Author: Editor Solimar

Sustainability in business has become a major priority in the global objective to better care for our planet. With tourism being one of the largest industries, it must play a major role in emphasizing this need. Done sustainably, tourism can provide economic growth for communities and businesses while also creating support for the conservation of natural and cultural resources. While there is no one correct way to develop a tourist destination, doing so in a way that balances the needs of residents, businesses, tourists, and ecosystems provides some extra considerations for the governments that allocate land use. Therefore, it is critical that countries learn from each other in their pursuit towards accomplishing this goal.

Solimar and the World Bank recently worked together to document a series of case studies intended to help governments understand how concession agreements can be used to develop tourism. The document includes research that describes the importance of proper development and provides several case studies of real-world examples from a variety of global destinations. The use of concessions is a common practice in tourism, and The World Bank and Solimar have put their own spin on the subject by emphasizing how these concessions can truly benefit the communities living in and around protected areas. As a result, they have collected information on the importance of sustainable tourism, the role concessions play in tourism, and the evolution of a protected area into a tourist attraction. Utilizing extensive research of various case studies over multiple countries, the document highlights the major insights from a series of practical examples. Our hope is that we will be able to catalyze smarter development by learning from the experiences of others who have done it.

Click here to download a copy of Stimulating Sustainable Development through Tourism Concessions. 

Economic development in a region involves a myriad of inputs from stakeholders. Due to the multi-faceted nature of tourism, improving this industry is a good way of stimulating growth in other sectors from accommodations to transportation to the creative arts. This week, Solimar returned to the Republic of Georgia (where we worked previously to help develop national and regional tourism plans) and is now assisting the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), DAI, and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA) through the USAID-Economic Security Program to use tourism as a means to diversify and strengthen the economy.

The Republic of Georgia is an incredible country with a number of tourism assets. Mountain ranges rise up over the land and provide magnificent hiking. The land is dotted with monasteries and castles; the remains of royalty and religious leaders. Ancient cities full of history, wineries, and sulfur baths provide a cultural experience no matter the city a visitor chooses to see. To the west, Georgia borders the Black Sea and provides a relaxing shoreline atmosphere. The country has tremendous opportunity for growth in the tourism sector, which will first be explored through a facilitative value chain development approach.

A tourism value chain analysis looks at industry performance, visitor profile, end-markets, competition, and binding constraints to growth through research and stakeholder input in order to find the needs of the market. Earlier in July, Solimar tourism experts met with a number of local stakeholders to identify what needs to be supported in order to combat these issues. With this information, the ESP will use “smart incentives” to invest in the solutions with the market actors themselves. USAID will also use their new Private Sector Engagement Policy to facilitate the creation of public-private partnerships. This process of analysis ensures that the entities affected by the industry are at the center of controlling its growth and creating its solutions. The development of this value chain was managed in three major parts:

  • Tourism Planning Committee: The GNTA and ESP formed a tourism action planning committee with major stakeholders and government agencies to conduct the tourism chain analysis.
  • Research and Survey: Research was conducted on Georgia’s tourism performance, visitor profile, competition and other aspects of the current tourism value chain. The ESP and Planning Committee also conducted surveys and interviews of Georgia’s key stakeholders in Tbilisi.
  • Validation and Action Planning Workshop: The initial Tourism Value Chain Assessment was presented to a group of public and private stakeholders at a one-day tourism workshop on July 25th. During the meeting led by Chris Seek, Solimar CEO, stakeholders defined the necessary actions and investments and compile the information into a 2-year Tourism Action Plan to strengthen the tourism industry.

The entire project is focused on using multiple industries to promote growth in the Georgian economy. Yet, Solimar’s impact will be focused on growing tourism through the Tourism Value Chain. With an emphasis on this value chain process, we can promote collaboration among the various stakeholders and agencies and ensure meaningful solutions are implemented.

It is shaping up to be a busy and productive year at Solimar. We wanted to take a moment to share a few updates with you on our current projects and officially announce the launch of our new website to showcase the latest information on our tourism development and marketing services.

In addition to our project work highlighted below, we are focusing on three new strategies designed to work together and scale our impacts.

First, we are inviting our friends from the private sector to join our new Sustainable Tourism for Development (ST4D) Alliance, which unites tour operators, technology platforms, impact investors, and some of the greatest brands in the world. This alliance will offer destinations and development organizations not only Solimar’s in-depth expertise but also a coalition of private sector partners ready to support development projects, connect products to the market, and deepen program impacts.

Second, we are taking Solimar’s extensive sustainable tourism development expertise and combining it with a technology platform to offer clients a Sustainable Destination Management and Marketing System.  This platform will ensure our tourism strategies are implemented, destinations are marketed, and natural and cultural resources are sustained through the strengthening of Destination Management and Marketing Organizations (DMMOs).

And lastly, we are continuing to make the case for tourism as a development tool by highlighting the impacts of well-managed tourism and telling the personal stories of the amazing entrepreneurs, conservationists, and tourism leaders we have the privilege of working with, while giving them the analytics and statistics needed to tell their own stories to their donors, governments, and local communities.

Please take a moment to learn more about our current projects below. We look forward to working with you to harness the power of sustainable tourism to protect destinations and benefit local communities while offering visitors transformational travel experiences.


Our My Armenia Program with Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and USAID is now in its fourth year and has developed or strengthened over 50 tourism experiences based on intangible cultural heritage. We are now working with private sector partners including Airbnb, the National Tour Association, and the Faith Travel Association to introduce the destination of Armenia and these experiences to the world.



World Heritage Journeys Programme

The program is based on our Geotourism methodology, using destination storytelling to create partnerships between heritage managers and the tourism industry while creating consumer demand for sustainable travel.  The World Heritage Journeys of the EU showcases 34 World Heritage sites around the themes of Underground Europe, Romantic Europe, Ancient Europe, and Royal Europe.  We are now working on a new Journey in South Asia called the World Heritage Journeys of Buddha that features Buddhist World Heritage sites in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. The Journeys initiative is UNESCO’s first consumer marketing platform and was recently nominated for a Webby award.



Republic of Georgia

Solimar was recently awarded a five-year USAID subcontract with DAI to support the Republic of Georgia. We are excited to return to the county where we previously developed their national tourism strategy in 2014.






In Timor-Leste, through a five-year USAID subcontract with Chemonics International, we are helping the island of Ataúro develop a destination management and marketing organization and ensure tourism is benefitting the Timorese people.





In Liberia, we are helping the Forest Development Authority develop a national ecotourism strategy that both supports conservation in threatened protected areas and spurs economic development in nearby communities.




Saudi Arabia

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we are helping the government establish a network of Royal Reserves modeled after the United States National Park System and other international best practices in protected area management and sustainable tourism.




Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Here in the United States, we are assisting the National Park Service bring together tourism stakeholders along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which was recently expanded East to Pittsburg, extending it nearly 5,000 miles. This eastern expansion opens up new opportunities to highlight even more unique and authentic attractions and local small businesses through our new website and map guide platform.




West Virginia

In southern West Virginia, Solimar is working with the Region 2 Planning Commission to develop and market a new heritage tourism corridor anchored by a proposed Appalachia Gateway Welcome Center.




Sedona and the Verde Valley, Arizona 

We also have the honor of going into our sixth year of supporting the incredible destination of Sedona and the Verde Valley in Arizona. It has been a joy to watch tourism leaders continue to balance tourism growth with meeting the needs of local residents and conservation.



Sustainable Islands Platform

While tourism for development remains our focus, we are also applying our marketing and communication expertise to build online communities for our projects. We are currently assisting the Inter-American Development Bank launch the Sustainable Islands Platform, an initiative designed to make small island states more sustainable and reduce their vulnerability to climate and environmental change.




Inn at Meander Plantation

While we are steadfast in Solimar’s mission to use the power of sustainable tourism to stimulate economic growth while conserving natural resources and cultural heritage, we also recognize that consulting and marketing is not the only way we can achieve these results. Seeing the market opportunity in small scale accommodation development, management, and marketing, we have decided to launch a new division of the company focused on hospitality management and recruited a team of professionals that are managing the Inn at Meander Plantation, a historic country inn located in the foothills of the blue ridge mountains in central Virginia wine country. Together with their hospitality experience and Solimar’s marketing expertise, we are excited to invest in and manage unique small properties.





Since 2016, Solimar has been working with the National Park Service to develop and implement a tourism strategy for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The Trail, which currently extends from St. Louis to Cannon Beach, Washington, traces the route that Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery followed during their 1804-1806 expedition to the Pacific.  The Trail was designed by an act of Congress in 1978 and includes portions of 11 states and multiple Native American reservations.  Today, the Trail links contemporary communities whose historic connections span generations to the places associated with the expedition.

Following a series of workshops in 2017 with stakeholders along the trail, Solimar drafted the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Sustainable Tourism Plan 2019-2023. The Plan is intended to encourage the public’s use and enjoyment of the Trail without adversely impacting the resources, which the National Park Service is mandated to protect. Among the strategies laid out is a plan to build a local constituency of destination ambassadors and storytellers and work with these individuals to support the ongoing stewardship and promotion of the destination.

Solimar recently rolled out a new tourism website for the Trail, which includes content about more than 150 points of interest that was written and submitted by local experts who know the area best. Residents who live anywhere along the thousands of miles of Trail are invited to nominate businesses, destinations, and other points of interest to be featured on the site by logging in or creating an account here.


In March, the National Park Service announced that the Trail would be expanded a further 1,200 miles east to Pennsylvania to include what is called the Eastern Legacy, which includes parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Solimar is now tasked with supporting NPS’s outreach and engagement to hundreds of communities and millions of residents who will soon be connected to the Trail, and help extend the benefits of the Trail along the Eastern Expansion.

“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 Cardno Emerging Markets

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