Tag: #tourismdevelopment

Sustainable travel, how to be a sustainable traveler in 2023

The term sustainable travel comes with many interpretations. It can encompass anything from staying in eco-friendly accommodations to taking one less flight.  But, navigating what this means as a traveler can be complicated. In the simplest terms, sustainable travel refers to efforts to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors that limit tourism’s negative impacts on natural environments and local communities. Sustainable travel should be seen as a tool to help conserve natural resources, preserve and uplift cultures and protect the longevity of destinations for future generations. In this blog post, we will touch on some of the challenges the tourism industry faces and provide some thoughtful tips on being a more sustainable traveler in 2023.  

The problems with travel as we know it 

Pre-pandemic, travel was at an all-time high. But this boom did not come without negative implications. Destinations became burdened by overtourism, with some cities experiencing gentrification due to skyrocketing costs of living, increased congestion, pollution and strains on limited resources. Overtourism has also been an issue for destinations without the necessary tourism infrastructure needed to support an influx in arrivals, leading to detrimental environmental impacts on natural ecosystems. All of which ultimately impact a traveler’s experience as well as locals who call the destination home year-round.

In addition to overtourism and degradation of ecosystems, the way we get around results in a serious amount of CO2 emissions, further exasperating the climate crisis. The days of jet setting around the globe, hopping from one country to the next have led to increased emissions, with UNWTO reporting that flights have produced 915 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019 alone. With the interconnectedness of today’s world, low cost carriers and the ease of booking travel, it’s never been easier to get around. But the ease of travel has implications for the environment and society at large.

Overtourism in Italy

Tourism is one of the planet’s largest industries and one of the most significant exports and drivers of economic growth. Tourism accounts for 10% of all economic activity and supports 1 in 10 jobs. It is often the primary source of foreign exchange earnings in developing economies and the most viable option for sustainable economic development. This is true of no other industry. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the destinations we know and love are benefiting from our visit. 

Tourism leakage occurs when the revenue generated by tourism is lost to outside economies. What this means is that the money you spend in a destination rarely stays there to benefit the local economy. In developing countries, this is a major issue as the very economic activities aimed at catalyzing growth actually do very little. According to estimates by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), for every $100USD spent on a holiday, only around $5USD stays in a developing country’s economy. This equates to an average leakage of 95% and is a global issue that many key stakeholders are working to improve to secure an equitable future for local community members. For example, in the emerging destination of the Republic of Congo, Solimar International is working on developing projects where tourism dollars directly contribute to conservation efforts and to promote the country as an international ecotourism destination.

Our top sustainable travel tips for 2023

Visiting destinations close to home or halfway around the globe offer travelers the ability to engage with different environments, cultures, and ways of living. These experiences enrich our lives and ultimately shape how we perceive the world – not to mention the impact they have on our personal growth and development. But travel is a two-way street, and the importance of how local community members and destinations are impacted by individual travel behavior should not be undermined. We can all agree that travel gives us so much, but it’s time to begin reflecting on how we can give back to the people and places we visit.

Ditch short inter-destination flights and opt for a local transport option

It’s not all doom and gloom – travelers around the globe are becoming increasingly conscious about their choices when embarking on trips near and far. According to the Sustainable Travel Report published by Booking.com, a staggering 87% of respondents said they wanted to travel more sustainably. But what does that actually mean, and how do those intentions translate to more sustainable travel practices? While there is no single answer, there are many considerations that sustainable travelers of 2023 can consider before departing for their next trip. Below you will find our top considerations to making more well-informed choices during the planning process and while at your destination. 

1. Seek out information from a Destination Management Organization (DMO)

Today’s travel space is flooded with information that can be useful in planning your next dream getaway. From blog posts to Youtube videos, booking engines like Trip Advisor to the influence of social media, the sheer quantity of resources can be super helpful – but also incredibly overwhelming. With algorithms and optimization, the smaller tourism players can be difficult to find from a quick Google search, which leaves travelers in a difficult place during the planning process. But there are ways you as a traveler can seek out those local, equitable and authentic experiences. 

One such way is by looking for a Destination Management Organization (DMO) in the destination you plan to visit. DMOs are the backbone of tourist destinations as they exist exclusively to promote the area, attract visitors and develop a regional economy. Seeking experiences through a DMO can be helpful in guiding travelers toward lodging providers, attractions, restaurants, and retailers that represent the long-term goals of a destination. In short, DMOs can assist you in finding authentic interactions while supporting sustainable tourism initiatives that make the overall experience more enjoyable for you and local community members. 

2. Visit emerging destinations

Another consideration you should be mindful of is choosing where to go. As mentioned above, there are many popular destinations that receive far too many tourists, leading to the various negative impacts of over-tourism. When you’re brainstorming destinations for your next getaway, you should challenge yourself to visit more off-the-beaten-path cities, countries, and regions, also referred to as emerging destinations. Emerging destinations are places with significant potential, where policymakers and local stakeholders alike need to make significant efforts to turn available resources and attractions into appealing tourism products. 

While emerging destinations may not be on the top of your Instagram feed, they can provide incredible experiences for travelers through unfiltered and raw experiences, pristine environments and, the potential to be the only person at a key attraction. Some examples of emerging destinations are Georgia, The Cook Islands, and the Northern Territory of Australia. 

3. Stop in a second city

If visiting an emerging destination is a little too raw for you and your next adventure, a stop in a “second city” is a good alternative. A second city can be any lesser-known destination that may not be the most popular choice for foreign visitors, but still offers the cuisine, culture and attractions of a country. Venturing to a second city will allow you to escape the overcrowded tourist areas all the while providing you with a more immersive look at local life. Instead of checking out Berlin, Canggu, or Phuket – consider Hamberg, Amed, or Ko Chang. 

Wandering the road less traveled and avoiding mega hotspots allows ecosystems to regenerate and will give you a few extra benefits, some that may even be good for your wallet. In general, you can expect your money to go further in lesser sought-after destinations as heavily touristed areas usually charge a premium for food, lodging and even that coffee you get every morning. In addition to many other benefits, going to second cities helps contribute to the local community and economy that otherwise mainly caters to locals. 

4. Choose the right season to travel

When you travel matters and has an impact on the way you experience a destination. Getting your timing right can mean many things like catching that local festival, experiencing the Northern lights or wildlife migration, or avoiding the rainy season in a tropical destination. While all these factors will contribute to and influence your overall decisions, avoiding destinations during peak season will help you be a more sustainable traveler. Have you always dreamed of visiting the canals of Venice or the sparkle of the Eiffel Tower in the evening? We’re not recommending that you throw those aspirations out the window, just that you’re more thoughtful when choosing when to visit. Traveling to those usually packed destinations during shoulder seasons can help minimize your impact on an otherwise overtouristed destination. A shoulder season is the period between high season and off season. Some destinations may be entirely closed during off-season, while others may experience crowds year round. There are some significant benefits to venturing to a destination during a shoulder season for example lower prices, better accommodation options and less crowds. This type of travel is also more considerate to local populations, giving the over-touristed destination a much needed break and spreading out income generation throughout the year. 

5. Do your homework

But really, we mean it. Travelers have the responsibility of making themselves aware of social and environmental challenges destinations may be facing before embarking on their trip. Understanding some of the key issues helps you be more mindful of the way you interact while visiting. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours researching before you go, but rather that you inform yourself of anything you should be aware of  in order to “do no harm” in-country. For example, tourism often puts additional pressure on natural resources through over-consumption, and this can be especially harmful in places where resources are already scarce. In developing countries where locals may live without the everyday amenities we are accustomed to back home, this can be especially harmful. 

Water scarcity is one such example. Swimming pools, golf courses, perfectly kept gardens and a shower in the morning, in the afternoon after a few hours spent by the sea, and a quick rinse before going to bed – you get the point. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with these activities (and personal hygiene routines), it ultimately depends on where you are staying. In arid environments, dryer regions, or destinations with less infrastructure in place, engaging in the overconsumption of scarce resources ultimately leaves residents high and dry. The same goes for energy usage. In places with frequent power cuts, you as a traveler have the responsibility to lessen your footprint. Whether it be resource scarcity with water, power, and land, or the pollution created by solid waste, and sewage, the golden rule is to act more in line with locals. It’s a privilege we are able to jetset around the globe! 

The same is true for social challenges. A big part of travel is learning how to be more sensitive to other people’s cultures. But know that these norms may not be the same as back home. Showing respect to elders, understanding how you should dress when visiting sacred places, and avoiding public displays of affection are some minor examples. But being a well prepared traveler requires you to also have a basic understanding of a destination’s political climate, laws and regulations and religious practices. Each and every destination is unique and comes with it’s own nuances and ways of life – that’s what makes travel so special, right? As you move through the world, embrace differences with an open mind, rethink the stereotypes and biases you may have had before your arrival and always respect social norms even if you don’t agree with them. 

6. Actively participate and reflect during your travels 

This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised with the number of travelers that bop from one destination to the next with few interactions with local people and places. In today’s globalized world, it’s easy to find the creature comforts of life back home – but is that what travel is really about? Get out of your comfort zone, venture off the main tourist streets, and push yourself to immerse in local experiences. The benefits of active engagement while you travel are two-fold. As a traveler, you’ll receive a multitude of benefits that span far beyond the end of your trip. You’ll have the ability to create more personal connections with the places you visit, which translates into a deeper reflection of the overall experience. Reminisce on your last trip, did you have a meaningful conversation with a local? Did you gain insight into daily life or see firsthand how the souvenirs you eagerly purchased for friends back home were made? Making intentional time for reflection during your travels may provide you with opportunities to gain that valuable insight and reconsider the preconceived narratives you may have had before embarking on your trip. You’ll also gain a deeper appreciation of the destination by having more participatory experiences, and locals will be greater for your eagerness to learn!

Be a more mindful traveler and lessen your environmental and social impact

You can do many things as a traveler to be more mindful when you go abroad. From packing a reusable water bottle, to staying local, the options to lessen your impact on the environment and the communities you visit are endless. As we explore the world, it’s our responsibility to lessen the burden we leave!

To be the first to hear about our future tips on being a more sustainable traveler, follow Solimar’s blog for future updates!

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! 

 

Regenerative travel allows you to ethically view some of these stunning sites

Why Regenerative Tourism is the Industry’s Future

When not managed or appropriately planned, tourism can be a very extractive process that comes at the expense of local people and their homes. Often, multinational tourism companies capitalize on popular destinations to the detriment of residents. These destinations are “mined” for labor, culture, land use, and natural features. Extractive tourism, a term coined by academic Vijay Kolinjivadi, contributes to climate change and environmental degradation and commodifies indigenous traditions. Local residents are often priced out of their homes due to the gentrification caused by tourist demand to be catered to.

Sustainable tourism is the first step toward counterbalancing the destruction caused by traditional tourism. The goal here is to make tourism a neutral force in destinations, causing no net harm–but also no net benefit. Regenerative tourism takes a step beyond sustainability; it encompasses the notion that tourism should leave a place better than before, taking a holistic approach to improving the well-being of destinations. Often, regenerative tourism operations offer visitors concrete ways of participating in conservation activities to increase their appreciation of the destination.

What Does Regenerative Tourism Do for the Planet?

Regenerative tourism operations require tourism professionals to brainstorm creative ways to minimize environmental impacts. Nature-based solutions integrate natural processes into the built environment to increase resilience, and are great methods for creating a regenerative tourism framework. These solutions can be big or small, ranging from building submerged structures for coastal wave-breaking and substrate for coral colonization to making plates out of locally-grown bamboo instead of plastic or paper. Nature-based solutions, implemented within a regenerative tourism plan, can help make tourism a force for good in the world. If every tour in a destination contributed to restoring the landscape, the positive change tourists could bring would be enormous!

Regenerative tourism does not only apply to previously damaged ecosystems, however. When starting a new tourism operation, it is essential to consider its possible effects on the environment. Implementing a regenerative plan before damage can even begin helps to ensure that tourism professionals do not create future problems for themselves. Keeping rivers clear, forests green, and beaches clean guarantees that tourists can continue to enjoy a destination for years to come. An unhealthy ecosystem can cause severe damage to a tourism operation’s bottom line; healing the environment as the market grows ensures business can stay booming. After all, you can’t offer snorkel tours if there are no fish to see. Regenerative tourism provides the promise of stability in both the natural and business worlds.

Sundarbans Forest in Bangladesh
Preserving natural beauty, like in the Sundarbans Forest of India and Bangladesh, is a significant part of any regenerative vacation

What Does Regenerative Tourism Do for People?

Regenerative tourism is not only focused on the restoration of the natural environment. On the contrary, it is deeply concerned with the experiences of people. First and foremost are the residents of a travel destination. Regenerative operations are either run by or look to partner with local communities. This ensures that tourism dollars flow into the destination, not the pocketbooks of outside investors.

Close relationships with local and indigenous peoples also allow for the concrete preservation of cultural heritage. Native residents can choose how to present their traditions to visitors rather than having foreign companies commodify their way of life. It can even increase local support for tourism!

Many popular destinations have become the victims of “overtourism,” or the congestion of a location by tourists, which locals perceive to have a detrimental effect on their own quality of life. The indigenous of Hawai’i, in particular, have been righteously hostile to tourists for several years, with some factions pushing for a complete halt of visitor traffic. However, a recent study in the Journal of Travel Research suggests that regenerative tourism models make tourism much more palatable for Hawai’i residents, with 96.3% of 463 respondents looking favorably to tourists who would participate in conservation activities.

regenerative tourism helps with impacts of crowds
Crowds of irresponsible tourists can reduce local support for tourism

Why Should Travelers Look for These Tourism Opportunities Moving Forward?

Booking a trip from an organization that uses regenerative tourism strategies can contribute to peace of mind, as visitors know that they aren’t promoting the destruction of the ecosystems they want to experience. These tours may not be the most well-known, but that doesn’t mean they offer a lower-quality experience. Many of them are hidden gems that give travelers unique opportunities for interaction that other tours could never provide, with smaller group sizes making for a more personalized adventure.

Local guides are a great way to support a local economy
Utilizing local guides makes for a smaller and more tailored experience for tourists.

Experiential tourism is the name of the game these days, with travelers wanting to pursue immersion over superficial encounters. Regenerative tourism operations allow visitors to get their hands dirty with activities such as planting native trees, clearing invasive plant species, and removing fishing gear and other plastics from water bodies. Local guides offer in-depth glimpses of the reality of life in these locations. These enterprises seek to create a culture of reciprocity with residents, allowing both sides of the tourism equation to learn from each other. Tourists who participate in these kinds of regenerative pursuits have reported feelings of deep satisfaction and connection with nature and are likely to continue these behaviors upon returning to their homes.

picking up trash is a meaningful way to contribute to a place
Participating in conservation activities, like beach clean-ups, makes visitors feel more connected to a destination.

On a more practical note, a 2021 study by Booking.com found that 68% of tourists want to ensure that their money goes to an operation that supports local people and is distributed equitably. On a regenerative trip, visitors can be sure that their money supports the people who live and work at these destinations. Residents are the people who have the power to keep the world’s favorite travel destinations clean, biodiverse, and economically stable while offering an honest look into their cultures.  Recreational travel through regenerative tourism helps to support a bright future for the tourism industry on all sides.

To learn more about regenerative tourism and why it is the future of our industry, check out our Director of Conservation & Community Development Chloe King’s white paper about regenerative tourism here. You can also see Solimar’s regenerative tourism projects on our website.

Blog by Annie Combs and Deanna Elliott

diver visiting for tourism participates in the blue economy

Tourism can positively impact the blue economy when properly planned, developed and managed. When this happens, nature heals, marine life returns, local communities are engaged and empowered, and culture thrives. In this piece, we explore the concept of the blue economy and the impact of sustainable and unsustainable tourism on blue growth.

What is the Blue Economy and how does it connect to tourism?

According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem”. 

The Center for the Blue Economy adds, “it is now a widely used term around the world with three related but distinct meanings- the overall contribution of the oceans to economies, the need to address environmental and ecological sustainability of the oceans, and the ocean economy as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries”.

Unsustainable Tourism: Pressure on Ecosystems

Tourism is the world’s largest economic industry. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), it accounts for 10% of global GDP. It introduces new jobs, promotes entrepreneurship, and drives investment in destinations. 

Unfortunately, many places have experienced more harm than good due to overtourism, pollution, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. For island and coastal communities, this means overfishing, coral bleaching, and disturbing the harmony and health of marine and aquatic life.

One example of tourism gone wrong is Thailand’s notorious Maya Bay in the Phi Phi Islands. Due to overtourism, corals died and marine life disappeared. Another example is from Central American islands Roatan and Bocas Del Toro in Honduras and Panama, respectively. The islands, where marine life once flourished, became at risk of habitat loss and environmental degradation due to mass tourism. 

crowded beach in portugal
Mass tourism on a beach in Lagos, in the Algarve region of Portugal

Sustainable Tourism: The Only Way Forward

When sustainably developed, tourism can be used as a force for good, where it sustains and regenerates rather than stresses and depletes. Similarly, when the damage has already been done, sustainable tourism can help restore and regenerate ecosystems. In either case, endless opportunities arise through circular and regenerative blue economy development. 

The Thai authorities decided on a three-year visitor closure in Thailand’s Maya Bay to regenerate the ecosystem. Over this period, they worked on construction and restoration to plant more corals, create a conducive environment for wild residents to return, and improve travelers’ experience. Today, the bay has reopened.

Similarly, Solimar’s Go Blue Central America Project worked on developing Central American islands’ tourism without compromising the natural environment. The project supported private sector businesses adhering to blue economy principles to protect and regenerate the islands’ coastal and marine habitats.

diving is the most famous way that tourism impacts the blue economy
Coral colony in Koh Chang island, Thailand

What Types of Tourism Benefit the Blue Economy?

Residents of water-surrounded countries can keep the economy afloat with day-to-day transactions of food and certain goods that come from the ocean. However, tourism can significantly boost production and income through product, service, and experience offerings. Here are five types of tourism that are benefiting the blue economy: 

  1. Dive Tourism

One of the main ways that tourists can contribute to a country’s blue economy is by booking a guided trip with a local dive master. In some countries, this type of trip turns out to be even more vital than guided fishing tours. People will book a trip to exclusively scuba dive, free dive, or snuba to explore reefs and exotic fish. 

While some tours include spear-fishing or lobstering, most dive tours are led in particular areas where wildlife is protected. In doing so, dive tours catalyze the protection and growth of surrounding reefs. When marine ecosystems are well preserved, locals can carry on producing and providing more of the products and services that tourists love. As a result, the underwater world will be richer and more attractive to explore, fish will be more abundant, and corals and shells will become more available for harvest to be made into collectables.

Divers exploring a reef in the Maldives as tourists contributing the blue economy
Divers exploring a reef in the Maldives
  1. Fishing Tours and Trips (Pescatourism)

Many places on the water offer guided fishing trips with town locals. Like dive tours, these trips foster blue economy development. Usually, travelers experience a day in the life of a local fisherman by joining them on a boat, helping them catch fish, visiting their local community, and cooking and eating the fresh catches using traditional recipes. 

By following fishing guidelines and regulations, fishermen keep fish populations at balanced levels for healthy ecosystems. As a result, marine environments and local economies both thrive. Fishermen have a strong incentive to protect marine life and avoid overfishing so that they can continue to sell their experiential travel products. This, in turn, increases and diversifies their income streams and makes them more resilient to external shocks.      

Fishing boats parked in Iraklio, Greece is a form of pescatourism

Fishing boats parked in Iraklio, Greece

  1. Local Artisan Markets

Local markets that showcase artisan work and crafts are vital to small countries’ economies. Sellers showcase their products to tourists, who are often eager to purchase them as souvenirs and collectable decorations. In island and coastal nations, many of these products are made of materials from the ocean. Often, craftsmen use dead coral, washed-up shells, or sand, which are natural, renewable resources.

shells from the ocean

  1. Marine Ecotourism for the Blue Economy

According to the UNWTO, ecotourism involves observation and appreciation of nature, education, environmental protection, and community engagement. It integrates ecological protection with the social and economic development of local communities. Marine ecotourism is that which corresponds explicitly to coastal and marine ecosystems. Such tourists usually visit natural, virgin areas with little to no development to observe wild species or scenic landscapes. This form of tourism highly regards nature and culture, where it focuses on protecting or improving the natural environment and preserving and respecting cultural heritage.

A sea turtle swims over top of a shallow-water reef, tourists love diving with turtles
A sea turtle swims over top of a shallow-water reef
  1. Scientific, Academic, Volunteer, and Educational (SAVE) Tourism

This type of tourism is fundamental to blue economy development. SAVE travelers view tourism as a way to learn, explore, help, and grow. Inherently, SAVE tourism focuses on safeguarding and improving destinations, including their resources, communities, sites, and organisms.

Group of volunteers picking up trash from a beach
A group of volunteers picking up trash from a beach

All five types of tourism contribute to blue growth, where economic and environmental benefits are not mutually exclusive. Through these models, incentives are correctly aligned, where tourism success depends on a balanced, healthy, and rich cultural and natural heritage. As a result, tourism acts as a bridge between economic, social, and environmental sustainability, directly feeding into blue economy development.

How does Tourism Positively Impact the Blue Economy?

After delving into the different types of tourism, let’s explore how tourism can have a positive outcome:

  1. Natural Conservation and Restoration

The blue economy is crucial for environmental conservation and restoration due to its focus on sustaining and regenerating marine ecosystems. This happens in two ways. First, sometimes conservation and restoration are inherent to the activity, such as cleanup dives. In this case, divers actively clean oceans and reefs out of genuine concern and demand for a fulfilling experience.

Other times, locals are incentivized by economic motives, as with pescatourism. Here, fishermen are cautious about maintaining healthy, balanced systems so they can carry on selling their experience. If they engage in overfishing, this leads to imbalance and loss. On the other hand, if there are no more fish, there is no more food or demand for fishing experiences. Hence, the blue economy properly aligns incentives and encourages fishermen to act responsibly.

Second, and in many cases, travelers who experience natural treasures such as pristine beaches or rich and colorful coral reefs recognize the importance of respecting and safeguarding our planet. Sometimes, conversations with locals about how they deal with food or freshwater shortages help visitors recognize the value of such resources. This encourages travelers to consume more responsibly, reduce waste, and urge others to follow suit.

 A flock of flamingos

2. Improvement in Income and Livelihoods 

Tourism helps local communities in improving their income and livelihoods in two ways. The first is job creation. Tourism development naturally requires more capacity to cater to visitor needs. As a result, many new businesses will seek labor to fill newly-created jobs.

The second way is in entrepreneurship and innovation. Tourism development is an opportunity for creative entrepreneurs to unleash their innovative potential. When there is a favorable enabling environment, local communities can build their own businesses and take ownership and sovereignty for their development and long-term vision.

A worker in traditional dress at a hotel in Zanzibar on the ocean

3. Cultural Preservation

Tourism also encourages communities to celebrate and preserve local cultures, many of which are at risk of disappearing altogether. Several recipes, dances, languages, craftsmanship techniques, and other traditions passed down from generations risk being forgotten. 

With the rising demand for immersive, community-based travel, communities recognize the value of their unique cultural heritage. As a result, this encourages them to protect their heritage, embrace it, and share it with the world.

4. Preventing Social Dislocation and Rapid Urbanization

Many major cities are located along coasts and waterfronts, and these places experience pressure from rapid urbanization in many countries. People flood to urban centers for better economic opportunities, which increases stress on existing infrastructure. It also creates congestion, pollution, resource depletion, inflation, and reduced quality of life overall.

Since community-based tourism introduces livelihood opportunities in rural underserved areas, it propels members to stay. This prevents threats of social dislocation, cultural dilution, and rapid, unsustainable urbanization.

Indigenous houses in the Amazon river basin near Iquitos, Peru

In conclusion, tourism has had adverse effects in some countries. Still, as this piece demonstrates, sustainable tourism can be a positive tool to strengthen economies and encourage ecological growth.

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

Blog by Dalia Hammad and Miles Rieker

polar ice caps climate change

In part one of this series, we discussed how tourism and climate change are inextricably linked. Nature-based tourism is becoming increasingly vulnerable to changing weather patterns, while the nature of tourism itself contributes 8% of global emissions. The landmark Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism – launched at COP26 – urged destinations and the tourism industry to reduce carbon emissions by 50% before 2030, and reach Net Zero as soon as possible by 2050. Solimar Internationa’s recent white paper publication echoed this commitment, designing Five Principles for tourism businesses to invest in Nature-based Solutions to respond to the causes and consequences of climate change (see photo). In addition to a mitigation pathway of measuring and reducing emissions, it is imperative for governments and businesses to simultaneously invest in climate change adaptation – using tourism as a means to build, finance and sustain climate resilient destinations.

Five Principles for Effective Nature-based Solutions in Tourism from Solimar International’s report

Five Principles for Effective Nature-based Solutions in Tourism from Solimar International’s report Climate Action through Regeneration: Unlocking the Power of Communities and Nature through Tourism

The World Economic Forum (2020) estimated that over half of global GDP, US $44 trillion, is potentially threatened by loss of nature and biodiversity, while the transition to a nature-positive economy could create 395 million jobs by 2030, or around one fifth of the total projected increase in global labor force (World Economic Forum, 2020). Global investments in NbS already surpassed US $133 billion in 2020—only 14% of which came from private finance (UNEP, 2021a; UNEP and IUCN, 2021). The UN State of Finance for Nature report 2021 argues this investment must triple by 2030 if we are to meet global climate and biodiversity goals.

The second in this article series showcases how we can increase investment in nature in destinations around the world–including those that we support through our international development projects–to respond to the consequences of climate change by investing in actions that will protect and restore nature and communities.

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest – Bangladesh 

The Sundarbans Reserved Forest in Bangladesh is the largest mangrove forest on Earth, home to the Bengali tiger and hundreds of bird, fish, mammal, and reptile species. Spanning three wildlife sanctuaries across 317,950 hectares, including Ramsar and World Heritage Sites, the Sundarbans provides sustainable livelihoods for millions of people and act as a shelter belt to protect communities from storms, cyclones, tidal surges, and seawater intrusion.

Sunderbands reserve forest in Bangladesh

The Sundarbans Reserve Forest in Bangladesh. Photo by Chloe King

A total of 7.79 million people live in the Sundarbans Impact Zone, with about 28 percent of people from this zone directly dependent on the Sundarbans for their livelihoods, including as woodcutters, fishermen, and gatherers of honey, leaves, and grass. However, according to a recent study, Bangladesh lost 73 percent of mangrove forest cover since the 1960s, with only 11 percent of the country remaining forested (Bangladesh Forest Inventory). Nearly 2.5 million people depend upon the SRF for their livelihoods (Gopal and Chauhan, 2018), and the mangrove forest naturally shields millions from increasingly erratic weather events, such as Cyclone Amphan that hit the coast in 2020, the most powerful to strike Bangladesh in 20 years (AlJazeera, 2020). Unsustainable development, such as the Ramsar Coal Fired Power Plant, under construction only 4km away from the buffer zone of the SRF may provide jobs, but ultimately risk undermining the natural climate protection the SRF offers (Chowdhury, 2017). 

USAID/Bangladesh, in partnership with the Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance (BECA) implemented by Solimar International and the Government of Bangladesh, is currently focusing on interventions in and this iconic tourism destination and arguably most important protected area. By ensuring that tourism develops sustainably and is better distributed to local communities, this project hopes to reduce pressure on natural resource extraction, while also deterring environmentally destructive industries from developing around the periphery of the reserve. The communities living around the periphery of the last great mangrove forest cannot afford to lose the living lungs of the Earth. Without nature and wildlife, humanity can neither address the climate crisis as a whole, nor save those who are most vulnerable to its consequences. 

map of the sundarbands reserve forest

Climate Change Adaptation in the Maldives and Sri Lanka

Climate risks in the Maldives and Sri Lanka are growing in frequency and intensity. Sea level rise, coastal storm surges, and flooding pose a significant threat to the Maldives, where more than 80% of the land area is less than one meter above sea level. Flooding and drought in Sri Lanka are among many of the consequences of climate change that negatively impact the most important elements of Sri Lanka’s economy. For these reasons, both countries have policy frameworks in place that identify climate change risks and prioritize adaptation strategies.

The USAID Climate Adaptation Project (CAP) is a five-year project in the Maldives and Sri Lanka where its purpose is to enhance the adaptive capacities of the public and private sectors and local communities to respond to the impact of climate change. The first year of the activity (2022) is focused on the Maldives, and Solimar International is leading the private sector engagement for the project. CAP will help identify and scale up solutions to climate-related challenges, strengthen governance to address climate-related risks, and improve access to high-quality information for decision-making to reduce vulnerability to climate change. Solimar will support this work by identifying innovative solutions to adaptively manage climate-related risk through market-driven private sector and community engagement.

Tourism operators in the Maldives have the unique ability to take advantage of increased interest in and funding for Nature-based Solutions for climate mitigation, while simultaneously utilizing these same solutions to respond to societal challenges and help their respective destinations adapt to the realities of climate change. Tourism can play an important role in helping communities adapt to this new reality and build resilience to future risks. For example, many of the resorts and tourism businesses in the Maldives are already investing in coral reef restoration through organizations such as Reefscapers. However, interviews with businesses revealed that this restoration work is not being done in a consistent or effective manner, with lack of national policy guidelines for tourism operators.

coral reefs threatened by climate change

Coral reef ecosystems in the Maldives are threatened by climate change and coastal tourism development. A more sustainable industry can help to mitigate both of these threats. Photo by Chloe King

An example of nature based solutions include mangrove tourism projects. On the Maldives’ Huvadhoo Atoll, mangroves were covered with sand to reduce mosquito populations; however, flooding also increased as a result. Local communities pushed for restoration and the construction of eco-huts which linked tourism and mangrove restoration. Solimar is exploring opportunities for destination management at other mangrove sites in the Maldives, linking mangrove ecotourism to support conservation. These models of nature based solutions can be further explored to link tourism and climate change adaptation.

Another opportunity for tourism to be involved in climate adaptation includes creating structures that protect and nourish sand and shorelines in ways that are nature-based and nature-positive. For example, living sea walls can be created as a blend of hard engineering seawall solutions that foster growth in coral and other marine life. This could offer an opportunity to resorts in the Maldives that are looking to invest in sea walls to create more environmentally-friendly and adaptive solutions.

Are you a tourism business or destination with innovative ideas for climate adaptation? Are you financing nature restoration or protection in new or exciting ways? Take our survey here for a chance to be a featured business in an upcoming white paper publication: https://tinyurl.com/enterprise-nbs-survey

By Shivya Nath, Alexandria Kleinschmidt, Annie Combs, and Chloe King

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