Sustainability in business has become a major priority in the global objective to better care for our planet. With tourism being one of the largest industries, it must play a major role in emphasizing this need. Done sustainably, tourism can provide economic growth for communities and businesses while also creating support for the conservation of natural and cultural resources. While there is no one correct way to develop a tourist destination, doing so in a way that balances the needs of residents, businesses, tourists, and ecosystems provides some extra considerations for the governments that allocate land use. Therefore, it is critical that countries learn from each other in their pursuit towards accomplishing this goal.
Solimar and the World Bank recently worked together to document a series of case studies intended to help governments understand how concession agreements can be used to develop tourism. The document includes research that describes the importance of proper development and provides several case studies of real-world examples from a variety of global destinations. The use of concessions is a common practice in tourism, and The World Bank and Solimar have put their own spin on the subject by emphasizing how these concessions can truly benefit the communities living in and around protected areas. As a result, they have collected information on the importance of sustainable tourism, the role concessions play in tourism, and the evolution of a protected area into a tourist attraction. Utilizing extensive research of various case studies over multiple countries, the document highlights the major insights from a series of practical examples. Our hope is that we will be able to catalyze smarter development by learning from the experiences of others who have done it.
The challenge in developing countries, however, is finding local people with all the skills needed to run a successful tourism enterprise. As such, high quality tourism services trainings are key in developing local employees to be more qualified.
The first step in tourism services training is to assess the needs of your workforce. Creating an education module to address the identified. There are several types of training modules that you can provide your staff depending on the skills they need.
The following is a selection of the possible tourism services training modules you can offer for workforce development in sustainable tourism development. These are based on Solimar’s experience working in partnership with local businesses and organizations throughout the years.
If you are a new tourism organization or business seeking to develop a destination, then you might need to conduct a tourism assessment to determine what products or services you offer about your destination.
You can train your local staff on how to conduct a tourism assessment and teach them why it’s important. This will encourage them to be creative in developing other products that could be linked to your core business. For example, if you are a tour operator, locals who know about tourism assessment can recommend new possible tourist routes you can offer.
Sustainable tourism development requires sound business planning skills including being able to find a strategy that balances economic, environmental, and sociocultural development. Local managers need to know how to protect their natural resources while at the same time gain a profit.
Training your local management staff on sustainable business planning will help them develop these strategies rooted in their own knowledge of the destination and their local culture.
Customer Service & Guide Training
The heart of the tourism industry is good customer service at all levels. Whether you are a business in the food, accommodation, tours, or airline industry, training your staff on how to offer good customer service is essential to success.
Look at your competitors and read about the best customer services practices in your field to have a sense of what you want your staff to achieve.
For businesses that offer tours, training locals how to be good tour guides will be vital. This not only ensures proper and meaningful interpretation of the sights that will be visited but also improves customer service to match the needs and expectations of the visitors.
One of the challenges facing sustainable tourism development and local social enterprises is being able to effectively market a product or destination to the right market segments. Most of the time, they have the product, but are not aware of strategies to connect and reach out to potential customers. You may have a very sustainable tourism product, but if the market does not know about it or cannot access it, then your efforts will go to waste.
Providing your staff with marketing training helps them understand the importance of looking at what the market needs, what the consumer behavior patterns are, where the potential customers are, how to reach these potential customers, and how to convince the target market to visit a destination, join a tour, purchase a product, or stay in your lodge.
If you feel that you need all of these services but are not sure if you can afford all of them for your staff, prioritize the most urgent and significant needs and begin there. Solimar can also help you in developing your own tourism services training module.
On January 3rd, Solimar wrapped its Tourism Planning and Implementation Course, our first of five courses scheduled under the Ethiopia Short-Term Training Program. The 14-day course was delivered at the Ethiopian Management Institute in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, to a group of 35 participants from the Ethiopian government. At the national level, there were representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as well as the newly-formed Ethiopian Tourism Organization. All of the country’s Regional Culture and Tourism Bureaus were also represented. Finally, there were participants from nearly all of the country’s national parks. The background of the participants varied considerably, with some having only started engaging in tourism activities over the past several years and others that had been in the sector for over twenty years.
Overall, participants were highly active in discussions and displayed a strong eagerness to learn more about tourism. Some indicated that they would be engaged in specific planning activities in the coming year. The others, however, still felt that they would be able to put to use a number of the tools and techniques learned during the course. As such, nearly all felt that the course was quite relevant to their work and were highly appreciative of the opportunity that had been granted to them.
Brad Weiss served as the instructor of the course and was assisted by guest lecturer, Dr. Theodros Atlabachew. The course—primarily focused on tourism planning and policy—provided participants with critical skills required for public sector management of the Ethiopian tourism industry. A special presentation was delivered by Weiss and course coordinator Mekonnen GebreEgziabher that covered the basic principles of community tourism, another topic for which the group had indicated a strong interest. The instructors demonstrated the process utilized by the USAID-funded ESTA project, and highlighted keys to success.
All participants were provided with a flash drive with 35 practical documents (policies, plans, stats, manuals, worksheet, case studies, etc.) to use when they return to their offices. To reach even more people working within the Ethiopian tourism sector, participants were encouraged to think of the course as a “train-the-trainers” approach. Each person was provided with the course slides and encouraged to share key concepts and resources with their colleagues through short-courses or presentations.
Solimar instructor Matthew Humke began our second course on Integrated Destination Management and Planning course on Monday, January 12th, which will run for two sessions through March. We are excited about the impact these courses will continue to have in building capacity among those planning, managing and marketing tourism to Ethiopia.
In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, it is difficult for destinations to compete without a well-trained workforce capable of delivering quality experiences for visitors. This is especially true when developing sustainable tourism in remote destinations—which is a challenging task. Engaging in sustainable practices requires a relatively high level of education and residents of remote destinations often lack adequate resources for education and proper training.
What does tourism training/workforce development look like on the ground? Let us look at a project Solimar finished earlier this year in the Chocó Department of Colombia to better understand the implementation of workforce development in sustainable tourism enterprises.
About the Project
In December of 2012, Solimar International was contracted to conduct a thorough destination assessment of Nuquí and Bahia Malaga, Colombia. The assessment identified two major weaknesses: lack of organizational and business capacity and insufficient marketing outreach. Then in November 2013, Solimar International was again contracted to address these weaknesses. This was part of an ongoing project funded by USAID called Biodiversity – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (BIOREDD+).
A series of strategies and techniques were then enacted and implemented to address the lack of organizational and business capacity in 4 community tourism enterprises (CTEs). To build capacity Solimar conducted a tourism operations and management training course in each of the 4 CTEs. Prior to the first course, a baseline evaluation was held to serve as a benchmark for further assessments. The first course covered:
Introduction and Roles and Responsibilities
Policies and Procedures
Personnel Management and Client Satisfaction
Emergency Action Planning
Sustainable Tourism Best Practices
Following the course, a second evaluation was conducted to evaluate incremental increased capacity. When not in session, Solimar Sustainable Tourism Training Specialist Lucia Prinz traveled to the four CTEs, aiding them in implementing their new skills in day-to-day operations. Lastly, a final exam was conducted to evaluate the overall achievement of the training course since the baseline assessment. Participants were given quizzes and an exam to test their increased knowledge as a result of the course. On each of the tests, participants outperformed the previous exam’s average.
Workforce Development Methodology
The Chocó Department of Colombia is one of the poorest departments of Colombia with 70% of the population living in extreme poverty. Solimar’s training methodology has been developed and revised over the years to best target informally educated learners. One important aspect of this methodology is constant monitoring and evaluation. Solimar recruited an intern to assist in the implementation of the newly acquired business operations and marketing skills. The intern also developed evaluation worksheets to gauge the CTE’s increased capacity. The results of these evaluations found that capacity increased in each of the 13 indicators used to measure the project’s progress.
The training courses mentioned above directly resulted in an increased business and organizational capacity which led to increased visitation to the area. Workforce development meant stronger economic growth, increased productivity, and expanded employment opportunities. This goes to show that the competitiveness of the tourism industry in an area rests ultimately on the capacity of its people to support it through their skills and enterprise.
Since September 2013, Solimar International has been supporting USAID’s BIZ+ Program in Sri Lanka. The country has been opening its doors to the world to improve its economy after a violent 26-year conflict that ended in 2009.
USAID’s BIZ+ program aims to stimulate economic growth, job creation, and to increase household incomes in the economically lagging regions of Sri Lanka by providing small and medium-sized businesses with the technical know-how and financial resources they need to succeed.
Using our expertise in tourism training and education, Solimar is currently supporting two local tourism businesses in Eastern Sri Lanka by providing technical skills training in developing and managing tourism. By assisting Ecowave Travels in Arugam Bay and East N West in Batticaloa/Passekudah, we are working to increase not only awareness about the Eastern Sri Lanka region but grow tourism-related jobs as well.
Lucia Prinz, our Product Development and Training Specialist, is currently in Eastern Sri Lanka providing the businesses with support on product enhancement, establishing systems, tourism training, and creating promotional materials.
Even at the early stage of the project, Lucia has already received praises for her impressive business plan from the project manager of BIZ+ and one of the directors at Ecowave.
Solimar recently caught up with Lucia to get updates from the project.
Solimar International: Can you tell us more about the two local businesses, Ecowave and East N West, we are supporting through tourism training in Eastern Sri Lanka?
Lucia Prinz (LP):Both of the businesses are social enterprises. Ecowave’s goal is to provide employment opportunities to community people. They work on two main areas, one is organic agriculture and the other is tourism. In organic agriculture, local farmers provide them with vegetables that they sell to hotels and residents in Arugam Bay. In tourism, they strive to involve locals in their operations: Ecowave employs local women as cooking instructors for the cooking class, and both areas provide tourism training and employment opportunities for positions like tour guides, drivers, and fishermen. The Fisherman Association that provides the service of taking the tourist in their catamaran on a tour in a lagoon has benefited from this support, for example.
East N West also works to provide employment for the people of the communities that they visit in their tours. They also charge LKR (Sri Lankan rupees) 100, which is less than U$ 1, as a social fund; when the fund reaches a certain amount they will analyze the needs for each community and help them to acquire something that they need.
Solimar: Who are the partners and stakeholders for this project?
LP:The main partners are Ecowave and East N West, in addition to an Italian nonprofit organization called Institute for International Economic Cooperation (ICEI), which is based in Milan. ICEI is a Member of the UN World Tourism Organization and works in sustainable and responsible tourism in different countries.
Solimar: What kinds of tourism training have you already provided to our partners?
LP: I have completed training of a sales manager at Ecowave in Arugam Bay in selling techniques and in financial procedures. For East N West, I have done training on online marketing. For both companies, I have advised on improvement of their tours.
Solimar: What are the next steps in the project?
LP:I am going to develop a 30-hour Guide Training for the guides of both Ecowave and East N West. The guides currently have very little knowledge about the history and nature of their areas. I am also going to provide them with interpretation techniques in guiding so that they can deliver information in a more fun and professional way, in addition to improving their overall professionalism as tour guides. This will start in November.
The Guide Training course focuses heavily on dynamic activities and opportunities for participants to practice and apply their new skills. In the training sessions the guides will be instructed in interpretation and natural and cultural history together.
Solimar is pleased to be part of the USAID VEGA/BIZ+ Program.
“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