Tag: sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism certifications can help with these beautiful destinations

Sustainable tourism certifications are designed to voluntarily assess and monitor the environmental and social impacts of tourism organizations or destinations that facilitate tourism activities. Accreditation is done by certification bodies according to many criteria regarding business practices, social policy (i.e. human rights, fair labour, and child protection), environmental impact (i.e. CO2 emissions, water, waste, biodiversity, animal welfare), supply chain and procurement, business partners, and more.  To the consumer, these labels indicate that a baseline of generally accepted requirements for sustainable tourism is met and that the company is committed to a sustainable approach to the environment and the local community in a particular destination. But do sustainable tourism schemes truly work as intended?

Conventional Tourism

Conventional tourism has a negative impact on the globe. A 2018 study by Nature Climate Change reported that over 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions were traced back to the tourism industry. Wracked with carbon emissions, environmental and habitat damagecareless infrastructure development, and human rights violations, tourism is not often a champion of environmentalism. Furthermore, rarely does the money from tourism traffic filter down to individual people in tourism destinations. Many of the big players in tourism get wealthy, while small, independently-owned companies and individuals can be pushed out of popular destinations by increasing property values.

When the tourism industry in a destination becomes saturated with corporate interests, economic insecurity and growing wealth inequalities among local people in popular destinations, especially in the global South, can be the result. Rapid infrastructure development may contribute to environmental damage of fragile habitats, increased resource use can damage surrounding ecosystems and limit local access to critical resources including food and water, and the commodification of culture can compromise the authenticity and local community’s agency over their cultural practices. Furthermore, tourism is growing. In 1960, there were about 70 million international tourist arrivals. Today, there are almost 1.5 billion. This movement is immense and unlikely to wane.

Despite many ill environmental and social effects of conventional tourism, the benefits of truly sustainable tourism approaches are plenty. Tourism can strengthen communities with increasing tourist capital and economic opportunitiesreduce wealth inequality, incentivize investments in local infrastructure, including health care and education, facilitate cross-cultural exchange, and improve the visibility of important heritage sites, natural landscapes, and fragile ecosystems. The large numbers of travelers represent an opportunity to direct growing tourism into environmental and socially beneficial efforts. Thus, the question becomes even more potent in an increasingly global, and environmentally strained world: is there an avenue for tourism that can capitalize on the benefits of increasing tourist traffic, while minimizing the industry’s damages?

The Solution?

A movement towards more sustainable tourism, or ecotourism, can be part of this solution. Raising awareness about the impact of tourism and bringing stakeholders together is one way to achieve this through Sustainable Tourism Certifications. Over the past three decades, many initiatives have taken shape, with different sets of standards and resulting in many different schemes. Because the certification process is voluntary and because of the abundance of labels that are emerging, sustainable tourism certifications are often criticized and viewed as greenwashing (misleading labeling or unjustified claims of sustainable practices). Therefore, complete transparency of practices, measures, and results is the most important condition for a process toward sustainable development of an organization or destination.

When these schemes involve a number of stakeholders, including customers, small businesses, corporate interests, and local service providers, and consider the environmental impact of the effort as a whole entity, they can be incredibly valuable, sustainable, and regenerative economically and environmentally. These efforts could contribute to the achievement of many of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, including minimizing poverty, hunger, and gender inequalities, and improving education, work opportunities, safe industry and infrastructure, and responsible consumption.

Sustainable tourism certification schemes explained

The leading international organization in the field of tourism is UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization). They promote responsible, sustainable, and accessible tourism as a driver of economic growth and inclusive development. About 15 years ago, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) was formed by 32 tourism industry partners, including UNWTO and Solimar International, to foster universal sustainable tourism practices. They developed a method for accrediting certifying bodies and certification programs, with the aim that these programs are objective and transparent. In essence, the GSTC provides the standards and the stamp of approval of the certification programs themselves, rather than getting involved in the direct certification of businesses or destinations; that is the job of the numerous sustainable tourism certifications adopting GSTC criteria.

For example, Green Destinations is one GSTC-accredited certification body for destinations. They support global destinations and tourism organizations with their sustainable tourism certification schemes, focused on a sustainable management cycle of continuous improvement and assessment of responsible tourism. Green Destinations uses the GSTC criteria, adapted for specific destination contexts, to certify destinations based on their level of sustainability performance. Solimar International and Green Destinations are working together at the country level including in destinations like Timor-Leste and the Maldives to share best practices, such as through the Green Destinations Top 100 Competition, and the Green Destinations Good Travel Seal White Label Certification Scheme. These programs enable recognition of destination sustainability efforts while providing important information to travelers seeking sustainable experiences.

Several other notable schemes which are effective in encouraging environmental awareness may not be GSTC accredited, but they do include the GSTC standards and/or the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Blue Flag has a global accreditation program for beaches, marinas and tourism boats and promotes sustainable development in freshwater and marine areas. GreenKey audits and certifies tourism establishments (accommodation, restaurants, attractions and more) and promotes sustainable methods of operation and technologies, offering carbon and water calculation tools. Travelife is a certifying body for tour operators and travel agents. The program includes managing the impact of accommodation, transport and excursion providers. They offer a wide range of training and management tools to improve social and environmental impact in the destination. Biosphere tourism is a certification scheme that includes companies involved in destinations, events, hotels, and transportation, measuring environmental performance and social and cultural impacts.

Limitations of Sustainable Tourism Certification Schemes

Certification schemes are not without their complexities. Currently, over 100 companies claim to have developed sustainable tourism certification schemes to measure the impacts of tourism, from municipal waste, climate costs, and financial burdens. While these schemes tout their accreditation methods, many are certifying that the stakeholders they work for have met a minimum standard, instead of encouraging improved environmental and human conditions. Most certifications reward companies for doing their homework, but they don’t set standards for minimum wages, workers rights, and environmental initiatives.

Importantly, certification schemes must be transparent in order to be credible. Many resulting figures and measures from certifications are often unavailable to the consumer. Contrary to other certification schemes, sustainable tourism accreditation is often measuring progress or an effort to track progress against an unknown baseline. Certification programs such as Green Destinations offer destinations a goal to work towards improving their sustainability practices, which is an important aim in and of itself.

While it is critical that businesses measure impact and costs, the bigger picture can still have a negative impact. A company is part of a complex system, where the individual business may meet the criteria, but still harms the system as a whole. An example could be a certified hotel in a desert area. The hotel is incredibly resource intensive, extracting a depth of resources from a water-poor desert environment. Operations like this do not serve people or the environment.

In this case, the certifications the hotel has received are effective at attracting lucrative business and well-intentioned customers, but not for creating equitable environmental and social conditions for local ecosystems and people. Usually, there are no obligations to keep profits at the destination to contribute to this local ecosystem, but international chains shift their earnings to tax havens. Updating these certification schemes to include minimum requirements for acceptable environmental practices and working conditions for employees and include a fair contribution to the local ecosystem could hugely improve the broader sustainability goals.

Conclusion and Further Readings

Despite these limitations that can lead customers astray, the efforts to become a certified sustainable tourism business offer opportunities to improve environmental and social circumstances, address climate change, land use, animal welfare, and create healthy economies. Successful integration of sustainable practices and management can support a sustainable socioeconomic development strategy, increased economic security, and improved environmental conditions.

Do you represent a destination of tourism organization interested in being certified as sustainable? Solimar can help you to choose a certification program that suits your future sustainability goals. Contact us to learn more.

 

Written by Cat Padgett and Carla Rijnders on January 19, 2023
Tunisia, destination that uses situation analysis

What is A Situation Analysis?

Tourists at destination after successful tourism strategy
A successful tourism destination requires situation analysis.

Traveling to a destination can feel like an individual journey.  But, did you know that most tourism destinations develop thoughtful strategies to ensure their destinations attract visitors in intentional and measured ways? A tourism strategy is designed to highlight a destination’s best aspects, such as food and history, while also offering solutions to tourism challenges that a destination might face, such as limited infrastructure. A successful tourism strategy is a first step to making a country safe, educational, and enjoyable for travelers. Essential to every tourism strategy is a situation analysis that details the supply and demand of tourism to the destination along with the opportunities and challenges that a destination faces using techniques such as stakeholder interviews, online data analysis, and on-the-ground assessments. 

Why is a Situation Analysis Important?

The tourism industry is a critical source of  jobs and economic growth, as well as a decisive factor in a nation’s sustainable development. While a tourism strategy is necessary to help develop tourism, a cookie-cutter approach will not be effective at addressing each destination’s unique circumstances.  Thus, individualized situation analyses are critical for creating an effective tourism strategy. In this blog, we will examine some guidelines for performing an impactful situation analysis, as well as the use of situation analysis in one growing destination, Tunisia. 

Situation Analysis, as Explained by the World Bank

Analyzing data for situation analysis
Data analysis is a crucial aspect of conducting a situation analysis.

How do tourism practitioners go about conducting a situation analysis of a destination? Solimar International, for example, follows the strategy guidelines outlined by the World Bank, a global partnership dedicated to using sustainable solutions to combat poverty. Per the World Bank’s method, there are four essential steps to conducting a successful situation analysis.

  1. Project planning
  2. Desk-based  research 
  3. An in-country evaluation
  4. An analysis of their data to compile a report detailing both their research and conclusions

Each step requires complex research, discussion, and analysis. Within these guidelines, the World Bank also offers detailed suggestions on how to complete each step:  A situation analysis team must interview a range of stakeholders within a country’s tourism industry, everyone from artisans selling goods to travel booking agents. Desk research entails compiling and studying all documents relevant to the destination’s tourism, and the statistical analysis of comparing the performance of the country to similar countries.  This data must then be analyzed to identify the opportunities, challenges, and solutions surrounding the destination. Finally, the World Bank advises the team to use all their data, research, and analysis to create the final tourism strategy document. 

What Should be Included in the Final Report?

Because the main objective of a situation analysis is to identify both the biggest opportunities and constraints associated with a given destination, the report therefore must outline the destination’s offerings. These can include anything from thriving wineries to well-preserved cultural sites. However, the report must also acknowledge the challenges that were pinpointed by the analysis. Issues such as poor infrastructure or lack of safety can be major hindrances to tourism. In addition, a proper analysis should identify potential solutions to the constraints, and these should be included in the report as well. It is also crucial for the report to list key stakeholders in the local tourism industry, in addition to potential partners that may help to implement the plan. This detail ensures that the plan includes everyone who has a vested interest in helping the strategy succeed. 

Practical Application: How A Situation Analysis was Used in Creating Tunisia’s Tourism Strategy

View of Tunisia, destination using situation analysis
Tunisia is a beautiful destination for tourists to enjoy

Tunisia is a wonderful destination, with numerous activities for tourists to enjoy. It is rife with opportunities for successful tourism, from a Mediterranean coastline to historical sites. However, the destination is not yet on par with nearby destinations such as Morocco and Egypt. Tunisia receives approximately a million tourists per year, and the country hopes to grow its tourism sector. To achieve this, Solimar is currently working on the USAID Visit Tunisia program Tunisia’s tourism visibility. One of the program’s initial goals was to develop a national tourism strategy, which included a comprehensive situation analysis. 

To complete the analysis, Solimar interviewed major stakeholders in Tunisia, including those in the public and private sectors. It is critical to converse with stakeholders in order to understand the expectations for the plan’s results and to provide further insight into the destination’s current tourism situation. Extensive desk research was conducted this included comparing Tunisia’s data to that of competing countries, and reading previous strategies and relevant documents for Tunisia. Solimar also reviewed all available tourism sector data from Tunisia. Through this data, Solimar was able to better understand both the problems and advantage tourism faced in Tunisia. Finally, Solimar analyzed the statistics from Tunisia’s tourism sector. Using this data and analysis, Solimar was able to form a solid foundation of the country’s current tourism industry to inform the development of recommendations for the National Tourism Strategy. 

Interested in learning more about strategic planning for tourism? Be sure to like Solimar on Facebook to stay updated on our latest projects! 

 

Tourism is truly a booming industry and affects many people around the world. Some destinations have flourished, but many have had to endure the negative aspects of tourism. Taking into account all of the global issues we face nowadays, such as climate change and pandemics, it is now more crucial than ever to assure a destination is thoroughly planned and effectively managed. In this blog we cover the question of what a destination development plan is, what process it undergoes and why every destination needs one.

What is Destination Development?

The development of a destination is the process of evolving the location’s supply side of tourism in order to meet the area’s tourism demands. This can be achieved by adding supporting infrastructure, including accommodations, transport, technological advancements, but also intangible aspects like workforce development. Destination development will automatically occur when the demand for a destination increases; so it is vital to ensure it is a strategically executed process.

Why is it important to plan a destination’s development? 

Planning a destination’s development is a crucial process, which provides tourism organizations with the needed tools to achieve a common goal. In any destination the necessary steps must be taken early on in the process to prevent unhealthy growth. 

How do destinations change over time?

Destinations can evolve quite drastically over time, especially emerging destinations. Emerging destinations typically have more local participation. As they become more developed, they get an influx of foreign investors and business owners who can change the feel of a destination.

What are the social impacts of tourism?

It is more or less inevitable for a destination with an attractive tourist offer to become popular. Take for example an emerging destination. With an increase in visitors, more and more outside business interests will see it as an opportunity. Once international interest for the area starts to increase, new challenges and barriers emerge for service providers as they don’t have the training and knowledge to capture markets coming from outside the country.

Without a destination development plan that considers growth, as well as the needs of tourists and service providers, destinations are going to miss that market entirely. This can lead to another investor from the outside with the necessary expertise taking advantage of the growing market.

This in return will entirely change the visitor experience. The destination will lose its authenticity: its uniqueness and with that its ability to compete and differentiate itself from other destinations. 

How can tourism planning help the environment and its protection?

Generally global tourism isn’t known for being environmentally friendly. Increased demand leads to an increase in travel, as well as the destruction of nature to acquire greater space and resources. Even further, this is all done for the few “good” months of the year, in which tourism is optimal.  

However, by introducing a tourism strategy, it is then possible to minimize these effects and maximize the environment’s protection. 

By including a careful assessment of the region’s environmental problems as well as possible threats it could face with an increase in tourism into the destination analysis, one can set a clear goal. One can include these critical environmental aspects into the objectives and incentivize the creation of policies that can protect the destination’s environment. 

In addition, tourism generates two key resources that can be harnessed to protect the environment. 

  • Increased financial income: Earmark a portion of the profits and direct them towards local environmental conservation activities.
  • People’s engagement: Reach agreements with local beneficiaries to make an individual commitment to support the project outcome. 
Set the roots for sustainable destination development
Set the roots and groundwork for sustainable and maintainable growth early on.

What is a Destination Development Plan?

Destination Development Plans (DDPs), also known as Destination Development Strategies or Destination Management Plans, are all closely related tourism plans.

Tourism plans are holistic strategies, dedicated to a defined tourist area, which based upon intricate destination research and a market analysis, form destination specific objectives and correlating approaches. The strategy is designed to create a guiding plan to develop and manage a destination to its specific needs and reach a common goal.

The strategy should always have an outcome in mind to maximize local economic profit and set the groundwork for sustainable and maintainable growth.

Solimar International refers to the term Destination Development Plan, as for most of their sites, development is a major part of the objective. 

What does a Destination Development Plan generally include?

Destination Development Plans can generally be split into two halves. 

  1. Situation Analysis: A detailed evaluation of the destination’s current state. This would include information on existing tourism assets, available tourism services, the industry’s performance and its competitors, as well as involved parties for tourism policy, management, marketing and investment. 
  2. Future Goal: Concluded from the analysis, the future goal is both the desired outcome for the development of the destination as well as the means to get there. It is vital to agree upon a shared vision and form several strategic objectives to focus on.
Chasing a shared destination vision
Make sure you chase a shared and reasonable goal.

How do you make a plan for a Tourism Destination?

The process of making a plan for a tourism destination can differ. This is greatly affected by the type of stakeholders that are involved and especially whether the destination already has a Destination Management Organisation. However they usually all follow similar steps of action.

In the Visit Tunisia Project, where Solimar was contracted to develop a National Tourism Strategy and six regional destination development plans aligning with the national strategy, the process underwent the following steps.

Developing a destination should go step by step
Destination development planning should be a step by step process.
  1. Understand the place and all of its attractions.

    This is especially important for consulting companies like Solimar. Foreign entities cannot just come in and create a plan for a destination; in order to gather on-site knowledge and incorporate different local perspectives in the plan, it is imperative to involve local stakeholders in the process.

  2. Understand the visitor.

    This step will directly influence the path a destination will take. It is important to figure out what kinds of people visit the destination, for how long and when. Once this is understood, it will provide vital information on visitors’ behavior and how to better attract your target audience. This will shape the future of a destination.

  3. Inventory what services are available. 

    It is crucial to understand the destination’s existing human capital, as well as infrastructure (including accommodations, tourist facilities, transportation, signage, retail, hospital facilities, payment options etc.)

  4. Bring it all together with the SWOT Analysis.

    The SWOT Analysis is a final conclusion, drawn from the situation analysis, which displays all of the internal, as well as external positives and negatives to a destination: the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

  5. Develop the future vision and its major objectives. 

    With the accumulated in-depth knowledge from the situation analysis, you have the groundwork for what the obtainable future vision will be. The main goal will then be divided into several clear objectives and the needed approaches. Here the destination asks itself, in what direction should this development go? 

  6. Set the plan up for success by ending with an Action Matrix.

    The process of making a DDP already brings its own benefits, however it can easily be abandoned once development begins. Therefore it is indispensable to create a plan of action to accomplish the objectives aimed for. Each strategic initiative should have several actions dedicated to it. For each action it is important to identify the partners responsible for its implementation and create a timeline (near-, mid-, and long-term).

What entities are involved in the process of making a Destination Development Plan?

The question of who is in charge of making a destination development plan, as well as what kinds of entities get involved, mainly comes down to whether the destination already has a DMO which in addition needs sufficient resources and knowledge to complete such a process. In the case where there is not a DMO or they don’t have enough of an experienced workforce, they hire a consultant such as Solimar.

Apart from the DMO or consulting company, there are three separate levels of partners involved in the process of making a destination’s strategy. 

  • Donor: With emerging destinations especially, donors make up the first layer. For example, in the case of the “Visit Tunisia Project,” the donor is USAID. 
  • National level partners: Government institutions or independent organizations given the power by the government to manage the tourism sector or other intersecting sectors. Examples of these include the Ministry of Tourism in Namibia, the Forest Department of Liberia  or the Ministry of Environment in Uganda. 
  • Local industry associations, such as tour guide associations, hotel owner associations or artisanal associations. This third level, especially for emerging destinations without an established tourism organization, creates a deep connection with local stakeholders and lets the local community be represented.

What is the purpose of a Destination Development Plan?

The general purpose of a destination development plan is to guarantee a long-term positive outcome for a destination. It takes into account a destination’s assets as well as opportunities that it’s missing out on. Among the goals of the destination development plan, one is to ensure the destination is competitive and delivers a strong product to satisfy visitors. However more importantly, it creates the framework and guidelines for sustainable development of the destination.

What are the main objectives of tourism planning in a Destination? 

The main objectives for any tourism plan are to:

  • Increase visitor satisfaction
  • Assure a destination’s competitiveness (and foster its uniqueness)
  • Maintain participation and integration of local communities
  • Use of resources and the environment in a sustainable manner
  • Protect cultural heritage 
  • Stimulate Economic growth

In order to achieve these goals, destinations will set up several objectives tailored to its specific needs.

What are the benefits of destination planning?

In addition to making a destination competitive, proper tourism planning will provide perspectives for local communities, ensure the protection of environmental and cultural resources and protect the destination from being overwhelmed by the industry.

So by taking a destination’s assets into account these strategies serve as a guidance tool to tourism organizations. If executed correctly, this creates benefits for more than just economic growth. Planned destinations can:

  • Involve the local community and provide income
  • Minimize environmental impact and drive some of the profits towards its protection
  • Support a destination to stay true to its traditions and uphold its culture
  • Improve understanding of different cultures and relations between guests and hosts
  • Prevent over-tourism
  • Make it more than just another “beach experience”
Destination Development Plans guide the process for the desired direction
Destination development plans help define the desired direction and reach the goal.

What makes Solimar International’s help effective? 

Although each destination is different, the process of making a destination development plan doesn’t change significantly. Not only is the knowledge needed regarding how such plans are structured, but experience and knowledge of the tourism industry is also necessary.

Through Solimar’s vast experience, gained from 200 projects and over 500 destinations, the organization boasts the complete suite of tools needed to help destination’s reach a sustainable goal. This knowledge includes: 

  • Developing a well-defined and well-successful formula for such plans
  • Incentivizing the participation of various stakeholders and create a space for collaboration
  • Having the understanding of the most effective marketing tools that exist 
  • Being well-networked within the private sector of the tourism industry and being well versed in investment promotion
  • Having repeated experience with the later implementation of such plans

If you want to learn more about how tourism can help destination’s develop in the right way, and how our work makes a difference, check out our Virtual Internship Program!

emerging destination

Tourism destinations go through various stages of development, and during each of them, managers face issues and challenges that need to be addressed to guarantee the ongoing success of the destination. In this blog, we’ll talk about emerging destinations, explain what an emerging destination is, and discuss a few of the development challenges they face by using the Tunisian region of Dahar as an example

Free stock photo of adult, adventure, aircraft Stock Photo

What is an emerging destination? 

According to Butler’s tourism areas’ life cycle, depending on their development’s progress, attractiveness and competitiveness destinations go through various stages over time. These stages are namely: exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, rejuvenation or decline. Emerging destinations are examples of the first two stages of this cycle. These are places with significant potential as tourism destinations, where policymakers and managers still need to make major efforts to turn the available resources and attractions into appealing tourism products capable to compete in the tourism markets.

Emerging destinations’ development challenges

It is difficult to position a tourist destination and keep it both competitive in the tourism market and sustainable in contributing positively to the local economy, community and environment. The setup of a successful destination is the result of combined efforts from local governments, stakeholders, communities and often, specialized external organizations too. The collaboration among all these participants is vital to producing a development plan focused on creating a tourism offer that is sustainable and capable of satisfying the needs of the tourists. However, this process may sound ambitious, and very often emerging destinations face challenges with:

  • Destination planning
  • Marketing strategy
  • Destination management

Destination planning

Setting up a destination is a complex process, and it can be overwhelming because various elements need to be considered to:

  • Understand the destination’s assets
  • Enhance the destination’s potential
  • Create goals to develop the tourism product

The most important part of planning an emerging destination’s development is creating a development plan. This plan comes to the aid of managers, as it includes:

  • An assessment of the available resources, such as the already existing attractions, services and infrastructure
  • An evaluation of the tourist profile
  • A strategy on how the destination needs to be developed and maintained.

To achieve a successful strategy, local stakeholders and communities must be involved in the process. However, it can be a long and slow process bringing together all the people involved, coordinating discussions and agreeing on the most suitable development strategy. This is especially the case in emerging destinations where there is not an organization supporting the process, such as a destination management organization (DMO).

Free People Discuss About Graphs and Rates Stock Photo

Destination management 

Destination management is another challenge faced by new destinations. Tourism can be first developed by the local or national government and tourism boards, however, it also needs to be constantly managed in order to be sustainable. Ideally, a skilled and knowledgeable team needs to be employed to establish a destination management organization in charge of:

  • Monitoring tourism impacts
  • Facilitating the involvement of all the local stakeholders
  • Producing and implementing the destination development plan
  • Branding and marketing the destination
  • One of the significant issues with DMOs is that they often lack funding, as they are often private organizations. When DMOs are not financially supported by governments, they need to find alternative ways to finance themselves to survive and continue to manage the destination.

Destination marketing

Marketing an emerging destination can be challenging, because tourism development and management are still in the initial stages. A marketing strategy is essential to promote the destination to tourists, therefore managers need to be aware that it has to be well thought out and planned in order to be efficient. Managers must:

  • Evaluate the type of audience they wish to reach out to
  • Take into consideration the advance in technology, and use it not only to sell the destination, but also to engage with potential visitors
  • Make sure the strategy is fully integrated by creating a marketing content schedule
  • Ensure sure that the marketing efforts are ongoing

Group of confident business people planning in creative office

 

Emerging Destination case study: Destination Dahar, Tunisia

Tunisian tourism is currently mostly concentrated in all-inclusive resorts along the coast, but the country aims to differentiate its tourism product to balance the economy within the country. As part of a more sustainable tourism strategy, the focus will be on supporting the development of more regions of tourism interest in different parts of the country. This will result in being extremely beneficial for the internal development of the country and its citizens, but it will also allow Tunisia to gain more competitiveness in the tourism market.

Dahar region

The Dahar is a region in southeast Tunisia, crossed by the sandstone mountain chain of The Djebel Dahar. This territory is known for its extremely arid and lunar landscape and is the most remote zone in the country. Because of this, it is one of the least populated and developed areas, and the least visited by tourists, both domestic and international.

Free Brown Mountains Under Blue Sky Stock Photo

Dahar’s arid landscape

Destination Dahar

However, this region is rich in history, architecture, culture and traditions thanks to the many Berber (Amazigh) tribes who adapted and lived here for thousands of years. The Amazigh heritage is unspoiled, and it offers an authentic tourism experience for travelers willing to move away from traditional coastal destinations. Because of its authenticity, Dahar was chosen as the first region in the Tunisian tourism diversification project.

Free Underground Houses of Matmata Tunisia Stock Photo

Traditional troglodyte caves, home of Berber peoples

Free Red and White Wooden Bench Stock Photo

Inside a cave dwelling that has been turned into a guest house

The development of the FTADD DMO was financed by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and realized by SwissContact, through the Project Destination Sud-Est. The DMO was officially created in March 2018. It aims to build on the destination’s authentic heritage and offer authentic and sustainable experiences to visitors. Establishing the DMO and creating a destination plan was a success, and many local stakeholders and tourism business owners were consulted in the decision-making process and later on, involved in the development of tourism in the region. 

Destination Dahar’s efforts and great achievements were recognized by the Green Destinations organizations, and it was selected as one of their 2021 Top 100 Good Practice stories. The DMO won again in 2022, a remarkable feat!

Emerging Destinations: Destination Dahar

Through the Visit Tunisia project, Solimar is currently supporting Destination Dahar. Solimar will help to define the DMO’s marketing strategy, and to develop a business plan allowing it to carry on with its role of destination management in this emerging destination.

Destination Dahar marketing

The DMO needs support to create an appropriate marketing strategy to inform visitors about this new destination and its offering.  Solimar will be supporting the DMO by creating engaging digital content in order to reach a wider audience and tell Dahar’s story.

We have identified where and how this content could be improved, because currently, it is:

  • Mainly written only in French or Arabic
  • Not very frequent and regular posts on social media platforms
  • Lacking both evergreen and themed topics on the DMO website

Free photos of Online marketing

Additionally, to make it easier for the DMO and its marketing team, we’re working on suggesting a list of blogs and posts’ topics to write about, and creating a marketing content calendar that would help to plan better the digital content to produce and publish. 

Destination Dahar’s Business Plan

At Solimar, we are proud to be able to often assist destinations in strengthening and supporting institutions, and in the case of Dahar, proposals were made on how the DMO could continue existing and be financially stable

U.S. dollar banknote with map

As learned at the start of this blog, setting up and managing an emerging destination can be a difficult and long process, and many challenges need to be faced and overcome in order to guarantee the success of the destination. Collaborating with local stakeholders and the community is essential to establishing an appropriate developing plan. Ideally, overcoming the challenges can be easier if a destination is provided with a DMO that can concentrate all efforts on coordinating the resources to develop and manage the destination.

Check out the Solimar’s Institute for Sustainable Destinations and learn about all the courses available to learn more on how to develop, improve, and manage your destination.

How to eat sustainably while traveling

How to Eat Sustainably While Traveling

Fall intern Megan O’Beirne has worked as a sustainability professional in the luxury hospitality industry, first in Laamu Atoll, Maldives and then in Cartagena, Colombia. Given her vast international experience and passion for the environment, she has adopted what she calls her “food philosophy” in regards to food on the road. Read on to find out her thoughts on how to eat sustainably while traveling:

We all grapple with the question of what to eat while traveling. Do you maintain a healthy diet or indulge? Do you try unfamiliar flavors or crave comfort food? Is my next destination vegan/vegetarian friendly? Throughout my time living, working, and traveling abroad, I have developed what I have come to call my food philosophy. It guides my efforts to make sustainable choices when it comes to dining on vacation.

Fisherman shucking oysters and urchins by hand on the beach
Eating fresh oysters and urchins on the beach in Cartagena, Colombia can support local, artisanal fishermen.

Putting my Vegetarian Diet on Hold

When I first started studying environmental science, I decided that if I was going to practice what I preach as an environmentalist, I was going to eat a vegetarian diet. Upon further realization that animals still need to be raised to produce their byproducts, and therefore still have the same environmental impact, I thought I had to become vegan. This lasted about six months until I left the United States for the first time and studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. With my first solo steps into the world came the desire to experience every part of the new culture I was immersed in, and a huge part of that is food. I put my veganism on hold while I lived in the land of smoked herring, crispy pork, and Danish street hotdogs.

Various foods and breads on a board
Denmark is one of the world’s largest pork producers, accounting for half of the country’s agricultural exports.

Shifting from Vegetarian to Locavore

When I started working as the Sustainability Manager at Six Senses Laamu, a luxury eco-resort in the Maldives, I was once again faced with a vegetarian’s dilemma. Maldives is a low-lying nation in the Indian Ocean whose 1,200 islands make up only 1% of the country’s territory, while the other 99% is sea. Staples include tuna, chili, and coconut in various forms for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here is where I came to terms with two important distinctions between cooking for myself at home and eating out in the world. The first is that Maldives has limited land area for crop production. The vegetables that are imported by ship or plane from abroad are not nearly as environmentally friendly as the tuna that was caught yesterday by pole-and-line fisherman with one of the most sustainable fishing methods in the world. 

Secondly, when someone invites me into their home for a meal, I find it difficult to ask for something special to be prepared for me if meat is being served. Sharing food is a universal language that connects people from different cultures, and I revel in trying new cuisines if that means sitting down at the table with someone new. With these sentiments in mind, I began shifting from vegetarian to locavore, or someone who eats locally and seasonally whenever possible.

Tuna, onion, chili, coconut, and banana on banana leaves
Tuna, chili, and coconut are staples of the Maldivian diet.

Do Your Research on What is Locally Sustainable

A few years later, I visited my brother in New Zealand and learned that deer were introduced for sport hunting. The population of the invasive species grew out of control, eventually contributing to deforestation. The deer would eat the pine tree saplings before they had a chance to grow into full-size trees. Hunters were given the task of culling the population, while some were captured for deer farming. Thus, venison chops, sliders, and pies popped up on menus across the country. 

I would never order a deer burger anywhere else in the world, but in New Zealand it made sense because of two more realizations that now contribute to my philosophy. Eating based on where you are is the way to eat fresh ingredients, with a low carbon footprint, that are culturally appropriate, and made by people who have practiced the preparation methods for generations. That deer burger also helped combat deforestation, which seemed like a worthy cause for me to break the environmentalists’ code of conduct and eat meat. There are endless examples of other ways our food systems can be climate positive through reforestation, restoration, and regeneration. Finding these is the key to how to eat sustainably while traveling.

Deer in a field with telephone poles and wires
Deer farming began in New Zealand and the country remains the world’s largest producer and exporter.

The Most Sustainable Diet is the One that is Right for You

Venison in New Zealand, tuna in Maldives, and pork in Denmark made their way into my diet during my travels, but did not reserve a permanent place in my home kitchen. These foods brought me authentic experiences that were closer to the people, religions, economies, and social structures of the communities I visited than if I had stuck to my principles as a strict vegetarian. I now avoid the vegetarian label, even though I cook plant-based meals for myself at home. Instead, I eat based on what is local, fresh, seasonal, culturally appropriate, and on special occasions — whatever the chef or grandmother in the kitchen says is the house specialty. How to eat sustainably while traveling is what works best for you.

We all know we should be eating less meat, buying less junk food, and using less plastic. But at the end of the day, we should all make decisions around what goes on our plate based on what makes the most sense for our own bodies, minds, and hearts. You can learn more about how to travel sustainably from these useful links, or by following Solimar International on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Bon appétit, buen provecho, and itadakimasu!

Two female chefs serving a bowl of soup and smiling
Words of wisdom: always make friends with the cooks and say yes to the chef’s special.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
“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

Contact us

  • Address

    3400 11th Street NW, Suite 200
    Washington, DC 20010
  • Phone

    (202) 518-6192