In July 2013, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the managers of Rwanda’s parks and tourism assets, contracted Solimar to assess the feasibility of creating an independent organization to take on management of the country’s parks and tourism assets as well as create a business plan for the proposed entity.
RDB is a government organization with the mission to transform Rwanda into a dynamic global hub for business, investment, and innovation. As such their focus is on economic development across all sectors of Rwanda’s economy. The RDB recognized that they needed to take a new approach to management of the country’s parks and tourism assets outside of their existing structure and had formulated a concept to establish a new organization to achieve this goal.
After an initial assessment, Solimar spent several months conducting a feasibility analysis of RDB’s concept. During this phase, Solimar worked extensively with RDB staff and other stakeholders in the tourism and conservation sectors to tackle a series of questions and create a common understanding of the concept proposed by RDB.
The major questions included: what did RDB and local stakeholders want for the future of tourism and their national parks and how did they see it being sustainably managed and successful for both conservation and the national economy. Stakeholders involved included tourism industry leaders and conservation organizations.
These conversations and Solimar’s analysis eventually led to a proposition, that RDB would transfer management and operations of two of its three national parks (the third being already independently managed by African Parks Foundation) and tourism assets to an independent organization, ‘The Rwanda Parks and Ecotourism Trust,’ that would be owned by RDB but able to operate independently to manage the parks and tourism assets on behalf of the country.
The feasibility report was used as a template for RDB and other stakeholders to review and comment, and then for the creation of a business plan, which provided the rationale, strategy, financial projections, and an implementation plan for the creation of the new organization. The proposed ‘Rwandan Parks and Ecotourism Trust’ will, if approved by the Rwandan Cabinet, be set up as a corporation under RDB and aim to increase efficiency and returns while remaining a leader in conservation and high quality ecotourism.
We are happy to announce that the innovative business plan Solimar created with our Rwandan partners was approved by the Senior Management of RDB in September, 2014 and the recommendations in the report will be submitted to the Rwanda Cabinet for review and approval. If approved, Rwanda will establish a new and innovative model for park management, conservation and tourism in the region.
One of Solimar international’s current projects is helping develop tourism strategies for two fairly small regions of the Republic of Georgia, Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti. The project is kicking into gear, with timelines and projects being identified and implemented.
Last week, Solimar International’s president Chris Seek spent several days in the Republic of Georgia for a series of meetings and events to assess the tourism strategies that Solimar has developed for the two regions. He presented the proposed strategies to Georgian and World Bank officials, who will discuss and decide on a finalized plan.
In the coming weeks, a list of objects to be rehabilitated will be revealed within the framework of this regional development project. We are looking forward to seeing where the project will take us from here!
International tourism is one of the largest contributors to the Georgian economy and there is demand for the development and improvement of the tourism sector, with the aim to stimulate local economies and provide much needed employment throughout the country.
Through a grant from the World Bank, in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA), Solimar developed a national tourism strategy that has improved planning, developing, managing, and marketing the country’s many rich natural and cultural resources, and has resulted in an increase of money spent per visitor.
Previous Work in the Kakheti Region
Recently, Solimar completed another project in Georgia. Based in the Kakheti region, this project was sponsored by the World Bank in a region with a low level of tourism competitiveness primarily because it lacked professional tourism services and was therefore not well-known in the major international tourism markets. To stimulate tourism and generate income for local communities, Solimar and its partners increased awareness of the Kakheti region’s tourism assets and improved tourism capacity of stakeholders.
Through this strategy, the region has seen a tremendous boost in the economy, the creation of much needed employment, and a rise in private sector investment. This sustainable strategy has been critical for the success of the region and its people since the project’s implementation.
Designing a Strategy for the Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti Regions
Using this work as a template, Solimar has produced similar strategies for the Mtskheta Mtianeti and Samtskhe Javakheti regions, to be implemented by 2020. These strategies will focus on two components: product development and marketing.
The product development aspect will focus on urban recovery, such as rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure and conservation of cultural heritage buildings and facades, and the development of tourism routes, which envisages urban landscape and parking area development among other projects.
The marketing aspect will work to develop a Georgia brand, which can then be perpetuated professionally and efficiently through a number of markets: online, traditional, and public relations campaigns. This campaign continues to develop the tourism industry in order to promote economic development and improve the standard of living for the local communities.