Promoting sea turtle conservation through sustainable tourism in the Pearl Cays region of Nicaragua
- Client: Wildlife Conservation Society
- Partners: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- Project Duration: August 2012 – September 2012
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast is renowned for its pristine sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and unique indigenous culture that provide an ideal setting for a tropical getaway with a cultural flare. Pearl Cays, situated along this stretch of coast, is also one of the most important sea turtle habitats in the world. These tourism assets combined with the prevalence of local communities largely dependent on the region’s natural resources create a dangerous environment for the numerous sea turtle species that breed here as well as other biodiversity. Poaching and unsustainable tourism development threaten these globally important species and the challenge here was in improving tourism practices and providing alternative means of income for local communities that don’t involve the loss of biodiversity.
To address this challenge, the Wildlife Conservation Society contracted Solimar to assess the region’s potential for sustainable tourism that would focus on and promote the preservation of natural resources. For the WCS, Solimar conducted a tourism assessment, created a business plan template for small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and provided a “train the trainers” orientation to our SME toolkits (operations and management, staff training, sales and marketing). WCS identified the community and the tourism products to be developed; next, Solimar conducted a demand side analysis, and further defined the products, tourism marketing strategy, operations plan, and business plan financials. Solimar also trained WCS in the use of its toolkits.
The ecotourism consultancy was implemented through the following activities:
- Site Assessment: Solimar analyzed both supply and demand for community-based tourism products and the destination as a whole through surveys and interviews with all relevant stakeholders.
- Business Planning: Based on the site assessment, Solimar developed a business plan that clearly articulates a way forward for developing new tourism products, including sea turtle tour packages, for the community and the Pearl Cays Wildlife Refuge as well as a sales and marketing strategy.
- Conservation Planning: Solimar reviewed the primary threats to biodiversity conservation in Kahkabila and Pearl Cays Wildlife Refuge and helped develop strategies for sea turtle conservation.
- Guide Training: Solimar conducted a one-day introductory guide and tourism training workshop for interested local community members that focused on sustainable tourism, customer services, interpretive techniques for naturalist guides, and sea turtle tourism. We also developed a “Tourism Toolkit” that documents a comprehensive training program to be used for future trainings.
- Six sea turtle tourism conservation strategies
- Tourism Toolkit training manual to “train the trainers”