Author: Solimar International

Written by Amélie Keller and Vincent Villeneuve

Today on June 8, Solimar International celebrates World Oceans Day to remind everyone that there is no life without the oceans. Oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and represent 97% of the water on the planet. They allow us to breathe by providing 50% of the atmospheric oxygen, nourish nearly 3 billion people, welcome 90% of internationally traded goods, constitute one of the most promising sources of clean renewable energy, and employ millions of people–including in marine and nature-based tourism. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credits: Dan Charity

Healthy oceans also ensure a protected climate. Marine biodiversity plays an essential role in climate change mitigation and adaptation and provides many ecosystem services essential for the well-being of human societies. Over the past decades, the ocean has mitigated climate change by absorbing between one-third and half of the human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, constituting one of the largest natural reservoirs of carbon. Marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and mangroves, also offer valuable adaptation solutions, protecting the coastline from storms, contributing to soil stabilization and water purification, and constituting important habitats for biodiversity. With US $36 billion in tourism revenue supplied to the global economy each year by coral reefs, Solimar recognizes the importance of protecting these critical and endangered habitats in our work with island and coastal economies around the world.

Credits: Jack McKee

World Oceans Day was first declared on 8 June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro at the Global Forum, a parallel event at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Earth Summit. In 2008, led by Canada, the General Assembly resolved that 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as “World Oceans Day”. (General Assembly resolution 63/111). The purpose of this day is to celebrate the oceans and to raise awareness among the general public of the crucial role they play in our subsistence, as well as in the various means that exist to protect them. This year’s UN World Oceans Day annual virtual event is held virtually in partnership with non-profit Oceanic Global and highlights the theme “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods”. As the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development has already started, World Oceans Day is a great opportunity to celebrate and appreciate all the benefits humans get from the ocean. It is also the perfect occasion to remind ourselves of our responsibility to use its resources sustainably and to recall that every day should be an ocean’s day if we want to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 Life Below Water as well as all the other SDGs. 

Credits: Christian Vizl

Oceans are home to most of the earth’s biodiversity and there is no doubt that the ocean economy has always been an important contributor to growth and prosperity. However, human economic activities have put serious pressure on maritime and marine resources. There is now no doubt that we must do more to protect our most vibrant natural heritage. This is what the concept of the Blue Economy is all about – as well explained by the Ocean Foundation, it refers to ensuring sustainable marine economic activities and enhancing improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the ocean ecosystem health. For more detailed information about the potential of the Blue Economy, this comprehensive report from the World Bank and the United Nations is a great place to start.

 

What is the Blue Economy? An infographic from the World Bank Group (Credits: The World Bank Group)

As we are living in an era of climate emergency and biodiversity losses, and constantly exposed to environmental heart-wrenching truths through newspapers, blog articles, or popular documentaries (Seaspiracy, Chasing Coral, My Octopus Teacher) – you might now be wondering, as tourism professionals, is there anything we can do to safeguard biodiversity and preserve our marine and coastal areas?

While the impact of tourism on the ocean and the climate is considerable, tourism also represents a vital pillar of a sustainable blue economy and can help drive conservation and restoration efforts around the world. The linkages between healthy ecosystems and a thriving tourism industry is perhaps nowhere more apparent than atop a coral reef. While the vibrant colors of soft coral shallows and intricate reef structures that provide a home for countless creatures can be dulled and broken by careless visitors, they can also be revived by tourism: private protected areas, funded by eco-resorts as seen in places like Misool in Indonesia, can maintain critical no-take zones that allow ecosystems to regenerate and recover while providing employment opportunities for local people.

While the UN underlines that we are currently taking more from the ocean than can be replenished, with 90% of big fish populations currently depleted and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, the Ellen MacArthur’s foundation also reminds us that in a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish by weight.” Contributing to the good ecological state of the ocean and protecting the climate also means changing tourism practices and respecting some simple rules of conduct. By helping tourists adopt the right actions and learn from good practices, we can allow beaches, coastal paths, coral reefs, salt meadows, mangroves, and the ocean to continue to play their role as a climate regulator.

Coastal and ocean-related tourism come in many forms – diving, watersports, wildlife interactions, cruising, beach resorts – and, yes, the tourism industry must assume a major responsibility to take action in sustaining the management of the ocean economy. To do so, active leadership should be integrated at all levels of a destination. Solimar International is committed to helping Destination Management Organizations and tourism stakeholders to reduce large-scale impacts on the natural capital upon which the industry depends. Solimar International is part of the Tourism Action Coalition for a Sustainable Ocean, working together with other tourism leaders to achieve the vision of marine and coastal tourism that is collaborative and regenerative with social inclusion and sustainability at its core. In addition, Solimar International is implementing activities directly aimed at delivering on this vision. Check out some of our past projects to which we conducted sustainable marine-based activities in coastal destinations, such as Mauritius, Panama, and Timor-Leste.

 

Tourism Action Coalition for a Sustainable Ocean (Credits: The Ocean Foundation)

To give you some ideas, we have listed some general tourism best practices examples to follow for a sustainable tourism destination based on the Blue Economy:

  • Ban single-use plastic and reuse as much plastic as possible 
  • Implement guidelines and sustainable activities for wildlife interactions and reef exploration
  • Educate visitors and front-workers about social responsibility and best practices to reduce environmental footprints
  • Lessen the amount of pollution and waste produced by cruise operators, hospitality businesses, tourists, and local communities through awareness campaigns and community events
  • Assess tourism businesses sustainability levels
  • Work with other industries (such as fisheries, governments, maritime transportation, renewable energy, and aquaculture) to conduct holistic and sustainable approaches
  • Employ local people who are on the frontline in our battle to restore our ocean ecosystems, and who are the most knowledgeable about their coastal homes and resources

As summer arrives and the lucky ones are already starting to prepare their luggage for a seaside vacation, it is essential to have in mind some good practices and actions to apply to preserve the largest ecosystem on the planet. By reducing waste, following marked trails, avoiding disturbing marine species, tourists can help protect the oceans while allowing them to fully play their role in the climate system. You too, during your stay by the sea, can protect the ocean and thus contribute to the fight against climate change.

Sustainability is not only green – like the Earth we call home, it is truly blue. So celebrate World Oceans Day, and take this opportunity to remind yourself how beautiful our planet is, especially underwater. To share this world of wonder with future generations, we must ensure that tourism acts to protect these beautiful places and ecosystems–improving them for the many millions of people who have yet to witness their beauty, and the millions more who call these places home.

Feeling like diving now? Sign up to the World Ocean Day event here and take a virtual swim without any harm by discovering this wonderful campaign on Google Earth created by Underwater Earth and The Ocean Agency to raise awareness on the importance of our oceans!

2020 Photo Competition –  Winner of the Category ‘Underwater Life’ (Credits : Michael Gallagher) 

Stakeholder Participation

This blog post was authored by Sophie Levy, Matt Clausen, and Mica Pacheco and is a summary of Week 3 and 4 in Solimar’s DMO Development Program happening in Georgia during the summer of 2020. The topics of these two weeks covered DMO Governance and Board Development. Check out the link above to learn more about what Solimar is doing to train DMOs all across the globe.

Arguably the most important aspect of a successful, world-class Destination Management Organization (DMO) is strong governance and leadership development. By implementing clear policies, systems, and processes, DMOs explicate responsibilities, ensure standard practices, and optimize the performance of the organization. As a catalyst for growth, DMOs should enlist the help of skillful board members that enthusiastically advocate on behalf of the organization’s mission, values, and purpose. In recognition of the importance of good governance and leadership development, Solimar dedicated the third and fourth weeks of its DMO Development Program to defining the roles of the DMO board and director and presenting strategies to effectively recruit and govern members of the Board.  

The following items are key documents your DMO to prepare for excellent governance and board management practices, explained in more detail below: 

  • Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
  • Job descriptions for your board, staff, volunteers, and officers
  • A responsibility and decision matrix 
  • Standard of ethics and conflict of interest policy
  • Board policy orientation document 
  • Board policy orientation presentation 

What is Governance and Why Do DMOs Need This? 

Governance comprises many key elements, including accountability, transparency, involvement, structure, effectiveness, and power. DMOs are obligated to justify and account for their programs and activities to earn trust and prove reliability with stakeholders. Candor and transparency in operations and communications builds trust with stakeholders by providing insight into the decision-making process. Inviting all stakeholders to participate in the DMOs activities and programs not only elevates inclusivity but also advances individual stakeholders’ investment in the organization. Defined organizational structure positions a DMO to effectively evaluate results that subsequently help them to reach their goals and objectives and clarify power dynamics to preserve leadership cooperation. By detailing governance, DMOs optimize how, who, why, and what they administer. 

Understanding the Purpose of the Governing Documents

By implementing a good set of governing documents, the DMO will be able to grow and provide an effective framework for all current and future officers and board members. These documents are not only meant to establish the organization as a legal entity, but they are also used to define the governance model and clearly explain how decisions will be made and by whom. There are two main documents that DMOs use to establish themselves- the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws.

  • The Articles of Incorporation are a legal document filed with a government authority that legally establishes the organization
  • The Bylaws are a document that states how the organization will be governed.

Through these documents, the organizations will clearly define and state the roles, rules, and processes that are needed in the activities of the organization. Such rules should include clauses for conflict of interest policies, board nomination/elections processes, and board and staff evaluation policies. 

What is the Role of the DMO Director to Manage Your Board? 

The DMO Director serves as the catalyst to growth, organization, and productivity of the Board. While the Board is legally and ethically responsible for all activities of the organization, the DMO Director leads all daily decisions, establishes and executes short-term goals, and recommends best practices and strategies for long-term objectives. Board members have an array of responsibilities which include:

  • attaining a thorough understanding of the mission and values of the organization,
  • promoting its growth and development,
  • actively attending and contributing to Board meetings,
  • participating in and amplifying fundraising efforts,
  • familiarizing themselves on current tourism trends and concerns, and
  • upholding their commitment to conflict of interest and confidentiality policies.

The DMO Director serves as the supervisor and educator to Board members as they achieve all of these action items. In this way, the DMO Director advances the mission, values, and vision of the organization through exceptional leadership. Establishing clear job descriptions for each of these roles is critical to ensuring your board members understand their responsibilities, while creating a responsibility and decision matrix is an even better way to understand who in the organization has responsibilities for completing specific tasks.

Understanding the Importance of Establishing Clear Board Policies and Board Orientation 

The most critical of the early steps is setting clear expectations. The best way to do this is to develop a Board Policy Orientation document that the director provides to each new board member. This document states the mission and vision of the organization, policies (everything from recruiting new board members to smoking on the premises), and a wealth of other information new recruits will need to better understand his or her role within the DMO. You can develop performance expectation policies to make this clear to your board. 

Expectations of the Board should center around three responsibilities: 

  1. The duty of care to actively participate in decision-making with intentions to progress the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
  2. The duty of loyalty to reject personal biases or relationships and adhere to the best recommendations for the organization. 
  3. The duty of obedience to comply with local, regional, and national laws. 

By proactively setting these expectations, organizations produce high levels of support and passionate advocates within their Board and ensure effective team dynamics that is critical to the success of your organization. New board members will need to be introduced to the DMO’s mandate, strategy, and priorities, so it’s vital that the DMO Director prepare and deliver a presentation that summarizes the DMO’s role and focus in the destination. With conscientious policies, processes, expectations, and on-boarding, the DMO Director produces a foundation for success and progressive leadership. 

Tips for Recruiting and Electing Board Members 

When recruiting and electing board members, the DMO should focus on getting a variety of people from different sectors to create a board that can facilitate and effectively help with the myriad of issues and events that come forward in a given time. A DMO should look for people who are passionate about the region and will give the volunteer position the time and attention it requires. The DMO needs to make sure that the rules from the governing documents are laid out beforehand for full transparency (i.e. conflict of interest policies). This can be reinforced through evaluations of your board.

In summation, when creating a diverse board, the DMO should also focus on creating an open and inclusive environment where members of the board can speak their ideas truthfully and be given the attention their statements merit. 

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  -Mark Twain 

In the wake of recent events heightened by the murder of George Floyd on May 25, America has awoken to the consequences of racism in our society on a scale not seen since the 1960s. There has been a global call to action in demanding institutions, policies, and prejudices be critically examined in order for citizens of the world to become active allies of the Black community. While there are a multitude of complex challenges facing citizens and policymakers, there are a number of solutions that each one of us can employ in order to learn and unlearn racist biases so deeply entrenched in society. Travel is one of them. 

Taking the time to travel and understand other cultures helps us all open our minds and replaces fear of the unknown with trust in humanity. While travel is certainly a privilege not everyone can afford, it doesn’t take venturing to the other side of the world to be exposed to new places, cultures, and ideas. As domestic tourism in the United States begins to reopen, Solimar invites you to explore the following destinations that may be in your own backyard as we all take the time to better educate ourselves during this global movement towards social justice and common understanding. 

Washington, D.C. – East of the River (Chris Seek)

Washington, DC is Solimar’s home base and one of the best tourism destinations in the US (we might be biased).  Every year over 20 million visitors come to DC to enjoy the Smithsonian Museums and National Monuments, but only a few venture east of the Anacostia River. One of DC’s earliest suburbs, Anacostia was home to Frederick Douglass and his home now serves as a historic site run by the National Park Service. Other highlights include the Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens and the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, which documents and interprets the impact of historical and contemporary social issues on communities. Many local and Black-owned businesses line the main street, and thanks to the support of a $50 Million grant from a non-profit, these businesses help ensure the historically Black neighborhood retains its authenticity and small town feel.  While in Anacostia be sure to visit the Anacostia Arts Center, or cleanse your soul with a King Kong Kale juice from Turning Natural. Finish the day with a drink named after DC Go-Go icon Chuck Brown or Dr. Martin Luthr King at Uniontown Bar and Grill. 

Explore the Underground Railroad (Chloe King)

Whether you live in California, Alabama, Virginia, or Vermont, chances are you only have to drive a few hours to visit one of the historical sites of the Underground Railroad, the famous network that helped slaves escape from Southern plantations to a freer life in the Northern states. As part of the National Park Services’ Network to Freedom Program, there are over 600 individual destinations you can visit nationwide, either in-person or virtually. From learning about leaders like Harriet Tubman who helped people escape to freedom to reading national archives rich with first-hand testimony of those with dreams of a better life, this network is an excellent way to explore the history in your own backyard. Read two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad on your journey, a story of two slaves on their bid for freedom from a Georgia plantation. 

The Network to Freedom Sites from the National Park Service

South Side of Chicago (Derek Schimmel)

Chicago’s South Side offers visitors to the Second City an opportunity to explore one of the most eclectic and historically rich Black neighborhoods in America. Travelers can tour the Bronzeville Walk of Fame, which features 91 bronze plaques of important civil rights movement personalities, and learn about Black cultural heritage at the Gallery Guichard or by walking the Black Metropolis Great Migration Pullman Porter Blues Trail. The city of Bronzeville is also home to Camp Douglas: Union Army Recruitment and Training Camp and the Abbot House: A National Historic Landmark home of the founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper. For a taste of local cuisine, visitors can try Valois Restaurant, a cafeteria-style, cash-only for breakfast and Ja’Grille for a taste of Jamaica come dinner time.

In Jackson Park, The Obama Presidential Center is set to open in 2025. This future landmark will be a massive draw to the South Side for travelers and locals alike. More recently, Illinois Congressman Bobby L. Rush reintroduced the Bronzeville-Black Metropolis National Heritage Area Act, designed to celebrate the history of the African-American community and preserve the cultural and economic benefits that it has brought upon the city since the Great Migration.

Gee’s Bend, Alabama (Natalie Sellier)

The Black Belt Region of Alabama—which stretches through 13 counties and has historically been an agricultural center for the state—contains some of the poorest counties in the United States. A sordid history of political disenfranchisement and violent racism combined with a fluctuating agrarian-based economy has left this region deprived of both financial and natural wealth over generations. The small community of Gee’s Bend located in the Black Belt is a microcosm for the issues plaguing this region. However, its scenic location on the Alabama River and its famous quiltmakers are untapped resources for growth through sustainable tourism – allowing people to experience a piece of southern culture that is still unique, palpable, and authentic. In 2012, Solimar worked with Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families (SURREF) through a Ford Foundation grant to help build a new community-based tourism enterprise that maximizes tourism revenues by offering—for the first time—tourism packages that encourage visitors to stay longer, spend more, and truly appreciate all that this small destination has to offer. Click here to learn more about visiting this incredible community, including the Gees Bend Quilt Mural Trail.  

York- The Lewis and Clark Expedition (Sophie Levy)

Little is known about the enslaved African American who was vital to the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. York was a slave to William Clark and became the first African American to cross the United States from coast to coast. York was an invaluable member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition team, risking his life to save Clark in a flash flood on the Missouri River, hunting game to feed the group, and directing the sails of the boat that safely delivered the Corps of Discovery to Pennsylvania. York had only two features named after him on the journey. “Yorks 8 Islands”, renamed by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 2000 as “York’s Islands,” are a cluster of is­lands along the Missouri River in Montana. While the islands are predominantly privately owned now, there is public access available at the York’s Islands Fishing Access Site. The other was a tributary of the Yellow­stone which Clark called “York’s Dry Creek.” An explicative sculpture named “York: Terra Incognita”, or “unknown land”, stands outside of the Library at Lewis and Clark College attributing respect to the often unrecognized historical figure. A bronze statue depicting York’s strength and valor is located on the Louisville Belvedere in Kentucky as a lasting legacy to honor York’s memory and importance in American history. Check out Solimar’s work on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Harlem, New York (Mica Pacheco)

Harlem is a neighborhood located in the Northern section of New York City borough of Manhattan. Known as one of the Meccas for Black history, Harlem was and still is a home to many races and ethnic group. The neighborhood gained its notoriety during the 1920’s in the era called the “Harlem Renaissance.”  The Harlem Renaissance is characterized by the literary, intellectual, and cultural flourishing of the new Black cultural identity. It was coupled with advancements in entertainment with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong building the innovation of jazz, and in advancements in poetry with poets like Langston Hughes.  This period of activity caused the incorporation of Black culture into popular mainstream culture, making Harlem a key destination point for entertainment. 

Today, the residents of Harlem are fighting against rising developments and property value as gentrification becomes a looming threat to the community. There are groups like Harlem Heritage Tours that offer many different tours of the neighborhood and its history by local residents. Tours include iconic sights like the Apollo Theatre and the National Jazz Museum. For those who are unable to make the visit, the organization also sells a variety of products in order to fund its cultural research and outreach to the community.

Kansas City, Missouri (Matt Clausen)

Kansas City has a vibrant African American culture and a deep history. The African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City, Missouri links over 50 important sites all around the city and a virtual tour provides people all across the world a chance to learn more about the city’s history. The American Jazz Museum preserves the history of American jazz music, with exhibits on Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and others. The museum is also home to one of Kansas City’s finest jazz clubs, The Blue Room. The Negro League Baseball Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America. Founded in 1974 by Horace M. Peterson III, the Black Archives of Mid-America collects, preserves, and honors the heritage of Black Americans. An African American museum in the former residence of John A. Walker, the Old Quindaro Museum in Kansas City preserves the rich history of the community where runaway slaves once found sanctuary.

Make sure to include the many nearby sites just outside of the city on your itinerary. Just north along the Missouri River in Leavenworth, Kansas is the Buffalo Soldier Monument which honors the bravery, determination, and courage of the African-American frontier soldiers who served in the 10th Cavalry. View memorabilia at the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum from General Colin Powell, Buffalo Soldiers, uniforms, freedom papers from former slaves, photographs, items from the old Bethel A.M.E. Church, and a stop on the Underground Railroad in Leavenworth. For insight into the abolitionist movement, visit the John Brown Museum State Historic Site in Osawatomie. This cabin served as an abolitionist’s headquarters in Kansas and a stop along the Underground Railroad. Nicodemus, Kansas is the oldest and only remaining Black settlement west of the Mississippi River. Nicodemus represents the involvement of African Americans in the westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati (Mary Haas)

Historically, the Ohio River was seen as separating the North and South. When enslaved men, women, and children were escaping the oppression of the slave states in the South, crossing the river was a crucial point in reaching freedom. It is only fitting that a museum that celebrates the heroes of the Underground Railroad is situated on the banks of the same river that so many people bravely crossed for freedom. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has a wide variety of exhibits that show the cruelty of slavery as well as acts of great kindness and strength. While generally focusing on the era of the Underground Railroad, the Freedom Center also has a wide variety of exhibits that educate visitors on the importance of equality and freedom, as well as the evils of institutionalized racism. A visit to the Freedom Center reminds us that history must be remembered in order to continue advocating for justice and equality for many generations yet to come. 

Nova Scotia – The footsteps of the Black Loyalists (Caecilia He)

The story of the Black Loyalists is a very important and colorful moment in African-Canadian and African-American history. The Black Loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia between 1783 and 1785 as a result of the American Revolution. The term “Black Loyalist” particularly refers to men who escaped enslavement and served on the Loyalist side due to the Crown’s promises of freedom. About 3000 Black Loyalists were evacuated from New York to Nova Scotia. David George was an African American Baptist preacher and an influential Black Loyalist. George was born a slave in Virginia, yet founded the first Baptist church in Nova Scotia. One attraction highlighting this in Nova Scotia is the Black Loyalist Heritage Site, which takes visitors on the journey of these earliest Black settlers to Nova Scotia. The history of the Black Loyalists occurred more than two centuries ago, and descendants of the Black Loyalists are calling for the remembrance of spirits of their ancestors and discovering their stories of struggles. Click here to read the award-winning 2007 novel “The Book of Negroes” by Lawrence Hill with the stories of these brave individuals. 

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park (Beau Baiocchi)

Located in central California, Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park makes for the perfect educational stopover on the Los Angeles to San Francisco drive, or a perfect destination in itself for those interested in learning more about the little known history of this African American settlement. Now a historic park operated by the National Park Service, Allensworth was established in 1908 as a town founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. Their goal was to create a thriving community with programs that allowed individuals to create better lives for themselves. Purchased by the Park Service in 1974, this now vacated town offers a glimpse into its past with refurbished and reconstructed structures conjuring up reminders of its former days. Attractions include the baptist church, historic schoolhouse, and library. The site houses 15 campsites, a visitor center, and its paved roads are perfect for biking.  

Travel Bloggers

Oftentimes, we discover dream destinations that turn into unforgettable vacations from travel bloggers and writers around the world. For more inspiration, check out some suggestions below as well as these 50 Amazing Black Travel Bloggers

  • Storyteller, author, podcast host, and transformational lifestyle designer Ernest White II has circumnavigated the globe six times. His travel docu-series, FLY BROTHER, captivates viewers through his inspirational narratives on international friendship and connection around.
  • A talented photographer, video creator, writer, and passionate advocate for sustainable and green tourism, Ashley Renne tempts her audience to ditch the office and live life on the road. Not only is she a full-time content creator, but she also educates other explorer enthusiasts on how to intertwine entrepreneurship and travel at her co-founded academy Travelpreneur Life.
  • Family content creator, Monet Hambrick, permits no excuse for globetrotting parents and provides a unique, family-friendly perspective to adventure via The Traveling Child. Her helpful tips on how to travel with kids offers valuable insights from managing unforeseen illness abroad, packing properly for a lengthy road trip, and finding “alone” time just for parents.

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an event started in 1970 when one out of every 10 Americans took to the streets to protest the environmental impact that industrial development had brought to the world. We now find the entire planet united in the effort to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, which has quickly become an unprecedented health and economic crisis. While our global community is working to manage this virus, we can’t help but wonder: What if the entire world united to protect our environment? Does this disruption to the travel industry give us the opportunity to rethink those vacations we might have once taken for granted? 

At Solimar, we strongly believe that tourism can help protect our planet. While we recognize air travel contributes to climate change, our friend Costas Christ reminds us that flying can also be a force for good for the planet. We work with destinations around the world that utilize sustainable tourism to protect wildlife, preserve wide open spaces, celebrate local cultures, and improve the lives of local residents. While travel restrictions may keep us from the ability to hop on a plane tomorrow, one of the greatest joys of travel is researching new destinations and anticipating that next adventure. For this Earth Day, we encourage you to take a break from the latest headlines to do some dreaming about your next travel destination. We welcome you to explore a few of the places where Solimar is working to help you begin planning your next earth-friendly adventure.

World Heritage Journeys
of Europe & Buddha

Visit UNESCO’s World Heritage Journeys Sustainable Tourism Platform developed with support from Solimar and National Geographic to help you dream about 34 World Heritage sites from the EU or three World Heritage sites of Buddhist heritage in South Asia. Take a tour to discover why these sites are designated as World Heritage or immerse yourself in a 360 virtual tour of the romantic city of Bruges, a participating site of the Romantic Europe journey.

 

Grobglockner Alpine Road, Austria

Known as one of Austria’s top three Alps destinations, the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. Solimar is assisting Schmiek Plant, an Austrian tourism consulting group, conduct a comparative analysis of scenic byways around the world to help make a case for World Heritage inscription of this famous and beautiful scenic drive.

 

Republic of Georgia

This small but incredible country in the Caucasus Mountains offers visitors world-class wine, adventures, and cultural heritage experiences. There is a reason the Republic of Georgia was one of the fastest growing tourism economies on the planet before COVID-19, and there is no doubt it will recover quickly. Take a video tour of Georgian adventures, Georgian food, winters in Georgia, and summers in Georgia.  If you still don’t believe us, listen to the social media posts from travelers who visited Georgia and shared their emotions. Solimar is working with USAID and DAI through the Economic Security Program to strengthen regional destination management organizations, assist Caucuses University obtain Ted-Qual Certification, improve interpretation planning of key heritage sites, and update the National Tourism Action Plan to help the country recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Sisian, Armenia

Discover Sisian, an off-the-beaten-path town in Southern Armenia that is the perfect basecamp for exploring the Syunik Region. Take a video tour of the Sisian History Museum, discover the hiking adventures and Soviet-era jeep tours waiting for you with Basen Tours, watch the inspiring story about the Sisian Women Resource Center that is supporting women craft makers, or take a hike from the famous Tatev Monastery through abandoned villages on your way back to a wonderful overnight in Sisian. Solimar is working with USAID and Smithsonian to create a destination management organization in this wonderful town.

 

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea combines an incredibly diverse culture with an array of outdoor tropical adventures, highlighted by the 96 kilometer Kokoda Track. Check out PNG through the eyes of its local people with this virtual tour from the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority and see how past history and traditions link beautifully with the country’s tourism offerings today. Solimar is currently working with the Tourism Promotion Agency to develop a new five-year tourism action plan that will help guide the country’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.

 

Timor-Leste

Tucked between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, Timor-Leste is the ideal destination for travelers searching for exotic locales with few tourists. What Timor-Leste lacks in size, it makes up for with its wildly rich cultural heritage, world-class diving and snorkeling, beaches and fishing. Intrepid travelers may choose to venture to Ataúro Island, roughly 20 miles from mainland Timor-Leste for a truly one-of-a-kind travel experience. Take a virtual tour and learn how tourism is helping to support marine life and about the sustainable efforts happening within Ataúro’s fishing culture. Solimar has been supporting local tourism stakeholders, creating a destination management organization in Ataúro and is building a destination website designed to educate visitors and support community-led tourism.

 

Annapurna Conservation Area of Nepal

With stunning mountain ranges, deep gorges, traditional villages, rich cultural diversity, and important spiritual sites, the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) is one of the most important and popular tourist destinations in Nepal. Take a 3D tour of the famous 220KM trek around Annapurna Mountain or enjoy these amazing views and vistas from our friends at World Expeditions. Solimar is working with the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation to attract a different and higher paying market to ACA through investment promotion for new accommodation offerings in Jharkot and Tukuche.

 

Southern Tanzania

Tanzania is known as a tourism destination by most travelers around the world mostly because it is home to Serengeti and Kilimanjaro National Parks, however these two parks are located in the far north of the country and leave Southern Tanzania with very little tourism traffic. With many parks and game reserves, the lower portion of Tanzania is a dream for all visitors searching for off-the-grid boating and walking safaris. Tour the Mbinga District for a cultural trip and find exotic safari experiences in this still-being-developed section of Tanzania. Solimar is kicking off a new project to help develop a marketing strategy, communication materials, and establish a regional Destination Management Organization for the Southern Circuit.

 

Namibia

While Solimar is no longer working in Namibia, this destination will always be in our hearts. They say “once you visit this pristine land of untouched natural beauty; of vastness, of awe-inspiring contrasts and mystical splendour it touches the soul. You take it with you forever.”  Namibia’s endless horizons and wide open spaces are the ideal place to find balance in nature. Watch this video from our friends at Travel News Namibia and the Namibia Tourism Board that reminds us Namibia is waiting for you.

 

Jamaica 

Jamaica is often thought of as a prime destination for sun, sand and sea vacationers. Its numerous beaches and crystal clear waters validate this description, but Jamaica’s renowned culture and history provides the island nation the perfect backdrop for cultural heritage and community tourism. Take a virtual tour of the Rastafari Indigenous Village, a group that Solimar is supporting to preserve the heritage and economic well-being of the Rastafari community through sustainable tourism.

 

Cayman Islands

West of Jamaica lies another gem of the Caribbean. For decades, the Cayman Islands has been a paradise for beach-seekers and divers alike. Take a virtual tour to discover the thriving underwater paradise that neighbors the islands’ shores and find out why so many travelers are dreaming of the Cayman Islands while staying home. Solimar International worked alongside The George Washington University in building a Visitor Management Strategy and National Tourism Plan for the Cayman Islands.

 

Or maybe something a little closer to home…
The tourism industry is in an unprecedented state as it reacts to the coronavirus pandemic. One near certainty is that domestic travel will recover quickly as restrictions are slowly repealed. Here are a few places where US-based travelers might consider to scratch that ever-deepening travel itch.

The Inn and Tavern at Meander, Virginia

The Inn and Tavern at Meander, located a short drive from Washington, DC offers what everyone is craving at this time of crisis – nature, silence, and solitude. Meander’s new contactless hospitality program invites travelers to self check-in to their own private cottage and enjoy room service via text, while taking in the views of the Central Virginia Foothills. Nestled on 80 rolling acres near Shenandoah National Park, Meander brings guests back through time in its tastefully renovated home that was built originally in the 1700s. Take a tour through The Inn and Tavern at Meanderand a virtual drive on the famous Skyline Drive, one of the most beautiful drives in America. Solimar helped bring together a group of family and friends to purchase this historic property and use sustainable tourism to preserve its history including hosting some of America’s founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

 

Huntington, West Virginia

Huntington, West Virginia is located on the banks of the Ohio River and though relatively unknown, the city has an eclectic mix of tourism offerings for both nature-lovers and those searching for a true Americana adventure. Take a video tour of the mountains, meet the people and immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of Huntington, WV. Solimar is working on a Market Strategy and Economic Feasibility Study to support economic diversification via tourism in the region.

 

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

The National Park Service stewards the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and offers a trip through American history that stretches 4,900 miles and through 16 states, from Pittsburgh to Oregon. The historic trail links the towns, cities and counties along the expedition route while supporting historical preservation, all while celebrating the unique local cultures and living traditions of today. It has probably been years since you studied this important and remarkable historical event, so take a few minutes to watch this trailer for the Ken Burns Documentary on this amazing expedition. Solimar is in the midst of building a sustainable travel website to promote the tourism opportunities along this trail by inviting tourism leaders and local residents to share what they recommend to visitors tell their story in their own words.

We hope that sharing these incredible destinations has inspired our to begin planning your next trip. On earth day and every day, remember that your travel choices can make a difference in helping to protect the environment.

Solimar is delighted to congratulate SEE Turtles for their recent winning of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Changemakers Award at the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards ceremony. The Awards, now in their 15th year, took place at a special ceremony during the WTTC Global Summit in Seville, Spain, to celebrate inspirational, world-changing tourism initiatives from around the globe. President Barack Obama served as the keynote speaker this year citing the importance of meaningful travel and how it can build bridges of cultural understanding and acceptance.

New to 2019, the Changemakers Award is for a Travel & Tourism organization which has made real, positive and impactful change in a specific area of focus defined by WTTC. While the focus will change each year, the award in 2019 focused on fighting the illegal wildlife trade through tourism.

SEE Turtles is operates sea turtle conservation and volunteer programs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Six of seven species of sea turtles are endangered due to the trade in their eggs, meat and shells. Since 2008, by unifying on-the-ground efforts to protect sea turtles throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, SEE Turtles has saved 1.7 million hatchlings and educated over 10 million people in preventing turtle shell trade. The success of the organization is due to the tireless efforts of its co-founder and president, Brad Nahill. Solimar is proud to be a small part of the SEE Turtles story through our assistance in writing a business plan to support its formation in 2008.

Please click here to learn more about how SEE Turtles works to protect sea turtles and how you can support their efforts.

 

 

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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 Cardno Emerging Markets

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