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What is a DMO Solimar International

Why do some destinations thrive, while others do not? All global destinations compete for visitors and money. They need the support of destination management organizations (DMOs) to help market, manage, succeed. But how and why? This article answers the question: what is a DMO and why the tourism industry should care about them.

So, what is a DMO?

DMO stands for destination management organization, though these are often referred to as destination marketing organizations. Ever wondered what a DMO is and what do they do? It is important to know about destination management first. The tourism industry is a trillion-dollar global business. Over 1.2 billion people travel abroad every year to experience the world’s diverse cultures and physical environments. Serious logistics are in play with this.  

According to the UNWTO, destination management is the coordinated and thoughtful planning of all elements that make up a tourism destination. This can involve anything from attracting visitors to providing amenities for them to enjoy during their stay in town – whether it’s free Wi-Fi or a stocked convenience store. 

What a destination management organization (DMO) does is represent the voice of its destination to potential visitors. It works with travel trade partners to provide travelers with information about the destination before they decide where to go on vacation. 

 

DMOs also bring together organizations that serve all aspects of the visitor experience – from lodging providers, attractions operators, restaurants, and retailers – so that they can share insights into what makes their community stand out as a tourist destination. Destinations with a strong DMO will be more competitive, have increased visibility, and have better economic performance than those without one. This careful planning ensures strategic, long term success of a tourism destination. This in-depth coordination moves beyond marketing, and is the reason why the M in DMO has been more recently referred to as management instead of marketing.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Destination Management Organization?

Successful DMOs and destination managers play an essential role in managing tourism at the local level to help attract tourists and support businesses within its boundaries. They’re also responsible for promoting it through positioning statements, branding campaigns, high-quality product development, effective communication with stakeholders (e.g., residents), and maximizing financial resources available from both public and private sources, while ensuring value for money spent on projects that meet overall objectives.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the overall objective for a DMO isn’t only to bring more tourists to the destination. It is to make tourism more sustainable and thus enjoyable for visitors for years to come. Hence, in a nutshell, DMOs engage in a variety of activities that will help promote and develop sustainable travel practices, including:

  • Educating travelers about the destination’s attractions and offerings
  • Marketing through targeted campaigns
  • Working with other organizations on issues related to sustainability to achieve common goals
  • Addressing resident concerns related to tourism

Image showing the aftermath of beachgoers not cleaning up after themselves. Shows what currently occurs in areas with no framework or organization to prevent wasteful behavior without a DMO

Why Should All Destinations Have a DMO?

Destinations are always looking for ways to stand out from the competition, but to do so, they need both short and long-term strategies. And that’s what all popular DMOs have. A destination management organization works with tourism boards and convention and visitors bureaus. It has a proven track record for generating awareness of destinations among tourists and travelers, which is why all destinations should care about DMOs.

Destinations don’t always receive their fair share of attention, funding, and investment from governments and corporations which can lead to a lack of tourism and growth opportunities.

However, destinations are an essential part of the world’s economy. Destination management organizations (DMOs) exist for this reason: to create economic prosperity in communities through promotion, strategic planning, and marketing efforts that attract tourists while ensuring that these visitors have a memorable experience.

The Importance of Destination Management Organizations

DMOs are committed to sustainable tourism and are of critical importance because they:

1. Take Advantage Of Their Destination’s Unique Potential

Every destination has something different and unique to offer. DMOs bring out that exclusivity to the front to portray the destination as a better attraction than other ones.

Simplification of tourism with different continents highlighted Colorful image that drives the point of tourism home while also drawing eye attention with colors

2. Conduct Market Research

Knowing what to do, how to do, and when to do it is an art. And DMOs are the masters at it. These organizations are able to conduct market research through their short and long-term strategies to further elevate the destination’s status for years to come.

3.  Implement Destination Marketing Strategies

For destinations, it is especially important to be visible online to guide potential visitors. Destination management organizations focus on marketing strategies to promote a destination’s events, products, services, landmarks, and attractions.

DMOs are responsible for promoting their city’s tourism industry through strategic advertising campaigns that reach target audiences with specific messages or information. This strategic destination content takes the form of social media, print collateral, co-sponsoring events, hosting influencers, working with the local chamber of commerce, and more! Look into the ways your local DMO promotes visitors coming to your home.

4. Drive Economic Growth in a Sustainable Way

In the 21st century, a sustainable economy is more important than ever. As travel becomes accessible to a wider range of people across all income brackets and cultures, destinations must promote tourism in a way that their economic growth remains sustainable. And that’s what DMOs do.

Sign depicting a common slogan directed towards tourists, encouraging them to be mindful of litter and leaving things behind. Emphasizes want for sustainable tourism by stakeholders (native people). it shows the importance of a DMO

5. Attract Investment

Every destination needs to be the best it can be, and that includes marketing its own community to attract investors. Hence, DMOs are one of the most effective ways for destinations to market themselves in exactly the right way to draw more investment feasibly! This requires a collaborative approach from both public and private stakeholders.

6. Engage With Stakeholders To Develop More Favorable Conditions

DMOs take everyone on the path to sustainable and successful tourism. They not only cater to travelers, but also serve as an interface between visitors and local businesses; they can help develop new products or improve existing ones to meet the needs of both tourists and locals.

What is a DMO Solimar International

 

 

Conclusion

Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) are the backbone of tourism destinations. They exist to promote destinations, attract visitors, and develop a regional economy. DMOs are responsible for everything from attracting major sporting events to promoting local festivals. They work with businesses to help them understand what travelers need to have an enjoyable experience. Read more about why a DMO is important to a destination

Interested in how we can help you develop a DMO for your destination? Contact us to learn more, and check out ATKOMA, the DMO we helped develop in Atauro Island, Timor-Leste

Written by Daniel Segura and Zane Hartog

A reveller performs during a "pow-wow" celebrating the Indigenous Peoples' Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York indigenous peoples' day

Native Americans have been the stewards of land conservation for millenniums. Today on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we celebrate them.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is here! Today is a day to pause and honor the rich history of native groups that have called the present-day land of America home for millenniums before European colonizers. How long exactly is currently up for debate. Historically, it was believed that the Americas have been lived on for the past 13,000 years, after the retreat of massive path-blocking glaciers, but recently that time frame has been shattered. With the discovery of a 23,000 year old footprint in White Sand National Park, scientists are now at a new dawn of archaeology. To celebrate the important history of Native Americans, we present three groups and the practices they established to utilize and honor the natural systems that sustained them.

A reveller performs during a "pow-wow" celebrating the Indigenous Peoples' Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York indigenous peoples' day
A reveller performs during a “pow-wow” celebrating the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival in Randalls Island, in New York, U.S., October 8, 2017. Courtesy of PBS

 

Reclaiming and Renaming Columbus Day

Interestingly, Columbus Day itself was founded due to discrimination. In the early to mid-19th century, Italian immigrants became more and more prominent in the United States of America. With that, came a wave of Catholic culture and groups. These groups were met with much adversity by the protestant groups that settled in America before them. Longing for relief and acceptance, Italian immigrants began to cling to the legacy of Christopher Columbus – a figure who was not widely known at the time. Books padded the story of Columbus’ arrival and glorified his character. And in 1906, Colorado was the first state to officially recognize Columbus Day. 

Origins of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Pushed for decades informally, but first recognized by the state of South Dakota in 1989, “Native American Day” became a much better counter to the previous glorification of Columbus. In 1992, marking the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage, American Indians in Berkeley, California, organized the first “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. Now, Indigenous Peoples’ Day has replaced Columbus Day in many states, and acts as a national holiday to celebrate those native cultures and pay respect to the history of indigenous America. 

Chicago, October 12, 1970: not allowed to walk in the Columbus Day parade, protesters raise awareness to the idea of an “Indigenous People's Day.” (Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune)
Chicago, October 12, 1970: not allowed to walk in the Columbus Day parade, protesters raise awareness to the idea of an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
(Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

 

Three Indigenous Groups and their Sustainable Practices

Nomadic Grazing in the Great Plains

What comes to mind when you think of the American Great Plains? Grand? Majestic? Rich-beyond-belief? No, it’s probably the thought of a vast corn field, or maybe a long flat stretch of land with a few cows and a windmill. The Great Plains weren’t always like this. In fact, when first observed by European settlers, most were in disbelief at the beauty and biodiversity of the land. Now, it’s a different story. The Great Plains aren’t appreciated as majestic or rich, because colonizers have changed the landscape with homogenized farming. 

Years ago, the land was inhabited by a list of native groups, some of which include the Cheyenne, Pawnee, and Blackfoot tribes. Most of these groups were nomadic or semi-nomadic. Instead of settling and working land permanently, they often followed herds and pleasant weather. Following herds allowed previously grazed land an opportunity to recover and regrow, while providing the herds and humans a survey of fresh wild plant growth. Also, in following agreeable weather, these groups were able to escape harsh conditions like drought, flooding, or early freezes, all problems that modern farmers loathe. 

Native people used the Great Plains in the way they naturally evolved to be used. And contrary to what we may believe today, the land should not be closed up, locked down, and homogenized. Today, regenerative ranching techniques are being studied and practiced, and they all are based around the natural, native way the land used to produce. As this change occurs, attention needs to be paid, not only to the practices and techniques, but to the tribes themselves that originated. Tribal tourism is an excellent way to bring much needed funding to the tribes that still work in the Great Plains, and with any luck, our nation’s majestic center may one day return to it’s natural, extra-productive beauty. 

Once rich beyond belief in biodiversity, the Great Plains when used effectively held herds of innumerable bison and other animals. (Photo courtesy Smithsonian Magazine) indigenous peoples' day focus
Once rich beyond belief in biodiversity, the Great Plains held herds of innumerable bison and other animals.
(Photo courtesy Smithsonian Magazine)

Preserved Beauty in Sierra Nevada

Starting in the middle of the 19th century, some of America’s most beautiful regions were swarmed with entrepreneurs dead-set on taking their “fair share” of the natural bounty of the gold rush. Rivers were filled, mountains were blasted, and violence invaded a once serene place. 

Before the area became a magnet, many native tribes lived in the area. Among them, the Maidu Tribe was a prominent group in the area around Lassen Volcanic National Park. They traveled in the summer, existing in temporary teepees and hunting big game, and stayed stationary in the winter, living in pit houses and surviving off stored food. Salmon, trout, and deer were some of the main proteins in their diet. And all these could be found at a plentiful rate. It wasn’t until the influx of 49’ers, that the food supplies started to be crippled. Oak trees were cut ruthlessly, game populations were hunted to dwindling levels, and mining runoff interfered with river health. It didn’t take long before the activity in the area forced the Maidu off their land, and into the Round Valley Reservation.

After the mining boom started to die, the wildlife slowly returned. Rivers regained health, and native growth took back the once bustling operations. Conservation groups stepped in and aided regrowth of the area, and worked to rebuild some of the natural systems that sustained tribes like the Maidu. As more attention and development is brought to these mountains, discretion is needed to manage what gets heavily trafficked. For this cause, National Geographic partnered with Solimar and the Sierra Nevada Business Council to address this specific issue. An interactive website was created to point out and promote the lesser known points of interest, right next to the biggest names. In this work, an avenue was created to lift up and protect the points of natural and cultural importance in the area. 

Maidu indigenous tribe land sierra nevada
The Maidu tribe is the first federally nonrecognized tribe to receive their land back in California.

Thriving in the Southwest United States

In the south western region of the United States, water is a scarcity. Just ask any city planner in Las Vegas or Phoenix, and they’ll start to describe the logistical problems with trying to supply potable water to millions of people in America’s driest states. So you can only imagine how much harder it was before the modern marvels of today’s reservoir and transportation systems. Much like the perception of the Great Plains mentioned above, this is a bit of a fallacy. To get a look at “easy living” in the sunbelt, we need to take a look, once again, at the indigenous groups from the area. 

Tribes like the Ute, Hopi, and the Navajo Nation thrived in the area around the present Four Corners Monument. As one can assume when looking at abandoned mass-dwellings like those of Mesa Verde National Park, large civilizations were logistically challenging in this area. As the climate became more and more arid, tribes opted for smaller, better placed communities. Labeled by Spanish explorers as “pueblitos,” small villages dominated the area. These villages were chosen with a keen eye to water supply, tactical placement, and proximity to resources. Thousands of acres of surveyed land were passed up and left by native groups seeking settlement points, and only the best areas were chosen. With these smaller, spread out groups, life was easier to sustain in harsh conditions. Water supplies were less likely to be depleted, and food was better distributed among the land. 

Much like the work in Sierra Nevada, another Mapguide was established for the Four Corners region. With this work, more money can be brought to smaller communities and attractions that stand outside of the huge pulls like Moab and the Grand Canyon. So when looking at the issues of huge desert urban areas, the idea of a network of smaller communities looks a whole lot more sustainable and attractive. 

Ruins like this scatter the Southwest. Fortresses were built for each pueblito to defend against rival tribes, and later, settlers from the east. (Photo Courtesy of Aztec New Mexico)
Ruins like this scatter the Southwest. Fortresses were built for each pueblito to defend against rival tribes, and later, settlers from the east.
(Photo Courtesy of Aztec New Mexico)

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor this land’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today. Solimar urges all to consider and honor the many Indigenous communities and cultures that make up this country, both today and every day.

Check out our Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail project to learn how Solimar has worked with Native American tribes across the United States.

Stakeholder engagement following leader

The support, cooperation, and commitment of stakeholders is essential to ensure long-term, successful sustainable development of the dynamic and highly complex tourism industry.

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors in the world, comprised of an intricate network of stakeholders with an interest in the development, marketing, and management of tourism destinations. Other than economic and environmental considerations, the third pillar of sustainable destination development, is the socio-cultural context, according to the UNWTO. Sustainable destination planning and development demand informed relevant stakeholder participation, along with strong political leadership, to facilitate consensus building. Participatory stakeholder engagement planning is the core of strategic destination development and sustainable long-term tourism growth. 

Who are tourism development stakeholders?

A stakeholder is an individual or an organization with an interest in a project, a business, or an industry. Stakeholders may not always have a direct link to the project or even the sector itself, but are nevertheless impacted by the outcomes. Future generations, both tourists and locals of tomorrow, are often considered tourism stakeholders, and while their participation in tourism planning is inaccessible, decisions must be taken considering their best interest and well-being.

 

So who are the people and organizations interested in about the risks and rewards, i.e. the stakes, of destination development? The list is long and includes local and national governments, visitors and local communities, private sector businesses and organizations, destination management organizations (DMOs) as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are all affected by tourism in different ways. Here are the different types of stakeholders:

1. National and Local Government Stakeholders

Both national and local governments play a significant role in tourism planning through attracting investment, as well as through legislation and policy development. The government is responsible for building and maintaining adequate infrastructure, like roads and airports, to successfully carry out travel and tourism activities. Added to that, they ensure the safety and security of their visitors and residents alike.

Local governments often have tourism departments, particularly in the absence of a DMO, that would take charge of planning, development, and promotion of a destination. They create services along the way to support the industry. Economic returns from tourism oftentimes fuel the overall development of a destination. 

Kenyan stakeholder engagement session presents to DMO

2. Destination Management Organization Stakeholders

A DMO plays a key role in responsible tourism management and marketing of a specific destination. It helps to establish a competitive edge for the destination, ensure long-term sustainability, strengthen institutional governance, and build a strong and vibrant brand identity around a destination. A DMO is often seen as the connector, bringing together all industry stakeholders to build a tourism strategy for their destinations that will benefit the community as a whole. 

3. Local Community Stakeholders

The local community plays a vital role in the planning and development of a destination. For the success and sustainability of any type of tourism development, it is crucial to understand the attitudes and perceptions of residents towards tourism as well as the factors contributing to such opinions. These factors may include construction work, increasing visitor numbers, and public disturbance, environment, air and noise pollution, waste management, inflation of goods and services among other possible factors.

Ultimately, tourism should aim to benefit local populations and improve the well-being of the host communities. Not considering their needs will prohibit residents from acting as destination ambassadors, creating and nurturing a hospitable environment for the visitor. 

4. Visitor Stakeholders

Visitors are often considered the most important destination stakeholders. These are the people that add economic value to the destination by spending money on transportation, accommodation, food, and attractions.

A positive visitor experience may result in destination promotion through user-generated content in today’s social media age. Favorable attitudes will positively impact the formation of a destination brand and attract more visitors.

Negative experiences and the spread of bad reviews threaten the social and economic stability of a destination. It runs the risk of damaging the destination brand perception, decreasing tourist arrivals, threatening local businesses, and worsening rather than improving resident quality-of-life. 

5. The Private Sector Stakeholders

Private sector businesses including hotels, restaurants, attractions, and tour operators generate a fair share of overall tourism contribution to the local economy. As destinations generally have an abundance of said types of businesses, the success of these stakeholders depends almost entirely on the number of visitors. As they are often in competition for the tourism dollar, economic considerations may be prioritized over social and environmental implications, and how projects could affect local communities.                                                                                Stakeholder engagement following leader

6. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Stakeholders

NGOs as servants to humanitarian and environmental causes greatly affect the outcomes of tourism development. NGOs will look out for the interest of their communities and ensure the conservation of a destination’s natural and cultural heritage though their intentions can contradict the private sector goals and create conflict. Inclusive and participatory tourism planning and sustainable tourism development processes mitigate such conflicts through finding solutions that satisfy all stakeholders.

Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement

With a clear idea of who are the main tourism destination stakeholders, now it’s time to think about strategies to include them in your destination planning.

The first step in driving interest and community engagement is information distribution. Transparent communication with your stakeholders about current tourism impacts, possible future projections, and overall benefits of tourism development is perhaps the easiest way to begin engaging with different stakeholder groups. That said, some stakeholders are easier to include than others. Common challenges include resistance to participate, lack of time and money, ensuring equity, problematic relationships among institutions or individuals, and communication issues. 

Furthermore, companies and individuals directly linked to tourism will recognize their role in the industry and participate in the planning and strategic development building process. Meanwhile, stakeholders that do not see the direct economic and social benefits materializing from tourism will struggle to understand why their involvement is required. Lack of participation may result in values and interests being misrepresented or excluded. 

Other approaches to stakeholder engagement include arranging workshops, hosting public meetings, and arranging task forces to collectively identify opportunities, develop ideas, answer questions and find solutions. Ensuring that communication lines are open is essential, while continuous engagement can be achieved through scheduled monthly get-togethers or monthly newsletters. Providing training, consultations and technical assistance can also be a form of stakeholder involvement. After all, committed and connected stakeholders that trust each other will be better equipped to build a sustainable and resilient tourism industry collectively.  

Solimar International has been fortunate to work with destinations around the world leading the way to sustainable tourism and destination planning through stakeholder engagement and empowerment. The Tourism For All project in Timor-Leste, for instance, aimed to boost the industry, help combat environmental degradation and lift the country out of poverty by creating revenue streams and more economic opportunities for local communities. Main project objectives were achieved through inclusive listening, visioning, and planning exercises, including communities, industry advocates, the DMO, and the government to formalize and strengthen the island’s tourism offering. 

Visit our project page for other inspiring tourism development stories produced through successful stakeholder engagement.

 

Written by Marina Lopes, Alicia Winfield, and Emilija Zagere

trail development washington dc rock creek park tourism benefits

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

What is Trail Development?

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

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

 washington dc rock creek park tourism benefits

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

Trails and Tourism – Supporting Communities

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

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

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

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

Hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine trail development

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

Trail Development – Process and Impact

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

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

 

Lewis and Clark Trail NPS Trail

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (NPS)

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

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

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

Trail Development Benefits for Community

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

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

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

Chester Woods State Trail in Minnesota

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

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

Written by Vincent Villeneuve

Picture of the Assumption of Maria Church on Lake Bled Slovenia sustainable tourism by author Stephanie Gerson

Learn about sustainable tourism in Slovenia, Europe’s hidden gem

Here at Solimar, we pride ourselves on being experts in sustainable tourism. We’ve consulted with destinations on their tourism strategies all across the world, from distant Nepal to Timor-Leste to local West Virginia.  So, when we say that a country has excelled at integrating sustainable tourism principles, we mean it. To show their commitment, Slovenia developed their national tourism strategy that coincides with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Most people may not know Slovenia apart from the picturesque Lake Bled, surrounded by the Julian Alps. It is already popular with outdoor adventure travelers, looking to hike or white water raft. It recently has turned into a destination that is perfect for anyone who wants to see nature, as well as cities without over-tourism. In 2016, the Slovenian Tourist Board implemented a program where they provide a 5-star experience while ensuring the health and growth of the local economies, communities, and environment. Here are some reasons why Slovenia is one of the leading sustainable tourism destinations:

 

Picture of the Assumption of Maria Church on Lake Bled Slovenia sustainable tourism by author Stephanie Gerson

1. Its capital, Ljubljana, has a car-free area

The city has redesigned its center to allow for pedestrian friendly movement. Only delivery cars are allowed in the area in the early morning hours. The city blocks are covered in green spaces to explore, while the artisanal pavement itself is aesthetically pleasing. The numerous footbridges crossing the river connect from one public space to the next. If you need to get somewhere quickly, they offer electric carts that can shuttle you around. One of their biggest squares is completely free of vehicles and offers a space for concerts and events. Ljubljana truly is a walker’s paradise.

2. Slovenians understand the modern-day traveler

Slow travel is the new travel trend and Slovenia gets it. In fact, they prefer it. They want you to come and stay awhile. Smell the fresh mountain air of the Julian Alps, swim in Lake Bled, explore the miles of underground caves, get to know the locals, eat the food (all the food!). There is no excuse to make Slovenia a quick trip

3. Slovenia has implemented their own certification program, insuring unity within the country

The Green Scheme of Slovenia Tourism is a tool and a certificate program designed by the Slovenia Tourism Board to help even the smallest tourist organization be more sustainable. They offer training and promotions to hotels, tour guides, destinations and interest sites. In order to be verified and obtain a Green Label, the destination or business must meet the Green Destinations Standard criteria. They can also present a similar internationally recognized label, like GoodPlace, another Slovenian company. What is the benefit of all these certifications and labels?  By following certain criteria, set up and recognized by the international community, gives credibility to the applicants. Slovenia, setting up their own certification program creates unity and understanding within their own country. Showing that everyone is in it together. 

4. National Geographic also agrees about sustainable tourism in Slovenia!

National Geographic recognizes that Slovenia is pretty special, declaring them the World’s Most Sustainable Country in 2017. This award is part of National Geographic’s World Legacy Awards, given at ITB, awarding companies and destinations who are driving the most positive change within the tourism sector. If this isn’t enough, the EU also recognized Ljubljana as Europe’s Greenest Capital in 2016. 

Garden Village Bled Slovenia website, an eco-lodge dedicated to sustainable tourism and eco tourism

Image from Garden Village Bled website, an eco-lodge dedicated to sustainability

5. With 59 cities and 83 accommodations certified as green, you can’t go wrong where you end up

If you want to explore cobbled stone streets in old cities or get lost in a tiny mountain town, they’ve made sure each place is welcoming to any type of traveler. The best part is finding the right accommodation, whether that’s a new sustainable hotel or an eco-lodge with tree houses and glamping tents perfect for families. 

picture of the bright turquoise Soca River in the Julian Alps. Showcasing the natural beauty of Slovenia. Photo by Author, Stephanie Gerson

Picture of the bright turquoise Soca River in the Julian Alps. Showcasing the natural beauty of Slovenia. Photo by author, Stephanie Gerson

6. The mountains are open and easy to get to, and the cities aren’t crowded

You don’t have to worry about over tourism or long lines in Slovenia. The mountains are green and gorgeous with bright blue rivers roaring in the valleys. It’s outdoorsy without being too rugged, unless you want it to be. Slovenia offers numerous travel experiences that one wouldn’t expect in this small country. 

Picture of Soteska Vintgar, a wooden walkway along the Radovna River in a breathtaking gorge. Photo by author, Stephanie Gerson

Picture of Soteska Vintgar, a wooden walkway along the Radovna River in a breathtaking gorge. Photo by author, Stephanie Gerson

7. They are the start of regenerative tourism, without knowing it. 

Their tourism strategy is more cyclical rather than linear, using tourism as a means to help and rejuvenate the destinations. The idea is for the traveler to leave the place better than when they came. Because sustainable tourism has been implemented into so many aspects of Slovenia’s way of life, it’s straightforward for the traveler to be another part in the cycle as well. From making sure that buildings are LEED certified, to getting the best certified tour guides, and restaurants using local ingredients, all helps to ensure that the place can be lived in by locals and visited for generations to come. It sounds like a lot but when a tourism board has a partnership with the government as well as the citizens, it makes it much easier for the traveler to be more aware of their impact, both good and bad. 

 

If you would like to know more about how to implement a sustainable tourism strategy where you live or for your business please contact us here. Or if you’re a destination, looking to enhance your DMO, take our course at https://institute.solimarinternational.com.

 

“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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    (202) 518-6192