Category: Uncategorized

What Field Research with Solimar Looks Like

Insights from Our First Student Researcher in Bangladesh

The efficacy of our projects – many of which are based in widely unexplored destinations – relies upon the innovative findings of the research community. That is why Solimar is committed to supporting prospective researchers every step of the way. Through our Student Research Placement Program, we guide student researchers looking to conduct field research in our destinations by utilizing our connections with project partners all over the world. We provide students with connections to local research institutions and networks, access to accommodations and transportation, mentorship from an assigned manager from the Solimar team, and so much more.

The research possibilities with Solimar are endless, with opportunities in Timor-Leste, Armenia, Liberia, Maldives, Bangladesh, Tunisia, and more. Whether you’re studying conservation or cultural anthropology, or global health, we can find a research placement for you. Read more below or apply to join us today.

One student researcher’s recent visit to the Sundarbans in Bangladesh

Catherine Padgett recently spent a month as a field researcher in the Sundarbans Reserve Forest in Bangladesh, working through our student research placement program. As a student at the University of Edinburgh earning her Master’s in Food Security, Padgett reached out to Solimar International interested in completing her thesis in the Sundarbans, interested in exploring the connections between mangroves and food security. 

With our assistance, not only did Padgett successfully collect impactful data, but also encountered a much more intimate exploration of the Sundarbans than she expected when she first began her research journey. 

Project Overview 

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest is a national park in southwest Bangladesh. It is the world’s largest continuous mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With nearly 3 million people dependent upon it and the resources it provides, its conservation is crucial for both nature and communities.

Solimar has recently begun the USAID Ecotourism Activity, implementing the Bangladesh Ecotourism & Conservation Alliance in the Sundarbans to utilize tourism and conservation to generate sustainable development activities that support both the forest and the population living in and around it. The goal is to maximize tourism as a tool for both poverty alleviation and conservation. 

The Sundarbans contains many unexplored facets, and that is where our student researcher steps in. 

“The team at Solimar helped me to navigate the logistics of travel to Bangladesh and equipped me with project support and valuable connections in Bangladesh. BEDS provided accommodation, Bengali translation, local connections, and cultural guidance. This experience has cemented my drive to pursue research as a career path, supporting projects that center smallholder livelihood development, local perspectives, and community-based initiatives. I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.” – Catherine Padgett

The Start of Padgett’s Student Research Journey 

Padgett’s initial interest in the Sundarbans began with her fascination for understanding how mature mangrove forests can provide essential tools to strengthen food security in coastal communities. While there is an abundance of literature on how mangrove conservation projects can support livelihoods along the world’s coasts, Padgett noticed the lack of defined evidence on how mangrove conservation interventions can support food security specifically. In order to fill this gap in academia and in practice, she looked to the communities of the Sundarbans. 

How do mangrove conservation interventions increase short-term food security for the Banojibi villages, while working towards long-term regional stability, in the Sundarbans Forest of Bangladesh? – Padgett’s Field Research Placement Question 

To gain insight into local mangrove conservation interventions, Solimar connected Padgett with a core Alliance parter, the NGO Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS). BEDS is a community-based non-profit organization working to solve complex environmental and social issues in Bangladesh by bridging the gap between humans and nature. The Sundarbans mangrove ecosystem is one of their many action areas, which include improving water and sanitation systems, gender equality, workforce development, and more. Their current initiative implements community-centric nature education programs that provide the underprivileged population living in and around the Sundarbans – the Banojibi people – with the opportunity to share their extensive knowledge of the mangrove ecosystem with the rest of the country. This project enhances environmental education while simultaneously providing livelihoods to the local people, who are heavily dependent upon the forest. 

“Through this internship opportunity, I was able to travel to Dacope, a sub-district of Bangladesh’s Khulna district, to research the impact of local mangrove conservation efforts on regional household food security. Here, I worked with one of Solimar’s project partners, the Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS), to conduct in-person fieldwork, including focus group discussions and interviews with local stakeholders.” – Catherine Padgett

Beyond Data Collection: Research Placement Opportunities

Padgett headed to Bangladesh for three and a half weeks to examine the many impacts of the BEDS projects. However, BEDS equipped Padgett with much more than a look into mangrove conservation interventions. During her time in Bangladesh, BEDS provided Padgett with housing in their living facility equipped with A/C, a private bathroom, and delicious Bengali dishes. More so, the organization went out of its way to ensure Padgett was able to navigate cultural barriers and experience the Sundarbans community up close and personal. With the assistance of three, rotating female interpreters, Padgett had the opportunity to visit homes, connect with local stakeholders, and develop strong relationships with the BEDS team. BEDS ensured Padgett’s first experience with field research went seamlessly. 

Enabled with the opportunity to conduct such an intimate investigation, Padgett was able to take a deep look into how mangrove intervention programs contribute to a much more holistic problem. Padgett has found that the impact of these programs not only improves food security but also extends its influence to gender equality. The BEDS initiative has allowed many women to shift from household labor to the workforce, improving the food security for their families while providing women with more agency to control their finances. 

One of the most memorable takeaways Padgett returned home with was the ability to witness the strong connection the people of Bangladesh have with the Sundarbans. Padgett notes how inspired she felt by the palpable respect and protectiveness people had for the forest. Local communities were extremely knowledgeable about habitat conservation needs for the area, underscoring the importance of centering Indigenous ecological knowledge in any conservation endeavor. The Sundarbans directly or indirectly impacts every person in Bangladesh, even those living far from the edge of the forest. The country’s communal sharing of knowledge makes Bangladesh well-suited for mangrove conservation, Padgett says. 

Solimar’s Commitment to Student Researchers and Communities

Padgett’s research equips our project in the Sundarbans with further discernment to extent of the forest’s impact. With Solimar, researchers are able to work directly with the goals of global and local initiatives and witness the real-world implications of their findings. Padgett’s work overlapped with many of our objectives, including capacity development in sustainable landscapes and female participation in intervention programs and the workforce. Her work will directly inform business planning for BEDS, expanding their important work to more areas and directly influencing policy recommendations that the Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance will be working for the next three years to achieve.

The student research placement program provides students with the distinctive opportunity to conduct immersive investigations in locations that are undersaturated within the research community but contain an abundance of valuable information. Uniquely, we want to ensure that research projects are crafted in collaboration with–and ultimately benefit–the local communities who graciously host our researchers. As our project moves forward, we will continue to equip scholars like Padgett with a platform to use their brilliance toward the vitality of the Sundarbans. 

Interested in becoming one of those scholars? Learn more about the Student Research Placement Program here

virtual tourism internship cohort members working remotely in a coworking space

Solimar International is a sustainable tourism consulting and marketing firm that works in emerging destinations to stimulate economic growth and conserve natural resources and cultural heritage. Each spring, summer, and fall, we welcome a cohort of new interns to our team to embark on a 12-week learning program! Our interns join us from a variety of backgrounds: first year undergraduates, MBA students, parents, mid-career professionals, hotel operators, writers, marketers, etc.! We are continuously amazed by the passionate, internationally-minded individuals who join our team. Could that be you?

Here are eight reasons why you should join our virtual team and embark on a remote sustainable tourism internship with Solimar International: 

1. Gain real insight into the sustainable tourism world

Embarking on a remote internship with Solimar gives you a chance to gain insight into the world of sustainable tourism. If this is an industry that you are interested in pursuing a career in, this internship is a perfect place to get your foot in the door. During your internship, you will receive an in-depth understanding of how this industry works through weekly learning presentations and hands-on project work. Over the course of the 12-week internship, you will gain an understanding of the international development sector and how tourism can positively impact a country’s economy, while simultaneously conserving and protecting the environment and local culture. 

solimar intern takes photo on a rooftop

2. Work on Real Development Projects

Solimar International has projects in diverse countries all over the world. If you undertook an internship at Solimar, you would have the chance to learn about different countries’ cultures and history. Furthermore, interns can submit which projects they would be interested in working on. Your interests, career goals, and regional experience are carefully considered by Solimar, and assignments are allocated accordingly. Projects interns have worked on previously include: 

Suppose you are assigned to assisting the USAID Liberia project, for example. In that case, you would learn about the country’s creation as a settlement for the formerly enslaved sent from the United States or the country’s best-surfing destinations. After the conclusion of your internship, you will be well versed in the project you were assigned with Solimar. In addition, you will learn about every other project during the weekly meetings, taking you around the world from the comfort of your home. 

sustainable tourism learning opportunities in beautiful african plain

3. Work 100% remotely (the freedom of flexibility)!

There are no geographic limitations to work for Solimar – our interns have joined us from six different continents! Remote working will give you the freedom to create your own schedule! At Solimar, interns are expected to work 15-20 hours per week for 12 weeks. This flexibility means that many previous interns at Solimar have pursued other opportunities alongside their internship in sustainable tourism. For example, some interns attend college, write dissertations, work, travel, and volunteer simultaneously during their training. In fact, at Solimar, we encourage you to pursue interests that are conducive to your career path and overall life enjoyment. 

Additionally, Solimar gives interns flexibility during holidays and exam seasons, understanding the importance of a healthy work-life balance. Working with Solimar, you will have plenty of time to spend with your family and friends, and to work on assignments for university or college. Moreover, suppose you cannot attend a weekly meeting due to personal or professional obligations. In that case, you should not hesitate to contact a member of the Solimar team to inform them of your absence. Solimar understands that life is unpredictable, so as long as you contribute to the team and complete your tasks on time, you will make a great addition to Solimar. 

Intern from anywhere, even the beach
Work from anywhere, even the beach

4. Build tourism industry skills that allow you to stand out to employers 

Although this virtual internship is unpaid, completing an internship with Solimar gives you great opportunities to learn new skills and further enhance the talent you already possess. At Solimar, you are assigned to work with a team member who is a leading figure in the sustainable tourism industry. In addition, working closely with your team leader offers you the chance to receive weekly feedback on the work you produce for Solimar. Skills you could add to your CV after your internship include: 

  • Content Development
  • Copywriting and Editing
  • Social Media Curation
  • SEO Strategies
  • Press Release writing
  • Strategic outreach
  • Research 
  • Effective Communication
  • Critical Thinking 
  • Working with Asana, Slack, WordPress, Microsoft Word
  • Other skills depending on your assigned project: Interviewing, Photo Sourcing, Report Drafting

Solimar DMMS, learn from Solimar

5. Get your writing published

Working with Solimar gives you the exceptional opportunity to get your writing published. After you are assigned a development project to work on, you will research the unique culture and history of the country and develop blog and social media post ideas to work on throughout your internship. After that, you will curate blog posts at a pace you and your team leader agreed upon. Once the editing and feedback process has been completed, these blogs will be published on your project’s destination and tourism websites. Furthermore, you will see the impact of your publication through social media likes, shares, and analytics. 

Furthermore, you will be given the opportunity to write and edit blogs specifically for the Solimar International website. Solimar encourages you to choose the blog topic you are most interested in. Blog topics may include writing about the blue economy, ecotourism, sustainability, pescatourism, and so on. At Solimar, the team encourages you to focus on areas you could use to your advantage when pursuing future career opportunities.

Write about places you’ve never known about before!

6. Learn from one-on-one exposure to leading experts in the tourism industry

Furthermore, during the weekly group meetings, you will learn from one-on-one exposure to industry experts. For example, Matthew Humke, Director of Social Enterprise at Solimar, has twenty years of experience in the tourism industry and frequently gives presentations during weekly meetings. In addition, Chloe King, Director of Conservation and Community Development at Solimar, is a passionate marine conservationist and social scientist. King has worlds of expertise that she shares with the interns weekly. Many fantastic minds work at Solimar and are always excited to share their knowledge with interns. Click here to learn more about who you would work with during your internship with Solimar. 

The opportunity to work with these experts in sustainable tourism, content development, and marketing will make you stand out to future employers, as you will leave your internship equipped with the knowledge to undertake a variety of career paths. The wheel above demonstrates the many skills you will develop during your time with Solimar. If you are interested in a specific aspect of sustainable tourism or content development, the leaders at Solimar take your interests very seriously and will ensure you learn about an area that would be conducive to your future career. 

Tourism mentorship opportunities

At Solimar, we care about developing our interns’ skills for future career prospects. As such, The entire team at Solimar has created an incredibly encouraging work environment for you to thrive. For example, you will receive feedback on your work that highlights your strengths and offers opportunities to improve to the best of your ability. If you are unsure about any of the assigned tasks, do not hesitate to contact anyone on the Solimar team. Everyone is kind and would be happy to help you with any problems. 

7. Worldwide Networking

Solimar’s interns work virtually from all over the world. For example, in the summer 2022 cohort, the interns from Ireland, Poland, Italy, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Turkey, and the United States. These interns came to Solimar with a unique perspective and skill set that they could share with their fellow interns. Often, interns will get the opportunity to work together on assignments. Working within a team is an invaluable way to network. In addition, the interns usually work full-time in the tourism industry after training with Solimar. Therefore, in the future, when you are looking for funding or project development opportunities, you could turn to the interns you worked alongside during your time with Solimar. 

Furthermore, when you inevitably travel to different countries in the future, you will most likely have someone to meet up with that worked at Solimar. Many career opportunities stem from casual conversations with people who work in the same industry you are interested in. Therefore, meeting other interns at Solimar will provide you with at least twenty new connections from around the world. 

spring 2022 virtual internship cohort

Spring 2022 Remote Intern Cohort working with Solimar International

Am I eligible for the Solimar’s tourism internship?

Solimar International hires interns based on a set level of qualifications, skills, interests, and qualities. Scan through the list below to see if you are eligible to work as a virtual intern with Solimar. The general requirements we search for include: 

  • A passion for sustainable tourism development
  • An interest in marketing and communications
  • Excellent proficiency in written and spoken English, including impeccable grammar and spelling
  • A highly driven individual who is thorough, enthusiastic, and willing to jump into any given task
  • Someone comfortable working remotely with digital tools
  • Great attention to detail
  • Someone with strong interpersonal, written, and verbal communication skills

If you possess these qualities and skills, the Solimar team would be thrilled to receive an application from you for our virtual tourism internship program. 

Apply now for our next tourism internship cohort!

Interested in pursuing a sustainable tourism internship with Solimar International? Click the link to submit your Internship Application Form.

Upon submission, we will get back to you with a decision within two weeks. Email [email protected] if you have any further questions about the virtual internship with Solimar International.    

Blog by Hannah McDonnell, Summer 2022 Solimar International intern

tourism planning trends

What is Tourism Planning? 

Tourism planning consists of creating strategies to develop tourism in a specific destination. Knowing and understanding current trends allows those in the industry to tailor their operations to meet demand. It is crucial for DMOs and tourism businesses to stay up-to-date.  

Origin and development of tourism planning

Tourism planning was born from the necessity of simultaneously balancing the economic goals of tourism and preserving the destination’s environment and local welfare. It arose in the second half of the 1990s, when mass tourism brought an unparalleled change in the travel environment. Consequently, the industry had to develop new standards to adapt to this change. 

The aim of tourism planning

The current objective of tourism planning is to control tourism’s unprecedented expansion to limit its negative social and environmental effects, while maximizing its benefits to locals. 

These goals can be reached by:   

  1. Analyzing the development of tourism in the destination
  2. Examining the state of affairs in a specific area and executing a competitive analysis
  3. Drafting tourism policies
  4. Defining a development strategy and actionable steps

Businesses looking for support through this process can reach out to Solimar International or check out this free toolkit. Solimar has a dedicated team of staff who employ a wide range of skills to promote economic growth, environmental preservation, and cultural heritage conservation. 

developing strategies and planning are key to improving destination tourism
Planning development strategies are necessary to improve tourism.

Why is Tourism Planning Important? 

Tourism planning should be part of destination development plans because it supports a destination’s long term success and incentivizes the collaboration of key stakeholders.

Tourism planning maximizes tourism benefits like: 

  • Promotion of local heritage and cross-cultural empathy
  • Optimization of tourism revenue
  • Natural environment and resource protection

Tourism planning also minimizes tourism drawbacks such as: 

  • Overtourism, and consequently anti-tourism feelings
  • Economic leakage
  • Disrespect for the local culture
  • Damage to the local environment

Tourism planning is also important because, by creating plans and strategies, destinations provide an example that other destinations can follow to improve tourism in their area. It ensures that the destination is consistent with changing market trends, constantly addressing tourist and resident needs as they arise. 

This was made clear in the Cayman Islands. The surge of cruise tourism caused a massive influx of tourists, which brought new challenges to the small islands. Consequently, the destination’s goal shifted from attracting tourists to sustainably managing them. The development of a National Tourism Management Plan was key to provide stakeholders with the tools they needed for sustainable tourism management. 

What are the Newest Tourism Trends?

In the planning process, it is fundamental to consider how new tourism trends influence the future of tourism planning and allow destination strategies to stay innovative.

1. Safety and Cleanness

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about significant change to tourism and tourists’ perception of travel. Tourists are now more concerned about safety and cleanliness. They have a preference for private home rental, contactless payments, and booking flexibility due to the constantly-evolving global health situation. They are also more willing to visit natural environments and less crowded destinations where they feel safer.

Tips for DMOs: Have safety and cleanliness standards, allow flexible bookings and contactless payments, and focus on open-air experiences. 

An excellent example of these practices is Thailand, which decided to boost tourism after Covid-19 by rebranding itself as a safe tourist destination, issuing safety certificates to infrastructures to build public trust. 

2. Social Media

Social media is the preferred channel for travel inspiration, influencing travelers’ decision-making because videos and pictures create an emotional bond between people and places. 

The preferred platform depends on the traveler’s generation:

  • Gen X uses Pinterest and aesthetically pleasing blogs
  • Millennials use Instagram
  • Gen Z uses TikTok

Generation Z is also more willing to travel after Covid, and they will have  high spending power in the next few years

Video content is favorable because of the high engagement and interaction it creates compared to pictures. In this context, TikTok is the future of travel marketing. On this fast-growing platform, videos are likely to become viral because of the app’s algorithm. For example, the travel campaign #TikTokTravel, where people were invited to share videos of their past trips, was viewed by 1.7 billion people

tourists use social media like Instagram to plan travel
A tourist searches for Instagrammable locations

Tips for DMOs: DMOs can use TikTok to promote attractions, restaurants, and tours partnering with influencers. Social media can attract new customers, monitor Instagrammable locations, and manage overcrowding by promoting lesser-known areas. This all helps shift tourists away from hot spots. 

Follow Solimar International’s success with social media promotion through their World Heritage Journeys of the European Union project. By providing research, media-rich itineraries, website promotion, and mobile maps, Solimar International can help your organization reach its target audience.

3. BLeisure Travel

Due to technology, the separation between work and life is blurred. This premise gives birth to the BLeisure travel, a genre of travel that combines business and leisure. Aside from those who travel for work, combining some leisure during their stay, there is an increasing number of digital nomads. These people are freelancers or smart workers who decide to adopt a traveling lifestyle. They will look for business hotels where they can easily obtain a fast Internet connection and a good working environment.

Some destinations are rebranding themselves, targeting those who work remotely. A good example is Aruba, which promotes itself as a paradise for workation.  

BLeisure tourists could work from their favorite destinations
How working as a BLeisure tourist could look

4. Destination Uniqueness

The tourism market is becoming increasingly competitive, especially for destinations with similar climates or natural features. To stand out, destinations need to focus on their distinctive assets. Places should identify a destination brand, which highlights their culture and the unique experiences they offer to tourists, instead of branding common and widely-available tourism practices.

An example of destination uniquness as a trend of tourism planning is Uganda, which is widely known as a safari destination. The country rebranded itself by focusing on its one-of-a-kind cultures, landscapes, food, and traditions, labeling itself “The Pearl of Africa.” This is one aspect of Uganda’s tourism planning process. By identifying and promoting a destination brand, Uganda aims to develop an immersive tourism for meaningful and transformative experiences abroad. 

5. Transformative Travel 

Transformative travel is an expression of the experience economy combined with experiential travel. The latter is about living once-in-a-lifetime, off-the-beaten-track experiences rather than conventional ones, connecting visitors with local cultures. 

Transformative travel is defined by the Transformational Travel Council as:

 “intentionally traveling to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.”

Therefore, transformative travel is an immersive experience that aims to inspire personal transformation, growth, and self-fulfillment. People travel to transform their own lives and the lives of those who live in the destination. 

Tips for DMOs: Destinations should focus on providing unique and authentic experiences that connect travelers with locals. This enables tourists to experience local culture, food, and lifestyles, lending way to authentic experiences that they are sure to remember.

6. Sustainability and Community Engagement

Travelers are becoming more conscious of their environmental impact, and they are more willing to adopt a sustainable travel style. This means not only doing less harm to the environment, but also making a positive impact on cultures and economies, generating mutually beneficial relationships between tourists and locals.

An excellent example of a country that stays ahead of trends in tourism planning is Jamaica. Instead of boosting sun and beach tourism development, Jamaica has recently focused on community-based tourism, providing several experiences that empower locals. 

By focusing on poverty reduction, gender empowerment, equality and employment, Jamaica utilizes tourism to achieve social justice goals. 

Similarly, Solimar contributed to an Artisan Development project in Morocco. By strengthening the connection between local artisans and tourists, Marrakech and Fez saw a significant increase in direct selling to consumers, which contributed to increased local welfare.

developing sustainable framework is ket to the tourism planning process
Giving tourism a sustainable framework is a necessity for tourism planning

7. Technology to Manage Overtourism

The rise of charter flights boosted mass tourism. This has pressurized cities, raising the debate on the limits of acceptable change and generating anti-tourism sentiments among residents. One example of this is in Sedona, Arizona, where we helped manage visitor flow by marketing and promoting the nearby towns and attractions in Arizona’s Verde Valley

→ Tips for DMOs: Destinations should exploit technological advances to develop crowd management techniques. Some DMOs used gamification to manage tourism flow, spreading visitors in less known or less crowded areas. This is popular in London, for example, with the Play London with Mr. Bean app, a program that allows tourists navigate to different parts of the city and find points of interest quickly. This gives the city the opportunity to redirect tourist flows to spread-out spots in London.

To learn more about the tourism planning process and future trends in the tourism industry, visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today. 

By Greta Dallan & Hannah Lambert

diver visiting for tourism participates in the blue economy

Tourism can positively impact the blue economy when properly planned, developed and managed. When this happens, nature heals, marine life returns, local communities are engaged and empowered, and culture thrives. In this piece, we explore the concept of the blue economy and the impact of sustainable and unsustainable tourism on blue growth.

What is the Blue Economy and how does it connect to tourism?

According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem”. 

The Center for the Blue Economy adds, “it is now a widely used term around the world with three related but distinct meanings- the overall contribution of the oceans to economies, the need to address environmental and ecological sustainability of the oceans, and the ocean economy as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries”.

Unsustainable Tourism: Pressure on Ecosystems

Tourism is the world’s largest economic industry. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), it accounts for 10% of global GDP. It introduces new jobs, promotes entrepreneurship, and drives investment in destinations. 

Unfortunately, many places have experienced more harm than good due to overtourism, pollution, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. For island and coastal communities, this means overfishing, coral bleaching, and disturbing the harmony and health of marine and aquatic life.

One example of tourism gone wrong is Thailand’s notorious Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands. Due to overtourism, corals died and marine life disappeared. Another example is from Central American islands Roatan and Bocas Del Toro in Honduras and Panama, respectively. The islands, where marine life once flourished, became at risk of habitat loss and environmental degradation due to mass tourism. 

crowded beach in portugal
Mass tourism on a beach in Lagos, in the Algarve region of Portugal

Sustainable Tourism: The Only Way Forward

When sustainably developed, tourism can be used as a force for good, where it sustains and regenerates rather than stresses and depletes. Similarly, when the damage has already been done, sustainable tourism can help restore and regenerate ecosystems. In either case, endless opportunities arise through circular and regenerative blue economy development. 

The Thai authorities decided on a three-year visitor closure in Thailand’s Maya Bay to regenerate the ecosystem. Over this period, they worked on construction and restoration to plant more corals, create a conducive environment for wild residents to return, and improve travelers’ experience. Today, the bay has reopened.

Similarly, Solimar’s Go Blue Central America Project worked on developing Central American islands’ tourism without compromising the natural environment. The project supported private sector businesses adhering to blue economy principles to protect and regenerate the islands’ coastal and marine habitats.

diving is the most famous way that tourism impacts the blue economy
Coral colony in Koh Chang island, Thailand

What Types of Tourism Benefit the Blue Economy?

Residents of water-surrounded countries can keep the economy afloat with day-to-day transactions of food and certain goods that come from the ocean. However, tourism can significantly boost production and income through product, service, and experience offerings. Here are five types of tourism that are benefiting the blue economy: 

  1. Dive Tourism

One of the main ways that tourists can contribute to a country’s blue economy is by booking a guided trip with a local dive master. In some countries, this type of trip turns out to be even more vital than guided fishing tours. People will book a trip to exclusively scuba dive, free dive, or snuba to explore reefs and exotic fish. 

While some tours include spear-fishing or lobstering, most dive tours are led in particular areas where wildlife is protected. In doing so, dive tours catalyze the protection and growth of surrounding reefs. When marine ecosystems are well preserved, locals can carry on producing and providing more of the products and services that tourists love. As a result, the underwater world will be richer and more attractive to explore, fish will be more abundant, and corals and shells will become more available for harvest to be made into collectables.

Divers exploring a reef in the Maldives as tourists contributing the blue economy
Divers exploring a reef in the Maldives
  1. Fishing Tours and Trips (Pescatourism)

Many places on the water offer guided fishing trips with town locals. Like dive tours, these trips foster blue economy development. Usually, travelers experience a day in the life of a local fisherman by joining them on a boat, helping them catch fish, visiting their local community, and cooking and eating the fresh catches using traditional recipes. 

By following fishing guidelines and regulations, fishermen keep fish populations at balanced levels for healthy ecosystems. As a result, marine environments and local economies both thrive. Fishermen have a strong incentive to protect marine life and avoid overfishing so that they can continue to sell their experiential travel products. This, in turn, increases and diversifies their income streams and makes them more resilient to external shocks.      

Fishing boats parked in Iraklio, Greece is a form of pescatourism

Fishing boats parked in Iraklio, Greece

  1. Local Artisan Markets

Local markets that showcase artisan work and crafts are vital to small countries’ economies. Sellers showcase their products to tourists, who are often eager to purchase them as souvenirs and collectable decorations. In island and coastal nations, many of these products are made of materials from the ocean. Often, craftsmen use dead coral, washed-up shells, or sand, which are natural, renewable resources.

shells from the ocean

  1. Marine Ecotourism for the Blue Economy

According to the UNWTO, ecotourism involves observation and appreciation of nature, education, environmental protection, and community engagement. It integrates ecological protection with the social and economic development of local communities. Marine ecotourism is that which corresponds explicitly to coastal and marine ecosystems. Such tourists usually visit natural, virgin areas with little to no development to observe wild species or scenic landscapes. This form of tourism highly regards nature and culture, where it focuses on protecting or improving the natural environment and preserving and respecting cultural heritage.

A sea turtle swims over top of a shallow-water reef, tourists love diving with turtles
A sea turtle swims over top of a shallow-water reef
  1. Scientific, Academic, Volunteer, and Educational (SAVE) Tourism

This type of tourism is fundamental to blue economy development. SAVE travelers view tourism as a way to learn, explore, help, and grow. Inherently, SAVE tourism focuses on safeguarding and improving destinations, including their resources, communities, sites, and organisms.

Group of volunteers picking up trash from a beach
A group of volunteers picking up trash from a beach

All five types of tourism contribute to blue growth, where economic and environmental benefits are not mutually exclusive. Through these models, incentives are correctly aligned, where tourism success depends on a balanced, healthy, and rich cultural and natural heritage. As a result, tourism acts as a bridge between economic, social, and environmental sustainability, directly feeding into blue economy development.

How does Tourism Positively Impact the Blue Economy?

After delving into the different types of tourism, let’s explore how tourism can have a positive outcome:

  1. Natural Conservation and Restoration

The blue economy is crucial for environmental conservation and restoration due to its focus on sustaining and regenerating marine ecosystems. This happens in two ways. First, sometimes conservation and restoration are inherent to the activity, such as cleanup dives. In this case, divers actively clean oceans and reefs out of genuine concern and demand for a fulfilling experience.

Other times, locals are incentivized by economic motives, as with pescatourism. Here, fishermen are cautious about maintaining healthy, balanced systems so they can carry on selling their experience. If they engage in overfishing, this leads to imbalance and loss. On the other hand, if there are no more fish, there is no more food or demand for fishing experiences. Hence, the blue economy properly aligns incentives and encourages fishermen to act responsibly.

Second, and in many cases, travelers who experience natural treasures such as pristine beaches or rich and colorful coral reefs recognize the importance of respecting and safeguarding our planet. Sometimes, conversations with locals about how they deal with food or freshwater shortages help visitors recognize the value of such resources. This encourages travelers to consume more responsibly, reduce waste, and urge others to follow suit.

 A flock of flamingos

2. Improvement in Income and Livelihoods 

Tourism helps local communities in improving their income and livelihoods in two ways. The first is job creation. Tourism development naturally requires more capacity to cater to visitor needs. As a result, many new businesses will seek labor to fill newly-created jobs.

The second way is in entrepreneurship and innovation. Tourism development is an opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to unleash their innovative potential. When there is a favorable enabling environment, local communities can build their own businesses and take ownership and sovereignty for their development and long-term vision.

A worker in traditional dress at a hotel in Zanzibar on the ocean

3. Cultural Preservation

Tourism also encourages communities to celebrate and preserve local cultures, many of which are at risk of disappearing altogether. Several recipes, dances, languages, craftsmanship techniques, and other traditions passed down from generations risk being forgotten. 

With the rising demand for immersive, community-based travel, communities recognize the value of their unique cultural heritage. As a result, this encourages them to protect their heritage, embrace it, and share it with the world.

4. Preventing Social Dislocation and Rapid Urbanization

Many major cities are located along coasts and waterfronts, and these places experience pressure from rapid urbanization in many countries. People flood to urban centers for better economic opportunities, which increases stress on existing infrastructure. It also creates congestion, pollution, resource depletion, inflation, and reduced quality of life overall.

Since community-based tourism introduces livelihood opportunities in rural underserved areas, it propels members to stay. This prevents threats of social dislocation, cultural dilution, and rapid, unsustainable urbanization.

Indigenous houses in the Amazon river basin near Iquitos, Peru

In conclusion, tourism has had adverse effects in some countries. Still, as this piece demonstrates, sustainable tourism can be a positive tool to strengthen economies and encourage ecological growth.

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Blog by Dalia Hammad and Miles Rieker

polar ice caps climate change

In part one of this series, we discussed how tourism and climate change are inextricably linked. Nature-based tourism is becoming increasingly vulnerable to changing weather patterns, while the nature of tourism itself contributes 8% of global emissions. The landmark Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism – launched at COP26 – urged destinations and the tourism industry to reduce carbon emissions by 50% before 2030, and reach Net Zero as soon as possible by 2050. Solimar Internationa’s recent white paper publication echoed this commitment, designing Five Principles for tourism businesses to invest in Nature-based Solutions to respond to the causes and consequences of climate change (see photo). In addition to a mitigation pathway of measuring and reducing emissions, it is imperative for governments and businesses to simultaneously invest in climate change adaptation – using tourism as a means to build, finance and sustain climate resilient destinations.

Five Principles for Effective Nature-based Solutions in Tourism from Solimar International’s report

Five Principles for Effective Nature-based Solutions in Tourism from Solimar International’s report Climate Action through Regeneration: Unlocking the Power of Communities and Nature through Tourism

The World Economic Forum (2020) estimated that over half of global GDP, US $44 trillion, is potentially threatened by loss of nature and biodiversity, while the transition to a nature-positive economy could create 395 million jobs by 2030, or around one fifth of the total projected increase in global labor force (World Economic Forum, 2020). Global investments in NbS already surpassed US $133 billion in 2020—only 14% of which came from private finance (UNEP, 2021a; UNEP and IUCN, 2021). The UN State of Finance for Nature report 2021 argues this investment must triple by 2030 if we are to meet global climate and biodiversity goals.

The second in this article series showcases how we can increase investment in nature in destinations around the world–including those that we support through our international development projects–to respond to the consequences of climate change by investing in actions that will protect and restore nature and communities.

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest – Bangladesh 

The Sundarbans Reserved Forest in Bangladesh is the largest mangrove forest on Earth, home to the Bengali tiger and hundreds of bird, fish, mammal, and reptile species. Spanning three wildlife sanctuaries across 317,950 hectares, including Ramsar and World Heritage Sites, the Sundarbans provides sustainable livelihoods for millions of people and act as a shelter belt to protect communities from storms, cyclones, tidal surges, and seawater intrusion.

Sunderbands reserve forest in Bangladesh

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest in Bangladesh. Photo by Chloe King

A total of 7.79 million people live in the Sundarbans Impact Zone, with about 28 percent of people from this zone directly dependent on the Sundarbans for their livelihoods, including as woodcutters, fishermen, and gatherers of honey, leaves, and grass. However, according to a recent study, Bangladesh lost 73 percent of mangrove forest cover since the 1960s, with only 11 percent of the country remaining forested (Bangladesh Forest Inventory). Nearly 2.5 million people depend upon the SRF for their livelihoods (Gopal and Chauhan, 2018), and the mangrove forest naturally shields millions from increasingly erratic weather events, such as Cyclone Amphan that hit the coast in 2020, the most powerful to strike Bangladesh in 20 years (AlJazeera, 2020). Unsustainable development, such as the Ramsar Coal Fired Power Plant, under construction only 4km away from the buffer zone of the SRF may provide jobs, but ultimately risk undermining the natural climate protection the SRF offers (Chowdhury, 2017). 

USAID/Bangladesh, in partnership with the Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance (BECA) implemented by Solimar International and the Government of Bangladesh, is currently focusing on interventions in and this iconic tourism destination and arguably most important protected area. By ensuring that tourism develops sustainably and is better distributed to local communities, this project hopes to reduce pressure on natural resource extraction, while also deterring environmentally destructive industries from developing around the periphery of the reserve. The communities living around the periphery of the last great mangrove forest cannot afford to lose the living lungs of the Earth. Without nature and wildlife, humanity can neither address the climate crisis as a whole, nor save those who are most vulnerable to its consequences. 

map of the sundarbands reserve forest

Climate Change Adaptation in the Maldives and Sri Lanka

Climate risks in the Maldives and Sri Lanka are growing in frequency and intensity. Sea level rise, coastal storm surges, and flooding pose a significant threat to the Maldives, where more than 80% of the land area is less than one meter above sea level. Flooding and drought in Sri Lanka are among many of the consequences of climate change that negatively impact the most important elements of Sri Lanka’s economy. For these reasons, both countries have policy frameworks in place that identify climate change risks and prioritize adaptation strategies.

The USAID Climate Adaptation Project (CAP) is a five-year project in the Maldives and Sri Lanka where its purpose is to enhance the adaptive capacities of the public and private sectors and local communities to respond to the impact of climate change. The first year of the activity (2022) is focused on the Maldives, and Solimar International is leading the private sector engagement for the project. CAP will help identify and scale up solutions to climate-related challenges, strengthen governance to address climate-related risks, and improve access to high-quality information for decision-making to reduce vulnerability to climate change. Solimar will support this work by identifying innovative solutions to adaptively manage climate-related risk through market-driven private sector and community engagement.

Tourism operators in the Maldives have the unique ability to take advantage of increased interest in and funding for Nature-based Solutions for climate mitigation, while simultaneously utilizing these same solutions to respond to societal challenges and help their respective destinations adapt to the realities of climate change. Tourism can play an important role in helping communities adapt to this new reality and build resilience to future risks. For example, many of the resorts and tourism businesses in the Maldives are already investing in coral reef restoration through organizations such as Reefscapers. However, interviews with businesses revealed that this restoration work is not being done in a consistent or effective manner, with lack of national policy guidelines for tourism operators.

coral reefs threatened by climate change

Coral reef ecosystems in the Maldives are threatened by climate change and coastal tourism development. A more sustainable industry can help to mitigate both of these threats. Photo by Chloe King

An example of nature based solutions include mangrove tourism projects. On the Maldives’ Huvadhoo Atoll, mangroves were covered with sand to reduce mosquito populations; however, flooding also increased as a result. Local communities pushed for restoration and the construction of eco-huts which linked tourism and mangrove restoration. Solimar is exploring opportunities for destination management at other mangrove sites in the Maldives, linking mangrove ecotourism to support conservation. These models of nature based solutions can be further explored to link tourism and climate change adaptation.

Another opportunity for tourism to be involved in climate adaptation includes creating structures that protect and nourish sand and shorelines in ways that are nature-based and nature-positive. For example, living sea walls can be created as a blend of hard engineering seawall solutions that foster growth in coral and other marine life. This could offer an opportunity to resorts in the Maldives that are looking to invest in sea walls to create more environmentally-friendly and adaptive solutions.

Are you a tourism business or destination with innovative ideas for climate adaptation? Are you financing nature restoration or protection in new or exciting ways? Take our survey here for a chance to be a featured business in an upcoming white paper publication: https://tinyurl.com/enterprise-nbs-survey

By Shivya Nath, Alexandria Kleinschmidt, Annie Combs, and Chloe King

“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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