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 the tourism industry and is responsible for Solimar’s internal operations, including contracting and financial management while supporting business development efforts and assisting technical staff achieve programmatic objectives. 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. Natalie brings technical and program management 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".
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.
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.
Archil Lezhava has served on the management positions in numerous donor-funded projects for more than 15 years. He was leading tourism sector at USAID-funded $24.2 million project in Georgia establishing and maintaining productive and mutually beneficial relationships with the local and national public and private sector stakeholders, other development partners at regional and central government levels was one of the primary duties. That resulted into more than 600 full time job creation, more than $1.4 million investment leverage from other sources covering more than 80 target communities. He directly took part in transformation measures of those who benefited from the above mentioned. Mr. Lezhava has solid experience of developing tourism sector initiatives and recommendations for Georgian National Tourism Administration, assessing proposals for regional development and tourism, supporting business initiatives in tourism.
Mr. Lezhava led Waste Tariff and Littering Fine Policy Elaboration Team at where he was engaged in developing General Methodology for Establishing Waste Tariffs and Cost Recovery System in Georgia along with international experts and adopting them on the regional municipality level. Little above 20 local government and non-government organizations, professional and business associations were provided with improved services while supporting target communities.
Prior, Mr. Lezhava played a leading role in the radical performance turnaround of a state-owned utility being managed on behalf of USAID in Georgia. He led the staff of United Energy Distribution Company of Georgia (PA Consulting Managed Project under Georgian Energy Security Initiative) where the utility became the largest taxpayer in the country after the reforms that were elaborate by the team and the project was awarded the gold and platinum medal at the 2006 MCA Management Awards in London.
Actively participating in public private partnership activities in addition public relations and marketing while holding principal position in Georgia’s leading organizations as well as liaising with respective authorities of Government of Georgia, stakeholder engagement, community outreach, public, media and international institutions are major skills acquired during occupying different positions of his career development.
Jerry Garteh is a Liberian field Biologist in Natural Resource management and Biodiversity Conservation with more than 10 years’ experience. He obtained Bachelor of Science degree in General Biology from the University of Liberia in 2008. In 2013 he obtained Master of Science degree in Biodiversity Conservation from the Njala University in the Republic of Sierra Leone with support from Birdlife International as an excellent Biodiversity Research Technician for the ‘’Across the River’ ’A Transboundary for Sierra Leone and Liberia Project; 2019 Advance Certificate in Planning and Managing Tourism in Protected Areas from the Colorado State University; USA; In 2020 obtained certificate in Conservation Essentials Skills: Planning and Managing Conservation Projects, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. He had have several trainings both practical and theoretical in project management, protected area management, environmental and natural resource management, Biodiversity Research, Ecotourism and Tourism Management, One Health, Classroom Management, Lesson Planning, Community Education and Conflict Resolution. He has served in many capacities of trust including Liberia Team Lead for Biodiversity Research Technician for the ‘Across the River’ a Transboundary for Liberia and Sierra Leone Project, Information Management and Survey Design and Capacity Support advisor for the United States Forest Service International Programs in Liberia, Science and Conservation Coordinator, Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, Project Coordinator for both Rainforest Trust and the Liberia Forest Sector Projects. Testing and evaluation trainer for the newly developed Conservation modules for the Forestry Training Institute, USAID, a Lecturer of Biodiversity and Wildlife at the Cuttington University Graduate School and Professional Studies. He has worked in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in several consultancies.
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.
Sylecia Johnston has learned to be a community developer, globally-minded leader and cross-cultural bridge builder through her personal upbringing and experiences living across the USA and traveling abroad (educational, humanitarian, business, and leisure travel for 35+ years in over 40 nations), using emotional intelligence to facilitate understanding between world views. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Global Affairs from Texas Tech University and a Masters in Tourism Administration specializing in Sustainable Destination Management from The George Washington University. She is a certified Project Management Professional and a program manager bringing over a decade of experience helping organizations operate efficiently and creatively with a focus on driving towards an equitable and regenerative future. Her career has led her to positions with Convention & Visitors' Bureaus (CVB) and Destination Management Organizations (DMO), consulting for international inbound tour operators, coordinating multiple business accelerators and workforce advancement programs, and volunteering for non-profit organizations.
Madeline’s love of language learning, community, and traveling comes from her childhood as a military dependent - having lived in seven states in the United States, two European countries, and having visited myriad other countries for leisure. As a result, she has the ever-present itch to travel, explore, and experience cultural immersion. During her study abroad experience in Berlin, Germany, in the summer of 2022, Madeline realized she wanted to transform her fondness of international affairs and education into international work. She wants to contribute to a sustainably-functioning future in the tourism industry and in destination marketing and management, working alongside such passionate experts with Solimar International.Madeline holds a dual BA in International Affairs and German language as well as a minor in Russian language from the University of New Hampshire.
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.
Roxana Wang is a senior at the University of California, Berkeley pursuing degrees in Comparative Literature, Classics, and German. Her experience travelling and studying in foreign lands instilled in her great passion for world heritage, which in turn informs her decision to pursue a career that allows her to safeguard our invaluable objects and sites. She is excited to join the Bangladesh project and learn about how tourism could be responsibly organized to foster intercultural understanding while preserving world heritage sites.
María Fernanda de la Selva holds a BA in Archaeology from the Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico as well as several professional certificates in banking and finance, cultural heritage management, and cultural policies. She is currently pursuing a MSc degree in Tourism Development and Culture from the University of Glasgow, L-Università ta' Malta, and Lunds Universitet with an Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Scholarship. Having held positions such as Lead Coordinator of Cultural Heritage Projects and Manager of Archaeological Heritage, she specializes in cultural heritage management and sustainable tourism development.
She is passionate about subjects such as service management in the cultural heritage industry, circular tourism, sustainability, and cultural digitalization. Through her studies and professional background María Fernanda has developed an interest in the development of cultural policies and sustainable cultural heritage projects that emphasize the cultural diversity of every region and ensure that every citizen has access to their own culture.
Christos Anastasiou joins Solimar all the way from Melbourne, not in Florida but in Australia! He is a final year student at Monash University, completing a Master degree in International Sustainable Tourism Management. Born in Melbourne to a Syrian Arab mother and Cypriot Greek father, multiculturalism runs in his family, and he is happy to have been to a variety of international destinations, as well as many in his own backyard.
Christos’ passion for tourism started out as a love for aviation, and particularly the route planning and marketing of international airlines. This love led him to research about different countries and destinations, which then led to his current studies and focus on destination management and marketing strategy. He particularly loves the community aspect of this work, liaising with local stakeholders and helping them to achieve their goals, whether they be of an economic, environmental or social nature.
Christos has worked in many aspects of the tourism industry, including marketing and communications work with the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation of the UNESCO world heritage certified Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia. He is also working with his home state’s destination management organization (DMO), Visit Victoria, in maintenance of the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse, a database dedicated to digital marketing of local tourism operators. He loves to travel, and while he loves international travel, his favourite destination would have to be the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Australia with its beautiful scenery, clean air and lovely community ambience. He often heads up here for the beautiful hikes, to visit and experience local businesses and attractions, or to volunteer.
Christos is proud to be an intern as part of Solimar’s Fall 2023 cohort, working on the Liberia Conservation Works Project with Micah Sorum, who fortunately resides in the same time zone as him. He hopes to further his skills in tourism marketing, communications and consulting from his time at Solimar, and afterwards, he hopes to work full-time in a DMO, or as a sustainable tourism marketing consultant, helping communities achieve their goals through sustainable, effective tourism management and marketing.
Sarah will soon be earning her Master's degree in Tourism and Cultural Policy from Goldsmiths, University of London. She came to the world of tourism in a bit of a roundabout way, having first received her BA in Theatre Arts with minors in French and Anthropology in her home state of California. Travel and the tourism industry were always personal interests of hers, but it was only recently that she decided to pursue them academically. Since starting this new pursuit, she's discovered an incredible movement for sustainable tourism and is most interested in conversations around cultural integrity and sustainability, heritage, and connections with local communities.
Laura Rankin holds a BA in strategic communication with minors in Italian and music, media and enterprise from Ohio State University. She is currently working toward her MBA in sustainable solutions from Presidio Graduate School. Laura has worked and/or studied on four continents to-date and is passionate about facilitating a just transition to more low-carbon, equitable and resilient tourism models that put local communities at the center while driving conservation and biodiversity outcomes. In addition to supporting Solimar International as an intern, she is a graduate student sustainability consultant, director of marketing for Wanderful, and yoga instructor.
While an undergrad in Virginia, Dylan began his travels over the summers to Nicaragua and Tanzania, where he first learned about tourism having the potential to be a catalyst for sustainable development. These international experiences sparked a curiosity to travel in an ethical fashion that supports the triple bottom line of sustainability: People, Planet, and Prosperity. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Humanitarian Affairs from James Madison University and is currently attending the University of South Florida for a Master of Arts in Global Sustainability, concentrating in Sustainable Tourism with a certificate in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. He has been a guide and coordinator for a responsible travel organization called GIVE Volunteers for six years in Thailand and Hawai'i. Throughout his time in Southeast Asia, he researched the feasibility of elephant tourism facilitating reforestation in northern Thailand and managed projects creating agricultural learning centers that supplement dormitory hill-tribe students' minds, bodies, and wallets. In the fall of 2022, Dylan was chosen as a student to participate in the Immersive Technologies for Cross-Cultural Tourism Development: U.S. and Serbia on a Pathway to Digital Transformation. This project's research focused on small-scale agri-tourism supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and their recommendations for Tourism. Dylan is an aspiring sustainability specialist and consultant passionate about regenerating and responsibly traveling the environment.
Ibrahim Eiweida is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies with a double minor in Economics and Political Science. He is a member of the Fordham Environmental Action and Justice Club and helps lead student-administration partnerships related to green initiatives and environmental policy changes. He has experience in multi-sectoral urban and rural sustainability and has supported projects and tenders in the fields of ecotourism, nature-based solutions, flood risk mitigation, master planning, climate resilience, and renewable energy (offshore wind). He is interested in the intersections between urban and regional development and the environment by working on climate risk management, sustainable tourism, resilient infrastructure, and green finance. Having lived across the United States, Georgia, Singapore, England, Egypt, France, and Vietnam, Ibrahim brings a unique multicultural perspective that sets him apart when it comes to collaborative and dynamic problem-solving.