Category: Blog

Solimar International’s Director of Conservation & Community Development, Chloe King, has published her White Paper: Climate Action through Regeneration: Unlocking the Power of Communities and Nature through Tourism. Chloe worked alongside Senior Sustainability Consultant, O’Shannon Burns and organizations Regenerative Travel and The Long Run on a year-long research project that sought to determine how tourism can be made into a more regenerative practice by embracing nature-based solutions. 

The paper identifies Five Principles to Develop Effective Nature-Based Solutions that highlight the connectedness between travel businesses, nature, and local communities. This article summarizes the Five Principles and how they interact to make tourism a more environmentally friendly, culturally inclusive, and economically sustainable industry. If you would like to read the full white paper, please visit this link to download:

The Five Principles of Regenerative Tourism

1 .Centering Community Needs First

The first Principle to Develop Nature-Based Solutions is centering community needs first. The most important piece of this principle is the ability to build a “collective path forward,” which establishes a relationship between a travel business and local communities that is founded on a mutual understanding of the intrinsic value of nature and a duty to protect it for the greater good of both parties’ interests. The authors note that establishing a sense of place through community engagement can often become a large part of this first principle, because it creates a shared understanding of why preserving the landscape and its inhabitants is important.

Tanzania’s Chole Mjini Treehouse Lodge has helped to address locals’  health and education challenges, embodying Principle 1.

2. Improving Ecosystem Integrity and Biodiversity

Principle number two is centered around improving ecosystem integrity and biodiversity. Tourism companies can use their financial resources to protect and regenerate ecosystems at risk, ensuring that the landscapes they profit from remain as beautiful as they are today when the next generation inherits their operations. In fact, the authors note that just “0.5% of the annual tourism turnover would be needed to fund a complete network of protected areas.” If every tourism company on Earth devoted this small percentage of profits to protecting their local wildlife, they could preserve the ecosystems that travelers like us love to see. Tourism companies that are truly regenerative should be aware of this fact and should actively attempt to support carbon neutrality and biodiversity conservation initiatives in the areas where they do business.

Hotel Tranquilo Bay uses nature based solutions to run their beautiful rainforest lodge

In Panama, Hotel Tranquilo Bay uses a portion of its profits to benefit the conservation of nearby ecosystems, encompassing Principle 2.

3. Embrace Diverse and Inclusive Business Models

Tourism businesses must understand that diversity is key to long-term success. Businesses that develop with social responsibility, equity, conservation, and profit equally prioritized become protected against potential threats. Much like a diverse ecosystem, these “pro-diversity business models” provide a safety net when unforeseen challenges, like theCOVID-19 pandemic, which took a major toll on the industry, arises. A business that can evolve will survive. In addition, employees who work in diverse business environments that support social equity and cultural preservation become more engaged and stay with a company longer. In an industry that relies heavily on staff excellence, every great employee counts! It is also important that businesses consider catering to a wide array of traveler types. The wider a company’s target market is, the more diverse and, in turn, resilient, they become.

Blue Apple Beach Club in Colombia uses their business as a means to address social inequity, exemplifying principle 3.

4. Develop Transparent Governance Structures Accountable to All Stakeholders

This principle makes sure that locals get the same attention as wealthy stakeholders when tourism companies make decisions. Businesses should make sure that they foster relationships with local communities to create a long-term support system. To successfully do this, they must seek to understand the entire space, not just the tourism industry, in their destination. They should also give communities access to the cultural and natural resources that they want to protect. Developing a sense of place and understanding through experience is the best way to keep every stakeholder motivated to continue developing a regenerative tourism model.

In Mexico, Playa Viva is dedicated to co-evolving with the nearby community.

5. Enhance Regenerative Partnerships

The final principle emphasizes the importance of collaboration to regenerative tourism. Tourism companies should serve as a bridge between communities and the government to enhance social and ecological regeneration. Partnerships with NGOs and governmental entities help manage and monitor projects’ success. Without government involvement, it may be difficult to fully understand the effects of a regenerative tourism operation on both human and natural communities. Transparency is key to creating these partnerships. You can’t have a relationship without trust, so being honest about where you are and what you do is important when developing and maintaining valuable partnerships.

South Africa’s Samara Private Game Reserve promotes nature based solutoins

South Africa’s Samara Private Game Reserve has established strategic partnerships with SANparks, NGOs, and local communities to establish wildlife corridors in the region.

Hope for a Brighter Future in the Tourism Industry

Regenerative tourism practices that encompass these Five Principles have the potential to motivate an industry-wide shift toward a “triple bottom line” that values people, planet, and profit equally. Nature-based solutions offer a way for tourism companies to avoid favoring resource extraction and activities that increase pressure on fragile natural spaces to make a profit. These solutions help build businesses that benefit both the environment and the people that call it home. With regenerative tourism, locals, tourism companies, and travelers can feel confident that the trips they provide or purchase are making a positive impact. 

Having worked at Solimar for three years now, Chloe is excited that her research will help contribute to our mission. She told us that her “research attempts to merge regenerative thinking – a field that has drawn upon the vast and diverse array of Indigenous wisdom as seeing humanity as belonging to nature – with practical solutions that the [nature-based solutions] framework provides for tourism businesses seeking to address and adapt to climate change.” With environmental issues like increased storm frequency, sea level rise, and soaring temperatures threatening tourism operations worldwide, regenerative tourism models provide hope that travel can be used as a tool to help ecosystems remain resilient in a warming world. Chloe hopes to “use the Five Principles described in this research as a model to guide how we engage with communities from day one, starting by centering community needs first when designing effective nature-based solutions through tourism”.

We are so proud of Chloe and all her work to make the tourism industry a better place. We look forward to seeing what she does as our Director of Conservation and Community Development. Chloe is currently leading projects in the Maldives and Bangladesh, where she hopes to establish successful community tourism operations that encompass the five principles to develop nature-based solutions. Download the full version of Chloe’s White Paper here:

Curious how to make regenerative travel work for your destination? Get in touch with Solimar.

Winery Yakima Valley

Tourism can be a transformative experience, both for destinations and the travelers who visit. While famous bucket list destinations are always fun to visit, under-the-radar destinations offer travelers the unique opportunity to see the authentic heart and soul of a place that can’t be found anywhere else (and hey, it doesn’t hurt to avoid the crowds either). 

Yakima Valley: The Palm Springs of Washington State 

When most people hear Washington State, the first thing they might think of is Seattle. Expansive rainforests made green from plentiful rainfall, bustling food markets like Pikes Place filled with mouth-watering aromas, and colorful street art are classic characteristics of Washington State.

palm springs of washington

But on the other side of the towering Cascade mountains is a lesser known side of Washington, a hidden gem, with 300 days of sunshine a year where life moves a little slower. Located in Eastern Washington, the Yakima Valley is famous for many things– world-class breweries & vineyards that rival famous destinations like Napa Valley, California or Portland, Oregon, hundreds of outdoor adventures and mouth-watering farm-to-table cuisine. Dubbed the “Palm Springs of Washington” by locals, here’s why Yakima Valley, Washington should be at the top of your bucket list this summer.

Washington Wine (and Beer) Country:

With five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), over 120 wineries, and dozens of breweries, Yakima prides themselves on having something for everyone when it comes to quality beers and wines. Yakima Valley has remained more of a hidden gem when compared to more famous destinations, which means visitors to the valley can enjoy top-notch drinks and a fun atmosphere without all the crowds.

1. Wine Country

Seeing as the Yakima Valley produces over half of Washington’s wine grapes, Visit Yakima Valley DMO has winery tourism down to a science. Potential visitors to Yakima Valley can visit the dedicated Yakima Valley Wine Country website to learn about everything the valley has to offer from wine festivals to lodging near the best wineries.

While the wineries of Yakima Valley do not have the storied history or prestige of more famous wine-growing areas, there is still so much beauty to explore in the valley. Yakima Valley wineries pride themselves on offering their guests an intimate and laid back tasting experience where wines are produced for quality over quantity. The Yakima Visitor’s Center understands the unique culture the valley has and has created the Yakima Wine Pass where tourists can benefit from discounts for the best wineries in town while at the same time keeping the vibrant local economy alive. 

Picture this: A beautiful sunny day, relaxing in a ridgetop winery, holding a glass of the best Bordeaux-style red wine you’ve ever tasted. There are no crowds, you’ve made friends with the family that owns the winery, life is good. This is summer- Yakima style. 

Yakima Valley winery

2. Exploring Beer

If there’s one thing Yakima is known for, it’s hops. Summer is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit as hills and fields across the valley are blanketed with dark green vines heavy with the cone-shaped hop flowers. Under the warm summer sun, the hops bake, filling the valley with the scent of hops – lemon, floral, pine.

The Yakima Valley grows 77% of hops in the United States and ⅓ of hops worldwide, even out producing Germany, and these hops are shipped all over the world, meaning craft beer truly couldn’t exist without Yakima.

Hop growing is truly a family affair in the Yakima Valley, as most hop farms are third or fourth generation family owned farms. No one understands hops better than these farmers, who are practically hop royalty, so there was no one better to kickstart the brewery scene in Yakima than these families. Meghann Smith, the founder of Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima puts it this way: “Who can you trust more to brew your beer than those who live and breathe hops in their everyday lives?””

In the past decade, breweries and cideries have popped up all over the Yakima Valley, pioneered by these hop-growing experts who really understand how to make beer an experience, not just a drink. Seeing a growing scene for beer in the valley, Visit Yakima created a dedicated beer section where tourists can discover the best breweries, tours and festivals to truly experience the Hop Capital of the World. 

Yakima Valley is known for its beer

Yakima’s Outdoor Adventures

With 3 major rivers, 109 sparkling blue lakes, 165 campgrounds tucked in the Cascade Mountain Range, and over 300 miles of mountain trails, the Yakima Valley is heaven on earth for adventure lovers. Locals claim that the hardest part about living here is deciding what adventure to go on first.

After you’ve had your fill sipping in wineries (is that even a thing?) it’s time to enjoy all the outdoor beauty that the Yakima Valley has to offer. There are activities for every type of person, from your mom who loves to sunbathe to your adrenaline-junkie brother who loves dirt biking.

Paddleboarding lake

Paddle boarding at Rimrock Lake in Yakima

The nearby Rimrock Lake is the favorite summer getaway of Washingtonians in the Yakima Valley. This beautiful blue glacier fed lake surrounded by the Wenatchee National Forest has no shortage of fun activities. A personal favorite for many locals is renting a paddleboard for a sunrise paddle across the still-as-glass lake and relaxing on the shore feasting on juicy, freshly harvested Yakima cherries. At certain times in the summer, the lake gets low enough that you can dry off from a swim in the lake by dirt biking across the lake bed. Once you’ve had your fill of the lake, visitors can head over to the Tieton River for some adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting and world class fly fishing. 

Can’t make it to the Yakima Valley this summer? That’s okay! The Yakima Valley has also been blessed with an abundance of thrilling winter activities. Locals love to retreat to the mountains for a day of skiing in the Cascade Mountains, a cozy stay in a nearby log cabin and a snowmobile adventure in the Ahtanum State Forest. There is truly never a dull time to visit the Valley. 

Food in the Yakima Valley

Hops and wine grapes are not the only agricultural product that the valley is famous for– in fact far from it. Yakima Valley has long been crowned the leading producer of apples in Washington State. Seriously, Yakima practically invented the concept of farm-to-table and you do not need to leave the valley to find the very best food, wine and produce!

The City of Yakima draws visitors from all over the country with its many festivals celebrating the abundance of the Yakima Valley and the hard-working people that live there. The Taco Fest each May is one of the most popular festivals. Yakima Valley has a vibrant Hispanic community and some of the best tacos in the world that are perfect served with freshly brewed Yakima craft beer. Other festivals include Bottles, Burgers and Barbecue and the Fresh Hop Ale Festival.

Yakima Travel

The Yakima Valley makes some of the best tacos in the world.

A favorite childhood memory of many natives to the Yakima Valley is spending summer afternoons picking fresh produce grown in the valley. Freshly grown strawberries are generally the first pick of the summer, followed by juicy cherries in all varieties, blueberries, blackberries, peaches and apples. Not only is fruit picking a delicious and fun summer activity, it’s also a great way to support the community and farmers of the valley. 

Here at Solimar International, we truly believe in the power sustainable tourism has in making the world a better place. Yakima Valley is just one spot along the 6000+ mile trail that connects amazing towns across the United States. Learn more about other destinations along the trail and create your next dream road trip!

smoky mountains hikers exploring the region

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, colloquially called the Smokies, is far more than protected national lands to locals and visitors. Before its establishment as a national park in 1934, the Smokies were home to hundreds of local farmers and paper manufacturers. The ethos of these self-sustaining locals prevailed long after the establishment of the park into the present day. For thousands of years before, Native Americans and thousands of native species were home to this beautiful park. Now, the park is known as one of the most ecologically rich landscapes in the United States. Today, locals share significant pride in calling the mountains their home. Millions of tourists come each year not only to experience the beauty of the mountains, but also to learn the local history, to engage seriously with nature, and to enjoy the culture of mountain locals.

The Smokies occupy a unique role as habitat, as nationally protected land, and as a cultural enclave for thousands. What makes visiting the Smokies stand out from other experiences, however, is the interplay between these roles. The below 7 are just a few of the reasons why the Great Smoky Mountains are so unforgettable to national park visitors.

Teeming wildlife and beautiful natural landscapes are abundant along the Alum Caves Bluff Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1. Mountain Biodiversity

The Great Smoky Mountains is well-known for its rich biodiversity. Among the national parks in the United States, the Smokies boast the most recorded plant and animal species. As of 2021, over twenty thousand organisms have been found in the Smoky Mountains alone, and over one thousand of them are unique to the National Park territory. Scientists believe that this does not account for thousands more plant and animal species that remain undocumented in the mountains. This makes great opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts and travelers who wish to connect with the natural environment.

2. Historic Downtown Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a stunning town in this region
Downtown Gatlinburg is home to hundreds of store owners, distinct tourism destinations, and beautiful forested landscapes. Source: Shutterstock

Gatlinburg is known as the opening gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Nestled amid the thick of the green forested landscape, Gatlinburg has a bustling tourist economy that serves its millions of visitors. The town of Gatlinburg hosts the historic home of the town’s first settler family and the popular Tennessee Heritage Trail, which both tell stories of the town’s early days. Another site of interest is the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, a famous arts school founded in partnership between the local Pi Beta Phi school and the University of Tennessee. Throughout downtown are a number of locally-owned shops and enterprises, each of which hold their own local legacies. Whatever your interest is, there are dozens of ways to immerse yourself in the ongoing history of downtown Gatlinburg.

3. Local Artisans

Local artists and craftsmen give the foothills of the Smoky Mountains a one-of-a-kind creative environment. Inspired by the local culture of southern Appalachia and the broader East Tennessee arts and crafts community, artisans of the Smokies have much to offer visitors. While in Gatlinburg, feel free to visit any number of local arts and crafts venues. The proceeds support local businesses, which enable them to continue to produce high-quality, one-of-a-kind products and services to tourists and locals alike. You can also rest assured that purchases from local artisans is a sustainable practice. Most goods are produced using local materials, meaning that goods and services around the Smokies are distinct in their making and planet-friendly to the core.

4. Experiences for All Ages

At the Smokies, there are a variety of events to keep people of all ages engaged. The Arrowmont School offers students of all ages the opportunity to participate in educational and entertaining art workshops and classes. Hiking trails vary in lengths for different skill levels and ages. People who wish to enjoy outdoor activities can find options for children, adults, and families. Couples can enjoy the magnificent sunset view at Newfound Gap, and older visitors can soak up in a Pigeon Forge log cabin jacuzzi. The possibilities at the Smokies are nearly endless.

Father and son hiking in national park in US

5. Strong Record of Historical Data

There are several ways to learn more about the history of the Smokies. The Database of the Smokies (DOTS) is an online tool operated through the University of Tennessee Libraries. Another digitized archival source includes The Open Parks Network, which compiles data and objects from over 20 national parks in the United States. A physical archive dedicated solely to the Great Smoky Mountains lies in Townsend, Tennessee: there, the Collections Preservation Center holds thousands of original artifacts and historical sources. 

6. Opportunities to Engage Sustainably

Around the Great Smoky Mountains, there are several ways to be a sustainable tourist. Lodging in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains can be an eco-friendly practice. For example, Camp Atagahi is one of several sustainable lodging options. Technology-free and off-the-grid, Camp Atagahi is one of many that encourages tourists to connect meaningfully with each other and to experience what the local environment has to offer. Activities like river rafting and ziplining are sustainable activities that have a strong presence in the Smokies. Even local eateries look for green options: The Local Goat in Pigeon Forge uses only locally-sourced ingredients and employment. This makes the Smokies an attractive tourist destination for sustainability-minded travelers.

7. Robust Tourism Environment

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most frequently-visited national park in the United States. In 2021, the Great Smoky Mountains recorded over 14 million visitors—more visitors than any year prior. Its tourism numbers surpass other famous national parks, including the Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park. Near the Smokies of Tennessee are also a number of other tourism venues. In the nearby town of Pigeon Forge, a number of attractions and resorts abound, including the famous amusement park Dollywood and The Island resort. In Gatlinburg, there’s the Gatlinburg Space Needle, the amusement venue Ober Gatlinburg, and a scenic tram that overlooks town. Around the Smokies, you’ll find an abundance of things to do and places to visit. 

Sunset over great smoky mountains

There are dozens of important and interesting national parks in the United States, but the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a truly unique experience that will be hard for visitors to forget. Whenever you plan to visit one of the United States’ many national parks, be sure to consider the Great Smoky Mountains as your next destination.

Want to learn more about our sustainable travel destinations in the United States? See our current projects on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail or the Sugar River Region in New Hampshire. Check out our Contact Us page and reach out for additional information!

stunning ocean and shades of blue of capurgana, colombia

Partaking in nature based tourism while visiting Capurganá, Colombia is a tool to drive economic success, protect biodiversity, and build a strong social impact.

explore nature based tourism while visitingCapurgana Colombia jungle

Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. This provides a tremendous opportunity to improve its competitive edge for nature based tourism both internationally and domestically. In fact, USAID Nature Tourism Market Research shows that for international travelers, experiencing the biodiversity of Colombia was the highest nature-based motivation to visit the country (USAID, 2021). Colombia also has extremely diverse landscapes, from the Caribbean coastal desert of La Guajira, tropical rainforests on both the Pacific and Caribbean, brisk mountainous cities of the Andes, grassy plains of Los Llanos, and of course the dense Amazon of the South and West. It’s no wonder the domestic tourism market of Colombia is also attracted to these nature tourism areas, enjoying the beauty of the natural attractions and connecting with the rural and indigenous communities. Visiting Colombia and making the adventure to Capurganá is the perfect way to engage in nature based tourism.

What is Nature-Based Tourism? 

The Government of Colombia provides the definition of nature based tourism as the interrelation and appreciation of the environment in its pure state. Conceptualizing this with the definition of sustainable tourism, and you have nature as the driver for economic benefits, socio-cultural development, and environmental preservation of landscapes and biodiversity. Together, these nature tourism activities are developed in response to the needs of the visitors, destinations, host communities and the tourism industry. Nature tourism is seen as an umbrella product, with ecotourism, adventure tourism and rural tourism underneath. 

Meet Capurganá, Colombia! 

Where the dense, tropical jungle meets the Caribbean Sea lies the epitome of natural wealth that is Capurganá, Colombia. The lush, green jungle hosts an incredible amount of Colombian animals, insects and amphibians, while the sea boasts abundant marine life. See the chart below for a few examples of plants and animals in Capurganá, Colombia:


what can you do and see while visiting capuragana colombia

Capurganá Nature Tourism Meets Adventure and Eco-tourism

The definition of adventure tourism is to engage in adventure activities, such as hiking, climbing, rafting, scuba, and the like, and is often set in the wilderness or remote areas. How to get to Capurganá? Well, it is about as remote as you could ask for. Not accessible by car, you can get to Capurganá by boat or small airplane. The abundance of natural attractions provides a haven for adventure tourism activities. Hike the coastal paths to natural pools or nearby towns. Scuba dive or snorkel in the turquoise waters. Boat to nearby mangrove forests. Kayak across the bay or to the nearby island. And trek across country borders to Panama through the jungle and over the mountains, by way of the small town of Sapzurro, Colombia. The importance of conserving Capurganá’s vast amount of natural capital is vital to the success of local sustainable tourism development. To that end, the Adventure Travel and Trade Association explains adventure tourism as “even more dependent than other forms of tourism on human and nature capital. The protection and thoughtful promotion of these resources is crucial for the social, cultural and environmental integrity of any destination.”

Ecotourism in Colombia is abundant, and if you are looking to plan an eco trip, then Capurganá, Colombia is a fantastic choice. The International Ecotourism Society provides the definition of ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustain the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” There are many activities in ecotourism in Capurganá through the plethora of ecotourism areas within and surrounding the town. La Coquerita is a coastal nature reserve offering access to a stunning natural pool. A hike through the shallow rivers and jungle allows the observance of bustling wildlife and lush flora. Often times the accommodations in Capurganá provide a local tour guide to help build environmental and cultural awareness along the trip. Some private sector businesses even build their values around ecotourism and nature tourism concepts. Casa Galú boutique hotel seeks to provide meaningful experiences to their guests by preserving its natural and wildlife surroundings. They inspire responsible interactions with its pristine setting through low impact facilities and respectful wildlife observance. 

Conflict Zones: a difficult history, current opportunities, and a bright future

Many of us know about Colombia’s history of war and forced displacement. But as peace has spread over the recent decade, Colombia is making a new name for itself. “Make Tours, Not War” is the slogan of Colombian tour operator Impulse Travel. Building off of the socio-cultural development aspect of sustainable, nature-based tourism, Impulse Travel is “writing a new history – one of peace, resilience and hope.” Watch this short video displaying how they use “the power of travel to create a peace movement through tours.”

Capurganá is located in the Chocó department and Acandí municipality. The Colombian government’s website on regional improvement strategies has designated the Acandí municipality as 1 of 12 former (in the past) conflict zones within the Chocó department. It can take many years for former conflict zones to recover post-conflict, and this initiative will put various strategies in place for the betterment of the local economies, environment and socio-cultural development. Nature tourism is the perfect tool to achieve this in Capurganá. If it can be more widely taught and properly executed then it will generate income, conserve biodiversity, and reduce harmful land-use changes. 

Solimar International has worked in several regions that have seen conflict, including the department of Chocó in Colombia. Check out Solimar’s approach to addressing tourism challenges in conflict zones, particularly through stakeholder engagement, organizational structuring and strategic marketing. 

Effective Education and Strategic Planning for Nature Tourism Benefits

By now, we know that Capurganá has an abundance of natural wealth, with great value to both the local community and travelers. But that is not to say it is always properly utilized, appreciated, or even recognized by locals and visitors alike. In Capurganá, education on the benefits of nature tourism may just be the number one need to properly implement these concepts. Through research, education, planning and monitoring, nature tourism development strategies “can be an effective tool for stimulating economic growth, alleviating poverty, conserving biodiversity, preserving culture and traditions, and creating employment opportunities for local communities,” as stated by Solimar International’s strategic planning approach. Of course, it is not solely up to the local communities in destinations like Capurganá to uphold the concepts of sustainable, nature tourism. The travelers must be educated as well. To that end, the nonprofit organization RISE Travel Institute’s mission is to inspire responsible, impactful, sustainable and ethical travel through traveler-focused, online educational courses that cover topics such as biodiversity conservation, animals in tourism, inclusivity, and much more. 

Tayrona National Park in Colombia is
Tayrona National Park, Colombia

A major opportunity to build sustainable, nature-based tourism development in Capurganá comes from capacity building programs. In remote destinations, access to adequate resources for proper training can be a challenge. Solimar International describes their successes in workforce development trainings in Colombia’s Chocó department, near the Utría National Park. Other National Parks in Colombia also provide a great example of structured organizations that implement strategic plans and monitor actions for biodiversity conservation, negative land use changes, and improving local livelihoods.  

Capurganá currently has a handful of individual people and private companies that work towards responsible environmental action and to improve local culture. However, it lacks the formal organizational structure with proper authoritative figures for effective implementation and monitoring. Capurganá could greatly benefit from a structured Community Based Organization to engage and empower destination stakeholders for strategic, nature tourism planning. As shown in Solimar International’s blog on community-based tourism, this is an extremely effective and customizable tool. Take the Jamaica Community Experiences project for examples on community tourism branding, training and product development. Another valuable tool is Solimar International’s courses on Destination Management Organization (DMO) Development, where they teach DMO stakeholders how to responsibly manage and market tourism within their destination. 

Capurgana, Colombia on the map

Conclusion: From Local to National Opportunity

Capurganá, Colombia’s high level of natural wealth is a prime opportunity to build on the concept of nature tourism. To improve its competitiveness and long-term sustainable tourism development plan in order to generate income, conserve biodiversity, reduce land-use change and build a stronger community. As the country of Colombia seeks to position itself more competitively in the nature tourism industry, small communities like Capurganá could benefit immensely from joining the movement. 

Want to learn how to help your destination or community reach its sustainable tourism development goals? Check out these resources on Solimar’s website, or contact us for more info!


stunning ocean and shades of blue of capurgana, colombia

destination branding two kayak sunsetters

Want to learn how to successfully make your destination stand out from the competition? This article tells you all about destination branding and how to build your own original brand!

How to Build a Successful Destination Brand

The tourism industry is one of the most universally robust industries in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people travel every year, and there are many types of travelers who feed into the industry. Even more people work in the tourism sector. So, how do you attract potential visitors to your tourism destination?

There are plenty of approaches to attract potential customers to a tourist destination. Social media, marketing campaigns, and word of mouth are just a few ways to achieve this. You might see photos of dazzling landscapes on Instagram, see a hotel ad on TV, or read a post about a famous tourism destination in a magazine. What these things have in common is a recall to what makes a destination unique, important, or appealing to a specific audience.

Bringing these features out through tourism marketing is a tactic called destination branding. Think about a famous city—Berlin, for instance. There are a number of images that you probably think of when Berlin comes to mind: the (in)famous Berlin Wall, the unmatched cosmopolitanism, the tall-standing TV Tower, and the authentic Brezeln. A collection of cultural markers like these produces a profile that is unique to Berlin. These markers can then be used to produce and to employ a marketing strategy that attracts potential tourists to Berlin. Of course, this is not specific to just one city; any site can have a brand identity. 

So, the question remains: how do you produce a successful brand for your site? Below, we have compiled a short list of items to get you started on building a successful destination brand.

Berlin skyline

brand your destination like berlin's beautiful skyline with memorable landmarks


Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm) has become an iconic piece of Berlin’s identity, completing the panorama of the city alongside Brandenburg Gate or the Berliner Dom

A Brand is the Most Valuable Tool in your Marketing Strategy

A brand goes far deeper than a logo or company slogan. These are simply considered marketing tools. A brand is defined by the public perception and the emotion it makes you feel. It is the promise being made to the target audience that is derived from the product or destination’s uniqueness. Your branding efforts are the process of creating brand messaging and experiences that attract visitors. These should be as compelling and memorable as possible, in order to draw in potential customers. Successful branding occurs when this experience remains in the hearts and minds of the target audience. 

Developing a Valuable Destination Brand Identity

Developing your brand identity, or brand personality, revolves around three main axes:

  • Destination uniqueness;
  • Stakeholders’ and travelers’ perceptions; and
  • Consistency in the marketing campaigns.

A strong brand identity is essential when you are trying to reach potential tourists and attract them to your destination. We could define the brand identity as a summary of the destination’s main traits, the words your main audience would use to describe the destination.

Does your destination offer a wide array of cultural experiences? Are most visitors coming to your destination to relax, or do they come to challenge themselves and take on new adventures? Is your destination mostly suitable for families, groups of friends or romantic getaways?

Developing your brand identity starts by auditing your destination and identifying your main target. It is recommended to involve stakeholders to better understand how they perceive the uniqueness of your destination. Start a conversation with small tourism businesses, travel agents and tour operators promoting your destination, local authority or former visitors and gather their emotions about your destination.

Including the consumer perception of your destination will ensure that the appropriate types of travelers are targeted in your brand messaging. Do not neglect to take a look at competition – locally or internationally – and to think it through: “What do I offer that is different?”, “What is our added value?” You can read an example of destination branding through consumer perceptions from Croatia.

namibia landscape ideal for branding

The wide open Namibian landscape – understanding the consumer perception of your destination’s uniqueness is key to build a strong brand identity

Understanding the travel motivations of your visitors, as well as their decision-making process, will support you in building a suitable brand messaging. Associate experiences with your destination which are as distinctive, compelling, memorable and rewarding as possible. Take the example of Namibia’s online marketing campaign which Solimar ran between 2011 and 2013 that emphasized the breathtaking and seemingly endless natural landscapes of Namibia.

Once this message is clear, your marketing campaigns will help spread your identity and reach your targeted audience. The key in the marketing campaign is consistency! Make sure the brand messaging perceived is coherent on all the elements of your integrated marketing communication. Each support and channel should represent the same brand identity. 

Moreover, the consistency of the brand identity continues on the spot where it is important to build brand value at each point of contact, from signage at the airport to landscapes while driving to the hotel or between parts of a destination. The experience of the traveler must reflect your brand identity.

Finally, keep track of the success of the campaign and reassess your strategy every year, or if a major event has disrupted your campaign (Covid-19 anyone?).

In short, developing a powerful brand identity consists of:

  • Running a destination audit
  • Clarifying who is your target
  • Building your destination SWOT
  • Identifying your competition, their location, and your added value
  • Involving local stakeholders in your branding process and assess their perception of the destination
  • Reassessing your Marketing Strategy annually

turkey destination branding cappadocia

Using the Brand Pyramid for a Strong Destination Brand

One of the most effective ways to produce a powerful destination brand is by using a brand pyramid. Brand pyramids are models that distill the important elements of a site down to an advertising essence. Brand pyramids are important for destination branding, because they clarify the most important aspects of the destination. This helps produce a tagline that markets the message of a destination to potential visitors. 

There are five tiers in the brand pyramid, which are organized from a wide base to a narrow top. The first tier, labeled rational attributes, are tangible destination characteristics. In other words, rational attributes are the markers that can be empirically observed. The physical, quantifiable features of a site are listed here. These features can be diverse, ranging from unique products and services to local cuisines to historic landmarks. 

The second tier is labeled emotional benefits. These are the feelings associated with a site. This tier plays a crucial role in creating a destination brand, because it addresses the tangible emotional experience(s) of visiting a site. The first two tiers work together to create a strong brand image by listing tangible attributes alongside the emotional sentiments that the site produces. 

The third tier of the brand pyramid is brand personality. This lists a group of adjectives that describe the personality of the site. This is how a target audience will describe a site in a few basic words. The brand personality can describe atmospheres and resources, and they can also attract specific audiences. As the public health situation evolves, a brand personality can illuminate how amenable a site is to a specific audience.

The fourth tier, the positioning statement, describes the one-of-a-kind site attributes. Here, brand developers ask which characteristics are seen or experienced only at that site. This is an especially important step in the brand development process. Knowing what makes a site stand out will give shape to a strong brand identity.

The final tier is brand essence. The brand essence is exactly what it sounds like: it distills aspects of all the tiers below to produce an essential brand identity. This is what the brand means, described in a few words. This is the tier that creates a destination brand, usually in the form of a tagline. A great example of the destination branding process was successfully implemented in Solimar’s Jamaica Community Experiences project from 2015-2018.

Solimar DMO Development branding pyramid to help brand a destination

Brand Pyramid model to build a powerful destination brand – Solimar DMO Development Program

Looking for more destination development strategies? Check out Solimar’s Institute for Sustainable Destinations program on DMO Development. Or Contact Us directly for information!

Authors: Caitlyn Marentette / Célia Hulin / Thomas Kalchik

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