Tag: #SustainableTourism

smoky mountains hikers exploring the region

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, colloquially called the Smokies, is far more than protected national lands to locals and visitors. Before its establishment as a national park in 1934, the Smokies were home to hundreds of local farmers and paper manufacturers. The ethos of these self-sustaining locals prevailed long after the establishment of the park into the present day. For thousands of years before, Native Americans and thousands of native species were home to this beautiful park. Now, the park is known as one of the most ecologically rich landscapes in the United States. Today, locals share significant pride in calling the mountains their home. Millions of tourists come each year not only to experience the beauty of the mountains, but also to learn the local history, to engage seriously with nature, and to enjoy the culture of mountain locals.

The Smokies occupy a unique role as habitat, as nationally protected land, and as a cultural enclave for thousands. What makes visiting the Smokies stand out from other experiences, however, is the interplay between these roles. The below 7 are just a few of the reasons why the Great Smoky Mountains are so unforgettable to national park visitors.

Teeming wildlife and beautiful natural landscapes are abundant along the Alum Caves Bluff Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

1. Mountain Biodiversity

The Great Smoky Mountains is well-known for its rich biodiversity. Among the national parks in the United States, the Smokies boast the most recorded plant and animal species. As of 2021, over twenty thousand organisms have been found in the Smoky Mountains alone, and over one thousand of them are unique to the National Park territory. Scientists believe that this does not account for thousands more plant and animal species that remain undocumented in the mountains. This makes great opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts and travelers who wish to connect with the natural environment.

2. Historic Downtown Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a stunning town in this region
Downtown Gatlinburg is home to hundreds of store owners, distinct tourism destinations, and beautiful forested landscapes. Source: Shutterstock

Gatlinburg is known as the opening gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Nestled amid the thick of the green forested landscape, Gatlinburg has a bustling tourist economy that serves its millions of visitors. The town of Gatlinburg hosts the historic home of the town’s first settler family and the popular Tennessee Heritage Trail, which both tell stories of the town’s early days. Another site of interest is the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, a famous arts school founded in partnership between the local Pi Beta Phi school and the University of Tennessee. Throughout downtown are a number of locally-owned shops and enterprises, each of which hold their own local legacies. Whatever your interest is, there are dozens of ways to immerse yourself in the ongoing history of downtown Gatlinburg.

3. Local Artisans

Local artists and craftsmen give the foothills of the Smoky Mountains a one-of-a-kind creative environment. Inspired by the local culture of southern Appalachia and the broader East Tennessee arts and crafts community, artisans of the Smokies have much to offer visitors. While in Gatlinburg, feel free to visit any number of local arts and crafts venues. The proceeds support local businesses, which enable them to continue to produce high-quality, one-of-a-kind products and services to tourists and locals alike. You can also rest assured that purchases from local artisans is a sustainable practice. Most goods are produced using local materials, meaning that goods and services around the Smokies are distinct in their making and planet-friendly to the core.

4. Experiences for All Ages

At the Smokies, there are a variety of events to keep people of all ages engaged. The Arrowmont School offers students of all ages the opportunity to participate in educational and entertaining art workshops and classes. Hiking trails vary in lengths for different skill levels and ages. People who wish to enjoy outdoor activities can find options for children, adults, and families. Couples can enjoy the magnificent sunset view at Newfound Gap, and older visitors can soak up in a Pigeon Forge log cabin jacuzzi. The possibilities at the Smokies are nearly endless.

Father and son hiking in national park in US

5. Strong Record of Historical Data

There are several ways to learn more about the history of the Smokies. The Database of the Smokies (DOTS) is an online tool operated through the University of Tennessee Libraries. Another digitized archival source includes The Open Parks Network, which compiles data and objects from over 20 national parks in the United States. A physical archive dedicated solely to the Great Smoky Mountains lies in Townsend, Tennessee: there, the Collections Preservation Center holds thousands of original artifacts and historical sources. 

6. Opportunities to Engage Sustainably

Around the Great Smoky Mountains, there are several ways to be a sustainable tourist. Lodging in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains can be an eco-friendly practice. For example, Camp Atagahi is one of several sustainable lodging options. Technology-free and off-the-grid, Camp Atagahi is one of many that encourages tourists to connect meaningfully with each other and to experience what the local environment has to offer. Activities like river rafting and ziplining are sustainable activities that have a strong presence in the Smokies. Even local eateries look for green options: The Local Goat in Pigeon Forge uses only locally-sourced ingredients and employment. This makes the Smokies an attractive tourist destination for sustainability-minded travelers.

7. Robust Tourism Environment

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most frequently-visited national park in the United States. In 2021, the Great Smoky Mountains recorded over 14 million visitors—more visitors than any year prior. Its tourism numbers surpass other famous national parks, including the Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park. Near the Smokies of Tennessee are also a number of other tourism venues. In the nearby town of Pigeon Forge, a number of attractions and resorts abound, including the famous amusement park Dollywood and The Island resort. In Gatlinburg, there’s the Gatlinburg Space Needle, the amusement venue Ober Gatlinburg, and a scenic tram that overlooks town. Around the Smokies, you’ll find an abundance of things to do and places to visit. 

Sunset over great smoky mountains

There are dozens of important and interesting national parks in the United States, but the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a truly unique experience that will be hard for visitors to forget. Whenever you plan to visit one of the United States’ many national parks, be sure to consider the Great Smoky Mountains as your next destination.

Want to learn more about our sustainable travel destinations in the United States? See our current projects on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail or the Sugar River Region in New Hampshire. Check out our Contact Us page and reach out for additional information!

destination branding two kayak sunsetters

Want to learn how to successfully make your destination stand out from the competition? This article tells you all about destination branding and how to build your own original brand!

How to Build a Successful Destination Brand

The tourism industry is one of the most universally robust industries in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people travel every year, and there are many types of travelers who feed into the industry. Even more people work in the tourism sector. So, how do you attract potential visitors to your tourism destination?

There are plenty of approaches to attract potential customers to a tourist destination. Social media, marketing campaigns, and word of mouth are just a few ways to achieve this. You might see photos of dazzling landscapes on Instagram, see a hotel ad on TV, or read a post about a famous tourism destination in a magazine. What these things have in common is a recall to what makes a destination unique, important, or appealing to a specific audience.

Bringing these features out through tourism marketing is a tactic called destination branding. Think about a famous city—Berlin, for instance. There are a number of images that you probably think of when Berlin comes to mind: the (in)famous Berlin Wall, the unmatched cosmopolitanism, the tall-standing TV Tower, and the authentic Brezeln. A collection of cultural markers like these produces a profile that is unique to Berlin. These markers can then be used to produce and to employ a marketing strategy that attracts potential tourists to Berlin. Of course, this is not specific to just one city; any site can have a brand identity. 

So, the question remains: how do you produce a successful brand for your site? Below, we have compiled a short list of items to get you started on building a successful destination brand.

Berlin skyline

brand your destination like berlin's beautiful skyline with memorable landmarks

 

Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm) has become an iconic piece of Berlin’s identity, completing the panorama of the city alongside Brandenburg Gate or the Berliner Dom

A Brand is the Most Valuable Tool in your Marketing Strategy

A brand goes far deeper than a logo or company slogan. These are simply considered marketing tools. A brand is defined by the public perception and the emotion it makes you feel. It is the promise being made to the target audience that is derived from the product or destination’s uniqueness. Your branding efforts are the process of creating brand messaging and experiences that attract visitors. These should be as compelling and memorable as possible, in order to draw in potential customers. Successful branding occurs when this experience remains in the hearts and minds of the target audience. 

Developing a Valuable Destination Brand Identity

Developing your brand identity, or brand personality, revolves around three main axes:

  • Destination uniqueness;
  • Stakeholders’ and travelers’ perceptions; and
  • Consistency in the marketing campaigns.

A strong brand identity is essential when you are trying to reach potential tourists and attract them to your destination. We could define the brand identity as a summary of the destination’s main traits, the words your main audience would use to describe the destination.

Does your destination offer a wide array of cultural experiences? Are most visitors coming to your destination to relax, or do they come to challenge themselves and take on new adventures? Is your destination mostly suitable for families, groups of friends or romantic getaways?

Developing your brand identity starts by auditing your destination and identifying your main target. It is recommended to involve stakeholders to better understand how they perceive the uniqueness of your destination. Start a conversation with small tourism businesses, travel agents and tour operators promoting your destination, local authority or former visitors and gather their emotions about your destination.

Including the consumer perception of your destination will ensure that the appropriate types of travelers are targeted in your brand messaging. Do not neglect to take a look at competition – locally or internationally – and to think it through: “What do I offer that is different?”, “What is our added value?” You can read an example of destination branding through consumer perceptions from Croatia.

namibia landscape ideal for branding

The wide open Namibian landscape – understanding the consumer perception of your destination’s uniqueness is key to build a strong brand identity

Understanding the travel motivations of your visitors, as well as their decision-making process, will support you in building a suitable brand messaging. Associate experiences with your destination which are as distinctive, compelling, memorable and rewarding as possible. Take the example of Namibia’s online marketing campaign which Solimar ran between 2011 and 2013 that emphasized the breathtaking and seemingly endless natural landscapes of Namibia.

Once this message is clear, your marketing campaigns will help spread your identity and reach your targeted audience. The key in the marketing campaign is consistency! Make sure the brand messaging perceived is coherent on all the elements of your integrated marketing communication. Each support and channel should represent the same brand identity. 

Moreover, the consistency of the brand identity continues on the spot where it is important to build brand value at each point of contact, from signage at the airport to landscapes while driving to the hotel or between parts of a destination. The experience of the traveler must reflect your brand identity.

Finally, keep track of the success of the campaign and reassess your strategy every year, or if a major event has disrupted your campaign (Covid-19 anyone?).

In short, developing a powerful brand identity consists of:

  • Running a destination audit
  • Clarifying who is your target
  • Building your destination SWOT
  • Identifying your competition, their location, and your added value
  • Involving local stakeholders in your branding process and assess their perception of the destination
  • Reassessing your Marketing Strategy annually

turkey destination branding cappadocia

Using the Brand Pyramid for a Strong Destination Brand

One of the most effective ways to produce a powerful destination brand is by using a brand pyramid. Brand pyramids are models that distill the important elements of a site down to an advertising essence. Brand pyramids are important for destination branding, because they clarify the most important aspects of the destination. This helps produce a tagline that markets the message of a destination to potential visitors. 

There are five tiers in the brand pyramid, which are organized from a wide base to a narrow top. The first tier, labeled rational attributes, are tangible destination characteristics. In other words, rational attributes are the markers that can be empirically observed. The physical, quantifiable features of a site are listed here. These features can be diverse, ranging from unique products and services to local cuisines to historic landmarks. 

The second tier is labeled emotional benefits. These are the feelings associated with a site. This tier plays a crucial role in creating a destination brand, because it addresses the tangible emotional experience(s) of visiting a site. The first two tiers work together to create a strong brand image by listing tangible attributes alongside the emotional sentiments that the site produces. 

The third tier of the brand pyramid is brand personality. This lists a group of adjectives that describe the personality of the site. This is how a target audience will describe a site in a few basic words. The brand personality can describe atmospheres and resources, and they can also attract specific audiences. As the public health situation evolves, a brand personality can illuminate how amenable a site is to a specific audience.

The fourth tier, the positioning statement, describes the one-of-a-kind site attributes. Here, brand developers ask which characteristics are seen or experienced only at that site. This is an especially important step in the brand development process. Knowing what makes a site stand out will give shape to a strong brand identity.

The final tier is brand essence. The brand essence is exactly what it sounds like: it distills aspects of all the tiers below to produce an essential brand identity. This is what the brand means, described in a few words. This is the tier that creates a destination brand, usually in the form of a tagline. A great example of the destination branding process was successfully implemented in Solimar’s Jamaica Community Experiences project from 2015-2018.

Solimar DMO Development branding pyramid to help brand a destination

Brand Pyramid model to build a powerful destination brand – Solimar DMO Development Program

Looking for more destination development strategies? Check out Solimar’s Institute for Sustainable Destinations program on DMO Development. Or Contact Us directly for information!

Authors: Caitlyn Marentette / Célia Hulin / Thomas Kalchik

tajine morocco support local artisans

Sustainable Tourism in Southern Morocco

South of the Moroccan tourism hub of Marrakesh is the jewel of Southern Morocco, Agadir. Encompassing Agadir and various other small towns, southern Morocco is largely underdeveloped with untapped potential. Morocco has been well-known by French tourists for a long time given its former status as a French colony. What is lesser known is that Agadir and Southern Morocco have an increasing capability to cater to the demands of sustainable tourists. Its location directly below Western Europe means it is only a short flight away for Europeans. With French and English widely spoken, communication is convenient for many travelers.

Key Destinations in Southern Morocco

Curious about where you should travel in Morocco and what you should do to make the biggest impact on your journey? Keep reading:

1. Agadir

The most popular destination in Southern Morocco is certainly Agadir. It rests on the western coast of Morocco, with 10 kilometers of beaches which receive over 300 days of sun per year. It is the perfect location for any beach lover, with easily accessible cafes, restaurants, and nightlife.

 

tajine morocco support local artisans

One reason why this city has a path to sustainable tourism is it is extremely walkable. One can spend the morning walking up and down Agadir Beach along the shoreline. If you venture inland to Souk El Had market, you can visit the hundreds of stalls selling unique Moroccan items, like bowls, jewelry, and other handicrafts. A large percentage of these stalls are owned by local Amazigh women, descendants of the pre-Arab people in North Africa.

Souss-Massa National Park is a long stretch of land just south of Agadir, where the terrain ranges from grassland steppes, sand dunes, sandy beaches, to wetlands. This park is the best chance for nature loving travelers to experience the wild side of southern Morocco. The park is home to 250 different species of nesting and migratory birds. The most famous of which is the Bald Ibis, other residents include antelopes, boars and mongooses.

 

agadir sunset

2. Tamraght and Taghazout

Further to the north, about a 25-minute drive, are the surfing towns of Tamraght and Taghazout. These smaller towns do not have resorts like Agadir, but offer quieter accommodation in mini hotels and Moroccan lodges for a more traditional experience. Often accommodations will offer Moroccan dishes for each meal of the day. Or you can visit the local markets for a chance to interact and negotiate your prices with the locals.

These towns have their own beaches and shops without the hustle and bustle of the larger Agadir. Here you can find water sports equipment rentals and guided tours around the area. Located in the shadow of the lesser Atlas Mountains, there are opportunities to hike into the mountains or simply lounge on the beach.

southern morocco is a very possible surfing destination

Paradise Valley is a quick day trip. Travelers can grab a minibus from various locations and arrive in a lush valley to swim and relax. Visiting this oasis is like stepping into another world away from the dry, arid Moroccan climate. This valley is also home to one of the oldest and most traditional honey making operations in the world.

3. Sustainable Activities to Enjoy on the Coast

The Southern Moroccan coast is primarily known for its surfing. The beaches along Agadir and the surrounding towns have a variety of different surf spots for all skill levels. Whether you are a beginner trying to experience a new sport or a pro seeking to hone your skills, there is a beach and a wave for you!

Surfing and the other water sports here may be the ultimate sustainable activities. The surfing culture is obsessed with keeping the ocean clean. After all, it is no fun to surf in polluted waters. Solely using the power of the ocean waves limits CO2 emissions and makes one tune in with the ocean’s natural power. Other water activities include sailing, parasailing, and swimming. If you want a break from the water, there are also horseback riding and camel tours where you can experience traditional Moroccan travel.

morocco sustainable camel tour

How can you get to Southern Morocco?

When traveling around Morocco, you have several different options. There are many bus coaches which go up and down the coast. In addition, Morocco has a few different train and rail lines to limit your carbon footprint.

If you are traveling around the city or a shorter distance, there are rental bike stands in the bigger cities. Renting bikes allows you to take in more of the sights for a cheaper, sustainable experience. If you don’t feel like pedaling yourself, there are taxi bikes available for a small fee. 

Solimar’s History of Supporting Sustainable Tourism in North Africa

Solimar International has always been committed to helping developing countries create a better sustainable tourism sector and garner more tourists to visit developing communities. At Solimar, we believe in tourism development that creates a positive experience for local businesses, local people, and the tourists themselves. This should be done without sacrificing the future of the planet.

In the past, Solimar has worked in Morocco. In 2012, we worked to create a series of cultural heritage routes to increase awareness of traditional Moroccan artisans and bolster their income.

Solimar is currently working on a USAID project in Tunisia. The goal of this five year initiative is to develop sustainable tourism in traditionally under-visited areas, bringing economic benefits to local communities and their inhabitants. This is the second project we have worked on in Tunisia – the first was the advancement and development of cultural heritage tours, in conjunction with the Smithsonian.

Keep up with Solimar – don’t forget to like us on Facebook and LinkedIn! 

A beautiful sunset in Wakatobi, Indonesia

Developing a tourism management plan is challenging for any destination management organization. Working for a destination management organization across multiple islands is even more! Since each island is different, each one is prioritizing different things. Between plastic trash pollution, climate change, access to clean water, and food security, there are many problems that are on the agenda to solve. Wakatobi, a group of four main islands in southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, face these complex issues in pursuit of sustainable tourism development.

Developing a Tourism Management Plan next to the beautiful ocean where diving is common on Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photo by Lelie Liana

Wakatobi is a rising tourism destination made up of four main islands in Southeast Indonesia. The name “Wakatobi” is derived from the first two letters of each island’s name. Wangi-wangi is the main administrative island and sets the policies for the other three islands; Kaledupa, Tomia, and Binongko. A hidden gem of tourism, it is described as one of the 10 “new Balis” for tourism by many destination management companies. The beautiful white sand beaches, seemingly infinite availability of fresh seafood, and biodiversity give Wakatobi characteristics of a tropical island that is rare today, prime for sustainable development. It’s also commonly referred to as “The heart of the Coral Reef Triangle”, and you’ll soon understand why. After spending 18 months in this unforgettable travel destination, I understand why the name translates to “enjoying the sunset”.

A beautiful sunset in Wakatobi, Indonesia

By marveling at the beautiful pictures above, most wouldn’t have thought of the problems they may be facing, much less imagined an approach for tourism planning to deal with those complex issues. Here are the four main questions to consider and answer that can help you in your destination management development process:

  • What is Inter Island Development?
  • How can mission goals be identified?
  • How to pick a decision maker?
  • How can you promote sustainable development?

1.What is Inter Island Development, and how should you address it?

As with other destination development challenges in islands, Wakatobi also faces the inter-island development issue. This issue is caused by the diverse character of people on each island, creating the need for different approaches for each island’s development. People who live on the main island of Wangi-Wangi Island have a different language and lifestyle than people on every other island. The question becomes: how can a destination management organization address these diversities?

It is a dilemma – how can the quality of life of the native population be improved while acknowledging we may not all share the same vision due to the diversity of stakeholders.

While each island has its issues, there will always be one more prevalent than the others, and that should be focused on uniting each place under one organization. Even if everyone has a different language, character, or mission, focusing on this key point will bring everyone together.

To start, identify the most prevalent issues in the community. Take a look around you and determine if the community is living in wellness with regard to tourism management. Is the community involved in the tourism management industry? Are there many artisans from the local community? Try to talk with them and find out what issues they may face. This can be done by conducting key stakeholders mapping, and categorizing each issue under a key-stakeholder. Each issue should belong to the main category, and in-depth interviews can be conducted if needed.

a beautiful image of the sunset on Wakatobi, Indonesia a great tourism destination
Beautiful sunsets everyday in Wakatobi. Photo courtesy of Lelie Liana.

2.  How Can We Identify Destination Mission Goals?

Once you have finished mapping the key destination stakeholders and identified the main issues, it is easier to identify the incentives that could bring the stakeholders together. In Sustainable Tourism Development, we call these the destination mission goals. Once you can deliver the incentives to everyone, the challenge of finding a destination management leader begins. Yes, everyone now understands the key issue and what the incentives are once the issue is fixed, but who will decide now to take action? Everyone can’t be a decision-maker, so it’s important to pick one or a few to standardize the issue so everyone understands.

Your next job is to figure out who is the highest official position in that place that is capable of being a “decision-maker”. Deliver the incentives to this person, then let them work on their way to spread the incentives to the larger target in your destination.

Beautiful white sand beach with not many visitors around on Wakatobi, Indonesia
Photo Courtesy of Lelie Liana

3. How to Pick a Decision Maker in Destination Management?

Imagine yourself now with your friend in a jungle, where there is an immense lion that’s ready to attack you. You know you’re in a dangerous situation, and of course, you know that your friend has no idea how to save you. The issue here is that you don’t have time or resources to ask for help, but you know exactly what the condition is. “Who does what?”

This analogy relates to the topic of destination management, where the key stakeholders have already identified both the issue and the key actor as decision-makers. However, there is a missing part about how the plan will be made; the system. The system was created to ensure everything will be run officially, with certain tasks and roles. Those in the system need to understand their roles, so there will be no overlap with others.

Wakatobi, as previously explained, is made up of 4 islands with differences in their communities and culture. To ensure a solution for everyone in the islands, the Bupati (Regent) improved their ecosystem for sustainable tourism development by creating a Tourism Governance Forum. Under this forum, there was an Inter-Island Working Group that each island used to deliver their main tourism issue. This ecosystem worked because it was headed under by the Bupati and acknowledged by the Ministry of Tourism. Their centralization also included official assignments, roles, objectives, and programs.

fish market in Wakatobi, Indonesia. a big potential for tourism
by author Lelie Liana

4. How Can You Promote Sustainable Development Through Developing a Tourism Management Plan?

Sustainable Tourism Development should always be spearheaded by the destination when thinking of sustainability. Destination refers to the ecosystem, key stakeholders, issue, program, and goals of an area. When Wakatobi created Forum Tata Kelola Pariwisata, it created a system that worked for itself. Just because this form of Sustainable Tourism Development is working for inter-island communities doesn’t mean it works everywhere. If needed, destinations can adapt these 4 “How” questions from Wakatobi to fit their own needs.

Interested in developing a tourism management plan for your destination? Take one of our courses to learn more about DMO Development, and learn from other case studies how you can ensure sustainable development. Learn more from the tourism master plans we created in the Northern Great Plains, Republic of Georgia, the Cayman Islands.

Photo courtesy of Lelie Liana.

 

visit Souther Tanzania, Africa's best travel secrets Solimar International

Less than 1% of travelers to Tanzania venture to the country’s south… find out why skipping a visit to Southern Tanzania is a huge mistake

visit Souther Tanzania, Africa's best travel secrets Solimar International

Despite its bountiful national parks, game reserves, and beautiful beaches, few visit Soutthern Tanzania. It is the least traveled part of Tanzania, but has so many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. It is home to an astonishing range of wildlife, has incredible parks and offers stunning scenery. The southern part of Tanzania is on the Indian Ocean coastline, offering tourists relaxing beach destinations and an array of marine wildlife. Southern Tanzania is an unforgettable getaway for those who have an adventurous side and want to see a destination unlike no other. Here is a list of five reasons why Southern Tanzania is the best place to get off the beaten path:

1. Massive National Parks home to hundreds of animal species

A resting lion in Nyerere National Park, Southern Tanzania
A resting lion in Nyerere National Park, Southern Tanzania

 

Southern Tanzania is home to a diverse range of wildlife and parks, and is gaining a reputation as one of the best places to safari in Africa. Two of Southern Tanzania’s most popular parks are Nyerere National Park and Ruaha National Park. Nyerere National Park has the reputation as Africa’s best wildlife sanctuary, and is inhabited by over one million animals. Here you can find the world’s biggest elephant and wild dog populations, whilst enjoying views of the expansive scenery. Ruaha National Park is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in the country, holding a massive population of big game and birds. Here you can see the popular sand rivers providing water to the animals that inhabit the area. On safari you are sure to see gazelles taking a sip from the river, and who knows, maybe even four of the big five – African leopards, African lions, Cape buffalo, and African elephants. Both parks are off the beaten track destinations anyone should visit for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Lilac Breasted Roller, a beautiful bird that is a favorite among visitors to Southern Tanzania
Lilac Breasted Roller, a beautiful bird that is a favorite among visitors to Southern Tanzania

2. Pristine hidden beaches and marine life

Pristine beach and water of Mafia Island in Southern Tanzania
Pristine beach and water of Mafia Island. Photo courtesy of Travel Weekly

 

Southern Tanzania is home to many hidden beach getaways along the Indian Ocean coastline. The beaches are perfect for those looking for adventures off the beaten path, preferably in the water. Their astonishing coral reefs make scuba diving and snorkeling a favorite among those who love the ocean. One beautiful beach destination is Mafia Island, a must-see location just off the coast of Southern Tanzania. The island is the premier diving, snorkeling, and fishing destination in the country. The striking reefs that follow along the shore line are made up of 50 species of coral and are inhabited by over 400 species of fish, making for beautiful scenery and an array of colors while snorkeling and diving. The main wildlife attractions found on and around the island are the whale sharks and sea turtles. Mafia Island is also home to Tanzania’s first marine wildlife center. Another wondrous place to go diving is in Mikindani, close to the border with Mozambique.

Swimming with whale sharks Mafia Island, Southern Tanzania
Swimming with whale sharks Mafia Island

 

3. Southern Tanzania’s tourism is focused around sustainability

Photo courtesy of the World Bank Group. Showcases how management of sustainable techniques can get rivers flowing again in Southern Tanzania
Photo courtesy of the World Bank Group. Showcases how management of sustainable techniques preserve resources in Southern Tanzania

Photo courtesy of the World Bank Group. Showcases how management of sustainable techniques can get rivers flowing again. 

The African Wildlife Foundation is dedicated to implementing sustainable techniques in Tanzanian tourism, and has been implementing the Sustainability and Inclusion Strategy for Growth Corridors in Africa (SUSTAIN) since 2015. The program aims to promote agriculture that is better suited for the landscape, whilst preventing the overuse of Tanzania’s land and resources. As a destination that has rarely been touched by tourists, it is extremely important that the health and wellness of both the environment and local communities are thought of first. With a vast array of wildlife preserves, the implementation of sustainable techniques in Tanzania is vital to ensure the future of the tourism economy. Tanzania is also home to a number of large desert environments, and therefore providing the environment with the right resources will help ensure that the rivers continue to flow each season. 

4. Historical destinations that give tourists a glimpse of the past

Photo courtesy of National Geographic. Overview of the Kilwa ruins showcasing the vast ruins of the port city.
Kilwa ruins showcasing the vast ruins of the port city. Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Photo courtesy of National Geographic. Overview of the Kilwa ruins showcasing the vast ruins of the port city. 

 

Along with all of the amazing wildlife Southern Tanzania has to offer, there are also some historical attractions off the beaten path that are must-sees. One of them is the ruined medieval port of Kilwa, which lies on Kilwa Kisiwani. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of only two in all of Tanzania. Kilwa was the main port in a series of port cities that ran along the Swahili Coast. The city was well known for importing cotton, ceramics, Chinese porcelain, and silk, causing the city to grow in wealth. Today, the remaining structures of the Husuni Kubwa palace, Great Mosque, and the Gereza Fort make this ruined city a spectacular place to visit and learn about the history of the gold trade in Africa. The site also offers some impressive views over the Indian Ocean and some dreamy accommodation options. 

 

5. Engage with Unique Traditional Cultures

There are seven regions in Southern Tanzania: the Iringa, Morogoro, Mbeya, Njombe, Rukwa, Ruvuma, and Songwe regions. Each region contains unique cultures and traditions, born from the tribes who have lived there for centuries. At each point of your visit, you can participate in cultural activities to interact with local people. Interact with the Makonde of Southeastern

Tanzania and buy intricate masks and wood carvings from the black bark of the mpingo tree. In the Ruvuma, you can watch the Mganda traditional dance where dancers adorn white outfits to perform. In the rainforest climate of Morogoro, learn from the Waluguru tribe, as they tell you about their matriarchal society and teach you traditional agricultural techniques. These are just three examples of the dozens of cultures in the region. Come and see for yourself!

 

Aerial shot of Iringa Town, the gateway to the South
Aerial shot of Iringa Town, the gateway to the South

 

Tourist destinations in Northern Tanzania like Serengeti, Zanzibar, Ngorongoro, and Mount Kilimanjaro get all of tourist attention while the gems of the South remain unvisited. There are so many amazing tourist opportunities within Southern Tanzania. There is an abundance of wildlife and reserves, and the actions that they are taking to ensure a sustainable future will make it a destination for tourists to visit for years to come. Take a leap of faith and explore this incredible place. You won’t be disappointed! 

If you would like to learn more about Solimar International’s project in Southern Tanzania, check it out here. Keep up with Solimar – don’t forget to like us on Facebook and LinkedIn

 

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Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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