Tag: #solimarinternational

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.

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!

 

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.

The iconic pyramid structure of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame based in Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland: A Case Study on Revitalization

A photo of the downtown Cleveland skyline
Downtown, Cleveland, Ohio by David Lennon; Licensed for free use from Pixelbay

As someone who grew up in a suburb just ten minutes south of downtown Cleveland, Ohio, I quickly became acquainted with the essence of living near a city that embodies the Rust Belt ethos, a once bustling metropolis with a population exceeding 914,000 people. Cleveland has seen a dramatic decline over the course of the last 50 years. Its current population barely reaches 370,000. This decline, coupled with the retreat of the steel industry, played a significant role in pushing the city into the Rust Belt category. Despite these challenges, Clevelanders continue to adapt; driven by an appreciation for the city’s unique character, many still call the city home.

Despite its historical setbacks, Cleveland’s tourism sector has shown impressive growth. In particular, Destination Cleveland, is one of Ohio’s premier Destination Marketing & Management Organizations (DMOs). Reported a notable 12% increase in visitors to Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Reaching around 19.7 million visitors – up from 17.6 million the previous year. This upward trajectory is promising, but the critical question remains: How does a city revive itself when its once-dominant industries have faded away? This challenge plagues destinations worldwide. Yet Cleveland’s response offers inspiration and a potential blueprint for others to follow – a testament to adaptation, cooperation, and progress.

Contemporary Success

Cleveland’s recent surge in tourism is due to the combination of its sporting and political events. The city is home to three major league sports teams: the Cleveland Cavaliers (basketball), the Cleveland Guardians (baseball), and the Cleveland Browns (football). Notably, Destination Cleveland’s data from 2016 revealed that a staggering 18 million people visited the city in 2016. While the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship parade and the Guardians’ success played a crucial role in achieving this record-breaking number, there was more to the story. Over the years, Cleveland saw a consistent increase in its annual visitor count, with an astonishing growth rate of nearly 3%. How did a city that welcomed only 13.7 million visitors in 2007 manage to attract 19.2 million visitors annually within a relatively short span of time?

Susan Glasser’s 2019 article on Cleveland.com featured insights from David Gilbert, the CEO & President of Destination Cleveland, shedding light on the organization’s successful approach. Two main factors emerged as pivotal: diversifying the range of appealing activities available and targeting local audiences with effective marketing efforts. Firstly, a destination should offer an enticing array of activities, ensuring visitors find something appealing. Secondly, gear marketing strategies towards local communities, focusing on attracting visitors from nearby cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh.

Cleveland’s journey from industrial lows to a soon-to-be thriving tourist destination showcases the power of strategic planning, community engagement, and leveraging the city’s unique assets. As cities worldwide grapple with their own revitalization challenges, the lessons learned from Cleveland’s success story could have a global impact, fostering a culture of resilience, adaptability, and collective success for destinations. 

Make No Mistake, This Is Cleveland!

Arts & Activities Abound

Cleveland boasts an array of captivating activities to cater to a wide range of interests. One shining gem is the Cleveland Playhouse, nestled in the heart of downtown within the vibrant Playhouse Square District. As the largest performing arts center outside of Broadway, it offers an immersive theater experience. Additionally, consider the Cleveland Museum of Art, which stands as a respected institution with an exceptional art collection. Highlighting India, Southeast Asia, and Egypt. For the music enthusiasts and history buffs. You may find your heart racing at the sight of the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A pyramid-shaped beacon that illuminates the incredible journey of Rock and Roll through the ages.

The iconic pyramid structure of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame based in Cleveland, Ohio
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by David Mark; Licensed for free use from Pixelbay

However, if these options don’t resonate with you, consider immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Lake Erie, a tranquil freshwater lake with a rich and storied history. Cleveland’s connection to this picturesque lake adds a unique dimension to its allure.

The wonderful Metroparks

Venturing further afield, the Cleveland Metroparks beckon with their diverse offerings. This expansive system of 18 reservations and over 100 hiking trails dot the Greater Ohio area. Provides an ideal escape into nature. As a hidden treasure within the Forest City, the Metroparks Zoo is another remarkable highlight. It’s worth noting that Cleveland boasts more greenery than even Northern California, a testament to the city’s commitment to preserving its natural spaces. The moniker Forest City accurately reflects the lush biodiversity of the Metroparks and the city.

My summer takeaway

One of Solimar International’s goals is to underwrite tourism projects while promoting sustainable tourism. Given the current demand for Northeast Ohio tourism, sustainable tourism is growing across Cleveland, besides the typical gentrification that is across the country. I have not witnessed any harm done to the city due to its tourism industry. Perhaps this is how citizens of Cleveland prefer it, keeping the living costs relatively cheap with an accompanying modest population. This will result in a tourism industry that ranges from nonexistence to treading water.

Why industry and climate change are crucial for adaptation.

Silicon Heartland!

Cleveland may have erratic tourist attractions on a year-to-year basis, but some developments can send more people to the city. With population growth on the horizon, more people will discover the city’s strengths. It doesn’t matter what the people want. As the city gets bigger, it must take its tourism more seriously. So, what developments make me believe the city will see a population bump? Earlier this year, in a joint press conference with President Biden. Governor Mike Dewine announced a deal to see the tech company Intel create a new chip manufacturing plant outside of Columbus in New Albany, Ohio.

The billions of investment dollars aim to transform factories across Ohio. A Silicon Valley in the Midwest, a Silicon Heartland, as citizens hope to coin it. This is arguably the most significant economic investment in the state, and if all goes well, the impact will be profound.

Being one of the larger cities in the Midwest, the cost of living is already a little higher. A future-proof technology company like Intel moving into the Buckeye state can immediately affect home prices. Cleveland is located about two hours north of the Columbus area. If housing becomes scarce, driving prices will rise. I imagine people will move further away for cheaper homes. If the plan to turn Ohio into a Silicon Heartland is successful, the state may see a population increase.

A hopeful climate forecast.

Climate change is another factor that I see potentially increasing the population of Cleveland, Ohio. Historic Cleveland holds the Mistake on the Lake moniker because of the city’s pollution problems affecting the adjourning Lake Erie. The Great Lakes contain the world’s largest supply of freshwater. Access has been a crisis, depending on where one lives. Suppose people in packed cities like Los Angeles already have to ration their water supplies in 2022. It is daunting to imagine what the near future holds for communities at risk of running out of water. Cities along the Great Lakes will only become more appealing as climate issues become more apparent.

Failing to Drive Adaptation

Poor financial foresight may harm

Recent local events, such as the closing of Sokolowski’s University Inn. A Cleveland staple for nearly 100 years. It was shocking to many, making headlines across the local news. Some blamed it on the economic times, but the restaurant was a tourist staple. Its location offers some of the best views of the city. It is also next to the recently made Cleveland script signs. The closure of these sites has made me concerned that my city would not be properly prepared to have sustainable tourism.

A recent Tax Levy for the MetroPark system also put fear in Clevelanders’ hearts. Given how much the city government promotes them. We Northeast Ohioans are lucky to have the MetroParks. I always assumed there was some special law that guaranteed their funding. Luckily, the levy passed with 77% approval, yet these numbers still concern me. These parks are the city’s best attraction. The fact that there was a slim possibility that the parks may lose funding deflated me. Some people just assume these great parks will always be there. They sadly do not think what can happen if they lose funding. We may be discounting the success of the Metroparks.

An Adaptation-Focused Mindset is All You Need

The apathetic attitudes of Clevelanders toward the few things they can be proud of have left me frustrated. If we cannot take care of our best tourist attractions, how can we possibly handle matters when push comes to shove? The Sokolowski house is still popular as the surrounding location has become a serene viewpoint for pictures of Greater Cleveland. There are rumors that the property is for sale. We won’t know if the buyer is a local or an out-of-towner.

The pristine Rocky River Reservation, one of Cleveland's most peaceful Metropark
Rocky River Reservation by Cleveland Metroparks

Can Cleveland maintain sustainable tourism with a hypothetical population surge?

One of my biggest takeaways from my Solimar Internship is that sustainable tourism relies on cooperation and innovation from all parties. From the stories I’ve heard, it can quickly become complicated and sometimes political. People can be stubborn and understandably resist exploitation. Claiming ownership over local attractions and city culture leads to mishaps, as we can see from the mishandling of Sokolowski’s house. As well as the proposed defunding of the Metroparks.

Overconfident businesses might make poor decisions simply because they have lived in a single community their whole lives. This does not translate to positive tourism for a city still debating funding its beloved public parks. Our community could fail to enact sustainable tourism. It is essential for the native people to be able to carry their weight when it comes to tourism. Otherwise, those from the outside will dictate the direction.

Hope for Cleveland’s future

This can either be a good or bad thing. But I know that if a young outsider introduces a business that doesn’t represent the city. It may rub the locals the wrong way. I’d love for Cleveland to transform into a Midwest Portland. Yet this rapid progress can be harmful to locals and their environment. That is why it is important for Clevelanders to know their story. While also focusing on what needs to change to maintain authenticity. The historic Ali Summit was held in downtown Cleveland in 1967. Itself, a pivotal moment within the American Civil Rights movement, has held more impact for Clevelanders. If Clevelanders aren’t aware, a possible increase in tourism may harm sites such as the historic Metroparks. Leaving many voters considerate to future levies.

Not being a destination city might be okay with the people of Cleveland now, but that can quickly change if more people choose to live or flock to our city. It is crucial that we prepare for adaptation without losing the essence of what makes Cleveland unique. By embracing common values, we can work harmoniously with inquisitive businesses and tourism companies. DMOs can focus on crafting experiences that benefit everyone. Regardless of the city’s evolution over the years, cultivating self-awareness and readiness for environmental changes remains paramount. Without proactive efforts, visitors might opt for other destinations. I would like to see Cleveland’s further success. I believe that adaptation and foresight from citizens to decision-makers are critical for success. Together, we can ensure that the belief in the land remains strong!

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Tourism for development

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

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

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

Tourism and the Economy

Can tourism drive sustainable economic development?

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

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

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

Tulum archaeological site, Mexico
Tulum archaeological site, Mexico

Tourism as a tool for economic prosperity

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

 

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

How Can Sustainable Tourism Preserve Cultural Heritage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Tourism Serve Community Development?

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

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

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

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

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

Tourism’s Potential for Development

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

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

Blog by Thomas Freilich and Josette Apple

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“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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