Tag: #tourismstrategy

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

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

destination branding two kayak sunsetters

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

How to Build a Successful Destination Brand

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

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

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

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

Berlin skyline

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

 

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

A Brand is the Most Valuable Tool in your Marketing Strategy

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

Developing a Valuable Destination Brand Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

namibia landscape ideal for branding

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

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

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

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

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

In short, developing a powerful brand identity consists of:

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

turkey destination branding cappadocia

Using the Brand Pyramid for a Strong Destination Brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solimar DMO Development branding pyramid to help brand a destination

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

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

Authors: Caitlyn Marentette / Célia Hulin / Thomas Kalchik

Photo courtesy of Zane Hartog, a peace corps armenia volunteer. Hiking in Lori Marz, Armenia

Tourism Unique Center. really cool TUC campsite in the mountains showing the vast potential that Armenia's sustainable tourism industry has
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center. TUC campsite.

As most expert travelers know, it is difficult to find an immersive, cultural experience in regions away from large population centers. In the Lori region of Northern Armenia, the NGO Center has created the Tourism Unique Center, known as TUC (ՏՈւԿ), which allows tourists to learn and play while benefiting the local village community in Dsegh through economic development and poverty alleviation. TUC capitalizes on local knowledge, cultural sites, and a breathtaking environment to provide their guests with a travel story that will last a lifetime. It is one of the best examples of the country’s community-based tourism, showing that Armenia’s sustainable tourism potential is endless.

The Lori region of Armenia lies directly between the Armenian capital of Yerevan and Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Envoy Hostels, who operate locations in both cities, claim 70% of travelers visit both countries during their trip to this area of the world. In creating TUC, the NGO Center took note of their prime location and unique resources when envisioning a space to give foreigners an enchanting, hands-on travel experience. Learn more about why Armenia’s tourism industry.

Why visit Armenia?

Mount Ararat from the top of Cascade - an excellent opportunity to grow Armenia's sustainable tourism
Photo courtesy of Johnathan Stefanick. Mount Ararat from the top of Cascade.

In 2018, The Economist named Armenia its “Country of the Year.” The same year, the late Anthony Bourdain did an episode of Parts Unknown featuring Armenia as a burgeoning destination with a distinctive culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and riveting history. In a single day, a traveler can visit the first Christian church in the world, ride the longest ropeway in the world, and drink wine from a region whose production stretches back nearly 6000 years. This is all in addition to incredible views of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark came to rest, Lake Sevan, one of the largest freshwater alpine lakes in Eurasia, and Yerevan, a bustling capital offering extraordinary impressions around every corner. With all these incredible offerings, it is easy to understand why Armenian tourism is rapidly attracting international tourists.

Tourism Unique Center

TUC was an idea born out of the NGO Center, a prominent conglomeration of civil society outlets located across Armenia. The goal was to increase exposure to the region, while ensuring that local communities benefited from their own knowledge and land. TUC started small and slowly grew its exposure within the country until year three, when the all-inclusive campsite was able to host over 1000 visitors from all over the world in just a single summer.

Community Involvement in Armenian Sustainable Tourism

TUC is located in the village of Dsegh, which is also the birthplace of Armenia’s national poet Hovhannes Tumanyan. The community has historically rallied around the sense of pride this brings, and TUC provides the opportunity to reach a larger and more international base. All of TUC’s operations are run by locals who provide upkeep, excursions, and masterclasses on Armenian cultural practices. The community is involved in decision making as TUC continues to flourish in the tourism sector.

TUC has created the infrastructure necessary to host domestic groups seeking to reconnect with traditional rural Armenian life. Corporate retreats and school field trips use the space and resources to come together. Weddings and festivals are often hosted by the organization as well. TUC, while aiming to promote identity and tourism, has created a bastion of community development that serves to benefit all stakeholders.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). View of Dsegh from above, an amazing landscape filled with amazing potential for tourism development in Armenia
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). View of Dsegh from above.

TUC’s Travel and Tourism Experiences

TUC offers guests a plethora of experiential opportunities to participate in during their stay. Local experts serve as the guides or organizers for these outings and can range from cheese-making to hiking. Festivals are numerous in summertime to commemorate certain harvest cycles or to just have a great time. Other adventures guests can participate in are:

  • Gastro-masterclasses in local cuisine. The most popular are the world renown cheesemaking, lavash baking, and khorovats (Armenian barbeque)
  • Armenian games
  • Rafting and fishing
  • Horseback riding
  • Hiking to historical sites nearby
  • Traditional dance (Kochari) lessons
  • And festivals!
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). Cheesemaking process preserving local culture - Armenia's regenerative tourism
Photo courtesy of Tourism Unique Center (TUC). Cheesemaking process.

Armenia Sustainable Tourism Destinations Nearby

TUC can also be used as a jumping off point to explore other destinations nearby. Dsegh is located at the top of the Debet Canyon, a massive cavern that stretches for miles and is tucked between the rolling Caucus foothills. Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are just a quick drive or hike away. The Mikoyan Museum, which honors brothers Anastas and Artyom Mikoyan who invented the Soviet MiG fighter jets used in World War II, is also a must visit, as it boasts one of the only full size planes still constructed today!

Just a short walk from TUC is the Children of Armenia Fund’s (COAF) Smart Center. I describe it as a spaceship in the middle of a village. This educational space serves people of all ages in the surrounding communities by offering programming on everything from guitar classes to computer coding. The COAF Smart Center is an inspiring feat of community investment and offers regularly scheduled tours to learn more about their work.

Photo courtesy of Aram Atyan.  COAF Smart Center in rural Armenia as a visitor center for visitors to Northern Armenia
Photo courtesy of Aram Atyan.  COAF Smart Center.

Spitak is a small township located in the Lori region and was the epicenter of the 1988 earthquake that devastated northern Armenia. Many lives were lost and changed forever by the event. The response to this catastrophe was historical, as then former U.S. President George H.W. Bush sent his son Jeb to assist in the effort. This was also the first time the Soviet Union accepted western aid, as it dealt with the crisis and its aftermath. Many memorials can be seen throughout the town, and some of the devastation remains until this day (an opportunity for sustainable development).

Vanadzor is Armenia’s third largest city and lies approximately 30 minutes away. Formerly known as Kirovakan, this city features incredible Soviet architecture and a massive decorated main square. Vanadzor is known as the hub of Armenia’s rock and roll culture. Bands like Lav Eli, Rozen Tal, and Clocker were all formed here. Even Serj Tankian, the lead singer of System of a Down, has familial ties to Vanadzor.

See you in Dsegh!

TUC is an excellent example of destination management and effective strategic planning. The stakeholders identified the site’s unique characteristics and have capitalized on them in a tourism strategy benefiting all involved. The next time you find yourself in Northern Armenia, take the chance to check it out. The number of visitors leaving with unbeatable new memories is growing – don’t miss out.

To learn more about Solimar International’s projects in Armenia or our resources on destination management, please visit solimarinternational.com.

Photo courtesy of Zane Hartog, a peace corps armenia volunteer. Hiking in Lori Marz, Armenia
Photo courtesy of Zane Hartog. Hiking in Lori Marz, Armenia
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“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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