Dr. Don Hawkins, Solimar International’s Chairman and Principal is an expert in tourism policy, strategic planning, workforce development and management education with 52 years of international experience. Don held the endowed Eisenhower Professor of Tourism Policy Chair at the George Washington University School of Business. In 2003, he received the first World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Ulysses Prize for individual accomplishments in the creation and dissemination of knowledge in the area of tourism policy and strategic management. In 2012, he was elected as Vice Chairman of the UNWT0 Affiliates Council and appointed as Special Advisor to the UNWTO Secretary General for the Knowledge Network. He was the Founder and Chairman of the SAVE Travel Alliance, serves on the Board of Directors of the Ulysses Foundation and is Chairman Emeritus of Sustainable Travel International and Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance
Don has consulted all over the world including North American, Caribbean, Latin American, European, African, Middle East, and Asia/Pacific Regions. His doctoral degree was in Park Management, awarded by New York University in 1967. He is credited with over 114 publications, including books, journal articles, monographs, project reports and educational materials.
Chris Seek oversees the strategic direction of the sustainable tourism company while ensuring the organization’s work supports environmental conservation, cultural heritage preservation, and enhances the lives of local residents. Based in Washington DC, Chris manages Solimar’s staff of more then 20 tourism professionals working in over 17 countries. Chris leads new business efforts, strategic partnerships, and ensures all of Solimar’s clients are able to connect to the tourism market.
Over the last 12 years with Solimar, Chris has applied his professional background in marketing and corporate social responsibility with his own personal travel experiences (more then 50 countries) to design sustainable tourism development strategies that provide tangible results to both our clients and targeted beneficiaries. Prior to working in tourism, Chris worked as a marketing professional for Fortune 500 clients including Heineken, Sony, Perrier, GE, and others. Chris holds a bachelor's degree in Communications from Wake Forest University and a Masters of Business Administration from American University with concentrations in Sustainable Destination Management and Integrated Marketing Communications.
Jim Phillips has 30 years of experience in international tourism consulting, including strategic planning for tourism development, small business and microenterprise development, hotel and tourism-related investment promotion, marketing and promotion, feasibility studies and economic impact analyzes. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Jim worked for Arthur Andersen LLP and Arthur Consulting Group International, completing assignments in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East. Jim also served as Director of Tourism Development Programs for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Latin America and the Caribbean, where he conducted programs and events for more than 30 countries in the LA/C region. Programs included hotel investment missions and conferences, investment promotion strategy development, tourism planning, and product development and assessment missions. Work at the Commerce Department also included providing technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses to establish and operate a range of tourism and export-oriented enterprises.
Jim holds a Bachelor's degree in economics from Eckerd College and a Master's degree in International Business from the American Graduate School of International Management, Thunderbird campus.
Natalie Sellier has over twenty years of professional experience in finance, accounting, business planning, and project management. Natalie originally joined Solimar in 2007, utilizing her business background and passion for travel to assist small tourism enterprises and destination management organizations achieve financial sustainability by way of strategic business planning, public-private partnerships, and market linkages. As Chief Operating Officer, Natalie has assumed leadership over Solimar’s internal operations, oversees contracting and financial management, supports business development efforts, and assists technical staff achieve programmatic objectives. Natalie brings technical expertise through her involvement in the implementation of over 100 technical programs and is well-versed in the intricacies of both federal and donor contracting and cost accounting standards.
Natalie holds a Bachelor's in Business Administration from James Madison University and a Master's in Business Administration from The George Washington University with a degree focus in sustainable destination management.
Over the last twenty years, Matt Humke has pioneered an approach to building community-based tourism enterprises that directly support biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation efforts in protected areas throughout the developing world. First working with Native American communities such as the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona, next as Rare Conservation's Senior Manager of Enterprises in Latin America & the Caribbean, and now managing Solimar's small business development projects around the world.
The community-based tourism enterprises Matt has helped to establish, such as "La Ruta Moskitia" in Honduras, have generated more than $5 million for local economies over the last ten years. The success of these enterprises in conservation and poverty alleviation has resulted in a number of the industry's top honors, including a Tourism for Tomorrow award, a Responsible Tourism award, and inclusion on both Condé Nast Traveler's "Green List" and National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth".
Mr. Ivane Vashakmadze brings more than 30 years of working experience in tourism sector as mountain climber and guide, resort operator and development consultant. He has worked as a project manager and lead consultant for the international cooperation projects with various donor organizations and public institutions such as World Bank, USAID, EU, KfW, GiZ, SDC, ADA, WWF etc. Amongst the other specific tasks, he has been working on tourism sector national and regional strategies, institutional policy, protected areas (National Parks) and eco-tourism planning, cultural heritage management, tourism economic assessment and land use planning and urban planning, mountain resorts management and adventure tourism operations.
Mr. Vashakmadze has also experience to work in public sector as a deputy general manager of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation, acting head of Georgian National Tourism Administration and GM of government JSC "Gudauri ski resort".
He has solid experience of developing tourism sector initiatives and recommendations for tourism strategy, assisting public institutions in heritage management and policy regulations, developing employment opportunities and SME development projects within tourism sector, assessing investment proposals for regional development and tourism, supporting business initiatives in tourism and hospitality services, implementing small scale pilot project in mountainous areas etc. In addition, he has been engaged in conducting tourism scoping assessment in Central Asian countries under USAID CTJ project.
Mr. Vashakmadze is a member of several organizations in tourism sector. He is a Co-Founder and board member of "Georgian Mountain Guide Association", steering committee member of "Adventure Tourism Leaders school", board member of bio-farming association "Elkana", founder member of "European Mountain Forum" and Co-founder of "European Mountain Forum" / "Global Mountain Forum", Member of World Bank experts group, etc...
Professor Md. Wasiul Islam holds a PhD in Tourism from the University of Queensland, Australia. Before his PhD he completed his MSc in Forest and Nature from the Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands. Prof. Islam is basically a forester working at Forestry and Wood Technology Discipline of Khulna University, Bangladesh. Previously he used to work in Bangladesh Forest Department to conduct research activities on tourism and wildlife of the Sundarbans mangrove forest. His research interests are focused on forest and nature conservation, nature-based tourism, shared governance, participatory management of protected areas, co-management approach, sustainability, social learning, and blue economy. He has published his research findings in several international peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, conference proceedings, and daily newspapers. His hobby is to travel new areas, playing and watching cricket.
Md Sarowar Jahan (Mithu) has 14 years of professional experience in responsible tourism, tiger, and biodiversity conservation. He started his career as a tour guide, and eventually became a trainer and developer of some exclusive tourism products and destinations. As a young consultant, Sarowar contributed to writing the 'visitor management strategy; interpretation, presentation, and promotion' for the UNESCO World Heritage Site namely Qalat-al-Bahrain. He worked as a consultant for Zerafshan Tourism Development Association (ZTDA), Tajikistan. This gave him the opportunity to spend time with the mountainous communities of Tajikistan and helped them develop the community-based eco-tourism supply chain model that ensured the best practice of sustainable tourism. Consequently, ZTDA’s community-based tourism service providers are directly benefiting from that model over the last eight years.
Sarowar’s five years journey as a conservationist started with USAID’s Bengal Tiger Conservation Activity and IUCN-KfW’s Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme implemented by the WildTeam in the Sundarbans. As a conservationist, he supported field activities of Penthera, and assisted Awely’s Wildlife and People documentary on Tiger Victim & Tiger Widow, telecast on TF1, France. He is an avid photographer and had two exhibitions in Hessen & Berlin, Germany.
Mithu holds an MA in World Heritage Studies from the Brandenburg University of Technology, Germany, majoring in UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination process, natural and cultural heritage preservation, safeguarding tangible and intangible heritage, and community-based sustainable tourism. He had his thesis on ‘Strategies for Developing Community Based Responsible Tourism in Sundarbans’. He had an international presentation on ‘Prospects of Sustainable Tourism in Bangladesh: The Case of the Sundarbans’ at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.
Taufiq Rahman has 28 years’ experience on tourism business development in Bangladesh and South Asian (India, Nepal, Srilanka, Bhutan etc.) countries. Also having more than 10 years demonstrated experience in collaboration and coordination with the Bangladesh Tourism Board under Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Government of Bangladesh for development of Tourism products. Currently supporting Bangladesh Tourism Board & Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism, for the Preparation of Bangladesh Tourism Master Plan (BTMP) as Inbound Tour Operator Expert. Over last 20 years, he has engaged as a Training consultant with National Hotel & Tourism Training Institute ( NHTTI), Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, Department of Tourism & Hospitality Management, University of Dhaka, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( DCCI) & Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh ( TOAB) to enhance capacity of the tourism sector of Bangladesh. He has commendable experience in developing training curriculum, module and learning materials for the trainees as well as trainers.
He holds Master of Business Administration degree from Bangladesh, Diploma in Hotel Management, Nicosia, Cyprus, Certificate from WES institute in Brugge, Belgium on Tourism Marketing Planning, Certificate from School of Travel Industry Management, University of Hawaii, USA on Executive Development Institute for Tourism (EDIT), MICE Professional Development Programme from Srilankan Convention Bureau, Kandy, Srilanka and Certificate from School of Hotel & Tourism Management, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. He was the Global Board member of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA – Global), Secretary General of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Bangladesh chapter & Former 1st. Vice President of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB).
Rezvin Akter has been working in the conservation sector in Bangladesh for more than 10 years now. Most of her professional life revolved around tiger conservation in the Sundarbans with WildTeam (a conservation organization in Bangladesh) where she worked with the local community, Forest Department, and other stakeholders with the goals to empower them with conservation knowledge, mitigating human-wildlife conflict, and combating wildlife crime. She led the behavior change campaign titled ‘Mother-like Sundarbans’ campaign at the local level. Through this campaign, her interest grew in environmental education, awareness, and social marketing for wildlife conservation. She loves to travel and explore the wilderness and is now working on USAID Ecotourism Activity in the Sundarbans to learn and contribute to conservation and community development through sustainable tourism.
Rezvin holds a BSc. and an MS in Zoology from the University of Dhaka and an MPhil in Conservation Leadership from the University of Cambridge.
Chloe King is a marine conservationist, social scientist, and nature-based solutions specialist, passionate about using tourism to improve outcomes for people and nature. As a PADI Divemaster, Chloe both worked in the marine tourism industry and led research projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste as a Boren Scholar, Projects for Peace Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar, gaining fluency in Bahasa Indonesia while engaging with coastal communities across the archipelago. At Solimar, she has managed numerous USAID-funded projects, including establishing a thriving DMO in Timor-Leste; enhancing conservation outcomes for tourism in the Sundarbans Reserve Forest of Bangladesh; leading private sector engagement in climate adaptation in Sri Lanka and the Maldives; and writing the COVID-19 recovery strategy for the government of Georgia. She is leading research into how tourism can better facilitate and finance nature-based solutions in response to the climate emergency.
Chloe holds a BA in International Affairs (George Washington University), an MSc in Marine Systems and Policies (University of Edinburgh), and an MPhil in Conservation Leadership (University of Cambridge) where she was a Marshall Scholar. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, working with the Ministry of the Galápagos to create their tourism recovery strategy post-COVID-19.
Micah is a social scientist with experience managing USAID projects in Nigeria, Colombia, and Central Asia. Before working as a project manager in international development, she conducted qualitative research in Honduras and Nicaragua, taught English at a public university in Brazil as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, and led volunteer and educational trips in Nicaragua and Thailand. Micah first knew she wanted to be involved in international work when she moved to Nicaragua to learn Spanish after high school. Since then, she has been dedicated to learning about people and places around the world and supporting community development, with a focus on education and health.
Micah holds a BA in Sociology and Spanish Language and Literature from Westmont College and an MA in Anthropology with a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina.
Previous to joining the Solimar team, Jenny has explored her passion for adventure, exploring 80+ countries and working on-the-ground dozens of international development projects, notably in Thailand, Morocco, Ecuador, Somaliland, Indonesia, Nepal, Jordan, and Brazil. Most recently, she received a prestigious Fulbright grant to live in Malaysian Borneo. As a Davis Foundation Projects for Peace Fellow researching tourism and women’s livelihoods on Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste, Jenny first heard of Solimar after a serendipitous run-in with a local consultant. Several years since, she has used her background in travel writing and strategic planning to contribute positively to Solimar’s portfolio. Most of her team duties involve communications, and ensuring that destination messaging is consistent and engaging. Recently, Jenny has taken on more project management roles. Jenny holds a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.
Caecilia is a cultural and heritage tourism lover that fell deeply in love with travelling at a very young age. As a backpacker, she visited South Korea, China, Myanmar, Hongkong, Tibet, India, Morocco, USA, Canada, Spain, and other less popular destinations. As an experienced and passionate sustainable tourism professional with a demonstrated history of working in the leisure, travel & tourism industry, Caecilia is skilled in Destination Management, Destination planning and development, Event Planning, Tourism product development, Tour Operation, Travel Management and so on. Caecilia has her BA in Accounting from McGill University and has her Master in Tourism Administration program from the George Washington University with a major in sustainable destination management.
In her own words: “In order to protect destination communities and sustain cultural heritage destinations for future generations, my true passion is to help cultural heritage destinations around the world to be developed in a sustainable way. Since Solimar is a leading sustainable tourism consulting firm, I could learn about good practice experiences that can help destinations in improving sustainably. In addition, the most important reason to attract me to work for Solimar is the Solimar Team, who are the group of expertise working in the sustainable tourism industry with the pursuit of authenticity, historic values, and development of cultural traditions at all destinations.”
Maria Lucia Prinz started working in tourism 15 years ago as a tour guide while studying ecotourism in Guatemala City. When graduated from the university, she started working in Peten, Guatemala, developing community based tourism enterprises and linking theses enterprises to support conservation.
Since then she has helped develop a number of ecotourism enterprises in Central, South America, Africa and the Caribbean and specializes in product development, staff training in tourism operations and nature guide training through a proven methodology. She also has expertise in the areas of business planning, product development, sales and marketing.
Juan Luna-Kelser made a career at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In the last ten years of his career, he concentrated his efforts in the planning, designing, and managing of tourism investment loan projects, as well as technical assistance operations. Since his retirement from the IDB in January 2007, Juan has been advising and consulting for Solimar International and continues to be engaged by bilateral and multilateral financial institutions, as well as NGOs and private clients for the development and implementation of sustainable tourism projects in various countries.
Currently, Juan is a Sr. Research Scholar at the International Institute of Tourism Studies at George Washington University’s School of Business. He holds a Masters degree in Tourism Administration with a concentration in Sustainable Destination Management from George Washington University, as well as a Masters degree in Political Science from Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. He earned his Bachelors degree in Political Science at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, California. Juan is originally from Mexico City and is fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese.
Natasha Martin is an adventure tourism marketing expert. She has experience working with private sector, government and trade associations, and has worked with clients around the world from Greenland to Namibia. She currently conducting research into the motivations and preferences of Asian adventure travellers, and working with destinations and companies to help them reach this growing segment.
Natasha has a BA in African History from Concordia University and a Masters of Tourism Administration from The George Washington University. Natasha speaks French and Spanish and is based in Hong Kong.
Bradley Weiss is a tourism development consultant who has worked with Solimar on numerous assignments over the past ten years. Most notably, he spent four years with Solimar in Ethiopia leading the private sector competitiveness and workforce development efforts for a Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance (GSTA) Project. During this period, he also lent support to a similar GSTA project in Uganda.
Previously, he worked at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), where he mobilized educational institutions to aid member nations in areas such as training, knowledge management, and strategic planning. He has also gathered experience in tourism development through consulting engagements in countries such as Mozambique, Ecuador, Philippines, Botswana, Peru, Madagascar, Vanuatu, Kenya, Brazil, Armenia, Mali, Panama, Rwanda, Seychelles, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Lesotho, São Tome e Príncipe, Cape Verde, and Zambia. His consulting work in these countries, conducted primarily through World Bank and USAID-financed initiatives, has been in the areas of tourism policy & planning, capacity building, marketing, public-private dialogues, quality standards, shared economy, and community enterprise development.
Bradley holds Master’s degrees from the George Washington University in Tourism Administration and Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain) in International Tourism and Hotel Management.
Olivier Messmer joined Solimar in September 2008 to work on USAID-Dominican Republic Sustainable Tourism Alliance program. With a strong knowledge of the eco-tourism sector, Olivier was responsible for community tourism product development, including helping to promote and link these new enterprises to the market. Since 2010, Olivier has mainly worked in African destinations (including the Marrakech and Fez Medinas, High Atlas and Sahara desert in Morocco, Benin, Madagascar and Ghana) where he was in charge of several tourism development projects financed by USAID, The World Bank, Millenium Challenge Corporation, UNDP and GIZ. Olivier has extensive experience managing international development projects in Western Africa and a wide network of European Tour Operator contacts, particularly in France. Olivier has over 15 years experience in tourism marketing, tourism product development, development of public private partnerships and tourism investment promotion. Olivier holds a joint Erasmus Master degree in International Business from Bordeaux Business School, France and the University of Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Hitesh is an Architect, Landscape Architect, Interior Architect, Destination Physical Planner, Protected Area Planner, and is a multi-International award winning planner and designer with Awards in Landscape Architecture, Planning, Architecture, Urban Design, Creative Writing and Interior Design. He is considered by his peers as the world’s leading authority, practitioner and researcher on sustainable tourism/ecotourism physical planning and both the landscape architectural and architectural aspects of ecolodges. Hitesh has over 34 years’ experience, having worked and consulted in 66 countries on six continents. Hitesh has for many years, led teams in the design and development of some of the most iconic eco-friendly resorts including: The Crosswaters Eco-resort and Spa in China is one of the most highly awarded international hospitality projects; Nihi Resort in Indonesia was identified as the Top Hotel in the world by Travel and Leisure for two consecutive years (2016 and 2017) and Hitesh’s office has been for the past few years, been working on the first Six Senses Galapagos Eco-Resort and Spa in South America.
His expertise is also on how to empower indigenous and local communities during the Planning/Design processes. He has worked on projects where tourism is used to channel money from tourists to local communities - Madagascar, Western Uganda, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, DR Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Nepal, Australia, Timor Leste and Colombia. As the designated Landscape Architect and Sustainable Tourism Physical Planner, Hitesh has provided Master and Site Plans to help create destinations that are low-impact and are a win-win-win - financially, environmentally and socially
He is an author of three books, including award winning “Authentic Ecolodges” by world renowned publisher - Harper Collins. In July 2006, National Geographic Adventure magazine identified Hitesh as one of five Sustainable Tourism Pioneers in the world mainly because of his Master Planning work to protect endangered habitat and alleviate human poverty. He has been featured / interviewed / mentioned in over 195 international magazines, newspapers, books, newsletters and blogs.
Hitesh Mehta is one of the founding members of the Global Ecotourism Network and was the longest serving Board member of The International Ecotourism Society. Mr. Mehta is also an Adjunct Professor (at FIU), a Professional Public Speaker and Photographer, and a Hall of Fame Cricket Player from Kenya.
Ellison holds a BS in Sustainability in Business from Ohio State University and is currently enrolled at the University of Copenhagen obtaining her MSc in Global Development. Ellison comes with experience working for a US-based NGO within the field of public health, leading volunteer trips to Argentina, Tanzania, Indonesia, India, and Kenya. Ellison currently works within the tourism sector on a development and innovation team striving to promote more sustainable and inclusive tourism experiences. As an avid traveler, her thirst for exploring each and every pocket of the planet continues to fuel her adventures abroad. She’s hoping to continue to combine her passions by exploring the intersection of tourism and development through regenerative and community-based applications.
I am a master's student in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India. I am currently enrolled at Sustainability Management School in Switzerland, where I am pursuing a Dual CAS in Sustainable Hospitality and Sustainable Tourism Management. I have experience organizing trips, particularly in the sustainable tourism sector, where I emphasize the importance of sustainability and help people understand why it is so important. I hope to gain more experience in Gastronomy tourism and project management through this internship at Solimar International.
Grace is a third-year student at The Ohio State University working towards her bachelors in Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability, with a specialization in Business and Sustainability and minor in photography. After spending the spring collaborating with university leaders on projects focused on energy consumption, Grace decided to shift gears and pursue her passions for photography and sustainable travel more directly. This internship at Solimar International has already shown her how a love for photography can be connected with marketing sustainable travel and Grace is excited to connect with others who have similar passions!
Eileen Dinn is currently a senior at the College of William & Mary in historic Williamsburg, VA where she studies Government and Integrative Conservation. She has a variety of work experience but, most notably, was recently co-leading the development of an administrative proposal regarding future strategic planning for James Monroe’s former property, Highland, located in Albemarle, VA. Through this project, Eileen was able to dive deeper into the concept of sustainable tourism and incorporate those principles into the proposal. She is enthusiastic about traveling and learning more about the world around her and is always striving to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.
Tom Hinkel holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science and is currently a graduate student at American University's School of International Service. He has professional experience in both sustainable development and conservation as well as in the government SaaS industry. His undergraduate professional experience gave him knowledge of various conservation efforts, such as protecting the Okavango Delta in Namibia. He is also an avid researcher with academic interests in Europe, Eurasia, and sub-Saharan Africa. With these interests, he has beneficial knowledge of the political context of numerous regions.
Tom studied abroad in Berlin and utilized this opportunity to travel throughout Europe. He was fascinated by the local Catalonian government's actions toward establishing sustainable tourism practices in Park Güell. During his internship, Tom is excited at the opportunity to further his understanding of sustainable tourism development and how the sector interacts with national governments.
As a child, Noelle's annual trips to visit her family in Tunisia during US school breaks planted a seed that evolved into a passion for travel. Her dual nationality prompted her to be curious about the world’s diverse cultures and political systems. At 16, she moved to the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina where she lived for two years as a United World College (UWC) Davis Scholar. The UWC mission of making education a force to build bridges has become a lifelong philosophy for Noelle which she applies to many areas of her life. In line with this ethos, she believes travel is one of the most engaging forms of education possible. This past summer, she was awarded the National Security Language Institute for Youth Scholarship to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan for six weeks. Aside from academic travel experiences, Noelle has backpacked through Montenegro and Croatia, biked 250 kilometers through Bosnia and Herzegovina, and explored the Côte d'Azur via public transportation. Through every experience, she seeks to learn from the people who live in the places she visits to understand the location in a multi-faceted way.
Madison Tomaso is currently taking a gap year, and plans to study Political Science. She is from Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina. She is passionate about preserving cultural heritage, traveling, and studying foreign languages. As an experienced traveler, she is interested in learning about sustainable tourism. Madison is thrilled to have the opportunity to intern with Solimar International in order to expand her knowledge. She is excited to bring her skills to Solimar to help benefit the communities along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
From an early age I was able to adapt to a nomadic lifestyle from the moment I left Colombia, where I was born, and as I moved from the United States onto Brazil, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Without a doubt, this lifestyle was a life-changing experience, but it was only years later that I truly realized its long lasting impact. The academic and personal experiences I have gained by transiting through these cultures have allowed me to develop a set of soft skills based on empathy, respect and appreciation for diversity. As a result, these lessons on multiculturalism, cross-cultural skills and multilingualism have awakened in me an interest in combining development goals with the sustainable tourism paradigm, in an attempt to advance social inclusion, community empowerment and gender equality. This is precisely where Solimar's Fall 2022 Virtual Internship Program fits in! I look forward to learning from destination management planning as I assist in simultaneous projects taking place in Tunisia, the Congo and Timor-Leste, among others.
Kat holds a BS in Biology and Environmental Science from Duke University and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Bren School of the Environment. Kat has previously worked on conservation initiatives through National Geographic’s Big Cats Week and Saving Nature’s Corridor Reforestation Projects. Through her time spent living, working, and backpacking abroad, she witnessed the impacts travel can have on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as well as its effects on the surrounding communities. Her experiences have instilled both a love of travel and an urgency to protect our world’s wild places. Kat is motivated to increase benefits for both biodiversity and local communities through tourism and is excited to work with Solimar International to create a larger space for sustainability and responsible tourism within the travel industry as a whole.
Marissa’s interest in global affairs began in high school when she had the chance to meet with representatives of the United Nations to discuss unemployment in the European Union. She went on to study at Colgate University in order to take advantage of the school’s ample study abroad opportunities. As an undergraduate, she majored in English and double minored in philosophy and writing/rhetoric, choosing courses that highlighted international perspectives. Outside of the classroom, she edited her school newspaper and pursued extra-curricular opportunities in linguistics to fulfill her ardor for cultural exploration. After completing her B.A. in May 2021, Marissa earned a TEFL certification and began teaching English online. In February 2022, she traveled to Germany to intern at a non-profit where she worked to highlight locals' cross-national social histories while fostering community engagement. Her internship demonstrated how tourism could be used to reinvigorate a small town and shifted Marissa’s career goals back towards her passion for international affairs, now with a focus on the tourism sector. As an avid backpacker whose zeal for preserving linguistic and cultural diversity directs her own travels, Marissa is thrilled to be breaking into the sustainable tourism industry as a Solimar intern and is dedicated to using her time here to ensure tourism enriches both travelers and developing touristic communities around the world.
Cat has just completed her masters degree in Food Security, from the University of Edinburgh. As part of this masters, she completed a dissertation on the intersections of food security and mangrove conservation efforts in Bangladesh’s Sundarban Delta. Solimar was a project partner on this research, providing local connections and project supervision. Through this research opportunity, Cat was able to travel to Dacope, a sub-district of Bangladesh’s Khulna district, to conduct in-person field work. Here, she worked with one of Solimar’s Bangladesh project partners: Bangladesh Environment and Development Society, a local NGO. This opportunity cemented her drive to pursue research as a career path, supporting projects that center smallholder livelihood development, local perspectives, and community-based initiatives for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Lassana Ndiaye is a senior at the African Leadership University in Kigali, where she studies Global Challenges Studies with a focus on Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Related Studies. His passion for environmental and wildlife conservation began during the fall semester of 2019 when he had the opportunity to study abroad in Rwanda. During his internship with Maliasili, he learned how wildlife management affects indigenous communities. He worked as an intern in Climate resilience and Anticipatory Action Early Warming (AA) with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO). Lassana is fluent in English and French. Lassana hopes to pursue a career in climate resilience and write a policy for a government agency due to her international experience. When he is not reading about current events around the world related to disasters caused by global warming, he enjoys basketball, football, and morning running.
Megan is passionate about sustainable development, regenerative travel, and environmental education. For the past five years, she has worked as a sustainability professional in the luxury hospitality industry, first in Laamu Atoll, Maldives and then in Cartagena, Colombia. She has bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Global Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara, and is currently working on a dual master’s degree in International Affairs, Natural Resources, and Sustainable Development from American University in Washington, DC and the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. She will be working on Solimar’s Climate Adaptation Project in Maldives, which aims to incentivize the private sector to invest in nature-based solutions. Megan is an avid bike commuter, scuba diver, nature photographer, and international cook/eater.
Anaïs grew up in Switzerland but coming from a multicultural background, as her parents had both grown up in various countries, she has a passion and curiosity to explore and get to know new cultures and ways of life. From a young age, she has been drawn to nature and its preservation. Hence she plans to study Environmental Engineering at ETH Zurich. While traveling, she has seen many of the wrong sides of tourism and therefore is immensely interested in Solimar's work incorporating the local communities. Grateful for being a part of the Tunisia project, she hopes to gain clarity on some of the central issues and how Solimar solves them.