Tag: tourism development

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

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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.

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.

tourism planning trends

What is Tourism Planning? 

Tourism planning consists of creating strategies to develop tourism in a specific destination. Knowing and understanding current trends allows those in the industry to tailor their operations to meet demand. It is crucial for DMOs and tourism businesses to stay up-to-date.  

Origin and development of tourism planning

Tourism planning was born from the necessity of simultaneously balancing the economic goals of tourism and preserving the destination’s environment and local welfare. It arose in the second half of the 1990s, when mass tourism brought an unparalleled change in the travel environment. Consequently, the industry had to develop new standards to adapt to this change. 

The aim of tourism planning

The current objective of tourism planning is to control tourism’s unprecedented expansion to limit its negative social and environmental effects, while maximizing its benefits to locals. 

These goals can be reached by:   

  1. Analyzing the development of tourism in the destination
  2. Examining the state of affairs in a specific area and executing a competitive analysis
  3. Drafting tourism policies
  4. Defining a development strategy and actionable steps

Businesses looking for support through this process can reach out to Solimar International or check out this free toolkit. Solimar has a dedicated team of staff who employ a wide range of skills to promote economic growth, environmental preservation, and cultural heritage conservation. 

developing strategies and planning are key to improving destination tourism
Planning development strategies are necessary to improve tourism.

Why is Tourism Planning Important? 

Tourism planning should be part of destination development plans because it supports a destination’s long term success and incentivizes the collaboration of key stakeholders.

Tourism planning maximizes tourism benefits like: 

  • Promotion of local heritage and cross-cultural empathy
  • Optimization of tourism revenue
  • Natural environment and resource protection

Tourism planning also minimizes tourism drawbacks such as: 

  • Overtourism, and consequently anti-tourism feelings
  • Economic leakage
  • Disrespect for the local culture
  • Damage to the local environment

Tourism planning is also important because, by creating plans and strategies, destinations provide an example that other destinations can follow to improve tourism in their area. It ensures that the destination is consistent with changing market trends, constantly addressing tourist and resident needs as they arise. 

This was made clear in the Cayman Islands. The surge of cruise tourism caused a massive influx of tourists, which brought new challenges to the small islands. Consequently, the destination’s goal shifted from attracting tourists to sustainably managing them. The development of a National Tourism Management Plan was key to provide stakeholders with the tools they needed for sustainable tourism management. 

What are the Newest Tourism Trends?

In the planning process, it is fundamental to consider how new tourism trends influence the future of tourism planning and allow destination strategies to stay innovative.

1. Safety and Cleanness

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about significant change to tourism and tourists’ perception of travel. Tourists are now more concerned about safety and cleanliness. They have a preference for private home rental, contactless payments, and booking flexibility due to the constantly-evolving global health situation. They are also more willing to visit natural environments and less crowded destinations where they feel safer.

Tips for DMOs: Have safety and cleanliness standards, allow flexible bookings and contactless payments, and focus on open-air experiences. 

An excellent example of these practices is Thailand, which decided to boost tourism after Covid-19 by rebranding itself as a safe tourist destination, issuing safety certificates to infrastructures to build public trust. 

2. Social Media

Social media is the preferred channel for travel inspiration, influencing travelers’ decision-making because videos and pictures create an emotional bond between people and places. 

The preferred platform depends on the traveler’s generation:

  • Gen X uses Pinterest and aesthetically pleasing blogs
  • Millennials use Instagram
  • Gen Z uses TikTok

Generation Z is also more willing to travel after Covid, and they will have  high spending power in the next few years

Video content is favorable because of the high engagement and interaction it creates compared to pictures. In this context, TikTok is the future of travel marketing. On this fast-growing platform, videos are likely to become viral because of the app’s algorithm. For example, the travel campaign #TikTokTravel, where people were invited to share videos of their past trips, was viewed by 1.7 billion people

tourists use social media like Instagram to plan travel
A tourist searches for Instagrammable locations

Tips for DMOs: DMOs can use TikTok to promote attractions, restaurants, and tours partnering with influencers. Social media can attract new customers, monitor Instagrammable locations, and manage overcrowding by promoting lesser-known areas. This all helps shift tourists away from hot spots. 

Follow Solimar International’s success with social media promotion through their World Heritage Journeys of the European Union project. By providing research, media-rich itineraries, website promotion, and mobile maps, Solimar International can help your organization reach its target audience.

3. BLeisure Travel

Due to technology, the separation between work and life is blurred. This premise gives birth to the BLeisure travel, a genre of travel that combines business and leisure. Aside from those who travel for work, combining some leisure during their stay, there is an increasing number of digital nomads. These people are freelancers or smart workers who decide to adopt a traveling lifestyle. They will look for business hotels where they can easily obtain a fast Internet connection and a good working environment.

Some destinations are rebranding themselves, targeting those who work remotely. A good example is Aruba, which promotes itself as a paradise for workation.  

BLeisure tourists could work from their favorite destinations
How working as a BLeisure tourist could look

4. Destination Uniqueness

The tourism market is becoming increasingly competitive, especially for destinations with similar climates or natural features. To stand out, destinations need to focus on their distinctive assets. Places should identify a destination brand, which highlights their culture and the unique experiences they offer to tourists, instead of branding common and widely-available tourism practices.

An example of destination uniqueness as a trend of tourism planning is Uganda, which is widely known as a safari destination. The country rebranded itself by focusing on its one-of-a-kind cultures, landscapes, food, and traditions, labeling itself “The Pearl of Africa.” This is one aspect of Uganda’s tourism planning process. By identifying and promoting a destination brand, Uganda aims to develop an immersive tourism for meaningful and transformative experiences abroad. 

5. Transformative Travel 

Transformative travel is an expression of the experience economy combined with experiential travel. The latter is about living once-in-a-lifetime, off-the-beaten-track experiences rather than conventional ones, connecting visitors with local cultures. 

Transformative travel is defined by the Transformational Travel Council as:

 “intentionally traveling to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.”

Therefore, transformative travel is an immersive experience that aims to inspire personal transformation, growth, and self-fulfillment. People travel to transform their own lives and the lives of those who live in the destination. 

Tips for DMOs: Destinations should focus on providing unique and authentic experiences that connect travelers with locals. This enables tourists to experience local culture, food, and lifestyles, lending way to authentic experiences that they are sure to remember.

6. Sustainability and Community Engagement

Travelers are becoming more conscious of their environmental impact, and they are more willing to adopt a sustainable travel style. This means not only doing less harm to the environment, but also making a positive impact on cultures and economies, generating mutually beneficial relationships between tourists and locals.

An excellent example of a country that stays ahead of trends in tourism planning is Jamaica. Instead of boosting sun and beach tourism development, Jamaica has recently focused on community-based tourism, providing several experiences that empower locals. 

By focusing on poverty reduction, gender empowerment, equality and employment, Jamaica utilizes tourism to achieve social justice goals. 

Similarly, Solimar contributed to an Artisan Development project in Morocco. By strengthening the connection between local artisans and tourists, Marrakech and Fez saw a significant increase in direct selling to consumers, which contributed to increased local welfare.

developing sustainable framework is ket to the tourism planning process
Giving tourism a sustainable framework is a necessity for tourism planning

7. Technology to Manage Overtourism

The rise of charter flights boosted mass tourism. This has pressurized cities, raising the debate on the limits of acceptable change and generating anti-tourism sentiments among residents. One example of this is in Sedona, Arizona, where we helped manage visitor flow by marketing and promoting the nearby towns and attractions in Arizona’s Verde Valley

Tips for DMOs: Destinations should exploit technological advances to develop crowd management techniques. Some DMOs used gamification to manage tourism flow, spreading visitors in less known or less crowded areas. This is popular in London, for example, with the Play London with Mr. Bean app, a program that allows tourists navigate to different parts of the city and find points of interest quickly. This gives the city the opportunity to redirect tourist flows to spread-out spots in London.

To learn more about the tourism planning process and future trends in the tourism industry, visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today. 

By Greta Dallan & Hannah Lambert

trophy given to a successful destination

Destination Success – the Factors and Actors

Destination success is often synonymized with its popularity and high visitor numbers. Places like Paris, New York, Rome, and Bangkok are destinations that rush to mind… but are they convincing examples of destination success? What really defines a destination’s success, and who is responsible for it? 

Tourism is a dynamic and highly complex sector that manifests itself differently in every global destination. While there is no set formula for destination success, successful long-term tourism development must begin with sustainability concepts. Well-established tourism organizations, supportive local governments, engaged local leaders, and a shared vision of sustainability and innovation are what most effectively foster destination success.

Tourism offers tremendous opportunities for destination development, though it is important to remember that every development avenues incur a cost, and negative impacts may never be entirely avoided. For tourism to be considered a successful development tool, enough value must be generated and distributed. Additionally, all associated costs must not exceed the long-term stakeholder benefits.

 

mass tourism is human pollution grafitti
Image courtesy of CNN travel

 

What is the Role of Tourism Management and Governance?

Tourism success largely depends on strategic management by governments and destination management organizations (DMOs). In order to build a strong sector foundation, reap its economic benefits and mitigate the negative impacts, these entities must establish frameworks for public and private sector cooperation. Moreover, they should enact regulations for environmental and cultural heritage protection, develop infrastructure, and formulate clear plans and policies for sustainable tourism development. Most importantly, destinations must learn from their own and other industry mistakes by monitoring, reflecting, and improving current strategies. 

It is fundamentally important not only to engage all destination stakeholders in the planning, development, and destination management process, but also to distribute the benefits. With adequate education, training, guidance and financial support, locals can find their way into the sector and improve their quality of life while fostering continuous sector growth. As destinations often have external investors, their interests must be carefully balanced with the expectations of local stakeholders to ensure further financial support for the sector and overall economic development. 

 

beautiful blue island in palau sustainable tourism
Image courtesy of Lonely Planet

 

Small vs. Big tourism: How do you Define Destination Success?

In 2019, 2.28 billion international tourists visited destinations around the world. Do higher volumes of tourism mean greater benefits for the destination, or is it exactly the opposite? For a lack of better and more reflective metrics, tourism success is often measured in tourist arrivals, without providing many indications about the negative impacts. A common belief is smaller-scale alternative tourism (community-based tourism, backpacking, or eco-friendly tourism) is the only way to sector sustainability. Smaller-scale tourism, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the impacts are smaller or less negative. It may actually result in a reduced developmental contribution to the destination. 

Mass tourism, on the other hand, is broadly considered the opposite of good tourism. The truth however is it is not going anywhere, and solutions to make this area of tourism more sustainable are what shift the whole sector towards sustainability. Experts seem to agree – package-holidays and all-inclusive resorts may offer the answers the industry has been looking for. Designed responsibly and innovatively, all-inclusive resorts have the potential to erase some of the social and environmental strain caused by mass tourism by taking the pressure off crowded destinations. 

The true threat to destinations everywhere remains exceeding their individual physical, social and environmental carrying capacities. Rather than considering small vs. big tourism, studies say the necessary response to possibly apocalyptic impacts of uncontrolled tourism development is slow and steady tourism. It is not about maximum demand and rapid increase in visitors. It’s about fostering growth at a pace that destinations can afford, and choosing quality over quantity. 

 

Namibia - Africa’s tourism success story built on nature conservation (National Geographic)
Namibia – Africa’s tourism success story built on nature conservation (National Geographic) Image courtesy of The Guardian

Tourism Development and Commitment to Sustainability

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword, an abstract concept, and a way to greenwash the tourism product. With increased accountability, societal pressures, and shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, destinations must think not only about how to attract tourists, but also how to do it right. Considering destination success strives from visitor numbers and expenditure, long-term successful tourism growth must focus on boosting the positive and minimizing the negative impacts. 

The key to a thriving destination is addressing how tourism can benefit the local community by increasing economic prospects, supporting socio-cultural systems, and maintaining a healthy environment for local communities. A well-thought-out tourism strategy is crucial. Today’s environmental, socio-cultural and financial considerations will foster successful destinations of the future.

Social Impacts

Tourism cannot exist in isolation and greatly affects the social structures of a destination. Communities must be fully engaged in the development of the destination to ensure success, and, if handled correctly, can ensure the strengthening of communities and cultural preservation. Heavy tourism presence at a destination disregarding local, social and cultural constructs may result in acculturation, loss of identity, and authenticity – arguably some of the main reasons for visiting a destination in the first place. Authentic experiences are the product of community pride that reflects the destination and people. 

Negative social impacts are impossible to avoid entirely. Visitor behaviors, conduct, and oftentimes just the sheer amount of visitors may cause social resistance and conflict. In extreme cases, it may lead to fear for visitor safety, in turn greatly damaging a destination’s reputation and popularity, jeopardizing industry success. Ultimately, the key to social sustainability in tourism is mutual respect and understanding. 

 

Helsinki tourism
Helsinki – sustainable travel made easy (National Geographic) Image courtesy of GQ

Destination Success for the Environment

Interacting with unique environments and natural heritage are other main reasons for visiting a destination. Tourists want to swim and snorkel in a clean ocean and amid coral reefs, hike in stunning mountain environments, or stroll through well-preserved city centers. More importantly, natural resources, national parks, and heritage sites need to be conserved not only to maintain visitor interest in a destination, but also to continue supporting local communities and their livelihood. That will often depend on their surrounding ecosystems, particularly in rural tourism destinations.  

Rapid tourism growth and associated infrastructure development may result in soil erosion and loss of habitat. Without proper nature conservation plans, pristine natural spaces and agricultural land run a high risk of being replaced by hotels, airports, and golf courses. Overwhelming visitor numbers exceeding a destination’s carrying capacity may lead to air, water, and noise pollution, overuse of a destination’s water resources, and increased waste.  

If managed consciously, tourism can be a force for good and positively contribute to conservation and environmental protection while also representing an important source of financing for this purpose. Before identifying the right tourism conservation models for the destination, it’s important to identify the main threats to the natural habitats. Finding an equilibrium between protecting natural resources, wildlife, locals and supporting business interests is where long-term destination success lies. Failure to do so may lead to irreparable environmental degradation that, in extreme cases, may lead to a temporal or permanent ban on visitors to a destination. 

Economic Benefits from Destination Success

Tourism has the potential to bring money into communities, contributing to poverty reduction and fostering economic growth, especially in developing countries that often rely heavily on tourism for economic development. However, the way tourism currently operates is often harmful. Today, from every 100 USD spent by a tourist, it is estimated that only 5 USD stays in the local economy. The rest of the profits go into the pockets of political elites, external shareholders, and tour operators. With insufficient funds, destinations often cannot offset the negative impacts associated with tourism development, leading them to question the effectiveness of tourism as an economic development tool. With exceeding tourist numbers, degrading environments, and difficulty with destination infrastructure maintenance, a destination risks losing visitor interest and valuable tourist dollars. 

Additionally, foreign employees are hired in the industry, taking away job prospects for locals that would be needed to ensure the funds circulate across the region. The industry must also refrain from importing tourism products and instead utilize what’s available in the region to allow local communities and businesses to get a bigger piece of the tourism pie. Successful destinations should therefore focus their tourism economy on local providers and workers, to prevent leakages and ensure more revenue remains actually in the country. 

Interested in how we can help you attain sustainable destination success? Contact us to learn more.

Written by Lena Eckert, Alicia Winfield, and Emilija Zagere

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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