pacheco

Mica is from Potomac, Maryland. She is a rising senior at the University of Toronto, double majoring in Political Science and International Relations with a minor in European Studies. She has served as a Compliance Analyst for the G7 Research Group at the Munk School of Global Affairs for the Biarritz and Charlevoix Summit cycles. Through her work with the G7 Research Group, she researched and published four reports on the United State’s and France’s compliance on counter-terrorism and the European Union’s and Italy’s efforts in preventing and protecting the victims of sexual assault and harassment.

Through her international background and her studies, she became interested in the effects that tourism can have on developing economies. She is interested in the ways countries can combine industries in the efforts of increasing tourist prospects while also diversifying their economies. Her goal in life is to change a life, no matter how big or small that effect is. Thus, through the development of sustainable tourism plans, she truly feels that the long term impacts of such works will significantly affect people’s lives for the better.

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Kari Barber

Kari grew up in Buckley, Washington, and moved to Missoula, Montana, in 2016. She is currently a student at the University of Montana, working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Geography with a Minor in Film. Since she was young, Kari has has been in love with lacrosse. Throughout high school, she worked for a local business in Buckley, Washington, called Total Sports, specializing in private lessons for men’s and women’s lacrosse. When she moved to Missoula and played for the University of Montana’s woman’s lacrosse team, she wanted to explore new avenues to continue to grow the game. During the last two seasons, Kari has coached youth lacrosse for the Missoula Mustangs and Sentinel High School.

As Kari writes, “When I came across Solimar International and their Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail program, I couldn’t believe the opportunity. I have studied hazard and mitigation planning, recreation, and visitor management and feel that Solimar International has given me a chance to combine my previous coursework and apply it to what they all have in prevalent, sustainable tourism. The idea of keeping the geographic character of a place alive while also promoting the extent of travel that anyone can experience is precisely why I am passionate about sustainable tourism.”

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Sophie Levy

Sophie discovered her passion for sustainable tourism and development while hiking the Jordan Trail, a 400-mile trek spanning across 52 villages in Jordan. While on this solo thru-hike, she gained insight into the intersectionality of sustainable tourism, environment conservation, local engagement, and economic stability. A passionate writer, she journaled throughout her experience in hopes of articulating the stories and encouraging more women to embrace the challenges and benefits of traveling solo. She understood the value of human connection in the industry and the importance of grassroots tourism for both the traveler and local economy and community. She especially admires Solimar’s goal of implementing projects that would result in self-sufficiency, environmental protectionism, cultural preservation, and economic viability for local communities in tourism across the globe.

Born and raised in Germantown, Tennessee, Sophie grew up as an active member of her community. Invested in the Middle East, she spent two summers working abroad. In Israel, she was the Diversity and Social Justice Intern for Beit Ha’Gefen Arab-Jewish Culture Center and developed an intercultural curriculum for Israeli, Arab, and American youth. The following summer, she spearheaded a grant for Greening The Camps, a nonprofit that builds sustainable greenhouse gardens on the rooftops of Palestinian refugee camps. Additionally, she served as an English Instructor for Galaxy, a Jordanian nonprofit empowering marginalized communities through digital education. She is a recent graduate of American University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies focused on Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution and minored in Economics and Arabic.

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Mary Hass

Mary is a History and English major at Northern Kentucky University. She has lived in Bellevue, KY for her entire life and this internship is my first real work experience. Though this is her first job, she has been involved in multiple creative projects, especially since joining Norse Film Society (her college’s film club).

 Mary wanted to get involved with Solimar and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail project because of her love of history and wanting to help make historical experiences more accessible. In her own words: “Following the path that Lewis and Clark took and stopping at historical sites and charming towns sounds like a dream vacation to me, so I was very excited the moment I heard about the internship. On a more philosophical level, I think that interactive history is very important because it instills a love for history in people, especially children, who might not have been interested otherwise. Perhaps if we can get future generations to be more interested in history, we can stop them from repeating historical mistakes. I also strongly believe in sustainable tourism because I think that tourism should help local communities and that people can learn a lot from experiencing cultures and ways of life other than their own.”

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Caecilia Shenshen He

Caecilia is a cultural and heritage tourism lover that fell deeply in love with travelling at a very young age. As a backpacker, she visited South Korea, China, Myanmar, Hongkong, Tibet, India, Morocco, USA, Canada, Spain and other less popular destinations. She was born in China and grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She started her career in tourism more than 10 years ago as a tour guide while studying at McGill University. She has 10 years of experience in tourism operation and tourism consulting between China and Canada. Caecilia has her BA in Accounting from McGill University and is a current student at Master in Tourism Administration program at The George Washington University with a major in sustainable destination management.

In her own words: “In order to protect destination communities and sustain cultural heritage destinations for future generations, my true passion is to help cultural heritage destinations around the world to be developed in a sustainable way. Since Solimar is a leading sustainable tourism consulting firm, I could learn about good practice experiences that can help destinations in improving sustainably. In addition, the most important reason to attract me to intern at Solimar is the Solimar Team, who are the group of expertise working in the sustainable tourism industry with the pursuit of authenticity, historic values, and development of cultural traditions at all destinations.”

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Beau Baiocchi

Beau is a recent graduate of The George Washington University earning a BA in International Affairs with a concentration in international environmental studies and minors in geography and spanish language. Interested in cultural preservation and sustainable tourism, Beau previously worked at the Embassy of Argentina as a Cultural Affairs and Public Diplomacy intern after returning from his junior year abroad, where he studied at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, Chile. He is excited to continue learning about the geotourism industry while furthering sustainable, community based initiatives.

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Frank Baird

Frank’s passion for travel and sustainability run deep. Most of his best memories of life involve travel. Whether it be from exploring the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, The Arch of Cabo San Lucas, or traversing through the longest trail in Zion National; he lives for travel. The best way to keep these tourism hubs alive is to develop them sustainably. Our responsibility is to protect our natural and cultural sites so that future generations may continue to enjoy them.

That is what inspired Frank to get involved in politics at a young age. At sixteen, he joined the Kenton County Democratic Party as an intern. After gaining experience and knowledge, he was voted onto the executive board, a position that he still holds. At 18, he is amongst the youngest in the state to hold such a position. Currently, Frank is continuing his studies at Northern Kentucky University, just outside of Cincinnati and is majoring in Economics and History.

 

If you pursuing a career in sustainable tourism and interested in gaining experience with a development consulting firm, click here to learn more about becoming a part of our internship program for the Fall 2020 semester.

Conducting supply side research is an essential prerequisite to creating a strategic plan as the supply of tourism assets translates to its economic growth potential and shapes recommendations for the future of the industry. To create products such as long-term strategies, visions, and action plans, Solimar must first understand how tourism is currently developed in the destination of focus. Questions asked should include: 

  • What is the existing level of tourism infrastructure? 
  • What accommodations and attractions are available and of what quality? 
  • What kinds of flights are available at and what cost? 

Solimar uses simple web sources such as Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet, and booking.com to help answer these questions and understand the challenges and opportunities present for tourism development in a country or region. Many countries and US states also have a dedicated tourism website that contain information on services, attractions and itineraries in the area. This type of research is also extremely valuable for individual travelers researching destinations when planning their own trips.  

Using Supply Side Research to Inform a Destination Strategy

Solimar uses a standard set of factors to review a destination and assess the existing tourism supply. These consist of:

  • Existing historical, cultural and natural attractions
  • Areas of high biodiversity value, including national parks and protected areas
  • Itineraries, routes, packages and the potential of creating connections with nearby destinations 
  • Hotels, rental properties, and the availability of other accommodation infrastructure
  • Existing services (extent and quality) including airlift, transportation, accessibility, and health care facilities 
  • Environmental factors and biodiversity
  • Existing tour companies servicing the destination (both inbound and outbound) and tours 
  • Extent of current tourism in area (flights, # of travelers, effect of cost), including any trends in arrivals
  • Traveler behavior in area (where they go, level of spending, general satisfaction)

Other more general factors also merit attention. For example, political stability and economic climate can greatly affect a country’s ability to attract investment and tourism. In particular, reviewing government policy towards tourism at national, regional, and local levels is imperative as the government is a key stakeholder and will almost certainly be an important partner in developing tourism plans. Additionally, information about population dynamics, cultural heritage, geography, and history can inform decision making or simply serve as useful background knowledge.

Completing a destination review by gathering the relevant information and reviewing any prior strategies is a necessary preliminary step before any fieldwork takes place. The more information our consulting team has, the better prepared we will be to meet stakeholders on the ground, ask the critical questions, and demonstrate an understanding of local trends and issues. The gaps of information that are unavailable online or in print sources are then flagged to be gathered during the field assessment.

Although the pandemic is preventing travel currently, now is a great time to conduct your own supply side research to destinations on your bucket list. For ideas, check out Solimar’s list of projects.

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