Category: Uncategorized

Conservation in national parks

The allure of travel is undeniable; trying new foods, sightseeing, and experiencing new cultures are all unique, irreplaceable experiences for newer travelers and experienced adventurers alike. Now more than ever, everyone wants to travel, but high tourist volumes are having a disruptive effect on wildlife and the environment. Economics, climate change, and overtourism are quickly coming to a head, making the darker aspects of travel steadily more obvious. With the continued endangerment of global ecosystems and tourism making a huge bounce back in 2023, it becomes increasingly important for travelers to consider how their journeys can help the planet. Tourism has a reputation for being a leading factor in the destruction of habitats. However, a world can exist where travel actually has a net positive impact on global conservation efforts. 

What is Conservation Travel?

Conservation travel utilizes travel as a way for people to support and get involved in conservation work during their trip. This has become an increasingly popular idea among tourist destinations that seek to develop more sustainable tourism models. For example, Solimar International has developed strategies such as Regenerative Tourism and Tourism & Conservation Planning in order to help destinations use tourism as a tool for conservation work. By understanding our role in conservation efforts when we travel, we make a difference in the planet’s ability to support future generations. Tourism, though often seen as one of the many ways humans are hurting the planet, can be immensely beneficial to conservation if done responsibly. 

Here we introduce some of the many ways your journey can support conservation.

1. Supporting the Conservation of Our Land and Oceans

National Parks

Travelers are an important aspect of conservation in national parks because their presence promotes education, conservation funding, and economic growth. For instance, tourism at national parks creates job opportunities, such as park rangers and tour guides. In addition, tourism encourages the development of businesses surrounding the parks. Entrance fees and park activities contribute to revenue, incentivizing government bodies to invest in the development and maintenance of the parks. National parks are extremely popular and work to preserve natural ecosystems, making the simultaneous support of local economic growth and conservation efforts possible.

Blue Parks

As of July 2023, the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA) reported that a mere 8% of the world’s oceans are currently protected. In order for marine conservation work to thrive, accredited marine reserves need the support of travelers just as much as their land counterparts do. To contribute to the conservation of marine life, environmentally 

Conservation Travel at a Protected Blue Park
Anacapa Island, a part of the protected Channel Islands off the Coast of California. Photo by Priya Karkare on Unsplash

conscious travelers can visit accredited marine reserves like Blue Parks. The Blue Parks initiative, backed by marine scientists, aims to protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 and create a clear standard for protected marine areas. Tourism is crucial in generating revenue for protected marine reserves and incentivizes leaders to invest in protecting our oceans. 

Examples of Current Blue Parks:

2. Benefitting Conservation Through Citizen Science

Travelers today are fortunate to live in an era where most people exploring the world are connected through the internet, opening up exciting possibilities for conservation travel through citizen science. According to a survey done by BankMyCell in 2019, 92.5% of travelers bring a smartphone with them during their trip. This means that the majority of travelers have the resources to contribute to data collection. For example, documenting sightings of unfamiliar plants and uploading these findings provides valuable information to scientists. By doing so, we help them better understand the distribution and behavior of various species. 

Travelers can utilize mobile apps to engage in citizen science projects all over the world: 

Beach clean ups
Picking up trash on our beaches fosters community and support of marine life.
Photo by Emi Chongsiriwatana

1. Clean Swell

Clean Swell is an app allowing anyone participating in beach clean-ups to contribute information to the Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database. Millions of tons of trash continually pollute the ocean each year, posing a significant threat to marine wildlife. Participating in beach clean-ups and recording the debris collected from waterways, beaches, and lakes provides essential data that aids researchers and policymakers in understanding the sources and impact of marine debris more effectively.

2. iNaturalist 

iNaturalist is a popular digital platform for nature enthusiasts to share their discoveries, connect with a like-minded community, and contribute essential data for scientists. As you travel, simply document the organisms you encounter by capturing photos and videos. Your contributions then become integral to biodiversity research, encompassing everything from rare animal sightings to identifying invasive species. Observations of travelers can advance our understanding of the natural world. These findings aid the conservation efforts that safeguard our planet’s delicate ecosystems.

3. Other resources

Conservation through Citizen Science
Technology can be used as a tool in conservation travel through apps like eBird. Photo by Walter “CheToba” De Boever on Unsplash
  • Nature’s Notebook, where data is collected on nature’s seasonal events.
  •  Ebird, for bird lovers and outdoor adventurers alike.
  • Zooniverse, which boasts conservation projects over a wide range of topics, including climate, biology, and nature.





3. Supporting Endangered Species Through Conservation-based Travel

1. Visiting Accredited Sanctuaries

When travelers visit animal sanctuaries worldwide, they contribute to the welfare of animals requiring refuge while also promoting public awareness and education. Moreover, wildlife sanctuaries play a vital role in protecting the natural habitats of endangered species, creating a space for them to breed and thrive. 

Wildlife conservation
Responsible wildlife watching is a positive form of wildlife interaction.
Photo by Og Mpango from Pexels

Since government regulation is not guaranteed at every sanctuary, travelers must be cautious while planning their visit. Sanctuaries should be backed by an accrediting body such as the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Accrediting bodies keep sanctuaries accountable by creating a clear definition of what an animal sanctuary should be. One model of an accredited, ethical sanctuary is the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center, which is a non-profit sanctuary located in Alajuela, Costa Rica, that specializes in the rehabilitation and rerelease of animals in need. 

2. Participation in Responsible Wildlife Tourism: 

Tourism has made wildlife watching, such as tiger and whale watching, profitable. The economic incentive of wildlife watching creates an opportunity for conservation. We can replace harmful practices with sustainable and ethical ones by shifting focus from animal poaching to responsible wildlife tours. As more travelers opt for responsible wildlife observations, authorities will recognize wildlife watching as a more sustainable revenue source than poaching.

Wildlife tourism has three primary forms: observations, interactions, and performances. Among these, observation is the safest and least disruptive option, allowing visitors to admire animals from a distance without disrupting them. On the other hand, interactions and performances, such as dolphins performing tricks or allowing visitors to pet tigers, come in an artificial setting that creates more room for mistreatment. By choosing observation-only encounters with wildlife, visitors can contribute positively to the cause of helping future generations of wildlife to thrive.

4.  Driving Renewable Energy Solutions 

Tourism plays a vital role in the economic growth of many island nations that bear the brunt of significant environmental challenges such as sea-level rise, coral reef bleaching, and rising temperatures. These nations, heavily reliant on tourism, understand the urgency of combatting climate change and the necessity for sustainable energy solutions in the travel sector. 

Fortunately, renewable energy sources such as geothermal heat, solar power, and wind are often readily available in popular tourist destinations. Thus, investments in renewables are a sensible choice for these areas. Zion National Park in Utah is known for its innovative, energy-efficient visitor center with facilities designed to maximize natural sunlight and ventilation. In addition, geothermal heat pumps and solar power are used to power operations. By using both passive and active sustainable design, the Emergency Operations Center in the Park reduces energy consumption by 70% without costing more than a regular building to construct.

While there is still progress to be made for clean energy in the tourism industry, there is also an incentive to invest in innovative energy solutions due to the sheer amount of energy the travel sector consumes. Renewable energy solutions are now becoming more important than ever, and tourist-driven economies are at the forefront of this development. 

Renewable energy solutions
Geothermal heat provides a source of renewable energy and serves as an attraction for travelers from all over the world.
Photo by Francesco Ungaro from Pexels

5. Creating Awareness about Conservation Through Education and Academics

The academic community, including students, professors, and scientists, can embrace travel to share ideas and knowledge. Scientific discoveries, new data, and technological advancements hold immense value when spread to communities worldwide. Traveling to diverse places, where individuals possess different educational backgrounds and thinking approaches, is a powerful catalyst for inspiring our creativity and problem-solving abilities. This exposure pushes us to think outside the box and develop creative solutions.

Study abroad programs and fellowships are an opportunity for university students to immerse themselves in new environments, broadening their perspectives and horizons. Through travel, youth become more conscious of environmental issues they might not have empathized with or cared about before. In essence, travel not only enriches the academic community but also cultivates a generation of environmentally conscious and proactive individuals.

Moving Towards a Sustainable Future

Travelers who make responsible choices have a great influence over the future of the tourism industry. However, this only becomes possible if the industry is willing to take determined steps toward sustainability and if travelers embark on their journeys with conservation in mind. There are many areas within the travel sector, such as the transportation and hospitality sectors, where progress can still be made. Even so, by viewing travel as an opportunity to support global conservation and learn about the world we live in, our journeys become far more impactful both on the planet and in our own lives. 

Interested in learning more about what Solimar is doing to support conservation in the travel sector? Click here to keep up with Solimar’s projects and partnerships in 500+ destinations!

Innovations in Conservation Tourism: Pioneering a Greener Future

The world is teeming with natural wonders that we must preserve for the benefit of life as we know it. In the post-lockdown world, an increasing number of tourists have planned travel to contribute toward a greener future. We have developed a stronger appreciation and yearning for destinations offering unfamiliar environmental opportunities. The ominous warning signs of climate change have accelerated our desire for ”last chance tourism,” driving us to observe animals and landscapes in danger–and to do our part to protect those ecosystems.

Conservation tourism emerged from the 1950s conservation movement, originally aimed at protecting “nature from people.” However, the definition of conservation has evolved to focus on enabling all life to thrive rather than solely preserving nature from human influence. Conservation tourism can generally be divided into three pillars: 1) wildlife conservation, 2) environmental conservation, and 3) cultural conservation. Wildlife conservation centers on travel to see specific species in their natural habitats. Cultural conservation focuses on heritage sites, and environmental conservation deals with national parks or landscapes. Above all, these tourists travel with the desire to conserve and regenerate natural resources. An analogous term is ecotourism, defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people.” The ecotourism umbrella includes researchers, birders, safari-goers, hikers, and anyone wanting to travel to see nature conscientiously.

Due to demand, organizations, governments, and businesses have responded with trailblazing innovations in conservation tourism in recent years. The European Commission will announce the winners for “European Capital of Smart Tourism 2024” and “European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism 2024” in November-December 2023. The former, aimed at larger cities, was created recently in 2019. The latter was launched just this May and geared toward smaller market destinations. Both incentivize European cities to build and maintain their attractions, pioneering innovations in conservation tourism with a greener future in mind.

Pioneering Technological Solutions in Conservation Tourism

Technology and artificial intelligence are advancing rapidly in all facets of the industry, and tourism is no different. Cruise lines and airlines are pushing toward carbon neutrality and negativity. Artificial intelligence generates visitor data and helps travelers choose the cheapest and most eco-friendly modes of transportation.

1. Zero Emissions and Regenerative Tourism

On the customer’s end, websites like Google Flights can indicate flights with fewer emissions and sort through thousands of data points to find the cheapest available flights. This makes destinations slightly easier for tourists to access and harms the environment less. Ecolodges, accommodations that are generally more environmentally friendly (built with local materials, emit less carbon, source local food, have policies in place to reduce waste, etc.), have multiplied recently in well-known ecotourism hotspots such as Costa Rica, Bali, and Ecuador.

Even beyond striving to reduce or curtail emissions entirely, a new term called “regenerative tourism” has emerged in recent years. The regenerative tourist uses their vacation to revitalize and grow the environment they are staying in, including the local population, and participate in projects that better their lives. This is a step beyond sustainable tourism; it is the most beneficial extreme. Liberia’s Kokon Ecolodge, which opened in April 2023, is 100% solar-powered and designed to waste as little energy as possible. In addition, guests have the opportunity to participate in sea turtle population surveys, and the meals and employees of the lodge are all local. All of these details are designed to regenerate Liberia’s environment and economy. These days, travelers who want to “leave no trace” on the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface are getting more options.

2. Cruise Lines and Airlines

Hurtigruten Group, a Norwegian cruise line, unveiled a ship in 2019 that cut carbon emissions by 20 percent. This year, it has spent 100 million dollars on green upgrades to its ships that will cut more emissions. Air New Zealand is electrifying some of its planes. Turkish Airlines has made waves by pioneering a method to grow carbon-negative jet fuel from microalgae plants.

Carbon neutral cruise ship in Norway, an innovation in conservation tourism
As seen from a Hurtigruten cruise ship, the midnight sun illuminates the Norwegian coastline in a haunting glow. In the near future, this journey may be carbon neutral. Photo by Jacek Ulinski on Unsplash.

However, it is also important to remember that even with these initiatives, cruises, and airlines are some of the most detrimental forms of travel to the environment. Much of the airline/cruise industry’s new “carbon neutrality” is created by carbon offsets instead of making any meaningful reduction in carbon emissions. Instead of tackling the root of the problem, they develop new technology to mitigate its impact. A small minority are rolling out carbon-negative initiatives in truth, and even then, this perpetuates the notion that all we need to do to consume is to conserve. It prevents us from entirely rethinking our approach to conservation tourism and focusing on a model that benefits all.

Including Local Stakeholders in Conservation Tourism

Regenerative, sustainable tourism must include the environment but is not only geared toward helping the environment. One of the critical innovations in conservation tourism has been recognizing the value of invested local stakeholders. To preserve the integrity of a destination, one cannot simply prescribe a solution from the outside. To truly understand the needs of a place and those that live there, one must live for years in that place and face all of the challenges presented by coexisting with nature. These immediate challenges can obscure the greater good of long-term impact.

A Bengal Tiger in India. Innovations in conservation tourism have led local stakeholders to prioritize protecting them
A Bengal Tiger roams in India’s Kanha Kisli National Park. Bengal Tigers are the national animal of both India and Bangladesh and a major ecotourism draw. Photo by Vincent Van Zalinge on Unsplash.

For example, in countries with essential populations of big cats like lions and tigers, local livestock herders kill them because they perceive them as a threat to their most fruitful source of income. However, when unsustainable tourism, such as game hunting, enters the area, the natural populations of these wild beasts suffer, and so do the locals. To address this conundrum, one solution may be to encourage eco-tourism in which new businesses extend invitations seeking local involvement. While the locals no longer kill the big cats, their involvement in the solution allows them to benefit even more greatly from the predators running free than from preventing damages they might cause.

 Solimar International has been at the forefront of this innovation, pioneering community-based solutions in countries worldwide. Solimar worked with the Friends of Wallacea and the Guyana Tourism Authority to market their tours to intrepid ecotourists searching for adventure. Indigenous groups, such as the Warapoka people, organize these experiences to become self-sufficient in tourism as a critical income generator.

Local Stakeholders and Birding Tourism

Innovations in birding tourism allow locals to benefit when tourists spot a Scarlet Ibis
The scarlet ibis, a prized target of Central and South American birding tours. International birding tours are becoming integral to ecotourism in biodiverse, tropical regions as remote destination development grows and bird populations decline.  Photo by Jaime Spaniol on Unsplash.

International birding tourism can be as impermanent as the birds themselves. Bird species are in decline around the world. Without local enterprises or scientific resources, the communities around remote areas where rare birds reside have no incentive to study and preserve them. Parallelling other recent innovations in locally-driven tourism, the Audubon Society and the American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund have started an initiative supporting birding-focused guides and businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean. Piloting in 2017 in the Bahamas, Belize, Guatemala, and Paraguay, it analyzed where low-income areas and Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) overlapped. The results have been encouraging so far. It has now expanded to other countries in the Americas, including Colombia, the country with the most bird species worldwide.

Uplifting Less Commonly Visited Places

Another favorable recent innovation in conservation tourism has been the uplifting of less commonly visited places as ecological hotspots. This has always been a priority, but increased online resources and visibility inspire visitors to get more off the beaten path. With a strategic marketing plan driven by local stakeholders, locations previously starved of tourism can make a name for themselves as protectors of environments unlike any other. 

Solimar International has pioneered this approach, helping destinations get on their feet and establishing the foundation for sustainable conservation projects. In Tanzania, the northern parks receive the most visitors, so Solimar worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in 2020 to entice them to the southern circuit of protected areas. Solimar is currently facilitating conservation tourism projects in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh, the world’s largest mangrove forest and critical terrestrial and aquatic life habitat. Solimar is collaborating with USAID and local communities in Liberia to develop and market its ecotourism industry.

DMO Development

Less commonly visited places, with good experience development and marketing, can begin to receive a steady flow of tourists and become more commonly visited. This is where Solimar International’s DMO development solution comes in. According to Solimar, the function of a DMO (Destination Management/Marketing Organization) is to manage tourism in a specific area in a collaborative way that promotes long-term sustainability. The presence of a centralized organization dedicated to tourism from within a community is crucial. From start to finish, it allows local stakeholders to have an important say in how their destination develops and builds a brand identity that complements their values. Destination Dahar in Southern Tunisia, ATKOMA in Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste, and Sugar River Region in New Hampshire exemplify this philosophy in action.

Elephant Falls Gola Liberia
Elephant Falls thunders in Liberia’s Gola Rainforest National Park, an expanse of pristine deciduous and evergreen forest it shares with its neighbor, Sierra Leone. Learn more about Solimar International’s Liberia Conservation Works project here.

Conservation Tourism is an increasingly important element of sustainable tourism approaches in actively contributing to biodiversity conservation, protection, and restoration. Although it has been around for decades, a perfect storm of leaps in technology, eagerness to travel, and concern for the environment have it flourishing before our eyes. We at Solimar International are proud to advance as a company and fulfill our mission of connecting cultures and driving global economic growth through supporting innovations in conservation tourism in the areas that need them most.

Want to learn more about the conservation tourism projects Solimar is currently working on to pioneer solutions for a greener future? Read more here!

trail development and tourism

Trails are defined generally as marked paths. With such a simple definition, trails can come in many forms, such as walking trails, biking trails, hiking trails, and multi-use trails. A trail can be a short walking path that connects a community or a hike to the summit of a mountain. For example, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a driving route of connected towns, metropolises, national parks, natural areas, and historic sites that span more than 4900 miles!

While other forms of tourism engage the traveler with another area’s social, historical, and cultural elements, trail tourism is a form of “slow tourism.” It encourages the traveler to actively engage and experience the land itself that they are visiting. Slowing down in our fast-paced society is what makes trails so rewarding and worth experiencing. These locations draw tourists to see beautiful areas and landscapes in person. Trail tourism also provides many benefits, such as protecting the environment, boosting the economy, and preserving the culture of the surrounding community.

Environmental and Social Benefits of Trails

As trails come in many forms, walking or biking trails that run through towns can serve as valuable forms of eco-friendly transportation. In fact, trails also come with many environmental benefits. According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, trails:

  • Reduce air pollution by providing a cleaner form of transportation.
  • Reduce road runoff and soil erosion
  • Reduce flooding

Utilizing walking and biking trails also greatly benefits the trailgoer in the form of public health. The Rails to Trails Conservancy published a report in 2019 that showed the use of trails successfully connects residents to their destinations by walking or biking, which reduces health problems and consequently reduces the cost of health care.

Economic Benefits of Trails

Trails also stimulate the economies of surrounding communities. As tourists come to experience the trail, they also bring money into the area. According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, during the summer of 2017, visitors to Mt. Helena who used the trail system brought over $4 million into the area.

In 2013, the Outdoor Industry Association published a study that found that trailgoers spent an average of roughly $60 for one one-day trip, while bikers spent roughly $43 for one day trip. The Outdoor Industry Association also estimated that trail-based recreation generated

Trail Development at Gola National Park provided jobs to the community

a total of $353,489 spent in Connecticut, and bicycle-based recreation resulted in $704,067 of spending.

As trails support the development of an area’s environment and economy, they are a great way to revitalize depressed towns. A conservation organization funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources called WePreservePA found that trails attract businesses because they beautify the town or city. Trails were also a significant factor in a homebuyer’s decision to move to a town. This means that the development of trails can not only bring in money through attracting visitors and improving the environment and the health of those already living in the area, trails also attract new businesses and new residents!

There are several examples of the many benefits of trail development, such as the Camino de Santiago, the Lewis and Clark National Trail, and the trails in Liberia.

1. Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, is a historic pilgrimage route with deep cultural and spiritual significance. Stretching across various paths that converge towards Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, the Camino has drawn pilgrims for centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the medieval times when it was believed that the remains of Saint James the Apostle were interred at the city’s cathedral. Today, people from around the world embark on this journey for a myriad of reasons—spiritual reflection, personal growth, adventure, or cultural exploration. The Camino offers a unique experience of walking through picturesque landscapes, quaint villages, and historical sites, all while fostering a sense of community among pilgrims from diverse backgrounds.

The Camino de Santiago radiates economic benefits across the regions it traverses. This historic and spiritual pilgrimage route draws diverse travelers from around the world, stimulating local economies by generating demand for various goods and services. This includes accommodation, food, transportation, and souvenirs. The hospitality industry witnessed a significant upswing as hotels, hostels, and guesthouses accommodate the pilgrims. Local restaurants and cafes experience heightened patronage, offering traditional cuisine and nourishment to weary travelers. Moreover, transportation services such as buses and taxis thrive as pilgrims navigate different segments of the route. The pilgrimage also fosters cultural and heritage tourism, leading to visits to historic sites, museums, and local attractions, thereby injecting life into local economies. The rejuvenation of historic religious buildings along the route preserves cultural heritage and generates employment opportunities through restoration and maintenance projects. In essence, the Camino de Santiago catalyzes economic vitality, breathing life into the communities that line its path.

According to the Economic Analysis and Modeling Group, travelers of the Camino provide the same economic impact as 2.3 domestic visitors despite only making up 2.3% of total tourist expenditure. While exact numbers are difficult to pin down due to the number of trails considered part of the Camino and the sheer number of visitors every year, according to an analysis referenced by the Milken Institute Review, visitors to the Camino increased the economy of local communities by roughly one-fifth.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

When looking at the impact that trails have in connecting communities and enhancing development, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT) is a perfect domestic example. Following the steps of North American pioneers’ journey towards the West, the trail crosses a total of 16 state lines covering around 4,900 miles of distance, making it the longest official trail in the United States.

The LCNHT has the particularity of not being a traditionally marked trail with a clearly defined itinerary. The Lewis and Clark expedition of the early 19th century covered so much ground from Pittsburgh all the way to the Pacific Ocean that the modern itinerary is approximative. This loosely defined trail includes even more alternatives to the tourism experience.

The absence of official physical trail results in many communities and businesses being unaware or simply undiscovered of some of the itineraries previously recommended online. Since 2016, Solimar International has worked with the National Park Service and partnered with the Lewis and Clark Foundation, the Lewis and Clark Trust, and various individual counties to include and connect as many experiences as possible along the trail. 

A traveler-focused LCNHT website now serves as a platform for over 1,500 businesses that lie along the trail. An interactive map serves as a source of reference that connects various experiences ranging from immersion in Indian reservations to small history museums that commemorate the history of America’s earliest explorers.

On top of the economic growth that stems from heightened tourist exposure, developing such an extensive network for the trail was a golden opportunity to tell the stories of communities that had previously not been included. Beyond the physical trail, it was key to provide a platform to link the thousands of people who now live and embody the landscapes that Lewis and Clark once discovered on their trailblazing journey, which changed the course of US history. 

Indigenous Voices

The LCNHT goes through 15 Native American reservations, giving many tribes the opportunity to offer access to their interpretation of history and their own cultural context as it pertains to their land. As Lewis and Clark traversed West, Native American tribes were key to the success of their expedition. The two explorers often sought to find tribes to trade goods and equipment necessary for the trip, which naturally makes the interpretive history of the concerned Indian reservations a key factor to fully understanding the story.  When Solimar International first started working with LCNHT, there was much less content available to tourists. Local businesses that may have been overlooked in the past have a unique opportunity to be showcased through the website’s inclusion of the various cultural centers on the trail and be listed as local guides. It’s important to intertwine indigenous history with the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 

Liberia Trail Development

The country of Liberia is home to half of the remaining rainforest in West Africa. Until recently, the beauty of Liberia was hard to fully appreciate as it lacked a proper trail system. Constructing well-intentioned trails in Liberia’s rainforests holds the potential for significant benefits. These pathways could bolster ecotourism, allowing visitors to experience the rainforest’s biodiversity and contribute to local economies. These designated trails would minimize ecological impact, safeguarding the fragile ecosystem. Moreover, these routes could serve as educational resources, heightening awareness about rainforest conservation and nurturing environmental stewardship. The establishment of well-maintained trail networks might also facilitate scientific research, enabling experts to comprehensively study the region’s diverse flora and fauna, thus furthering global conservation endeavors.

Solimar International finished trail development in Liberia in June with the help of the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia. After partnering with the US Forest Service, seen as the gold standard in trail development, the project developed trails running through two protected areas, the Gola National Forest and Lake Piso.

The area surrounding Gola National Forest is primarily sustained by the gold mining industry. The development of these trails hopes to provide economic and environmental alternatives. Local residents made up the crew that worked on the trails. Community involvement in the trail development brought the first of hopefully many jobs to the area. They built 20 kilometers of trails in just ten weeks! Communities gain new life as the trail tourism industry draws people to trails unique to the area.

Lake Piso is a gorgeous coastline that runs for hundreds of miles. There’s a shipwreck that catches the attention of tourists who once followed a slippery, dangerous natural path out to see it. Due to recent trail development, paths running through Lake Piso generate revenue through an admission fee, allowing for better protection of the wildlife and the environment. The money generated to monitor the area will prevent instances of illegal tree harvesting and sea turtle poaching. Now that trails have been built, tourists can safely explore one of the best surf spots in West Africa in a controlled environment that minimizes impact on nature. It will also allow researchers the ability to get deeper into the park.

The Shipwreck Trail allows people to safely explore previously dangerous parts of Lake Piso

Overall Benefits of Touristic Trails

Trails encompass a wide spectrum of marked paths, catering to various forms of recreational activities like walking, biking, and hiking. They can span from short community connectors to extensive journeys like the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, a 4,900-mile route tracing the footsteps of pioneers. Unlike other forms of tourism, trail tourism, known as “slow tourism,” encourages a direct engagement with the land, promoting a deeper connection with nature and local communities. Such trails offer significant environmental advantages by reducing pollution, erosion, and flooding, while promoting public health. Economically, trails inject funds into local economies through tourism, benefitting businesses, boosting property values, and creating jobs. Notable examples like the Camino de Santiago demonstrate the economic vitality and cultural preservation fostered by pilgrimage routes. The Lewis and Clark National Trail showcases how trail networks can connect communities and businesses, while also highlighting the stories of diverse voices, including indigenous perspectives. Even in Liberia, rainforest trail development offers a promising path to ecotourism, biodiversity protection, and environmental education. Solimar International’s efforts in Liberia’s Gola National Forest and Lake Piso reveal how trail networks can revitalize communities, protect ecosystems, and drive sustainable economic growth. Through their multifaceted benefits, trails stand as valuable assets that bridge nature, culture, economy, and community.

Keep up with Solimar’s work on trails such as the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Liberia Project – don’t forget to like us on Facebook and LinkedIn

Blog by Ethan Hamlin and Matteo Coleta

Discover the perfect experience for foodies, climate-conscious travelers, and those seeking genuine connections with the people and places they visit.

What Is Agritourism? 

According to the National Agricultural Law Center, “agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors while generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.” Agritourism typically overlaps with gastronomy tourism and wine tourism.

Farms engaging in agritourism often fall into the smaller-scale, organic category. They actively promote and support local food systems, which inherently fosters greater sustainability compared to industrialized agriculture. These types of agricultural businesses often serve as central pillars for the farm-to-table and slow food movements, embodying principles of mindful consumption and strengthening the connection between consumers and the land.

Agritourism Overview
Source: Chase, L. C., Stewart, M., Schilling, B., Smith, B., & Walk, M. (2018). Agritourism: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Industry Analysis. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8(1), 13-19.

Agritourism operators offer a diverse array of activities and cater to a wide range of interests. These offerings can vary from simple farm tours to more comprehensive experiences, such as on-site dining and lodging. Agritourism activities encompass a broad spectrum, covering elements of hospitality, education, outdoor recreation, entertainment, and direct sales, all within the backdrop of a working farm or rural setting.

Some example agritourism activities include:

  • Farm-to-Table Cooking Classes
  • Organic Farm/Vineyard Tours
  • Educational Workshops
  • Harvest or Traditional Food Festivals
  • Farm Stays
  • Culinary Trails
  • Food & Wine Pairing Experiences
  • Agricultural Work Exchanges (i.e. Wwoof)
  • Farm Shops and Markets
  • Events (concerts, team building)

Agritourism, particularly when farms use regenerative agriculture and other sustainable practices, can promote sustainable development across the globe. 

The Role of Agritourism in Sustainable Development 

Economic Benefits

Agritourism can support communities by generating income, creating jobs, and supporting local economies. In fact, one of Solimar’s destination management strategies is to foster agricultural linkages: “The development of agritourism tours and demonstrations as attractions in rural areas provides the potential for creating or expanding micro, small, or medium-sized enterprise (MSME) core and supply chain businesses, including transport, food service and products, and handicrafts.” Agritourism can significantly support sustainable economic development in rural communities through:benefits of agritourism

  1. Diversification of Income: Agritourism allows farmers and rural communities to diversify their sources of income beyond traditional agriculture. Through offerings like farm stays, tours, workshops, and events, farmers can generate additional revenue streams, reducing dependence on a single source of income and making them more resilient.
  2. Job Creation: Agritourism activities often require additional staff to cater to visitors’ needs, such as tour guides, hospitality personnel, and workshop instructors. This creates local employment opportunities and curbs urban migration.
  3. Support for Local Businesses: As agritourism develops, it creates demand for various goods and services in the community. Increased tourism traffic benefits local businesses such as restaurants, handicraft shops, accommodation providers, and transportation services.

Agritourism can support sustainable economic development by providing alternate livelihoods and promoting local entrepreneurship, particularly in rural communities.

Social and Cultural Impacts

Agritourism can also serve as a way to preserve cultural heritage, foster community engagement, and enhance local pride: 

  1. Preservation of Local Culture, Traditions, and Ideas: Agritourism encourages preserving local culture and traditions. Tourists engaging in farm experiences gain insights into another way of life, local customs, and traditional practices. For example, visiting an indigenous regenerative farm can reveal how practices like regenerative agriculture stem from indigenous worldviews of reciprocity and care and that regeneration calls for large-scale relational changes that extend beyond agriculture
  2. Cultural Exchange: Agritourism often involves direct interaction between tourists and locals. Farmers and community members act as hosts, guiding visitors through farm activities, explaining cultural practices, and sharing stories about their heritage. Through conversations and storytelling, tourists and locals exchange cultural experiences, beliefs, and traditions. This exchange of stories fosters mutual respect and appreciation for diverse cultural backgrounds. These personal interactions offer insights into the local culture beyond more conventional tourist destinations. 
  3. Culinary Experiences: Food plays a vital role in any culture, and agritourism often involves culinary experiences that allow tourists to savor authentic local dishes made farm-to-table. These food experiences serve as a gateway to learning about local gastronomic traditions and the cultural significance and history behind specific dishes.

benefits of agritourism

By facilitating these interactions and experiences, agritourism provides a platform for cultural exchange that goes beyond the superficial aspects of travel. It encourages meaningful connections between tourists and local communities, promoting a greater understanding and appreciation for different cultures and lifestyles – ultimately driving the desire for travel. 

Environmental Sustainability

Agritourism can support sustainable agricultural practices, conservation efforts, and biodiversity preservation:soil health

  1. Sustainable Land Use: Agritourism often promotes sustainable land use practices. Farmers are encouraged to adopt eco-friendly methods and practices that enhance visitor experiences while safeguarding the land’s natural beauty and resources. Sustainable agriculture methods can also improve the farm’s long-term viability and benefit the environment.
  2. Environmental Conservation: Sustainable agriculture practices encourage environmental stewardship. Farmers and communities may adopt conservation measures to protect natural habitats, wildlife, and biodiversity, which can lead to positive ecological impacts.
  3. Biodiversity Preservation: About a quarter of the world’s biodiversity can be found in healthy soil. When nourished properly, soil can serve as a carbon sink by drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. Alternatively, degraded soil due to industrial farming releases stored carbon into the atmosphere, exacerbating the climate crisis.

Supporting regenerative agriculture through agritourism can be an effective nature-based solution for the tourism sector. 

Case Studies

La Ferme Tarenti is an excellent example of agritourism promoting sustainable development in Tunisia. Its founder, a third-generation farmer with roots in Denmark, returned to his family’s land and saw the potential for agritourism as his parents were moving away from farming. The farm embraces super-organic practices overseen by the founder’s mother and offers educational tours, a restaurant, and unique cheese-making workshops. La Ferme Tarenti contributes to the rural community by providing employment and supporting local artisans. They advocate for local food systems, welcome volunteers, and market through social media. Despite challenges, their dedication to sustainability, community involvement, and education makes them a beacon of success in agritourism.

Tenuta di Spannocchia, a historic estate in Tuscany, serves as an exemplary model of agritourism promoting sustainable development.  Dating back to the 1200s, it began as a rural noble family estate and later came under the Chineli family’s ownership in 1925. Over the last century, Spannocchia transformed from a sharecropping system to a self-sufficient farm with diversified crops and organic, regenerative agricultural practices. In the early 1990s, the current owner recognized the value of preserving the estate’s old farming traditions. Combining agritourism and education, Spannocchia now offers lodging, a restaurant, farm tours, and a farm store, focusing on internships, apprenticeships, and hosting educational programs. Its reputation for authenticity and dedication to local food systems have garnered community support and contributed to rural development in the region. Spannocchia stands out among the Tuscan agritourism experiences, providing visitors with genuine insights into sustainable agriculture and cultural preservation.

benefits of agritourism

Jardin d’Agaves, a recent agritourism venture in Hammain, Tunisia, originates from the vision of Roberta and her Tunisian fiancé, who sought to continue the legacy of his father, a landscape architect and pioneer in introducing agritourism to Tunisia. Established two years ago, this multifaceted business seamlessly integrates a farm/garden, a restaurant, and a beautiful natural landscape. Embracing organic agricultural practices, the farm strives for self-sufficiency while sourcing from local producers. Amidst the picturesque garden, visitors enjoy tours and Mexican-inspired cuisine prepared with Tunisian ingredients, reflecting Roberta’s heritage. Strongly connected to the local community, Jardin d’Agaves offers seasonal employment opportunities and fosters positive impact. By supporting local food systems and inviting tourists to volunteer in agricultural processes, the farm champions responsible practices and creates lasting connections. Despite marketing challenges in the rural setting, Jardin d’Agaves continues to attract diverse visitors and stands as a model for sustainable agritourism fostering rural development.

Why Should You Consider Agritourism For Your Next Trip?

There are many benefits if you choose to engage in agritourism. You can:

  • Connect with local people and engage in more authentic travel experiences.
  • Discover hidden gems to combat overtourism and experience lesser-known natural and cultural beauty. Check out another Solimar post on French agritourism to learn more. 
  • Indulge in farm-to-table cuisine for the ultimate food experience. If you care about having good food when you travel, you will probably have your best meal at the source. 
  • Learn about cultural heritage through a different lens- food is a wonderful blend of place, culture, and history.
  • Support small-scale farmers who use agricultural practices that are better for people and the planet and support local food systems.
  • Immerse yourself in the charm of nature and rural communities.

Given all these reasons, it is no surprise that agritourism is getting more popular. The Global Agritourism Network, founded in April 2023, addresses agritourism’s growing interest and potential to promote sustainable development. There is even a rise in centering farm experiences in luxury travel markets, exemplified in the Six Senses hotel chain, as people care more about where their food comes from.

Overall, agritourism is a mutually beneficial opportunity for tourists and rural communities, as it fosters economic growth and preserves cultural heritage and natural resources. Nevertheless, preserving the balance between tourism development and sustainable practices is essential to ensure long-term benefits and minimize potential negative impacts on the local environment and communities.

A special thanks to the agritourism businesses that inspired and informed this blog: La Ferme Tarenti, Tenuta di Spannocchia, Jardin d’Agaves, Molla Egër, Dynamite Hill Farms, Tapada de Coelheiros, Ridge2Reef Farm, and Mrizi i Zanave.

Keep up with Solimar – don’t forget to like us on Facebook and LinkedIn! 

Tourism for development

In a world that thrives on exploration and cultural exchange, sustainable tourism development is a strong force capable of driving positive change and fostering sustainable development. It’s indisputable that tourism provides a positive experience for the tourists themselves. Exploring new cultures and locales is transformative, but the benefits of tourism go far beyond just the tourist’s own experience. 

Tourism has proven to be a strong tool for developing countries’ economic and social development and acts as a cultural preservation method. This blog post intends to illuminate tourism’s transformative role in shaping a brighter future for both host destinations and intrepid travelers. It stresses the importance of tourism industry growth. 

Tourists connect after a shared experience
Tourists connect after a shared experience

Tourism and the Economy

Can tourism drive sustainable economic development?

A primary concern of any tourist destination is how broadening the scope of their industry will impact their economies on both national and local levels. However, recognizing that tourism is one of the planet’s largest industries illuminates the desire and necessity for countries to tap into this global market. 

Tourism contributes to job creation, infrastructure development, and economic growth. The World Tourism Association describes tourism as an “economic and social phenomenon” and recognizes how beneficial modern tourism is for developing countries and tourism’s role in local economies.

A study listed on the National Library of Medicine, expanding from 2003-2020, found that in most countries, tourism has a significant contribution to economic growth and that this economic growth has a positive impact on these nations’ tourism industries. This really illustrates the enriching cycle of economic growth that tourism can have, and when put into the context of developing countries, shows the opportunity for these countries to expand and develop in a positive way economically.

Tulum archaeological site, Mexico
Tulum archaeological site, Mexico

Tourism as a tool for economic prosperity

As previously mentioned, tourism is currently one of the planet’s largest industries. Some fascinating information about tourism’s contribution to national economies can be found on Solimar’s Websitee, such as:


These incredible statistics illustrate how widespread and important tourism is for the vast majority of countries on the planet. Part of Solimar’s mission is to stress the importance of a tourism presence in the world’s developing countries, as tourism has shown to contribute to a larger percent of national GDP’s in developing countries, marking the importance of growing and maintaining this industry. Careful planning and smart investment can sustain these nations’ economic development. The Cayman Islands National Tourism Plan is an excellent example of this practice; you can learn more about it here

How Can Sustainable Tourism Preserve Cultural Heritage?

When managed responsibly, sustainable tourism development has the potential to make a significant contribution to the cultural preservation of a region. Many tourists actively seek authentic and immersive experiences that allow them to engage with local culture and traditions. By attracting visitors to unique destinations and facilitating cultural exchange, tourism becomes a powerful tool that generates awareness, appreciation, and financial support for local traditions and heritage. 

This, in turn, incentivizes regions to actively preserve their cultural artifacts and traditions to benefit from the economic opportunities that tourism brings. By recognizing and prioritizing cultural preservation, destinations can strike a balance between tourism development and preserving their cultural heritage, ensuring the benefit of present and future generations. 

Mont Saint-Michel in France, A UNESCO world Heritage Site
Mont Saint-Michel in France, A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Official recognitions such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site title enable destinations to distinguish themselves as cultural tourism hotspots. These sites have been acknowledged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having exceptional universal value to humanity. 

Recognized for their cultural, natural, or mixed significance, UNESCO World Heritage Sites enjoy protection and preservation through funding and regulation. Moreover, this prestigious title significantly boosts tourism inflow. In fact, in China, having a site inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site leads to an approximate 8% increase in tourism inflow.

Solimar understands the pivotal role of cultural preservation as a catalyst for positive tourism growth. That’s why they actively strive to preserve and stimulate cultural heritage practices and sites. In Morocco, Solimar addressed the challenge of limited direct selling and personal connection between Moroccan artisans and foreign buyers by creating artisan and cultural heritage routes in Fez and Marrakech. These curated routes allowed tourists to visit artisan workshops, creating awareness of Moroccan culture and craft traditions. As a result, artisans could sell their products directly to consumers, bypassing middlemen. This project successfully promoted Morocco’s cultural heritage and craft traditions, attracting more visitors and boosting revenue for artisans and the overall tourism sector.

How Can Tourism Serve Community Development?

Tourism holds tremendous potential for fostering community development, positively impacting various aspects of a community’s well-being. Infrastructure development is one notable outcome of tourism. As destinations strive to attract visitors, they invest in improving transportation networks, accommodations, public facilities, and utilities. These infrastructure enhancements enhance the tourism experience and benefit the local community by providing better access to services and amenities, thereby improving their overall quality of life.

Public Trolley in Lisbon, Portugal
Public trolley in Lisbon, Portugal

Tourism can also have a significant impact on healthcare facilities. Increased tourist arrivals often lead to expanding and improving local healthcare services to cater to visitors’ needs and ensure their safety. This, in turn, benefits the local community by providing improved access to medical services and better healthcare outcomes for residents.

Education is another area that can be positively influenced by tourism. Tourism growth creates job opportunities, particularly in the hospitality and service sectors. This encourages the local workforce to acquire new skills and knowledge through education and training programs. Consequently, educational institutions may be strengthened, and vocational training programs may be developed to meet the demands of the tourism industry. In Solimar’s various projects, we prioritize workforce development through targeted training. This benefits individuals by improving their employability and contributes to the community’s overall educational development. 

Solimar recognizes the urgency of mitigating tourism’s impact on climate change to safeguard vulnerable communities dependent on tourism. Through sustainable practices and community engagement, Solimar strives to protect both the well-being of communities and the places they call home, ensuring a resilient future for tourism. 

Tourism’s Potential for Development

Tourism’s impact reaches far beyond the individual traveler’s experience. Sustainable tourism development serves as a catalyst for economic development, cultural preservation, and community growth. Solimar, recognizing the potential of tourism as a force for positive change, actively engages in projects that preserve cultural heritage, foster community development, and promote sustainability. By embracing responsible practices and engaging local communities, we can ensure a resilient future for tourism and create a brighter world where exploration and cultural exchange thrive.

To learn more about Solimar International’s current and past tourism for development projects, click here!

Blog by Thomas Freilich and Josette Apple

“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

Contact us

  • Address

    641 S Street NW, Third Floor
    Washington, DC 20001
  • Phone

    (202) 518-6192