Author: Vincent Villeneuve

trail development washington dc rock creek park tourism benefits

Adding 400 miles to greater Washington D.C.’s existing 479 miles of trails could create more than 16,000 jobs and generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

What is Trail Development?

A recent report by the Capital Trails Coalition on the Economic, Health, and Environmental Benefits of Completing the Capital Trails Network, pointed out that adding 400 miles to greater Washington D.C.’s existing 479 miles of trails could create more than 16,000 jobs and generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue. If completed, this trail development project would provide four million people with trail access within two miles of their home while enabling visitors to travel in new communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has attracted more people to walking, running, and cycling on trails. As a mode of active recreation for residents and out-of-town visitors, trails also serve to encourage domestic tourism activities and spending at businesses located nearby. Trail development therefore encourages tourist activities that contribute to a stronger economy. Across the nation, trails are stimulating tourism spending.

 washington dc rock creek park tourism benefits

People take advantage of the warm weather to walk, jog and bike through Rock Creek Park. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Trails and Tourism – Supporting Communities

Several studies have already pointed out how tourism is central to realizing the economic potential of trails as highly desirable destinations that bring dollars into the places they serve. Trail tourism can be a huge economic boost for communities in transition due to job loss or industry closures.

Through surveys, bike shop questionnaires, guide service interviews, and literature research, a 2011 study concluded that the Teton County trail system in Wyoming generated an estimated $18,070,123 million in economic activity in 2010. Approximately $1,109,588 million was generated by local trail users and $16,960,535 million by non-local trail users.

Another example of this impact could be cycling tourism in Oakridge, Oregon. A 2014 study showed significant spending in the community, which helped revitalize the local economy after the loss of timber jobs had devastating effects. A 2018 study from Helena, Montana also showed that their South Hills trail system generates $4.3 million in economic impact annually from 63,000 users. As Helena itself has a local community of around 32,000 residents, the majority of trail users are tourists.

Similarly, the Appalachian Trail runs over 2,000 miles and through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. As the trail celebrates its 100th birthday, over two million people visit some part of the Appalachian Trail every year triggering a considerable economic impact in neighboring communities as these visitors spend between $125 and $168 million each year. This spending not only attracts new business and creates new jobs along the hiking trail but also increases sales tax revenue in these communities.

Hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine trail development

Hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine (Credit: Jonathan A. Mauer/Shutterstock)

Trail Development – Process and Impact

At Solimar International, we strongly believe in the power of sustainable tourism for trail development, as we have been involved in the promotion of various trails and state parks from the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal and the Batwa Trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, to the iconic 4,900 miles long Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT).

The newly launched Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience website aims to connect communities, businesses, and individuals around a Geotourism project by celebrating every aspect of cultural and natural heritage along the trail and providing a forum to build alliances. Interconnectivity is vital to achieving sustainability in the tourism industry and likewise, it is key for impactful trail development. Tourism industry knowledge and expertise are highly instrumental to make a trail sustainable, by making it attractive, well-known, identifiable, accessible, and maintained.

 

Lewis and Clark Trail NPS Trail

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (NPS)

Successful trail development comes from the gathering of a range of stakeholders, including elected officials, public authorities, local non-profit organizations, destination management organizations, businesses, community leaders, along with tourism experts, architects, urban planners, and developers.

When stakeholders come together to support trail projects around a shared vision and mission, trail development outputs are invaluable for all communities involved. This is because many communities are interested in developing and maintaining recreational trails to benefit trail users and frame them as tourist attractions to stimulate economic growth.

Such inclusive community-based tourism can be identified as a reliable strategy to foster a more equitable approach to trail development as it unleashes the potential of designing multi-activity or “themed” trail networks to empower less developed areas. In the case of greater Washington DC, a network of multi-use trails providing active transportation options for residents and visitors to the region offering access to open space and recreational opportunities addresses the needs and aspirations of very diverse communities.

Trail Development Benefits for Community

The American Trails organization recalls that not only does spending even 20 minutes outside have short-term effects on the brain to reduce stress and anxiety, but also that for every dollar spent on trails, there is a three-dollar saving in healthcare costs. Trail development drives economic benefits in several ways. When trails are brought into a community, studies have shown that property values near the trail increase, businesses near trails flourish, and trail tourism provides an influx of money to communities.

As more and more tourists take outdoor recreation opportunities into consideration when choosing where to travel, largely driven by trails, the value of global tourism in trail development is clear and compelling.

Solimar International, therefore, invites you to discover a trail near you, including one of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame which recognizes exemplary rail-trails around the United States, before heading out for some exciting adventures and experiencing the power of trails while making sure to always observe the four rules of trail etiquette

Chester Woods State Trail in Minnesota

Chester Woods State Trail in Minnesota (Park & Trails Council of Minnesota)

Solimar has been fortunate to work with the US National Park Service on developing the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Interested in developing a trail in your destination? Contact us today!

Written by Vincent Villeneuve

World Population Day

Co-author: Kuanlin Lu

On World Population Day this year, the tourism industry has taken note that while some parts of the world appear to be recovering from the COVID-19, others are still very much entrenched in the fight against the pandemic. As the COVID-19 virus has (as of June 2021) infected 179 million people globally and contributed to 3.9 million deaths (as reported by the World Health Organization), the pandemic continues to compromise health care systems. On a deeper level, the response to the pandemic has exposed deep rooted social and economic inequities.

For two years, the pandemic has been having devastating economic effects on developing countries, especially those dependent on tourism and overseas visitors. According to a recent report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the sharp decline in international tourism could overall cost the global economy between $1.7 and $2.4 trillion this year, depending on the actual rollout of vaccines that currently affects emerging countries.

Tourism helps with childhood education
Source: UN Photo/Martine Perret

World Population Day is celebrated every year on July 11th with an objective to raise awareness of population issues across the globe. It was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989. By resolution 45/216 of December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly decided to continue observing World Population Day to enhance awareness of population issues, including their relationship to the environment and development. Since 1990, the world’s population has increased from about 5.3 billion to 7.7 billion in 2019, and is projected to exceed 9.7 billion by 2050. All the while, population and development issues surrounding rights, health and choices have gained prominence in the public debate. Some of these challenges include:

World Population Day and tourism
New York City (Source: James Ting on Unsplash)

Recent demographic trends at a global level have also resulted in the quick expansion of urbanization and accelerating migration due to the increased conflicts over resources. Many people risk their lives to move to another country seeking asylum and an environment for better health care, education and employment opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, these people are looking for a safer and stable home. 

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, gender-based violence increased under lockdown as did the risk of child marriage and female genital mutilation, according to the United Nations. In its most recent flagship report State of World Population 2021 “My Body is My Own,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) underlines how only about half of adolescent girls and women in developing countries can make their own decisions that underpin bodily autonomy and integrity. With health systems under huge pressure at a global level, reproductive and maternal health was often put aside during the pandemic. A World Health Organization (WHO) survey showed how family planning services was one the most extensively disrupted health services globally, and a medical review found increases in maternal deaths and stillbirths since the pandemic began, with great disparity between high and low-resource countries. 

Many people also lost their jobs amid these challenging times, leading to the destabilization of their financial status and widening the gap between the poor and the rich. Significant numbers of women also left the labor force as caregiving responsibilities for children learning remotely or for homebound older people increased, thus destabilized their finance situations. Overall, the crash in tourism is expected to cause a 5.5% increase in unemployment for unskilled labor on average. The UNWTO estimates that between 100 million and 120 million direct tourism jobs are at stake, many of them belonging to young people, women and informal workers.

Many women around the world lost their jobs as tourism shut down
Many women around the world lost their jobs as tourism shut down (Source: UN Photo/Martine Perret)

Beyond raising awareness around World Population Day, urgent action must be taken for the betterment of all the world’s citizens.

Improve education opportunities for all. 

Around the world, nearly 90% of the population has completed primary education in 2020, though only 39% of the countries have the same number of girls enrolled in secondary education as boys. It is urgent and crucial to ensure that the children, especially girls in any country, have the equal rights to get access to quality education.

Achieve universal health coverage

It is essential to ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them. For a community and a country to thrive, people must be able to get access to healthcare, clean water and to live under a stable economic and social support system. This includes upholding the rights and dignity of older citizens. The pandemic has wreaked a devastating toll on this generation and highlighted the importance to improve health care and social services for the world’s elders.

Empower people and eliminate barriers to modern contraception 

It is crucial to educate and raise awareness about bodily autonomy and self-determination from an early age to establish a common understanding around these concepts. Limited access to sexual and reproductive health, including unmet need for modern contraception are predicted to result in high rates of unplanned pregnancies and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. 

With just 10% of the world’s population fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data, UNCTAD predicts a 75% reduction in tourist arrivals in countries with low vaccination rates this year, compared with a 37% reduction in countries with more than 50% of their population vaccinated. Overall, experts see international tourism returning to 2019 levels only in 2024 or later. On World Population Day, Solimar International therefore echoes the statement of UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili who reminds us all that “tourism is a lifeline for millions, and advancing vaccinations to protect communities and support tourism’s safe restart is critical to the recovery of jobs and generation of much-needed resources, especially in developing countries”.

The Value of DMOs to Destinations

DMOs play a large role in contributing to a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable approach to tourism and destination development

A Destination Management Organization (DMO) is a non-profit organization that promotes a destination for tourism purposes. DMOs can vary in their official names (visitors bureau, tourist boards, organization of tourism, chambers of commerce) and geographic competence (local, regional, national, or multi-country) but they all have a pivotal role to play in sustainable tourism management. Particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a global shift in the focus of these organizations from marketing to management, and Solimar International is dedicated to supporting them in shaping better travel and tourism. This article defines the value of DMOs to destinations all around the world.

DMOs are first a critical and essential factor in the success of any tourism destination. Following the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which defines a DMO as the “leading organizational entity which facilitates partnerships with various authorities, stakeholders, and professionals to achieve a unified mission towards a destination’s vision” (UNWTO, 2021). A DMO is therefore closely linked to a tourism destination which the UNWTO sees as “the fundamental unit of analysis in tourism” (UNWTO, 2002), by providing information to visitors on the destination features including available attractions, amenities, and destination residents.

DMOs are organizations such as the Madison County Tourism (NY), the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau (AZ), Visit Anchorage (AK), Visit California (CA), or Discover Puerto Rico, which are dedicated to developing tourism around one destination, be it at a county, a metropolitan area, a state, a country or a subcontinent. Given the historic surge in worldwide tourism in recent decades, with more than 1.5 billion people traveling around the world in 2019 (UNWTO, 2020), the value and the role of DMOS has evolved and their importance has amplified.

Photo of Puerto Rico's DMO
Discover Puerto Rico (Source: www.discoverpuertorico.com)

While the primary objective of a DMO lies in destination promotion, defining what a DMO is and its value largely depends on where you are in the world. First and foremost, each destination offers its own unique set of attractions, amenities, and residents. As such, each DMO is therefore unique as it provides specific information on unique experiences. The first-ever DMO, the Detroit Conventions and Businessmen’s League (now known as the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau) which was formed in 1896 was unique and different from the Seattle Bureau of Information which was established in 1897 in that they both aimed at designing a tailored plan to maximize opportunities for travel and visit in their respective cities but promoted different activities and adopted different marketing strategies and tactics to advertise their attractiveness. Building economic prosperity and spreading a dynamic image of a destination rests on the unique offerings of that specific destination.

Detr
A moonlight tower in Detroit in the 1890s (Source: www.vintag.es)

Today, the main value of a DMO to a destination consists in its ability to convey specific messages and information at each of the various stages of the travel cycle. By branding its destination, a DMO invests in the DREAMING stage. By providing authority, credibility, and reliability as a source of information, a DMO supports the traveler in its PLANNING stage. A DMO further interacts with a visitor by offering a link or an interface to facilitate the BOOKING stage before directly intervening in the EXPERIENCING phase by engaging with destination stakeholders to ensure consistent delivery. Finally, a DMO is also involved in the SHARING stage of the travel cycle by providing a platform for contacts, reviews, storytelling, posts, and hashtags through social media following a visit.

In other words, a DMO acts not only as an information and services provider but rather as a solution finder for all stakeholders of a specific destination, including its visitors, businesses, public authorities, and local communities. From this angle, a DMO has truly emerged as a key element of success in the development and management of a tourism destination for its added value in branding, strategic planning, tourism policy and product development, cultural heritage dissemination, as well as workforce development, quality control, and crisis management.  From purely marketing initiatives, DMOs have therefore transformed into genuine destination management organizations which effectively and harmoniously address interactions between visitors, industry, community, and resources.

As such, DMOs have the potential to be a vector of positive transformation and genuine change toward more responsible and sustainable tourism. Beyond helping establish a competitive edge for the destination, they are essential to tell a vibrant story and build a strong identity around a destination. They are critical to the development of sustainable tourism management for their capacity to help design an inclusive strategy and to engage with all stakeholders.?

From Key West voting to ban large cruise ships from docking to the Italian government ruling by decree to keep large cruise ships out of Venice lagoon and to Thailand closing its national parks possibly during several months each year to help nature regenerate, there is a global awakening awareness among tourism public and private stakeholders and visitors themselves that tourism must play its part in reducing its carbon footprint and climate impact as well as in solving the various environmental issues it triggers. In 2021, especially after a year that sent people singing songs about their favorite destinations and preventing millions from being able to travel, established destinations and emerging tourism markets have a strong incentive to follow industry best practices. DMOs would be well inspired to follow the initiatives and innovations implemented by various islands which are already quite advanced on the protection of natural resources and the threat of climate change. The New Zealand Tourism Futures Taskforce notably recommends to re-orient the country’s tourism policy to improve ecosystems, provide meaningful jobs, enrich local communities, and respect Maori culture. Likewise, the Jamaican Minister of Tourism has recently voiced out his ambition to act on the imperative to imagine a more inclusive approach to tourism. As such, the value of DMOs to destinations is enormous.

100% Pure New Zealand (Source: www.newzealand.com)

As destinations slowly reopen, the immediate challenge for all DMOs will be to create value for their respective destinations by combining what might seem contradictory imperatives: help manage tourism sustainably while bringing in as many visitors as possible. Only a new vision on the benefit of tourism will have the means to pave a new way forward, especially for stakeholders whose immediate interest, after the pandemic, will be for travelers to travel again and for operators to reconnect with revenues so profitable until then. To learn more about the value of DMOs to destinations and what DMOs can do to pioneer in this new era of tourism, make sure to check out Solimar International’s Virtual DMO Development Program as well as all other courses available at our Institute for Sustainable Destinations

“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

Contact us

  • Address

    641 S Street NW, Third Floor
    Washington, DC 20001
  • Phone

    (202) 518-6192