Tag: responsible tourism

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge in Cornish, NH

What is a DMO, and how is it used to develop a community into a tourist destination?

To begin examining the success of Discover Sugar River Region as a Destination Management Organization (DMO), we must first discuss what a DMO is and how it can be used as a community catalyst.

Destination Management Organization: It is an organization responsible for promoting a specific destination, such as a city, region, or country, to attract tourists, businesses, and investment.

They typically engage in marketing, advertising, and promotional activities to showcase the attractions and amenities of their respective destinations to potential tourists. In many cases, it can be used to bring awareness to unknown destination, thus acting as a community catalyst.

Discover Sugar River Region DMO Logo
Discover Sugar River Region DMO Logo

Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) serve as catalysts for community development through various means:

  • Economic Boost: DMOs stimulate economic development by promoting tourism, which generates revenue. This influx of funds fosters business growth, job creation, and overall prosperity.
  • Enhanced Image: DMOs strategically market and brand the destination, enhancing its appeal to tourists, investors, and residents. By positioning the destination as unique and attractive, DMOs increase its competitiveness and attract further investment.
  • Infrastructure Improvement: The increased tourism facilitated by DMOs often leads to infrastructure enhancements, benefiting visitors and locals.
  • Cultural Preservation: DMOs preserve the destination’s cultural heritage and natural assets, fostering local pride and identity.
  • Community Engagement: DMOs engage stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, and residents, in tourism planning and decision-making.
  • Sustainable Practices: DMOs advocate for responsible tourism policies and support sustainable initiatives to minimize negative impacts on the environment and communities. By promoting sustainable practices, DMOs contribute to the destination’s long-term viability.
  • Infrastructure Development: DMOs may collaborate with local authorities and businesses to improve infrastructure such as accommodations, and public facilities. These improvements not only enhance the visitor experience but also benefit residents by providing better services and amenities.
  • Education and Training: DMOs may offer training and educational programs to local residents, equipping them with the skills needed to participate in the tourism industry. This can create employment opportunities and empower individuals to take advantage of the economic benefits of tourism.

Unique Communities in the Sugar River Region in Sullivan County, New Hampshire

The Sugar River region in New Hampshire is located primarily in the western part of the state and covers 527 sq. miles in Sullivan County, New Hampshire. The Sugar River itself flows through this region, starting in the towns of Sunapee and Croydon. It winds its way through communities such as Newport and Claremont.

Map of Sullivan County, New Hampshire (Sugar River Region)
Map of Sullivan County, New Hampshire

This area is known for its picturesque landscapes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and historic towns. The Sugar River Rail Trail, a popular recreational trail, follows the path of the former Claremont and Concord Railroad along the Sugar River. It provides opportunities for walking, biking, and other outdoor activities.

 In addition, snow sport activities are popular in the winter months including cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and skiing/snowboarding. Mount Sunapee Resort is a 233-acre skiing destination with a wide variety of terrain for the entire family.

The Sugar River region in New Hampshire offers a mix of rural charm, outdoor adventure, and historical significance, making it a popular destination for visitors and residents alike. Furthermore, communities in the region include: Acworth, Charlestown, Claremont, Cornish, Croydon, Goshen, Grantham, Langdon, Lempster, Newport, Plainfield, Springfield, Sunapee, Unity, and Washington.

Transformation of a Region of New Hampshire Through Collaborative Community Effort

The Mission: Discover Sugar River Region as a Destination Management Organization develops, promotes, and sustains our regional assets to create a thriving visitor economy, improve quality of life for all who live and visit here and becoming a community catalyst.

The Vision: The Sugar River Region provided residents and visitors with an authentic New Hampshire experience through a diverse array of recreational, cultural, economic, and agricultural opportunities.

Sullivan County is one of the least visited areas of New Hampshire, so the goal of the Destination Management Organization is to be that community catalyst. In its first year, Discover Sugar River Region aims to solidify its brand identity, establish key performance indicators, and set long-term objectives while executing initial marketing strategies, materials, and approaches as detailed in this plan.

Through partnerships and active involvement within the community, the organization endeavors to enhance recognition of the destination and its exceptional tourism offerings by employing narrative-driven campaigns and collaborative promotional efforts within the constraints of a budget.

Creating strategic organizational objectives in Destination Management Organizations and positioning a brand as a catalyst in the tourism industry:

The overall objectives of a destination marketing strategy are to:

  • define the brand positioning and guiding principles 
  • create strategic goals
  • identify the target audience
  • outline tactics to deploy

For Discover Sugar River Region, there is a geographic focus in their marketing strategy with the hopes of targeting visitors a short drive distance away (including Vermont, Massachusetts, southwest Main, and east central New York). Other targets are long drive/coach bus roach trippers to New England. Amtrak travelers on the Vermonter represent a potential market as well. 

The goal of the project is to target people in the tourism market seeking family fun, local creativity (art enthusiasts, specifically). As well as outdoor adventurers, history, and seasonal travel.

Social media is being employed as an important tool in the marketing process. Local businesses, resorts, and events can be broadcast to the public and reach new people. The DMO can help curate its brand through social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and its website.

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge in Cornish, NH
The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge spanning the Connecticut River

The Arts as a Catalyst used by Destination Management Organizations

A study done by Americans for the Arts looked at the Economic and Social Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and their audiences in Sullivan County, NH. They conducted a survey in 373 diverse regions of the county, Sullivan County being one of them. 

The survey asked how much “Audiences Demonstrate Appreciation for the Impact of Arts and Culture”

  • 79.1% said this venue of facility is an important pillar for me within my community
  • 85.4% said “I would feel a great sense of loss if this activity or venue were no longer available”
  • 89.0% said “This activity or venue is inspiring a sense of pride in this neighborhood or community”
  • 86/9% said “My attendance is my way of ensuring that this activity or venue is preserved for future generations”

Based on this survey, the residents of the Sugar River Region value the arts and its impact. The study showed the economic and social impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry. Surprisingly, in Sullivan County, the sector generates $10.2 million in overall economic activity during 2022.

Arts and culture strengthen the visitor economy, with 41.9% of attendees who are nonlocal visitors spending $37.71. 78.9% of nonlocal visitors stated that their primary purpose of visiting the region was to attend an art-related event.

So, Discover River Region aims to continue supporting the development of the arts in the region further, as it is one of the main economic drivers.

Children drawing in a park
Children drawing in a park

Destination Management Organization Creating a Brand to be a Catalyst in Collaboration with the Community:

The Chairperson of the Board of Directors for DSRR and Chamber of Commerce, Elyse Crossman, hopes the DMO will help create a regional sense of identity and pride in the region. The area has long been overlooked in New Hampshire, and she hopes this will slowly change through their tourism development work.

Infographic explaining the various agencies involved in supporting DSRR
Infographic explaining the various agencies involved in supporting DSRR

The DMO is still in its early stages, so the extent of its success as a community catalyst is still to be determined; but Elyse Crossman has high hopes. One of the things Solimar brought to the process is helping everyone get to their vision of a shared identity. During the development, Elyse has seen a willingness to collaborate from local businesses that she has never seen before.

Developing a Sustainable Future for The Sugar River Region

Ultimately, the goal of Solimar’s work in the region is to set up a DMO that will run smoothly after the contract is finished. The project is off to a successful start, but there is still vital work to be done to ensure its long-term viability.

The Sugar River Region Project team to lay the foundation for the DMO to run smoothly into the future. Additionally, community engagement and collaboration are key to the success of this endeavor. The overall hope of the DMO is to increase the quality of life for residents of the region through economic stimulation. This will make the Sugar River Region a desirable destination to visit, work, and live.

Aerial photograph of Downtown Claremont, New Hampshire
Aerial photograph of Downtown Claremont, New Hampshire

Learn more about the Sugar River Region and all of the great things to see, do, and eat in the region HERE!

 

Local artisans Vietnam

Local Artisans and Craftsmanship Revival Through Tourism

Artisan development and craftsmanship are important tools for local economic development and job creation. Tourism has helped restore and close the disconnect between rural and urban craftsmen and their networks and markets. The increased influx of visitors has provided artisans with a greater market presence and demand for their goods and services, pushing their craft businesses to new heights of success and sustainability.

However, there remains the potential for greater promotion of these economic activities within the tourism sector. As well as the preservation of crafts by bringing in opportunities to local artisans. By working closely with artisans, we can capitalize on and promote their existing traditions and artistic products. Let’s ensure that these valuable cultural assets are preserved and shared with a wider audience. Together, we will explore the dual benefits and synergies that emerge through local artisans and craftsmanship and tourism. Craftsmanship not only invites tourism and destination development through the authenticity and uniqueness of its attractions, but tourism also supports local artisans and cultural entrepreneurs, fostering shared prosperity. Join us in celebrating the resilience of cultural heritage and sustainable tourism. Discover how local artisans create a sense of identity, belonging, and community cohesion.

Preserving Heritage: Traditional Craftsmanship and Architecture in Old Cairo, Egypt

Celebrating Intangible Cultural Heritage

The year 2023 marks a significant milestone in the world of cultural preservation. We celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, adopted on October 17, 2003, by the 32nd session of the General Conference of UNESCO. Honoring cultural identities bridges the gap between different social groups. It also leads to upward mobility. This anniversary provides a unique opportunity for all to raise awareness about the diversity and richness of intangible cultural heritage and in fostering international cooperation.

What are Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Cultural heritage is a broad term that includes tangible and intangible expressions of human culture:

  • Tangible cultural heritage refers to physical objects and areas with societal significance, such as archaeological sites, museum collections, landmarks, and, for example, the places that are listed on the World Heritage List. These can be preserved and transmitted to future generations through conservation, restoration, and education.
  • Intangible cultural heritage, on the other hand, refers to traditions or living expressions and practices. It includes performing arts, rituals and festivals, traditional knowledge and skills to produce crafts, and languages. Because intangible heritage is constantly recreated, it is transmitted through oral transmission, apprenticeship, and participation.

Shanghai’s Intangible Cultural Heritage: Handcrafting Traditions in China

Artisanal Preservation, Conservation, and Sustainability

As custodians of intangible cultural heritage, there is a need to grow the socioeconomic status of artisans. We need to protect traditions and promote the development of sustainable practices. Artisanal crafts play a significant role in conservation efforts by fostering ecological and cultural preservation. Traditional tribal crafts provide alternative income sources for local communities, reducing their dependency on forest resources for subsistence. This, in turn, helps mitigate the current social-ecological crisis while promoting the renewal of biodiversity and cultures.

Furthermore, maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing interconnectedness and globalization can help with intercultural dialogue while encouraging inclusive thinking and mutual respect for other ways of life. Local artisans pass down their knowledge, skills, and craftsmanship from one generation to the next. Their work is not only about creating beautiful products. It’s about sustaining the stories, rituals, and practices that define who we are as a society.

Narrative Artistry: Unveiling China’s Vibrant Performance Traditions

Unlocking the Power of the Creative Economy

The creative economy, as a set of art and culture, design, and innovation industries, creates job opportunities and stimulates economic growth. It promotes entrepreneurship in the cultural sector, leading to an overall diversification of national economies. The creative economy contributes contributes just over 6.1% to the global gross domestic product (GDP), averaging between 2% and 7% of national GDPs worldwide.

Creative assets have untapped potential to deliver socially inclusive, competitive, regenerative, and economic benefits for cities and communities. Cultural and creative industries are at the heart of the creative economy and make cities more attractive places for both residents and visitors.

Understanding Cultural and Creative Industries

Cultural and creative industries are economic activities that enable culture and creativity to contribute to and promote rural-urban and socio-economic development. These industries safeguard local ownership and contribute to social cohesion at the grassroots level. They enable creative networks to develop and create opportunities for marginalized communities and individuals who are often economically excluded.

According to estimates from UNESCO, the cultural and creative industries currently provide nearly 30 million jobs worldwide and employ more people aged 15−29 than any other sector. Nearly half of the people working in the cultural and creative industries are women. This opens up new opportunities to address gender inequalities and women-focused investments.

Empowering Artistry: Women Crafting in West Bangalore, India

In 2021, the European Union expanded its Creative Europe programme, which now includes a budget of € 2.44 billion, compared to € 1.47 billion of the previous programme (2014-2020). The objectives of the programme are to enhance European cultural and creative industries, which, as expressed by the European Commission, include:

  • Architecture
  • Libraries and museums
  • Design and artistic crafts
  • Audiovisual, including radio, music, and visual arts
  • Tangible and intangible cultural heritage
  • Festivals and performing arts
  • Literature, books, and publishing

Tokens of Remembrance in Paris, France: Cultural and Creative Industries in Souvenir Craft

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights the significant social impacts of cultural and creative sectors and industries, from supporting health and well-being to promoting social inclusion and local social capital. UNESCO and the World Bank have developed a Cities, Culture, and Creativity Framework to support cities in unlocking the power of cultural and creative industries for sustainable urban development, city competitiveness, and social inclusion.

Leveraging Tourism to Support Cultural Products, Values, and Heritage

Cultural and creative industries offer tourists an emotional experience that is different from tangible cultural heritage. Today’s high-value travelers seek authentic cultural experiences. Visitors want to go beyond just visiting landmarks and monuments. They want to experience the social practices that shape cities’ identities and cultures.

Fostering Tourism and Empowering Artisans

Cultural heritage and sustainable tourism preserve and celebrate authentic cultural expressions while fostering inclusive growth and community well-being. When tourism underpins cultural and creative industries, artisans are empowered. Their practices and customs are supported. This fuels economic vitality and establishes a relationship between cultural preservation and sustainable destination development.

Beijing’s Artistic Heritage: Handcrafts in China

Solimar’s Craft and Tourism Program improves the cohesion between the craft and tourism sectors. It does so by creating stronger linkages between the two along an integrated value chain. At Solimar, we recognize the dual benefits and synergies that exist between craftsmanship and tourism. By increasing access to the tourism market, artisans can grow their revenues and profitability. We thus link tourism demand with craft supply, creating direct linkages between craft and tourism experts and developing integrated marketing and promotion tools to help with destination planning. This, in turn, invites tourists and strengthens the networks and circuits in and around craft workshops. As a feasible strategy for local economic development, it allows the craft producer to build relationships with tourists. It also promotes and sustains traditional craft production practices.

The Importance of Diversification and Innovation in Destination Development

Handcrafts remain an important tool in traditional craftsmanship. Tourists often buy different products to take home as souvenirs or gifts. However, many tourists want to have a varied and rich experience that extends beyond handcrafts and towards gastronomy, performances, local costumes, traditional-style homestays, vernacular architecture, and all other cultural and creative industries that specialize in any particular tourism destination. This fills the hearts and minds of travelers with an emotional experience they will never forget when visiting a new destination. Let alone contributing to a longer stay, which means more spending and a higher rate of tourist satisfaction. Tourists now seek immersive experiences. This includes hands-on crafting, dancing with artisans, and cooking traditional food alongside locals, which promotes slow food and the value of leisurely dining over fast food.

Anhui, China’s Tea Festival: Savoring Tradition and Taste

The Culinary Tapestry of Experience

In the realm of tourism, gastronomy and cuisine hold a key role. The power of local flavors, recipes, and culinary traditions is remarkable. As tourists engage in these adventures, they not only savor the taste of a region but become part of the cultural narrative. Dining becomes an art form, and it is within this artistry that the emotional experience takes root. Travelers are filled with a profound connection to the destination, its people, and its heritage when they share in the preparation and enjoyment of local dishes.

Creative and Innovative Street Food Gastronomy in Hanoi, Vietnam

The journey shifts from being a passive observer to an active participant, shaping a more memorable and profound experience for all. The future of destination development lies in embracing diversity and innovation. Weaving together the threads of tradition and creativity into experiences that captivate and resonate with modern travelers.

The Way Forward and Recommendations

As we conclude our exploration into the revival of local artisans and craftsmanship through tourism, it is evident that the journey is rich with significance, promise, and optimism. Our understanding of the mutual gains and synergies created by the partnership between craftsmanship and tourism has illuminated the path to more inclusive and resilient travel. The importance of intangible cultural heritage cannot be discounted as we shift from a focus on tangible patterns to a profound appreciation for the customs, traditions, and practices that define identities and cultures.

Cities around the world must effectively provide the means and resources to promote the development of creative and cultural industries. The creative economy holds important outcomes in terms of urban regeneration, local economic development, and social inclusion. For tourism and social inclusiveness to be resilient, diversification and innovation in destination development are needed. Celebrating handcrafts, local costumes, performances, and gastronomy have become key components in providing visitors with immersive and emotional experiences.

In the ever-evolving world of travel, it’s not just about seeing new places but about participating in the cultural stories of communities. As tourists seek deeper, more meaningful connections, artisans and local traditions take center stage, crafting unforgettable experiences that contribute to a longer stay and higher rates of satisfaction. The future of tourism and destination development hinges on embracing the diversity, heritage, and innovation that local artisans bring to the table. As we move forward, let us continue to support and celebrate the local artisans who are the guardians of living heritage, ensuring that it thrives for generations to come.

Interested in how we can help you with artisan development and linkages? Contact us to learn more.

Man from the Lacandon Indigenous community in the Maya Lacanjá Chansayab ecotourism area in Mexico.

 

Two women standing in front of a market stall that sells traditional crafts in Oaxaca, Mexico, showcasing a basic form of indigenous involvement in tourism development programs.
Two women standing in front of a market stall that sells traditional crafts in Oaxaca, Mexico, showcasing a basic form of indigenous involvement in tourism development programs. However, most of these products are not authentic and are sold as a response to uninformed tourist demand.

Indigenous involvement in tourism development is crucial

Picture this: cultural education and interpretation that breathe life into traditions, a vibrant marketplace brimming with authentic cultural treasures, the rallying cry of policy advocacy and representation, and the gentle footprints of ecotourism echoing through ancestral lands. Indigenous communities showcase some of the world’s richest and uniquely diverse cultures, a stark departure from the Eurocentric norms many people are accustomed to.  This captivating contrast is driving the surge in cultural tourism, propelling it as one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry. Within this realm, travelers seek encounters with gastronomy, heritage, religious sites, craftsmanship, and festivals, all offering a captivating lens through which to view the world. 

Similarly, according to a report by the TICAA Consortium, Indigenous communities around the world conserve around 22% of the biodiversity of the Earth and around 21% of the global land. This represents a more significant percentage than the land and biodiversity conserved by States, including federal lands and national parks. Several scholars agree that the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples is valuable for land and resource conservation. Thus, their involvement in development programs, including tourism development programs, is essential. 

Tourism can stimulate economies, promote infrastructure development, and protect natural and cultural resources. However, it’s crucial to recognize its impact on Indigenous communities and the need for cultural connection. The reckless commodification of cultural assets alienates Indigenous communities, perpetuates cultural exploitation, and endangers biodiversity. Indigenous Involvement in the decision-making processes of tourism development and policy formulation is essential to ensure that the magic of cultural tourism benefits everyone involved, preserving authenticity and fostering mutual understanding.

Exploring Indigenous and cultural tourism

Indigenous tourism, a form of cultural exchange celebrating Indigenous cultures, relies on the active involvement of Indigenous communities. This involves cultural tours, homestays, art exhibitions, storytelling, and traditional activities. Examples of these include the Canadian coastal adventures curated by Abegweit Mi’kmaq Nation, the hiking tourism trail led by the Raramuris in Mexico, and the Daintree Rainforest experiences organized and executed by Kuku Yalanji people of Australia. When done correctly, Indigenous tourism goes beyond low-skill labor and contributes to the well-being and empowerment of Indigenous peoples. 

However, an example of how easily governments can exploit cultural assets without actively involving Indigenous Peoples is the use of prehispanic cultural heritage in the Maya area of Mexico where the federal government has approved the construction of several infrastructure projects such as Xcaret, offering the ancient Maya culture as an attraction (essentially, cultural appropriation), and where contemporary Maya people are usually only employed as low-skill labor. By reevaluating actions, utilizing international legal frameworks, and stepping back from a critical perspective, significant improvements can be made.

A representation of an ancient Maya ritual in the Xcaret Park that shows the involvement of indigenous people in the tourism program but can also be considered cultural appropriation.
The Maya ritual in Xcaret Park showcases indigenous participation in tourism, but may also be seen as cultural appropriation. Photo by Beth and Anth from Flickr.

Stages of involvement of Indigenous people in Tourism

For centuries, Indigenous communities have been participating in tourism. Initially, visitors commodified them for pleasure, but as awareness grew, they began exhibiting their artifacts and traditions. This phase led to the realization that preserving culture was crucial, but actions toward preservation often happened outside the communities. Today, Indigenous communities actively engage in tourism, sharing their culture and traditions with visitors, asserting control over their cultural and natural resources, and taking the reins of their own narratives.

International law, such as the International Labor Organization Convention No. 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recognizes and protects the rights of Indigenous peoples, including self-determination, cultural preservation, and involvement in land and resource decisions. These frameworks promote equality, justice, and respect for diverse cultures, and they have been the starting point of the involvement of Indigenous People in tourism development programs as agents rather than as elements of observation. In practice, challenges and conflicts may arise when balancing economic development with the rights and well-being of indigenous communities. Tourism development requires collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society organizations to respect indigenous communities’ rights and ensure meaningful benefits.

Man from the Lacandon Indigenous community of the Maya Lacanjá Chansayab ecotourism area in Chiapas, Mexico.
A man from the Lacandon Indigenous community in the Maya Lacanjá Chansayab ecotourism area in Mexico.

Why Indigenous involvement in tourism development holds significance

We can acknowledge Indigenous communities’ autonomy by empowering them economically, socially, politically, and psychologically while recognizing their historical oppression. Thoughtfully planned and community-led tourism development can help achieve this change:

Economic empowerment: Tourism, including guided tours, homestays, artisan crafts, and local food, can provide Indigenous populations with a sustainable revenue source. It can also diversify sources of income, minimize reliance on a particular business, and generate employment opportunities within the community

Social empowerment: Tourism can help keep Indigenous customs and cultures alive. Communities are inspired to uphold their cultural heritage when tourists actively engage with them. Similarly, as Indigenous communities collaborate to promote their culture and oversee tourism-related activities, tourism can help them feel more united.

Political empowerment: Indigenous groups have greater influence in discussions on land rights and tourism development, given their rights to their ancestral lands and resources. This ensures federal governments consider their opinions in the policy-making processes.

Psychological empowerment: As Indigenous tribes share and are recognized for their distinctive traditions, tourism can increase cultural pride within those communities. When communities take control of their tourism projects, their sense of identity, purpose, value, and self-esteem can be strengthened. 

This empowerment is also linked to the conservation of cultural and natural resources. Indigenous tourism serves as a means to preserve and revitalize cultures by providing a platform for the transmission of traditional knowledge and practices to future generations. This can foster cross-cultural understanding, environmental stewardship, and the promotion of responsible tourism.

UNWTO Recommendations

Several means can achieve these measures, but the United Nations World Tourism Organization offers recommendations that should be considered:

  •       Respect for the cultural values and the cultural capital of Indigenous groups.
  •       Transparent and permanent consultation with the Indigenous communities.
  •       Equitable partnerships that ensure the protection and conservation of their natural and cultural resources, as well as their intellectual property.
  •       Protection of these groups to ensure the evitability of the adverse outcomes of any tourism development plan.
  •       Design of Indigenous tourism products in collaboration with Indigenous communities.
  •       Distribution of benefits to the Indigenous communities.

The active involvement of indigenous peoples in tourism development not only enriches the visitor experience but also serves as a powerful means to showcase their abundant cultural heritage and profound wisdom.

Local woman, with a colorful skirt, dancing with a basket on her head during the Guelaguetza celebrations in Oaxaca, Mexico, a festival that is known to showcase indigenous traditions and attracts a considerable amount of tourism flow.
A woman in Oaxaca, Mexico, participates in the Guelaguetza celebrations, a festival showcasing indigenous traditions and attracting significant tourism.

Indigenous knowledge: a path to a brighter, inclusive future

Indigenous communities, through their traditional ecological knowledge, can also play a crucial role in environmental conservation. Integrating indigenous perspectives into tourism planning can balance economic development with environmental preservation, prioritizing nature-based experiences and incentivizing indigenous communities to protect their natural resources. In this sense, circular tourism, characterized by reducing waste, conserving resources, and engaging local communities, is a great collaborative approach. This is a great first step towards creating more responsible tourism practices aimed at cultural and environmental conservation.

Indigenous voices provide novel viewpoints, ground-breaking concepts, and revolutionary programs. Any tourism development program worth its salt must consider Indigenous communities’ rich cosmologies and respect their roles as valued partners in the preservation of both culture and nature. They have long fought for their due status as caretakers of their cultural and natural heritage, and are the beating heart of a more inclusive and sustainable future for the tourism industry – a beautiful dance between tradition and progress.

Interested in learning about how Solimar recognizes the importance of Indigenous involvement in tourism development? Click here to read about our projects.

A scuba diver explores ocean ecosystems off the coast of Saudi Arabia

We all know the age-old story of mass tourism. You know, the one where hordes of camera-clad tourists descend upon breathtaking destinations, casting a shadow over the authenticity of this once-hidden gem. While Instagram content flourishes, breathtaking locations are reduced to mere backdrops. Even worse, local communities often miss out on the benefits of the quick stop-in of the hordes. In this all-too-familiar tale, the negative impacts of tourism become evident. 

However, amidst this sea of tourists, a new tide is rising in the world of travel. In a refreshing trend, many tourists are shifting perspectives and prioritizing more sustainable and regenerative experiences. Travelers now yearn to learn about the diverse cultures they encounter and forge genuine connections with the places they explore. 

While we can’t ignore the potential drawbacks of tourism, we aim to provide readers with hope. This new wave of sustainable tourism has the power to change destinations’ environment, economy, infrastructure, and cultural heritage.

To shed more light on this transformative movement, we will quote insights from Solimar International’s Senior Project Manager, Micah Sorum. Sorum has been at the forefront of pioneering sustainable tourism initiatives. 

So, buckle up as we explore the multidimensional impacts of sustainable tourism beyond the surface-level figures. Stick around and learn how mindful travel can transform not only destinations but also our own perspectives and lives. 

The Impacts of Sustainable Tourism

Prioritizing Environmental Sustainability in the Tourism Industry: Strategies for a Greener Future

Breathtaking photo of a snorkeler exploring the crystal-clear, turquoise blue waters of Mahdia, Tunisia.
Mahdia, Tunisia (Photo by Mohamed Ben Zineb on Unsplash)

In a world grappling with global warming, it is imperative to prioritize environmental health. Incorporating environmental sustainability will be crucial for the future of tourism businesses: one of the top five most valuable exports in over 150 countries. This entails utilizing resources to meet the needs of the present generation while conserving the world for future generations. Let’s delve into the key impacts that responsible practices can have on the environment:

  1. Conservation and preservation of natural resources: Tourism can help protect valuable ecosystems and biodiversity by actively conserving and preserving natural resources.
  2. Responsible tourism practices, respecting wildlife and ecosystems: Encouraging responsible behavior among tourists, such as observing wildlife from a safe distance and following guidelines to minimize disturbance, helps protect and respect the natural environment.
  3. Collaboration and stakeholder engagement, supporting local communities: By collaborating with local communities, tourism can support their economic development while ensuring that the benefits of tourism reach the local population. This fosters a sense of ownership and encourages the preservation of cultural heritage.
  4. Education: Tourism provides a unique opportunity to educate travelers about environmental wellness. By raising awareness and promoting sustainable practices, tourists can become advocates for environmental conservation in their communities.

When successfully implemented, these aspects of sustainable tourism positively impact the environment. For instance, tourism can help support and preserve iconic nature, generating revenue that incentivizes its conservation. Micah emphasizes that “if the environment is an attraction, then it encourages the preservation of it. It can change the community’s perspective and how they see their own resources. If tourism is set up to benefit community members, then it’s an asset to them” (Sorum, 2023).

It is essential to recognize that mass tourism has the potential to be damaging to the environment. Visitors use strains of natural resources when it exceeds the environment’s coping ability. This is where ecotourism becomes essential for ensuring the sustainability of the industry. By balancing business interests and environmental concerns, ecotourism minimizes the negative impacts of visitor use on natural resources. The tourism industry holds a unique position to educate people worldwide about environmental protection. Through responsible practices, tourism can extend its reach and inspire individuals to take action to safeguard the environment.

When considering climate change, creative endeavors to mitigate tourism’s contribution will be essential to move forward in the industry. Sustainable transportation and energy-efficient accommodations are a couple of emerging practices that will be crucial to the future of this industry. An example of sustainable tourism’s impact is in the Caribbean nations, where the renewable energy infrastructure is underdeveloped and threatened by extreme weather events related to climate change.  Solimar International worked alongside the Inter-American Development Bank to design the “Caribbean Climate Smart Islands Program,” encouraging a transition to lower carbon emissions and create a climate-resilient community.

The tourism industry has a lot of influence and opportunities to positively impact the environment. Environmental sustainability and tourism go hand in hand; one will only succeed with the support of the other. Read more here about how Solimar’s mission is to do just that.  

Empowering Communities: The Transformative Power of Sustainable Tourism

Vibrant woven baskets from Gabes, Tunisia showcasing colorful decorations, traditional patterns, and a Hand of Fatima (Hamza) pendant.
Woven Baskets (Gabes, Tunisia – Photo by Yassine Khalfalli on Unsplash)

Sustainable tourism goes beyond short-term economic stimulation. It creates a positive ripple effect, transforming the economy and the lives of those directly impacted. By embracing ecotourism practices, we can unlock possibilities for communities worldwide.

At the heart of sustainable tourism impacts lies the power to offer employment opportunities. Micah notes the most impactful aspect of tourism is its ability to create jobs, “not just any job, but jobs that give people autonomy and control over the business and their lives” (2023). It’s not just about numbers; it’s about empowering individuals and families who may otherwise struggle to make ends meet. From tour operators to local suppliers, sustainable tourism creates a web of jobs that uplift communities from poverty.

Take this remarkable example in Jamaica, where Solimar developed a groundbreaking communication tool for businesses to connect with markets, funders, and stakeholders. By establishing a brand platform, creating an online training platform, and crafting business plans, Solimar raised awareness of community tourism and ensured its long-term sustainability. Through education and empowerment, the economic benefits flourished while the vibrant local culture took center stage. Solimar helped to establish and launch the Jamaica Community Experiences Brand in a way that ensures its longevity. Teaching the local community how to market themselves improves the economic benefits and culture. 

Sustainable tourism’s impact goes beyond economic empowerment. It also plays a crucial role in conservation funding. By generating revenue through responsible tourism practices, we can channel resources toward preserving the environments that attract visitors. This delicate balance between people and nature is vital for the future. Read more here about how Solimar’s work in the Cayman Islands creates a plan that bridges the gap between challenges.

The success of ecotourism in benefiting the economy depends on sustainable and responsible practices – cultural heritage and environmental health must be constantly ranked equal to economic means. Micah says this has everything to do with organization, stating that “so much of [balancing the economic benefits of tourism with the preservation of a destination’s natural and cultural heritage] is in the way that a destination has set itself up to be managed. Through DMO development, we ensure that someone is there to take over, representing local guides and gathering stakeholders for support on larger projects. We have to have an organizing unit to make it happen” (2023).

By maintaining a balance between economic development and environmental conservation, ecotourism can contribute to the overall sustainability of a destination. 

Building Communities: Tourism as a Tool for Infrastructure Development

Breathtaking winter view of the picturesque coastline in Hawaria, Tunisia, showcasing four majestic windmills standing against the lush green hills.
(Hawaria, Tunisia – Photo by Haythem Gataa on Unsplash)

When tourists visit a destination, they bring more than just their backpacks and cameras. The influx of visitors can put considerable strain on a location’s infrastructure. However, this influx of visitors can also motivate investment in a destination’s infrastructure. From a policy perspective, Micah Sorum of Solimar International says we can “look at the infrastructure to ensure tourism can grow in a sustainable way” (2023).  Here are a few aspects of infrastructure that tourism can impact:

  1. Roads: As tourist numbers rise, transportation demand increases. Local roads now serve both tourists and residents, leading to wear and tear, higher maintenance costs, and budget strains. However, this also presents an opportunity for job creation and improved infrastructure if development is responsible, benefiting tourists and the local community. In Tunisia, an emerging destination, tourists and locals alike can benefit from the Cap Bon touristic road that connects several popular destinations along a scenic route.
  2. Accommodation: The tourism boom demands new hotels and resorts but often neglects small businesses. However, staying in locally owned guest houses can support the community. Tunisia has seen a rise in guesthouses as local entrepreneurs transform unused spaces into beautiful, bookable rooms. In contrast to giant seaside resorts, these guesthouses offer locally sourced dishes and connect guests to other local experiences, ensuring that tourists’ money reaches more of the community. For example, look at Dar Ben Gacem, whose owner, Leila Ben Gacem, helps preserve cultural heritage and revitalize Tunis’s medina (traditional city) in addition to hosting guests.
  3. Utilities & Services: As tourism grows in an area, the demand for utilities such as water, electricity, and waste management also increases. Local authorities may invest in improving and expanding these services to cater to the needs of tourists and residents alike. A tourist in Tunisia would surely recognize the need for this improvement. With record-breaking heat surges, Tunisia saw its hottest summer yet. Efforts to beat the heat resulted in frequent power outages across the country from energy overconsumption.
  4. Communication: Tourism can drive the need for better communication infrastructure, including internet and mobile networks, ensuring that tourists stay connected during their travels and benefiting residents.
  5. Urban Renewal: To attract tourists, destinations may invest in urban renewal projects and beautification initiatives, making their appearance more appealing to visitors and residents alike. While these initiatives walk the delicate line between restoration and gentrification, careful and considerate planning from local leaders can ensure that communities maintain authenticity amidst renewal projects.

Preserving Communities: How Tourism Can Protect Cultural Heritage 

Traditional Tunisian woman wearing stunning gold pendant and bead necklace, vibrant top with traditional patterns, intricate henna designs on hands, matching beaded belt with gold pendants, and rings.
(Traditional Accessories in Tunisia – Photo by Seif Eddin Khayat on Unsplash)

According to Solimar International’s Micah Sorum, tourism can be “a way to preserve cultural heritage” (2023). Citing immersive experiences like artisan workshops and dance classes, Sorum argues that “tourism that’s well designed and well implemented” can be a valuable tool for cultural preservation (2023).  Tourism allows visitors to celebrate and learn about local traditions while supporting the livelihoods of artisans and performers. By visiting an emerging destination like Tunisia, travelers can engage in these preservation experiences. The options are limitless from traditional date product workshops in Kebili to tasting couscous in Tozeur. 

Additionally, Sorum explained how tourism “can fund the preservation of ruins and historical sites” (2023). Tourists’ entrance fees and contributions in a well-managed destination fund site maintenance and conservation efforts. In Tunisia, the UNESCO world heritage town of Kairouan is a testament to how tourism sustains cultural heritage. When guests explore massive historical mosques and the many other notable sites, they help contribute to their preservation, while local guides simultaneously ensure the stories of the ancient, holy city endure. 

Rooftop view of Mosque Okba (Great Mosque of Kairouan) in Kairoan, Tunisia during the enchanting golden hour of late afternoon.
(Mosque Okba, Photo by Haythem Gataa on Unsplash)

Cultural exchange opportunities foster mutual understanding between tourists and locals. As travelers immerse themselves in destinations’ customs and traditions, they gain an appreciation for their cultural heritage. Conversely, local communities benefit by fostering pride in their heritage. Finally, in the modern economy, mass production dominates the market. However, the economic benefits of cultural tourism help artisans continue their traditional practices without losing profits.

While sustainable tourism’s positive impacts on cultural preservation are evident, responsible practices must address challenges like over-commercialization. By embracing sustainable tourism, tourists can help safeguard the authenticity of cultural heritage in destinations like Tunisia. Mindful travel empowers communities, celebrates tradition, and ensures that these valuable treasures endure for generations to come.

Embracing the New Wave of Impactful, Sustainable Tourism

So, are you ready to be part of the new wave of tourism? Every member of the tourism industry, from travelers to tour operators, has a part to play in sustainable tourism impacts. It’s our shared responsibility to ensure these beautiful destinations remain beautiful for generations to come. 

Liked learning about sustainable travel and want to hear more? Take one of our courses or read more on our website today. Visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website here.

Blog by Isabella Hunt and Kat Selfe

Solimar International is known globally for our significant work in sustainable tourism initiatives. Engaging in enterprise readiness schemes, developing destination management organizations (DMO), and creating responsible tourism practices, the company is leading the way in countries that have huge economic potential for tourism post-COVID. And no one is better suited to help develop and achieve Solimar’s goals than Sylecia Johnston, our new project manager and DMO Development Solution lead.

Meet Sylecia Johnston!

Sylecia’s first family trip to Israel when she was just 13 months old initiated her life and love of travel, whether it be for education, business, or leisure. Throughout her career, she has also been heavily involved in the conservation of culture, heritage, environment and natural resources. 

Graduating from George Washington University with a degree in sustainable destination management, she has used her education to its full career benefit. “I’ve worked for a few different DMOs, various conservation non-profit organizations, and have sat on many boards and committees. Now, I’m ready to help establish Solimar’s DMO program on a global scale.”

Sylecia’s Work at Solimar

As a project manager at Solimar, she leads efforts and drives project communications in some of the countries that we work in. “I am one of the many project managers at Solimar, but because of the company’s reformatted structure, I am also leading DMO solutions for different destinations,” Johnston explained.

Johnston has actually followed Solimar since her days at university. “I am in my dream job right now,” she exclaimed. “Getting to step into this role at this time in my life is fortuitous. I am most excited about working with a team of individuals who are just as passionate about sustainable and regenerative tourism as I am.” 

This is her first time working with international development-funded projects like with USAID, but that doesn’t mean she is going to back down from a challenge. “I’m familiar with extensive government reporting, so I think it will be an easy transition to make,” she explained.

“What is great about a DMO is that there can be various levels of organization based on the needs or capacity of the destination, from the most basic forms to hugely elaborate with multiple committees and platforms,” explained Johnston. Because it is managed by stakeholders in the destination, DMO easiness is all about how open they are to make it as best as possible. DMOs can manage a simple website with essential information or a much more elaborate program – both can be equally effective,” she concluded.

Destination Dahar and Tunisia

Dahar area in Tunisia
Dahar Area in Tunisia (Wikimedia Commons)

Johnston is working on a wide array of DMO solutions for many Solimar projects, including the work to support Destination Dahar under the scope of the USAID Visit Tunisia project. Johnston is quite familiar with Tunisia. “Previous to Solimar, I was an independent consultant, and I had a client in Tunisia, so I have done a bit of research,” she elaborated. “I’ve also traveled there for vacation before, which has allowed me to keep up with the tourism industry in the country.”

Sylecia really enjoyed visiting Tunisia, despite any western world perceptions that are projected onto the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. “There is an opportunity for bridge building and cross-cultural understanding that could take place for more western tourists to be open to traveling to Tunisia,” she added.

This perception presents an obstacle to Destination Dahar eagerly promoting the Dahar region to travelers around the world. “Dahar is a region with some of the least economic opportunities in the whole country. Many in the local communities are abandoning their villages to go to Tunis or Sfax, or migrating to Europe. The main challenge is developing a robust organization’s product offerings, experiences, tourism management, and marketing that can find the next steps to drive economic growth in the area so that people are motivated to stay.”

The hills of Dahar
The hills of Dahar (Destination Dahar)

The hills of Dahar (Destination Dahar)

Because of her experience and some insight into the future of tourism in the MENA region, Johnston believes Tunisia is very eager and open to international tourism, especially for expanded regional strength and economic benefits through travel beyond the northeastern coastline. “Development in the MENA region will lead to more stability, and investment in the industry will help establish more business, making the destination better promoted and more open to international tourists,” she commented. 

As tourist industries around the world prepare to take full advantage of a post-COVID boom, they are going to need a reliable company with a dedicated workforce to help further establish themselves on a global scale. Sylecia’s invaluable experience in the travel industry will significantly help Solimar International in achieving these goals.

Learn more about Solimar’s DMO development process here, and join us in welcoming Sylecia to the Solimar team! 

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