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Sustainability in business has become a major priority in the global objective to better care for our planet. With tourism being one of the largest industries, it must play a major role in emphasizing this need. Done sustainably, tourism can provide economic growth for communities and businesses while also creating support for the conservation of natural and cultural resources. While there is no one correct way to develop a tourist destination, doing so in a way that balances the needs of residents, businesses, tourists, and ecosystems provides some extra considerations for the governments that allocate land use. Therefore, it is critical that countries learn from each other in their pursuit towards accomplishing this goal.

Solimar and the World Bank recently worked together to document a series of case studies intended to help governments understand how concession agreements can be used to develop tourism. The document includes research that describes the importance of proper development and provides several case studies of real-world examples from a variety of global destinations. The use of concessions is a common practice in tourism, and The World Bank and Solimar have put their own spin on the subject by emphasizing how these concessions can truly benefit the communities living in and around protected areas. As a result, they have collected information on the importance of sustainable tourism, the role concessions play in tourism, and the evolution of a protected area into a tourist attraction. Utilizing extensive research of various case studies over multiple countries, the document highlights the major insights from a series of practical examples. Our hope is that we will be able to catalyze smarter development by learning from the experiences of others who have done it.

Click here to download a copy of Stimulating Sustainable Development through Tourism Concessions. 

It is shaping up to be a busy and productive year at Solimar. We wanted to take a moment to share a few updates with you on our current projects and officially announce the launch of our new website to showcase the latest information on our tourism development and marketing services.

In addition to our project work highlighted below, we are focusing on three new strategies designed to work together and scale our impacts.

First, we are inviting our friends from the private sector to join our new Sustainable Tourism for Development (ST4D) Alliance, which unites tour operators, technology platforms, impact investors, and some of the greatest brands in the world. This alliance will offer destinations and development organizations not only Solimar’s in-depth expertise but also a coalition of private sector partners ready to support development projects, connect products to the market, and deepen program impacts.

Second, we are taking Solimar’s extensive sustainable tourism development expertise and combining it with a technology platform to offer clients a Sustainable Destination Management and Marketing System.  This platform will ensure our tourism strategies are implemented, destinations are marketed, and natural and cultural resources are sustained through the strengthening of Destination Management and Marketing Organizations (DMMOs).

And lastly, we are continuing to make the case for tourism as a development tool by highlighting the impacts of well-managed tourism and telling the personal stories of the amazing entrepreneurs, conservationists, and tourism leaders we have the privilege of working with, while giving them the analytics and statistics needed to tell their own stories to their donors, governments, and local communities.

Please take a moment to learn more about our current projects below. We look forward to working with you to harness the power of sustainable tourism to protect destinations and benefit local communities while offering visitors transformational travel experiences.


Our My Armenia Program with Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and USAID is now in its fourth year and has developed or strengthened over 50 tourism experiences based on intangible cultural heritage. We are now working with private sector partners including Airbnb, the National Tour Association, and the Faith Travel Association to introduce the destination of Armenia and these experiences to the world.



World Heritage Journeys Programme

The program is based on our Geotourism methodology, using destination storytelling to create partnerships between heritage managers and the tourism industry while creating consumer demand for sustainable travel.  The World Heritage Journeys of the EU showcases 34 World Heritage sites around the themes of Underground Europe, Romantic Europe, Ancient Europe, and Royal Europe.  We are now working on a new Journey in South Asia called the World Heritage Journeys of Buddha that features Buddhist World Heritage sites in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. The Journeys initiative is UNESCO’s first consumer marketing platform and was recently nominated for a Webby award.



Republic of Georgia

Solimar was recently awarded a five-year USAID subcontract with DAI to support the Republic of Georgia. We are excited to return to the county where we previously developed their national tourism strategy in 2014.






In Timor-Leste, through a five-year USAID subcontract with Chemonics International, we are helping the island of Ataúro develop a destination management and marketing organization and ensure tourism is benefitting the Timorese people.





In Liberia, we are helping the Forest Development Authority develop a national ecotourism strategy that both supports conservation in threatened protected areas and spurs economic development in nearby communities.




Saudi Arabia

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we are helping the government establish a network of Royal Reserves modeled after the United States National Park System and other international best practices in protected area management and sustainable tourism.




Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail

Here in the United States, we are assisting the National Park Service bring together tourism stakeholders along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which was recently expanded East to Pittsburg, extending it nearly 5,000 miles. This eastern expansion opens up new opportunities to highlight even more unique and authentic attractions and local small businesses through our new website and map guide platform.




West Virginia

In southern West Virginia, Solimar is working with the Region 2 Planning Commission to develop and market a new heritage tourism corridor anchored by a proposed Appalachia Gateway Welcome Center.




Sedona and the Verde Valley, Arizona 

We also have the honor of going into our sixth year of supporting the incredible destination of Sedona and the Verde Valley in Arizona. It has been a joy to watch tourism leaders continue to balance tourism growth with meeting the needs of local residents and conservation.



Sustainable Islands Platform

While tourism for development remains our focus, we are also applying our marketing and communication expertise to build online communities for our projects. We are currently assisting the Inter-American Development Bank launch the Sustainable Islands Platform, an initiative designed to make small island states more sustainable and reduce their vulnerability to climate and environmental change.




Inn at Meander Plantation

While we are steadfast in Solimar’s mission to use the power of sustainable tourism to stimulate economic growth while conserving natural resources and cultural heritage, we also recognize that consulting and marketing is not the only way we can achieve these results. Seeing the market opportunity in small scale accommodation development, management, and marketing, we have decided to launch a new division of the company focused on hospitality management and recruited a team of professionals that are managing the Inn at Meander Plantation, a historic country inn located in the foothills of the blue ridge mountains in central Virginia wine country. Together with their hospitality experience and Solimar’s marketing expertise, we are excited to invest in and manage unique small properties.




Solimar is delighted to congratulate SEE Turtles for their recent winning of the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Changemakers Award at the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards ceremony. The Awards, now in their 15th year, took place at a special ceremony during the WTTC Global Summit in Seville, Spain, to celebrate inspirational, world-changing tourism initiatives from around the globe. President Barack Obama served as the keynote speaker this year citing the importance of meaningful travel and how it can build bridges of cultural understanding and acceptance.

New to 2019, the Changemakers Award is for a Travel & Tourism organization which has made real, positive and impactful change in a specific area of focus defined by WTTC. While the focus will change each year, the award in 2019 focused on fighting the illegal wildlife trade through tourism.

SEE Turtles is operates sea turtle conservation and volunteer programs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Six of seven species of sea turtles are endangered due to the trade in their eggs, meat and shells. Since 2008, by unifying on-the-ground efforts to protect sea turtles throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, SEE Turtles has saved 1.7 million hatchlings and educated over 10 million people in preventing turtle shell trade. The success of the organization is due to the tireless efforts of its co-founder and president, Brad Nahill. Solimar is proud to be a small part of the SEE Turtles story through our assistance in writing a business plan to support its formation in 2008.

Please click here to learn more about how SEE Turtles works to protect sea turtles and how you can support their efforts.



Any great tourism business begins with a great “road map.” This road map serves as your business plan with actionable steps for moving forward with developing the enterprise. There are seven key components to your road map.

1. Clear Concept- Before you can dive into the road map, the essential first step is to clearly articulate your enterprise concept. What is your enterprise? What do you do? What are you trying to achieve? What impact do you expect your enterprise to generate? Before you move further down the road map, be sure that you put some thought into these questions and can clearly define the concept of your tourism enterprise. Try to condense this concept into a simple one to two sentence pitch that clearly articulates your business concept.

2. Market Analysis- Your market analysis includes the international, regional, and national tourism statistics and travel trends, the profiles of your target market segments, and a value chain/ industry analysis. Begin by getting an idea of the relevant tourism trends and statistics. What percentage of tourists coming to your destination region, country, or city are country nationals versus international visitors. When is the peak season that tourists come to visit? What are the typical demographics of visitors? Has the number of international tourists to your destination been increasing or decreasing? Addressing these questions will help you to better understand your market before moving forward.

From here, you can develop the profiles of your target market segments. Determine the nationality of your market, their wants and needs, their budget, etc. Think about whether your target traveler is seeking adventure and physical challenges, luxury and relaxation, or service and learning opportunities. Additionally, you will need to analyze the existing tourism industry in your destination. Especially if your enterprise will work with intermediaries; investigate the existence, success, and business models of tour operators, travel agents, and hotels; as they relative to your business concept to market or sell tourism products.

3. Sales and Marketing Strategy- At this stage of your road map, it is important to determine strategic positioning in terms of the pricing, placement, and promotion strategies of your business. There are numerous factors, both short and long-term to consider for pricing including the value provided compared to that of competitors, the price the market is willing to pay, the revenue needed to enable the business to reach its financial goals, and profit maximization. Your placement, or distribution, may be conducted either through direct or indirect sales. Your promotion strategy will describe the sales and marketing techniques used to reach your target market and should include online and social media marketing.

4. Competitive Analysis- Complete a summary of competing businesses and products, and determine your competitive advantage. Begin by defining your business competition- the people and businesses that offer similar products and services and seek the same markets. Research these competitors and assess their products or services on a number of factors, such as pricing, product quality, and customer service. Porter’s Five Forces Analysis is a useful tool to use for a through investigation of your competition. By assessing your business competition against your proposed enterprise, you will gain a better understanding of where your business stands and how best to leverage your strengths against your competition’s weaknesses. To determine your competitive advantage, simply outline the major advantages that your enterprise holds over the competition.

5. Operations and Training Plan- Consider your business structure and the key personnel and training needs that will be required to support it, while also keeping in mind any legal considerations. Will your enterprise be a private company, a partnership, a limited liability corporation (LLC), a cooperative, a non-profit organization, or an association? There are pluses and minuses to each, and it is extremely important to think carefully to determine the best structure for your enterprise. Once the structure is determined, consider the number of employees needed and the roles and responsibilities of each. Consider the hierarchy of employees in your business and how profits will be shared.  Finally, the legal environment is key to consider; think about potential requirements like business registration, employee/membership agreements, permits, and insurance coverage.

6. Community and Conservation Support- Consider sustainable tourism as a cornerstone to your business plan. Sustainable tourism has the potential to not only mitigate potentially harmful impacts of visitation to a site, but it can also support conservation of the resources upon which it depends. At Solimar, we employ a market-based approach that links jobs and revenue generated by sustainable tourism to support conservation of the resources upon which the tourism depends. To develop a sustainability plan, begin by assessing the conservation threats related to your tourism enterprise. Once these threats have been assessed, you can choose tourism conservation strategies that address those threats, such as an environmental education program or a trail monitoring and research program. Lastly, be sure to budget for the implementation of your sustainability plan, including salaries, equipment, materials, and trainings.

7. Key Milestones and Workplan- Lastly, now that your business plan has been fully considered, you can create a timeline of the major activities related to the establishment of your enterprise and its tour products and services. Create a comprehensive list of the milestones to be completed for the successful establishment of your business and determine the order in which they shall be addressed. With each milestone completed, you are one step closer to being the proud founder of a great tourism business!

Christmas Where We Work

With the holidays coming up, we decided to look at traditional Christmas celebrations in some of the places where we work!


Christmas in Colombia is largely structured around the Catholic calendar. The Christmas season starts on December 7th, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, widely known as “El Dia de las Velitas” or the day of candles. At dusk, tall, thin candles are placed on long pieces of wood and lit, illuminating houses, churches, and shops. The night continues with dancing, music, food, and drinks, like the famous Colombian liquor “Aquardiente”.

Starting on December 16th, families gather together to pray “La Novena de Aguinaldos”, a special occasion to get closer to their faith and remember the birth of Christ. This gathering continues every night until December 24th. Each evening includes food and traditional songs.

On “La Nochebuena”, Colombians get the chance to indulge in traditional foods for the “Cena de Navidad” or Christmas Eve dinner. Between pork, ham, chicken, families have a wide variety of dishes to choose from. A traditional Christmas dessert is called “Natilla”, made with cinnamon, milk, sugar and cloves. At midnight, there is a toast with aguardiente, rum or champagne.


For Coptic Christians in Ethiopia, Christmas, known as Ganna, is celebrated on January 7th rather than December 25th. Many people fast on Christmas Eve, January 6th, and wake up at dawn to attend mass, dressed in traditional white cotton garments called “shammas”. Mass is typically accompanied by singing and candles,  and is followed by a feast of traditional Ethiopian foods. The most iconic Christmas dish is a spicy stew made with meat and vegetables, served on a plate of “injera”, or flat bread.

Twelve days after Christmas, the three-day celebration of Timkat, or Jesus’ baptism, begins. Children walk to church services in procession, wearing crowns and robes, while adults wear “shammas”. Traditional musical instruments are played during the procession, such as “sistrum”, akin to a tambourine, and “makamiya”, a prayer stick used to keep rhythm. It’s a time of religious celebration, eating food, and celebrating with friends and family.


In the Republic of Georgia, the majority of the population is Orthodox Christian, meaning they also celebrate Christmas on January 7th. On that day, large processions, called “Alilo”, make their way through the streets of cities, towns and villages, led by clergymen. Dressed in traditional garb, people congratulate each other and collect money for charity during Alilo.

Georgian Christmas trees, called Chichilaki, are carved from the branches of walnut trees and decorated with curled strands of white wood. The Georgian version of Santa Claus, know as “tovlis papa” (Grandfather Snow), is usually depicted wearing traditional Georgian fur clothes. He does not have a sleigh or reindeer, but brings children gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is full of family, friends, and food, as well as candlelit church ceremonies, hymns, and traditions.

These are just a few of the unique and dynamic Christmas traditions around the world. At Solimar, we are proud to support cultural and heritage preservation to keep such amazing traditions alive.

How do you celebrate the holidays? 

“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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