Category: Uncategorized

Sustainable Food Tourism: Why Does it Matter?

From street food adventures in bustling markets to exclusive dining experiences in hidden culinary gems, exploring the world through taste is important to the human experience. Food tourists see travel as discovering a culture or region through food methods, dining experiences, and local ingredients. Food tourism is a relevant tourism discipline, but sustainable food tourism is making its way into research due to the popularity of environmental awareness among upcoming generations2. The Slow Food Movement has also gained popularity and has contributed to sustainable tourism development 3. This pursuit for environmentally and culturally friendly experiences can look like wine tasting in Georgia, visiting the best artisanal bakeries in The Upper Tanaro Valley, or patronizing locally-owned restaurants and cafes in your next travel destination*. Food tourism is important not only to travelers but also to restaurants. Still, it can impact a region’s economic and cultural landscape by engaging with the local community and cementing a region’s identity that travelers can support.

Photo by ELEVATE: https://www.pexels.com/photo/chef-preparing-vegetable-dish-on-tree-slab-1267320/

* When choosing a locally sustainable restaurant, look for certification marks such as Green Standards, BREEAM, ENERGY STAR, or FSC.

The Potential of Sustainable Food Tourism: Cornwall, South England

Cornwall is a peninsula far southwest of England, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. This unique region is distinguished by its Celtic heritage, distinct from the rest of England, with a history and culture deeply rooted in its ancient past. Tourism is an essential topic within Cornwall, with the top 25% of jobs reliant on industry 4. The Cornish people are known for their pride and strong regional identity, evident in the local customs, traditions, and the vibrant arts scene. Cornish pasties, saffron buns, cornish yarg, and stargazy pie are some of the featured delicacies in their unique food culture. 

Cornwall has faced obstacles on its way to becoming one of the top culinary tourism destinations. The English countryside struggled socially and economically after the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, which caused the domestic tourism market to decline by £2 billion. After the region centralized sustainable food and agricultural practices, the region saw great benefits.

Photo by Rachel Claire: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-sitting-on-white-boat-4577117/

Investing in Food Culture

Before the boom in sustainable food movements, food tourism was underestimated as simply a trip motivator and an economic part of the traveler experience instead of an integral part of a destination’s culture and lifestyle. Cornwall started to create specialty food groups such as ‘A Taste of the West’, now one of the UK’s largest independent regional food groups.  New engagements started to give the South a foundational identity as regional differences were celebrated and a mantra of quality over quantity spread. After sustainable tourism efforts gained traction, restaurant owners noticed a positive change. There were social and cultural benefits like diverse seafood at the oyster festival. The success of sustainable food also helps to sustain cultural and familial heritage.  Skills like meat hanging, fishing, and maintaining small family farms were now economically supported, keeping the family farm and traditions alive.

Culinary Food Tourism: Food as an Art

As food writer Craig Claiborne would say, life is too short for mediocre food. Enhancing a community’s engagement with food tourism and curating unique experiences and recipes that stand out can engage tourists. As destinations like Italy attract food tourists to find the best quality pasta, countries in the global south can also utilize their unique methods and ingredients with a focus on quality and cultural engagement. Like birdwatchers, snowboarders, and mountain climbers, food tourists create community and raise the standards for food travel and dining experiences.  Netflix’s cable show Chef’s Table showcases the highest levels of these culinary interests, bringing the community to the love of gourmet food, often sourced from specific parts of the world. 

Photo by Markus Winkler: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-inside-a-building-with-food-stalls-12081251/

The Top Chef Effect

Food television can be a form of destination promotion through markets of food tourists in search of region-specific ingredients and produce. The American television show Top Chef is hosted in different areas, exposing audiences to global food perspectives, cooking methods, and cultural traditions.  Top Chef has cultivated a “Top Chef Effect” due to its large effect on food tourism, making it a public relations success for tourism in each region the show has hosted 6. Fisheries in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California benefited from this market recognition as world-renowned chefs, praising the area for the best seafood. Culinary tourism is expected to increase by USD 126.28 billion between 2022 and 2027.

Photo by Tanya Gorelova: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-man-preparing-food-3933217/

Social Media: A Generation of Authenticity

Popular culture and the newest social media generation are searching for authenticity, which is consistently evident in how they approach food and travel.  Acting as the antithesis of previous generations of perfectly curated and minimalistic environments, the newest social media generation is dedicated to “de-center the physical self” 9.  This means social media is now filled with fewer selfies and more photos of authentic experiences, like food not available to friends back home or a candid photo of local people on the street.  Social media is shaping how people show and choose what to eat. 75% of Instagram users choose a restaurant solely based on social media photos, and 60% regularly scroll through food photos on social media, 

Photo by ready made: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-black-samsung-android-smartphone-3850213/

Reviews are Essential

Travelers in an area not familiar to them no longer rely on the business’s storefronts but on real recommendations from other travelers. Online reviews are also important, with apps like Yelp having a major impact on a business’s success, 92% of consumers state that they are less likely to do business with a company if they have seen negative reviews 11. Understanding a restaurant’s social media presence and the impact of personal reviews can change destination marketing strategies, with a larger focus on aesthetic experiences that stand out online rather than location alone. Rather than picture-perfect dining experiences, travelers look to share unique experiences.

How to use Sustainable Food Tourism

Restaurants, marketing strategists, or tourism operators looking for ways to utilize sustainable food tourism should strive to offer genuine experiences that reflect the local culture and culinary identity. This can be achieved by employing local staff to connect to local farms or fisheries and showcase these choices to customers. Countries with geographical diversity, like Cornwall, focus their efforts on their food culture, creating their strong, unique identity.  Similarly, Indonesia is represented by major islands and has a distinct food culture. The region has been shaped by natural conditions, history, and cultural influences, offering various flavors and dishes 13. Traditional Indonesian meals typically involve dishes served collectively on a table with rice as the staple, accompanied by savory options and condiments. Inviting travelers to participate in communal cooking and eating can transcend an average restaurant experience. 

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh: https://www.pexels.com/photo/asian-woman-selling-seafood-on-street-market-3871758/

Showcase your Sustainable Menu

Quality over quantity as a foundational value can be a main attraction to those seeking authentic, culinary, popular, or health-driven experiences. Restaurateurs should highlight local food, promote traditional methods, or showcase cultural objects12. The overall dining experience of the restaurant is important, as it has been shown to help formulate the destination identity, build reputation, and create visitor loyalty12. Sustainable food tourism is not a passing trend; it’s a transformative movement that can redefine the role of restaurants in the tourism industry. By adopting sustainable practices, celebrating local culture, and engaging with both tourists and the community, restaurants can create a delicious dining experience while being sustainable. As the world becomes more conscious of the impact of travel and dining, restaurants that embrace sustainability will thrive and become cherished parts of the global food tourism narrative.

Picture related to tourism can aid destinations in addressing climate change

According to forecasts from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global tourism sector is anticipated to witness a substantial increase, with projections indicating a surge to 1.8 billion tourists annually by 2030. This growth underscores the pivotal role of tourism destinations in driving economic progress. However, the sector’s expansion is poised to be significantly impacted by the effects of climate change, both directly and indirectly.

This is the sunset view from the badaban ecocottage
Sunset view from Badaban EcoCottage (Photo Credit: Greater Sundarbans Ecotourism Society)

Tourism can exert a substantial influence on the environment, contributing to pollution, waste generation, and harm to local ecosystems and biodiversity. Meanwhile, climate change introduces additional challenges such as flooding, land degradation, loss of natural habitats, saltwater intrusion, diminished food resources, and heightened storm intensity. Tourism businesses can be catalysts in either exacerbating climate change-induced challenges or champions in helping communities and destinations address these threats head-on.

The pressing issue of climate change in destinations, exacerbated by escalating greenhouse gas emissions and resultant global warming, will be a defining challenge for the tourism industry over the next several decades. Consequently, the tourism sector bears a significant responsibility to champion environmental preservation and adopt sustainable practices to effectively address the challenges posed by climate change in the realm of travel and tourism.

In this blog post, we will discuss the significance of tourism in helping destinations address climate change. Specifically, we will explore tourism for climate change adaptation and mitigation, its role in decreasing carbon emissions, its impact on local economies, and its potential for promoting environmental education and awareness.

Tourism Destinations for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Climate change presents escalating challenges to our planet. To effectively tackle this urgent issue, it is essential to implement two critical strategies: Climate Change Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation.

Climate change mitigation endeavors to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, where the travel and tourism sectors play a pivotal role. The most important approach involves reducing energy consumption through enhanced energy efficiency measures and the adoption of renewable energy sources. Offsetting carbon emissions via carbon offset programs can also be an important strategy and one that has grown substantially in interest and scale over the past decade. However, it is important to note the significant criticism that carbon offset programs have received, and thus such programs must also come alongside significant and meaningful reductions in emissions from the source.

Numerous tourism enterprises are actively engaging in these initiatives. In regions like the Maldives, distant travel destinations, air travel significantly contributes to the tourism industry’s carbon footprint. Attaining Net Zero emissions poses a formidable challenge due to the complexity of eliminating carbon emissions. Nevertheless, some establishments in the Maldives, like Soneva Resorts, have implemented a successful mitigation strategy that targets both direct and indirect carbon emissions. Consequently, certain resorts strive for carbon neutrality by leveraging sustainable energy resources and participating in carbon offset programs.

Climate change adaptation, on the other hand, aims to fortify the resilience of societies, economies, and ecosystems against the existing impacts of climate change. Within the travel and tourism industries, efforts are directed towards safeguarding vulnerable ecosystems and enhancing adaptability. These efforts encompass activities such as coral reef restoration, ecosystem conservation, and sustainable tourism practices.

Many tourism establishments are embracing these adaptation strategies. As an illustration, they delve into pioneering coral restoration methods, such as the initiatives undertaken by Reefscapers. This organization collaborates with resorts to execute management and restoration strategies aimed at rejuvenating marine ecosystems and enhancing the appeal of tourist destinations. Additionally, these companies are actively involved in educating and supporting local communities to raise awareness and bolster resilience against climate change effects.

It is important to note that climate change adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same climate coin: strategies must be advanced in both in order to secure a viable and just future for humanity. The travel and tourism sector actively contributes to addressing and alleviating climate change by employing diverse strategies. These include enhancing energy efficiency, implementing nature-based solutions initiatives to both absorb carbon and address societal challenges and promoting ecosystem conservation. Collaboration among tourism enterprises, local communities, and governmental bodies is deemed crucial in fostering effective climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

* (Check Climate Change and Tourism: How Destinations Are Responding to the Climate Crisis (Part 1 & Part 2) other Solimar pages as well)

Contributing to the Reduction of Carbon Footprints while Preserving Nature

Climate change exerts a diverse range of impacts on various destinations, spanning from heightened occurrences of extreme weather events to shifts in natural landscapes. Prominent tourist sites are contending with unprecedented challenges, with coastal tourism proving especially susceptible to the repercussions of climate change. The imminent menace of rising sea levels poses a direct threat to coastal regions. Essentially, escalating temperatures, adverse weather patterns, and increasing sea levels are gradually eroding the essence of historical landmarks and cultural assets. Nonetheless, tourist areas can undertake diverse initiatives to curb carbon emissions while conserving the environment.

What are the various efforts being made to save nature and reduce carbon footprints?

1. Nature-based Solutions

Nature-based Solutions which is based on climate change
Nature-based Solutions (Credit: IUCN)

One first is Nature-based Solutions. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global entity dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable natural resource management, has championed the concept of nature-based solutions. These solutions encompass actions that safeguard, sustainably manage, and restore nature while simultaneously addressing societal challenges. Nature-based solutions yield a plethora of benefits. They aid in climate change adaptation, mitigate disaster risks by offering protection against storm surges, combat coastal erosion, and even reduce insurance costs.  

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) play a key role in both mitigation and adaptation. When considering mitigation strategies, NbS offers significant potential for carbon capture and storage. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that by 2030, NbS could contribute 30-37% of the cost-effective mitigation required to limit warming to below 2°C. NbS can effectively combat the effects of climate change by sequestering and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through ecosystem preservation and restoration efforts.

When considering adaptation strategies, Natural-based Solutions (NbS) provide crucial support for enhancing resilience against climate-related risks. For instance, coastal ecosystems such as blue-green algae and coral reefs in the Maldives play a vital role in safeguarding communities against storm surges and coastal erosion, thereby mitigating the impacts of severe weather conditions. These ecosystems offer essential services that can aid in climate change adaptation.

Tourism enterprises can advance Nature-based Solutions by investing in them to reap economic benefits, enrich tourists’ experiences, address climate change risks, fulfill social obligations, and collaborate with local communities. This strategic approach not only promotes environmental preservation but also bolsters competitiveness.

Moreover, Nature-based Solutions contribute to improving air and water quality, reducing disease transmission associated with habitat loss, and nurturing educational and psychological well-being. Particularly in island locales, the adoption of natural moisture retention methods can amplify soil moisture absorption and decrease marine pathogens. By embracing them, the dual objectives of reducing carbon emissions, conserving nature, and supporting local communities are efficiently met.

In the Maldives under the USAID Climate Adaptation Project, Solimar International recently supported the Ministry of Tourism in creating the first Climate Action Plan for Tourism in the history of the country. This Action Plan outlines concrete steps for tourism businesses to both mitigate and adapt to climate change through strategies like incorporating community priorities, diversifying business revenue, and investing in NbS via innovative climate financing schemes. You can read the full Action Plan here. 

* (Read the 2022 White Paper by Solimar International on effective nature-based solutions in tourism.)

2.  Supporting and Diversifying Local Economies

Tourism plays a pivotal role in bolstering local economies, thereby contributing to greater economic resilience. However, tourism can also cause dependence on the industry and make destinations more vulnerable to shocks like climate change. Thus, the importance of diversifying local economies through tourism initiatives is key.  Encouraging the consumption of locally sourced goods and services can lead to tangible enhancements in local economies. This approach not only generates employment opportunities within communities but also elevates income levels, fostering sustainable development.

The Maldives is one such successful example of climate change adaptation through the integration of community needs and priorities.

This is the Islands of Horsburgh
The Islands of Horsburgh (Credit: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

Based on the Maldives Tourism Climate Action Plan, the allure of the Maldives, characterized by its pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs, faces threats from climate change. Presently, many resorts and guesthouses in the Maldives encounter challenges in sourcing local produce, often resorting to external markets for essentials like tuna or seafood. While this may seem financially prudent initially, these supply chains are susceptible to climate change-induced disruptions, leading to escalating costs over time.

However, by emphasizing community experiences and locally procured goods, the Maldives can effectively ensure local destination resilience while revitalizing its local economy. Interdependencies among food security, climate change, and biodiversity are evident in the Maldives. Local resorts in the Maldives have championed locally sourced products through initiatives like local contract farming in regions such as Addu Atoll. Collaborations like the one between Addu Atoll and the Addu Meedhoo Corporate Society have facilitated local food production. The Maldivian government has also pledged support by providing agricultural resources and requisite training to cultivate selected crops on 40 key agricultural islands.

This is the picture of the community and culture in the Maldives
Community and Culture in the Maldives (Credit: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

Integrating permaculture projects can tangibly sequester carbon, leverage carbon markets, cater to hotel guests, or introduce value-added products for sale in hotel establishments or spas. These endeavors have curtailed food miles and hotel carbon emissions, conserved local culinary heritage, and agricultural customs, and created employment opportunities for marginalized groups.

Moreover, concerning fisheries in the Maldives, numerous companies have collaborated with local communities to supply proteins like fish from neighboring islands. By engaging local fishermen to establish new markets for previously exported marine products, these companies have mitigated carbon emissions, facilitated robust supply chains, and promoted sustainable fishing practices.

The tourism sector plays a pivotal role in rejuvenating local economies by nurturing enterprises and human resources while safeguarding the environment. Tourism enterprises can bolster local economies by offering employment to community members and preserving local culture and natural habitats. This concerted effort not only addresses climate change but also cultivates a sustainable tourism model, fostering the development of local communities.

* (Check the Maldives Tourism Climate Action Plan to find out what is being done under the USAID Climate Adaptation Project in the Maldives.) 

Promoting Environmental Education and Awareness in Tourism Destinations

Environmental education is crucial in enlightening travelers about the significance of environmental conservation and fostering a consciousness for sustainable travel practices. Tourism operators can cultivate awareness among travelers by integrating environmental education programs before or after their journeys and disseminating information on sustainable travel practices.

Fundamentally, tourism is a conduit for advancing environmental education and consciousness-raising efforts. By integrating components that educate travelers on local heritage, ecosystem preservation measures, and sustainable lifestyles, individuals can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the global environment.

Let’s look at specific regions like the Horsburgh Atoll and the Bangladesh Sundarbans, where we witness exemplary cases of environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.

1. Horsburgh Atoll (Maldives) (Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

This picture is about Horsburgh Atoll
Horsburgh Atoll (Credit: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance)

The Horsburgh Atoll, nestled in the Maldives, represents a treasure trove combining natural splendor and historical significance. With a unique ecosystem and historical heritage, the atoll is safeguarded and nurtured through environmental education initiatives. Emphasizing sustainable tourism, Horsburgh ensures the conservation of the atoll’s beauty while promoting eco-friendly tourism activities and fostering awareness of sustainable practices within marine protected areas. Furthermore, visitors can engage with local communities, delving into their distinct traditions and craftsmanship, such as intricate woven mats, wood carvings, and traditional Maldivian lacquerworks. These immersive experiences not only enhance cultural understanding but also underscore the interconnectedness and vitality of ecosystems.

Under the USAID Climate Adaptation Project, Solimar has supported the creation of the first Destination Management Organization (DMO) in the Maldives: The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance (HATA). HATA is a dedicated group of local tourism stakeholders committed to ensuring that tourism in the Horsburgh Atoll contributes positively to community benefits, environmental awareness, and climate adaptation. United by a shared vision, HATA brings together local businesses, conservationists, and community leaders to promote sustainable tourism practices that protect the atoll’s unique ecosystem while enhancing the livelihoods of its inhabitants. By enabling local communities to manage tourism on their terms and ensuring tourism is a force for the environmental education of future visitors, this model ensures that locally relevant solutions can be designed and funded to support climate adaptation efforts. 

* (Check Maldives’ first DMO, The Horsburgh Atoll Tourism Alliance to discover the enchanting Horsburgh Atoll in the Maldives)

2. Bangladesh Sundarbans (Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society)

This picture is discovering the Sundarban forests
Discovering the Sundarbans (Credit: Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society)

The Sundarbans region prioritizes alternative income sources to forest resource harvesting and ecosystem restoration endeavors. Exploring the forest, engaging with the local communities, and partaking in guided nature tours like forest hikes and boat trips are more popular among the activities available, all while lodging in environmentally-conscious accommodations. Through active participation in ecosystem revitalization projects, like planting native mangrove saplings, tourists directly contribute to enhancing the local ecosystem and partake in activities with positive impacts. Environmental education and awareness are fostered through immersive nature and cultural expeditions, providing interpretive knowledge on herbal plants, wildlife, and forest traditions during guided forest treks. Cultural walking tours enable visitors to explore local landmarks, temples, and cultural performances, including traditional dances and songs, thereby immersing them in the rich tapestry of Bangladesh’s coastal culture. 

The Munda people, an ethnic community inhabiting the Sundarbans mangrove forest region, maintain a profound bond with their natural surroundings and cultural legacy. Despite such virtues, this community faces obstacles such as restricted access to microfinance, benefits, and jobs, impeding their ability to adapt. In coastal Bangladesh, grappling with the effects of climate change, they encounter difficulties obtaining resources and livelihood opportunities. These challenges are often intensified during disasters such as cyclones, tidal surges, etc., that reduce agricultural and other production. Additionally, initiatives to aid them encounter financial limitations, impacting their capacity to maintain their livelihoods and access government support.

However, by engaging with this community, opportunities exist to introduce educational initiatives, and resource and capacity development projects that can facilitate community advancement. Moreover, endorsing sustainable business practices that capitalize on their distinctive local ecological knowledge, expertise, and traditions, along with partaking in Munda festivals and cultural gatherings, can bolster appreciation for their ethos and heritage. This approach nurtures mutual respect, opens avenues for their seamless integration within the broader local community, and reduces racial gaps. Consequently, visitors will be able to discover a cottage managed by the Munda community and learn about The Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society’s contribution to branding these cottages. This initiative aims to provide tourists with a genuine indigenous experience, promoting a better understanding of the interconnected relationship between local communities and their surroundings.

In tackling the challenges posed by climate change, the tourism sector can significantly contribute by empowering marginalized groups who often encounter social marginalization. By involving these communities, they can secure livelihoods and actively participate in climate resilience endeavors, thus improving their living standard. The pivotal role of the Greater Sundarbans region in supporting these endeavors cannot be understated.

* (Check out the Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance website  to discover more about the USAID Ecotourism Activity project in and around the Sundarbans Reserved Forest through the development, management, and marketing of sustainable tourism)

This picuture is the Sundarban Tiger in the forest.
The Sundarban Tiger (Photo Credit: Vignesh, Pexels)

Underscoring the significance of sustainable development through environmental education is imperative to strike a harmonious balance between local economic progress and environmental conservation. These initiatives play a pivotal role in fostering the sustainable growth of local communities and offering travelers a glimpse into the region’s distinctive culture and natural allure. By championing climate change awareness, preserving indigenous ecosystems and cultures, and providing immersive encounters, these endeavors significantly enrich the travel experience. 

 

 

This picture is the Badaban EcoCottages
Badaban EcoCottages (Photo Credit: Greater Sundarbans EcoTourism Society)

Another example of how locally relevant solutions can empower climate change mitigation and adaptation is the Sundarbans EcoVillages situated in the Sundarbans region of Bangladesh. The Sundarbans EcoVillages comprise multiple villages or communities rather than a singular location. This initiative revolves around community-based tourism, empowering residents to generate diverse sources of income from tourism activities instead of depending on unsustainable resource extraction from the Sundarbans for their livelihoods. By establishing eco-tourism initiatives rooted in community values, the region has transformed into a destination that encourages community involvement and enables visitors to engage deeply with the Sundarbans’ ecological and cultural marvels for extended durations.

Moreover, the communities serve as a hub for unique encounters, educational interactions, and cultural immersion, fostering a profound bond between the community and the natural environment. This community-based tourism concept actively promotes rural advancement and biodiversity conservation, offering guests various programs to rejuvenate the ecosystem. For instance, visitors can aid in ecosystem conservation by purchasing local artworks or engaging in a tree-planting initiative to cultivate mangroves around the EcoVillages.

These endeavors not only empower travelers to diminish their carbon footprint but also yield a positive impact in combating climate change, including mitigating global warming.

Conclusion: The Crucial Role of Tourism in Combating Climate Change

This picture is the Spotted deer in Sundarbans national park in Bangladesh
Spotted deer in the Sundarbans (Photo Credit: nicolasdecorte, istock)

In conclusion, the tourism sector holds significant potential in the fight against climate change. By emphasizing sustainable travel, reducing carbon footprints, backing local economies, and fostering environmental awareness, tourism enterprises actively contribute to environmental protection and climate change mitigation.

Also, tourism plays a pivotal role in climate change mitigation by bolstering local economies, preserving ecosystems, advocating environmental education, and endorsing sustainable tourism practices. The tourism industry can effectively combat climate change by championing positive environmental impacts while fostering community and environmental well-being.

Nonetheless, the sustainable future of tourism hinges on a collaborative effort between travelers and industry stakeholders. By opting for eco-friendly accommodations, embracing low-impact transportation, and making sustainable travel decisions, individuals can aid in building resilient destinations. Prioritizing community welfare and minimizing carbon emissions are crucial to achieving sustainable development goals.

The dynamic tourism landscape necessitates a transition towards responsible and environmentally conscious travel practices. Embracing sustainability, fortifying destination resilience, and enriching traveler education are key elements in safeguarding the future of the tourism sector. Today’s decisions will shape tomorrow’s travel experiences as we confront the challenges of climate change.

By comprehending the intricate interplay between climate change and tourism, we envision a future where exploration and conservation coexist, fostering widespread appreciation for the Earth’s natural wonders. 

We must all work together to protect the future of our planet.

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

“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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