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 fifteen 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, 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...
António D.M. Gusmão is currently serving as the Senior Business Development Specialist for USAID's Tourism For All Project in Timor-Leste. António has more than 20 years working experience both in the private and public sectors. Antonio has dedicated more than 10 years in the development of tourism sector while served as a national adviser to the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry with specific assignment to the directorate of Finance and Administration, Directorate of Research and Development and the Directorate of Tourism Planning and Development. Antonio has a long employment with different USAID projects in community development as well as with Australian funded project (AUSAID) managing high profile interventions in the areas of tourism, agribusiness, rural distribution, and manufacturing. Antonio holds a Bachelor degree in Economics from the Catholic University of Atma Jaya in Jakarta, Indonesia.
With over 22 years of professional experience - both at national and multinational level, Dr. Josaphat Kweka has worked on a wide range of policy and development issues, including: Special Economic Zones (SEZs), SMEs and Private Sector Development, Trade Policy, Regional Integration, Assessment of Transit Trade (including Transit Corridors), Growth and Poverty Reduction, Tourism Development, Industrial Policy and Strategy. Josaphat has solid experience in managing and delivering policy research and dialogue, programme design and evaluation. Output of his work ranges from academic publications, commissioned studies reports, policy notes, capacity building courses, policy dialogues and presentations in workshops and conferences for academic or policy dialogue. Advisory work has been conducted for various clients such as the Government of Tanzania, International Agencies (including The World Bank, UNCTAD and UNDP; Regional Economic Communities (EAC and SADC), Private sector and research organizations. The recent occupation as Country Director for TradeMark East Africa enhanced Josaphat’s leadership skills and led to building strong partnership and an increasing portfolio of impactful results on trade and development in Tanzania. Josaphat has a Ph.D degree in Economics from the University of Nottingham (UK), a Master and Bachelor of Arts Degrees also in Economics from the University of Dar-es-Salaam.
Chloe King is a marine conservationist and social scientist, leading conservation and development projects in over 20 destinations as a researcher and consultant. As a 2019-20 Fulbright Scholar, she spent a year in Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia analyzing how tourism can help improve the resilience and adaptive capacity of local ecosystems and communities in response to crises like climate change and COVID-19. At Solimar, her work has included restructuring visitor fees to create a thriving DMO in Timor-Leste’s Ataúro Island; curating destination strategies for DMOs across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Armenia; managing learning content and site strategies for over 30 World Heritage Sites in Central Asia; designing blue economy communications strategies for Trinidad and Tobago; leading the COVID-19 recovery strategy for the government of Georgia; and establishing and directing online communities from the Institute for Sustainable Destinations to the Sustainable Islands Platform. She has led Solimar's research into how nature-based solutions can be implemented at scale to support more regenerative economic industries and enhance community resilience to climate change impacts.
Chloe holds a BA in International Affairs from the George Washington University and an MSc in Marine Systems and Policies with distinction from the University of Edinburgh. She is currently obtaining an MPhil in Conservation Leadership at the University of Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar. Her writing has featured in numerous outlets including Current Issues in Tourism, Responsible Statecraft, The World Today, The Diplomat, Verge Magazine, and The Conversation, among others.
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.
Nino is passionate about travel and believes that sharing culture and creating new connections makes life better. Therefore, she is determined to further spread the idea of sustainable tourism and see how tourism changes in this digital world.
Last year, with a friend, Nino started a project Sight Georgia to share the information through a website about travel and culture in Georgia. We want to inspire people to travel in Georgia and discover amazing spots, heartwarming hospitality and experience unforgettable moments. Previously, she has been working as an event manager and a project coordinator for several years in the tourism industry with experience in marketing. She was also a travel consultant for Swiss travel agency for 5 years.
Nino holds a BSc in Social Science and Governance and is currently an Orange Knowledge Program fellow doing master studies in Tourism, Society and Environment at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.
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.
Robert Carter grew up in Mount Vernon, Virginia in the front yard of George Washington. He has over 15 years on the operations side of the hospitality industry from managing all aspects of free- standing restaurants to working for the Starwood Hotel Company. With his main goal being the overall guest satisfaction from the stay, the pool, to the correct order based off the in-room breakfast door hanger menu. One of his strongest quality was educating his staff on anticipating the guest needs, then going above and beyond their satisfaction.Robert then took this knowledge of leading, managing and applied to his own business model. His passion for sports really came to life, while living in Chicago, Il, (from 2014-2018) where he started a sports training business for youth sports. He found a niche in helping individual youth athletes whether 1on1 training or in small groups, gain confidence in their respective sports, being able to improve their overall agility movements. Through the success of his business, he was recognized and teamed with Chicago City Soccer Club as a volunteer trainer for their entire club. With great results on the youth side, Robert was then asked to train their WPSL team. (Women’s Professional Soccer League)
Robert loves to travel and learning the history of the places of the world, he is excited to be part of Solimar International. His travel destinations outside the United States include: Jamaica, The Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, The Netherlands, Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa and a Safari Adventure in Kruger National Park.
Cate is a first year graduate student at the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Missouri where she is focusing on environmental policy. She graduated from the University of Missouri last Spring with her B.A. in Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communication and a minor in Business. Cate is passionate about the environment and is excited to learn more about the sustainable tourism industry through Solimar International.
Yassmine graduated with a Bachelors degree in Landscape Architecture and later went on to pursue her MBA at the American University of Beirut. She worked on a joint venture with UNDP and ENPI on a Landscape Character and Risk Assessment project, where she engaged with stakeholders and held training seminars in sustainable land assessment. Later on, she joined Dar Al Handasah, a global engineering consultancy firm, as a landscape architect. At the firm, she was involved in developing concepts, implementing sustainable strategies, and enforcing landscape architecture principles through place-making. She is heavily involved in the conceptual side of projects as she is the Creative Lead for infographics and story-telling. As she is passionate about the environment and sustainability, Yassmine is certified as a LEED GA (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate) and SITES AP (Sustainable Sites Accredited Professional) by USGBC.
Originally from Southern California, Stephanie loved the sun but not the smog so left for college to beautiful Monterey. She received her Bachelors in Global Studies and minor in Business as well as studied abroad in Rome, Italy. After college she stayed in Monterey to work in the hospitality industry, eventually becoming assistant manager at the local hostel. This experience led her to partner with the local DMO and city tourism office and where she learned the importance of community based tourism and sustainable tourism. At this time, she married a Marine who took her to Sierra Vista, AZ where her career path was put on pause but travels began. During this time she traveled to more than 20 states, 9 countries and extensively over the SouthWest over a 3 year period. In addition to her travels, she still found time to sit on the spouses club board as well as get a Certificate in Non-Profit Management and Grant Writing. From the desert, she went to North Carolina where she worked for AAA as a Travel Agent, giving her a different look at tourism sales. Presently, she is in Stuttgart, Germany with her husband and 2 young children where she is on the board of a military non-profit and volunteers for the Military Spouses Chamber of Commerce. She also recently received a Certificate of Sustainable Tourism Management through GWU, with the intent to move into the tourism planning and consulting field.
Daniel is an undergraduate student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University studying Environmental Policy and Planning, and working towards a master's in Urban and Regional Planning. Traveling the world and experiencing new cultures was something that was greatly emphasized to him as a child since his parents were first-generation immigrants, and weren't afforded those same opportunities growing up. He hopes that this experience will add to his team-oriented abilities and show him a different aspect of creating a sustainable life. Eventually, he hopes to use the specialized knowledge he gains here in an urban land planning/management career.
Zane is currently a first-year graduate student at University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy focusing on International Security and Economic Policy. Originally from Vero Beach, Florida, Zane has accumulated a wealth of experience studying and working with NGO development and sustainability in Central America and the Caucuses region. He served as a TEFL teacher and Community Development liaison with the United States Peace Corps in Vanadzor, Armenia. There, Zane assisted local agencies in promoting international tourism, stakeholder empowerment, and product expansion. He believes sustainable tourism practices and management have the ability to transform communities and visitors alike. In his free time, Zane enjoys hiking, blending teas, and playing disc golf.
Kevin is a master’s student in the Sustainable Tourism program at Arizona State University. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona in a family that greatly emphasized the importance of travel and discovering the United States and the rest of the world. This passion has led him to study tourism in his undergrad where he gained the opportunity to speak at the UNWTO Conference in Montego Bay discussing security concerns with North Korean tourism. Kevin has worked at Walt Disney World, event technology companies, and for the biggest franchise-based hospitality company in the United States. Kevin utilizes his knowledge of instructional design to help facilitate learning in the technology field and hopes that his passion for travel and his passion for teaching can one day combine to help provide solutions in sustainable development for destinations across the world. In his free time you can find Kevin playing music, hiking and rock climbing, or enjoying a relaxing evening of tea and The Sopranos with his wife Caroline.
Cameron recently graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a MA in Geography. As part of the degree, he carried out research into sustainability and the implementation of sustainable forms of transport in Scottish cities. He has a passion for travel, alongside learning and experiencing new cultures and has travelled across mainland Europe as well as within Australia and New Zealand. Cameron also spent a semester abroad studying in Wisconsin and has travelled down the East and West coast of America. His strong interest in sustainability and travel drew him to Solimar International and he believes it is the perfect place to learn and develop real-world experience in sustainable tourism.
Lelie is originally from Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. She is specifically described as hard-working and passionate about Sustainable Tourism Development, both for the technical strategic planning and implementation. Long time before graduating with her master's from Tourism Studies-Gadjah Mada University in 2018, she has been joining the tourism industry in 2013.
Over the past 8 years, her experiences working with various international company gained her technical skill to be able working in various cases, especially in Inter Island Development, Community Empowerment, Local Product Development, Vocational School, Sustainable Tourism Observatory, and industry partnership, and Policy Framework for Sustainable Tourism Development.
Lelie is used to work in supply-demand approach which also covering each level of planning design, including assessment for the existing condition of destination, key-stakeholder mapping, travel pattern, potential private partnership assessment, destination assessment, demand survey, key-stakeholders engagement, also the most important one is monitoring evaluation for the implementation.
Pura Vida! My name is Justin, but I go by Ano ( Justiano ). Georgia born and breed, I am currently an Undergraduate at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, studying Sustainable Land and Food Systems with a concentration in Urban and Community Horticulture. I have had the privilege of studying in Central America; native botanics while in Mérida, Mexico and soil diversity in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Other endeavors include working with an Urban Farm and Greensboro's largest nonprofit organization. In the summer of 2021, I interned as a research assistant for North Carolina A&T’s Extension Program, conducting summer crop trials in high tunnels as well as extensive Ginger and Black Cohosh cultivar trials. I have a passion for botany, mediation, and herbalism.
Damian is an undergrad at American University that is currently studying International Business. With a patriotic Polish upbringing spearheaded by his mother, cultural and social values were embedded into him at a very young age. As Damian goes through his undergrad, he is attempting to bring as much experience as possible within the growing and competitive field of business. Finding a way to fit himself into any workspace and do the job accordingly, Damian is also attempting to become as well-rounded of a member of Solimar International and to use the knowledge garnered here to further develop his Jack-Of-All-Trades skill set. As long as Damian understands what to do, it will be done!
Hayden is an undergrad student at the University of North Texas. With a major in Integrative Studies, he ties together the disciplines of geography, communications, and marketing to try and marry his people-oriented skills with geospatial information. Growing up in Houston, and later moving to Dallas, he understands the pitfalls of suburban living and overdevelopment. He hopes in working with Solimar, he can help more people escape the norm and discover health and wellness in natural places. Outside of his classes, he enjoys hiking, reading, and making music. Of course all these can easily fall by the wayside when he's challenged to a game of pickleball.