Tag: sustainable tourism internship

Solimar International Internship

Why did I Choose to Intern with Solimar International?

Solimar international remote internship
Remote Internship with Solimar International. Photo: Jess Loiterton from Pexels.

As a recent graduate of the European Masters in Tourism Management program, a joint program with three universities in Denmark, Slovenia, and Spain. I was looking for an opportunity where my interests in sustainable tourism and social media marketing could be met. After researching Solimar International’s projects and internship requirements, it became apparent that Solimar International resonated with my passion and career goals.

I was confident that I would learn and grow a lot within this internship, as I’ve heard my friend’s positive feedback on her summer internship at Solimar International, and how her experience helped her secure a job. I was selected for a 4-month spring internship where I was assigned to work on a project in Liberia, a country of which I’ve heard so little. However, I was enthusiastic about gaining hands-on experience in sustainable tourism consulting and marketing to further my professional growth. I did not regret choosing Solimar International at all. I detail my experience below:

Overview of Liberia as a Country: Introduction to Destination

Liberia, located in West Africa, is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and the Atlantic Ocean. As the oldest republic in Africa, Liberia declared its independence in 1847, having been established as a settlement for freed American slaves. After Liberia’s civil wars from 1989 to 2003, many Liberians fled to the USA. Despite living abroad, they felt a strong connection to their home country. So when the wars ended, many Liberian refugees returned home with degrees and skills gained in America. These educated Liberian-Americans played a key role in rebuilding and reviving Liberia after the conflicts.

beach sunsets in liberia
Beach sunsets in Liberia. Photo credit: Solimar International

Because of long years of political instability, the economy remains extremely underdeveloped, though the tourism sector holds potential for growth and diversification. Thus, in 2019, tourism contributed 9.7% to Liberia’s GDP, totaling $641.3 million. 

Tourism in Liberia remains underdeveloped with improvements needed to infrastructure, including transportation, electricity, telecommunications, and accommodation facilities. Despite these obstacles, Liberia offers a unique experience for those with an adventurous spirit. This spirit is captured in its logo, “Liberia: Amazing Discoveries,” and its brand essence, “Freedom to Discover.”

Discovering the Gems of Liberia: 

liberia robertsport and monrovia
Robertsport and Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: Solimar International

Liberia offers a unique blend of natural wonders, rich cultural heritage, and ocean experience for tourists to explore. This country is rich in wildlife, biodiversity, history, and a deep connection among its people. 

Here’s a brief tourist’s guide to some of the must-see attractions in Liberia:

Natural Attractions:

  • Mount Nimba: Liberia’s tallest peak at 1,362 meters, offers stunning views and diverse wildlife in its lush rainforest habitat.
  • Kpatawee Waterfals: A refreshing cascade nestled in the countryside, accessible via a scenic hike through the forest.
  • Sapo National Park: One of West Africa’s last remaining primary rainforests, home to chimpanzees, forest elephants, and other endangered species.
  • Marshall Wetlands: A picturesque coastal with rivers, sandy beaches, mangrove forests, and abundant wildlife.

Cultural and Historic Sites:

  • Liberian National Museum (Monrovia): Showcasing Liberia’s cultural heritage and history through exhibitions and artifacts.
  • Providence Island: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the landing point for freed American slaves.

Ocean Experiences: 

  • Robertsport: Known as the “jewel of Liberian surfing,” with year-round warm weather and excellent surf conditions.
  • Sport fishing in Liberia is the ultimate dream for any angler, offering the chance to catch five species of fish within 24 hours.

Developing Tourism and Promoting Liberia as a Destination: Project Overview

Liberia has some of the last large areas of the Upper Guinean Rainforest. These forests make up over 40% of the remaining forests with the highest levels of biodiversity. Therefore, Liberia received assistance from the USAID Conservation Works activity to protect these areas. This project was carried out collectively by a group of partners. They aimed to manage protected areas and work with local communities. Above all, they focused on promoting economic growth through sectors like tourism.

As an intern, I worked on the USAID Conservation Works activity with Solimar International, partnering with the Liberian Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism (MICAT). I supported the implementation of Liberia’s Tourism Marketing Plan and Branding Strategy through developing content for Liberia’s official tourism website, EnjoyLiberia.Travel, and assisting with Conservation Work’s Market Readiness Program by guiding small businesses in digital marketing. 

By 2025, the aim is for Liberia to become a fast-growing destination. It seeks to have well-developed tourist facilities and high-quality tourism products for adventure seekers, both internationally and domestically. The plan focuses on leveraging digital marketing strategies and optimized content. This will boost Liberia’s online presence and attract potential visitors. Additionally, Solimar International works closely with local communities. They foster workshops and develop sustainable tourism opportunities that showcase Liberia’s natural and cultural attractions.

sandy beaches in liberia
Beaches in Liberia. Photo: Solimar International

Main Tasks Accomplished as an Intern: 

Creating Tourism Content for Solimar International’s Website

  • Developed a blog titled Present and Future of AI Evolution in Tourism,” highlighting future trends, pros, and cons of AI in tourism, with examples of companies using AI. After refining the content with feedback from colleagues, the blog was presented to the team and received high praise.
  • Learned to optimize a blog by adding keywords, meta descriptions, and improving content structure to boost SEO performance. 

Content Creation through Storytelling for the Liberian Official Tourism Website:

  • Wrote 4 blogs developing detailed destination guides for Liberia’s top attractions like surfing in Robertsport, sport fishing, cultural sites, and Liberian-made products, outlining practical travel tips and itineraries.
  • Conducted keyword research and optimized content for high-volume, relevant keywords like “Liberia tourism”, “Liberia surfing”, “Amazing Liberia”, and “Top West African” based on EnjoyLiberia.Travel website data to improve visibility and target specific audiences.

Collaboration with Local Businesses:

  • Showcased stories of 4 local brands offering artisanal souvenirs and authentic experiences to tourists, captivating social media storytelling to attract the target audience segments.
  • Featured 2 interviews with local businesses like Liberian Cocoa Corporation and Extreme Fishing Liberia, highlighting their stories and community impact in blogs for  EnjoyLiberia.Travel and providing guides for tourists to visit them.

Conservation Work’s Market Readiness Program for Small Businesses: 

  • Developed how-to guides for small enterprises on using Instagram and Facebook effectively to boost social media presence in the tourism sector.
  • Reviewed and provided feedback for 18 tourism businesses to improve their digital presence on multiple platforms across FB, IG, WhatsApp, TripAdvisor, Google Listing, and others.
  • Included valuable information in the marketing learning presentation of the Social Media Bootcamp for small businesses on how to shoot content professionally with scarcity of resources and how to create engaging content for captivating storytelling.
  • Collaborated with another intern to document changes made by small tourism businesses enrolled in the Social Media Bootcamp.
  • Developed individual how-to guides for automation and suggested text for social media sites, considering local businesses’ limited marketing budgets.

Internship Impact and Learnings 

An unforgettable aspect of this four-month internship was witnessing my SEO-optimized blog’s success. “Surfing the West African Coast: All You Need to Know About Robertsport, Liberia” was published on EnjoyLiberia.travel. As a result, it inspired 11 tourists to come and surf the waves in Robertsport, Liberia. Through this opportunity, I honed valuable skills in writing structured blogs using SEO keywords and WordPress. I also gained experience conducting interviews and working in an international team. Most importantly, I learned to create engaging, informative content through storytelling and optimizing it for search engines.

Seeing my work align with and contribute to the objectives of the USAID Conservation Works, Solimar International, and the Liberian Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICAT) by attracting tourists to Liberia was incredibly gratifying. This experience has solidified my passion for using content creation and digital marketing as powerful tools to drive positive impact and promote tourism destinations and companies involved in the tourism sector. 

Learn more about the virtual sustainable tourism internship here. To join Solimar International’s internship program, simply submit an application form. Stay connected with Solimar on Facebook and LinkedIn!

solimar international internship world

At Solimar International, we hold three virtual internship programs every spring, summer and fall that are dedicated to advancing future sustainable tourism industry leaders. In this blog, two of our Summer 2022 share their experiences working on different tourism development projects around the world.

1. Reflections from Isaac Herzog, student at Cornell University and Solimar Summer 2022 Intern:

My Relationship with Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste is a small country in the Pacific Ocean that many in the West have never heard of. Populated by many Austronesian peoples, the island of Timor already had rich traditions by the time it was colonized by the Dutch and Portuguese. After the country gained its independence from the Portuguese empire, Indonesia’s Suharto regime quickly stepped in and took over the country in a bloody war. Finally gaining independence in 2002, Timor-Leste is now a developing nation with a population of about 1.3 million people.

The nation is divided into 14 municipalities. One such division, Ataúro, is an island off the north coast of Dili, the capital city. Ataúro is unique in so many ways and has so much to teach the world. This summer in my internship at Solimar International, I helped the team support ATKOMA, a Destination Management Organization (DMO) based on Ataúro.

Although all I had heard about Timor-Leste before this summer, I was fascinated by the burgeoning nation as I learned more. How small nations’ economies function, what public infrastructure is like, the maritime history, etc. always interested me in regards to small nations, and Timor-Leste was no exception. So, when prompted in the internship application what area I would most like to work with, I jumped at the opportunity to work with Timor-Leste, learn as much as I could about the nation, and help in any way that I could.

Timor-Leste on a map

Challenges Going In

Having never worked in tourism previously and having very little knowledge about Timor-Leste beforehand, I was ill-prepared for the realities of tourism on the island. Firstly, the island is incredibly small and sparsely populated. As it is one of the smaller provinces of an already small country, Ataúro’s population is around 10,000 people; and half are subsistence farmers. This means that half of Ataúro’s population is not considered to be “economically active” because they don’t have incomes and don’t, en masse, participate in markets (literal and economic). Instead, such folks grow, produce, kill, or catch their own food.

Secondly, there aren’t grocery stores, fast food chains, bars, or even really any shops. Most shopping on the island is done at the Beloi Market–the largest on the island–held every Thursday and Saturday. If not there, each village or community usually has markets, some artisanal store to sell handmade goods like baskets and pots, or else you’d have to know someone to make you what you need.

In short, the island functions differently from the life that many visitors come from. And indeed, that is so much of the appeal to visitors of Ataúro: the detachment from the world; the idyllic and untouched land; calm and relaxed days; no sounds of car horns.

The Solimar International Internship

With such an international focus, Solimar International is a truly virtual company with staff members connecting from around the world. This meant that my internship was done through Slack and Zoom. Throughout the summer, I sat in apartments, cafes, and park benches to do my work. Looking back, my internship naturally had several epochs, each more rewarding than the next. 

remote internship solimar international
The internship is 100% remote!

First two weeks

To be expected, the first two weeks consisted of getting my sea legs, both for Solimar and Timor-Leste. When I was accepted into my internship, I was told I would work mostly with a company on Ataúro Island. After the first meeting, then, I spent several days doing Wikipedia dives, reading articles, and learning what there was to know about Timor Leste and Ataúro. The student that I am, I wanted to ensure that whatever work I produced for Solimar and ATKOMA would be properly informed, historically, culturally, linguistically, and otherwise. Plus, I elected to work with Timor Leste due to my interest, and I wanted to use this learning period to satiate my curiosity.

It was during this first week that I got a sense for the task that would be ahead of me. I found that there was in fact very little about Ataúro on the internet in the way of tourism. Most articles were either from ataurotourism.org, ATKOMA’s own site, or else Wikipedia. There were some scientific-catered pages, most discussing Ataúro’s hyper-biodiverse waters, but I could find very little travel advice. It was then clear to me why Solimar was hoping to have me aid with social media creation and blog writing. One of the most important tasks going forth was to improve ATKOMA’s presence online and to build its rapport.

After garnering a little background info on the country and island, I dove into meetings with the two women I would spend the rest of the summer working with. My two mentors, one who led my team of interns and the other who was heavily involved in ATKOMA, had a meeting with me to explain Solimar’s inner workings, what they wanted me to do this summer, and how they were going to support me. Feeling prepared, properly instructed, and pretty excited, I set out on my first tasks.

Continuing into the internship

Once I’d done some intro tasks, gotten to know my mentors, and learned the internal communication services, I was working daily in a coffee shop in my hometown. A significant portion of my work was blog writing, so each day I sat down at a cafe and wrote. I boosted ATKOMA’s social media presence as well, using Instagram and Facebook to improve their presence and recognition. At the same time, I chatted with a gentleman who’s been living on Ataúro for several years working as a dive instructor, hoping to hear a personal account of life on the island. I reached out to photographers via social media to hopefully increase our photo banks, as promoting the island is infinitely more effective if people can see its beauty.

Most rewarding in this middle period of my internship was sitting in on several decision-making Zoom calls and being a part of the mental calculus that Solimar made in our support of ATKOMA. The calls were attended by several of my superiors, the CEO of our company, and some members of ATKOMA, calling in from Ataúro. I found these calls very informative and rewarding, because while I had been effectively working for this local DMO, I finally got to hear some of their internal workings, learn about the nature of their business, their finances, and how Solimar interacts with its partners.

Beautiful white sand beaches of Ataúro Island

Final Days

Throughout my internship, I fell increasingly in love with the work I was doing for Solimar and ATKOMA. Every day, I looked forward to going to my same cafe, getting my same drink, talking with my mentors, writing, posting, and problem-solving. Whether I was writing a blog on doing a homestay in Ataúro, posting on Instagram asking folks to comment their best experiences on the island, or researching payment gateways, every day was a thrill.

By the end, I had written a handful of blogs that I was really proud of, steadily increased ATKOMA’s social media presence, and been an omnipresent aid to my mentors (I’d like to think). As the final weeks of my internship came, I was moving back to my university for my final year, recruiting for my choral group, all the while working for Solimar. It was during these hectic weeks that I came to reflect on all that I’ve learned.

Outcomes from interning at Solimar International

Having never worked in tourism before, my knowledge of the industry was deepened significantly this summer. But, though I learned about sustainable tourism, how to support communities’ DMOs, and the reality of international funding for such projects, most of my takeaways from this internship were what I learned from ATKOMA, Ataúro, and Timor Leste.

From my own work with ATKOMA, I learned that small communities can be economically revitalized with tourism, all while still respecting native traditions. Ataúro’s small villages and communities have indubitably become more viable and brought folks out of poverty by welcoming tourists, all the while asking them to respect the land, water, biodiversity, and way of life.

I also learned small business planning from ATKOMA and policies for small economies from Ataúro. A small organization on a small island in a small country, there are a lot of challenges that the DMO faces: how to hire skilled workers, how to accept payments from abroad, and how to advise on travel when the infrastructure is poor. These and many other questions that ATKOMA asked itself (and Solimar) brought me more perspective about small businesses, which I know are skills to bring into my future.

Additionally, this intern cohort also taught me valuable skills going forth. My fellow interns exposed me to different writing styles; showed me how they balanced travel, life, and work (something I had to learn myself); and brought their different experiences and perspectives into our work. 

Finally, it’s hard to overstate how influential and kind my two mentors were to me. Jenny and Chloe, both taught me so much about the industry, life after academics, how to balance life and work, and the importance of loving your work.

My internship with Solimar has been the most rewarding work I’ve put forth in my career thus far, and I very much hope to follow this career path in the future. 

Isaac Herzog, Solimar International Intern
Isaac Herzog, Summer 2022 Solimar International Intern


2. Reflections from Miles Rieker, student at UNC Chapel Hill and Summer 2022 Intern:

Upon applying for the Solimar internship, I knew very little about the company. I had taken a business course at my university the semester before, and one topic that stuck out to me was the subject of sustainability. At UNC, one of the focuses on sustainable businesses is the “Triple Bottom Line,” or people, planet, and profit. Businesses should run their operations with these three things in mind at all times. 

Upon seeing the Solimar opportunity come across my LinkedIn, I was immediately drawn to the idea of sustainable tourism. Using my tourism and world travel experience, I thought I could bring a unique perspective to the Solimar team. 

I was ready to dive right in and get started. The first project I worked on was a domestic project for the Inn and Tavern at Meander. It is a quaint, historical inn that has a real homey feel to it. I started by outlining the content plans for the year, and put together a PowerPoint on the topics that needed to be highlighted each month. I also focused on the target audience, and which demographics would respond to which strategy. This was a useful project for me, being a business major, and being able to see how a business breaks down their customers, and how they analyze potential patrons. It was useful to be on the planning side of things, and see how important it is to place an event at a certain time of the month, or during a certain season. It was important for me to see the value of having a detailed calendar and plan. Proposing those things to a committee for feedback can ensure the best possible results and a large reach to the target consumers. 

The Inn and Tavern at Meander

Moving forward into the next project team I worked with, I was “stationed” in Liberia, working on a project that has not come into fruition just yet. Liberia is an interesting subject matter, based on its past. Struggling through a civil war, only to be ravaged by the Ebola pandemic and then Coronavirus, this country may have one of the weakest infrastructures in the world. Utilizing Liberia’s coast could be very effective in establishing a DMO. There are surf destinations, and quaint beach villages, just booming with potential. The first steps, though, include research with the end goal of finding agencies to partner with. Through this process, I was able to learn how to discern which agencies have the largest audience. From there, the team can decide which specific ones to partner with. I found this information very valuable, as I am pursuing a degree in business. One of the most important takeaways I have from this summer is that marketing your product or service is an essential process. If you cannot effectively read an audience, no profit will be made, and in this case, no positive impact can be made in Liberia. 

The final project I assisted on was the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail Experience. For this project, I was mainly choosing and compiling pictures for the user experience through Bandwango. As I stated in my presentation, this job is very important, because you must choose to represent the site in a positive light. It must draw customers in, as well as accurately depict the attraction. This points back to the theme of promotion and marketing. The site already exists, so the next step is gaining and retaining an audience. The best avenue to do this is through marketing and promotion on platforms like Bandwango. That way, patrons can see exactly which attractions they want to visit, and what each one has in store.

Pittsburgh, the starting point of the LCNHT

It was beneficial for me to see projects at each of their different stages. Meander was well established, but looking for improvements. Liberia was in the very early stages, and the  LCNHT was very close to being completed. Each project was different, but shared similar tasks in the marketing and promotion realm. It was important for me to see that marketing is how you actually make the destination a true attraction. It was also eye opening to see the amount of jobs that creating a resort, for example, could bring into a community. Creating a destination does not only bring in cash flow to a country or community, but it also helps the citizens establish themselves in the world with a job and a place to live. Once these jobs are created, there can be almost a “trickle up” effect where the infrastructure is built up through the people.  

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Solimar, and learned a lot about running a sustainable business. Even in writing my blog about the Blue Economy, I was able to see the potential that sustainable tourism has to not only change a few countries here and there, but to change the entire world. Using the environment as a renewable resource, instead of taking the resources at an unhealthy rate is not only beneficial to the environment, but the community around the specific area. I truly do believe that Solimar as a company prides itself on thriving in the three areas of the Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, and Profit.

Miles Rieker, Summer 2022 Solimar International Intern
Miles Rieker, Summer 2022 Solimar International Intern


Are you interested in joining our next internship cohort? Learn more here.

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