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.
Derek Schimmel has a passion for storytelling as a means of building tourism marketing experiences. He has worked as a consultant to various government ministries and tourism operators in creating new product development strategies, focusing primarily on community-based tourism. Along with his work in sustainable tourism, Derek utilizes his five-plus years experience in digital marketing to educate and assist destinations in the various methods of building an effective online strategy. He has visited over 50 countries, traveling both professionally and leisurely, and has garnered an innate ability to communicate, consult and interact with local people and tourism operators across the globe.
Derek has BA with Honor's in Journalism from The University of Colorado - Boulder and a Masters in Tourism Administration from The George Washington University with a focus on sustainable destination management.
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 PADI Divemaster and avid ocean advocate, leading marine research projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste as a Boren Scholar, Projects for Peace Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. Adopting tools from political ecology, behavioral economics, and marine science, her work analyzes the ways in which sustainable tourism development can be utilized to achieve long-term marine conservation goals. 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.
Chloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is obtaining Masters degrees in Marine Systems and Policies and Conservation Leadership at the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar.
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.
Kevin spent his undergraduate at Providence College balancing his passions in history and environmental conservation. When he wasn't writing about radical labor movements in the Gilded Age and speaking at research conferences around the country, he worked as a wildlife instructor at a local nature center. He is a prolific writer and storyteller, with his favorite subjects ranging from American Labor History to birdwatching in East Africa. After receiving his BA in History, Kevin moved to Kedah, Malaysia on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. At the end of his grant, he moved to Somaliland to continue teaching at a boarding school on a desert compound north of Hargeisa.
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.
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".
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 Mehta is one of the world’s leading authorities, practitioners and researchers on sustainable tourism and ecotourism physical planning and both the landscape architectural and architectural aspects of ecolodges. In July 2006, National Geographic Adventure magazine identified Mr. Mehta as one of five Sustainable Tourism Pioneers in the world.
Hitesh has over 27 years’ experience and having worked and consulted in over 57 countries spanning six continents. He is a multi-International award winning designer with Awards in Landscape Architecture, Planning, Architecture, Urban Design, Creative Writing and Publishing, and Interior Design. He is also an Adjunct Professor and the author of three books, including the recently published “Authentic Ecolodges” by world renowned publisher - Harper Collins and what is considered the Bible on Ecolodges - International Ecolodge Guidelines. A strong proponent of Authentic Ecotourism, Hitesh is currently the Chair of the “Standards and Ethics Committee” of TIES. Additionally, Hitesh was Captain and is a Hall of Fame Cricket player from Kenya. He is also a professional Photographer.
Rob 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 to delivering bottom line results to owners. One of his strongest quality was educating his staff on anticipating the guest needs, 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 1 on 1 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 to help shape their hospitality management services while advising on diversity, equity and inclusion.
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.
Lena is a first-year Master's student in Tourism & Sustainability at Linnaeus University in Sweden. Originally from a small town in Germany, she conducted an undergraduate program in International Tourism Management with a focus on Marketing and Destination Management. Through an internship in Spain, she realized that she wanted to work with more sustainable approaches to tourism, which lead her to Sweden and now to Solimar, where she hopes to gain new knowledge and practical experiences. Next to her studies and exploring beautiful Scandinavia, she enjoys meeting new people from all over the world by working as a student ambassador for the university and volunteering in a student organization for international students.
Marina is a master's student in Tourism Development and Culture at the University of Glasgow. Originally from Brazil, she developed a curiosity for the tourism industry observing the changing dynamics that occurred in Rio de Janeiro for the World Cup and the Olympics. In her undergrad she started researching about contributions of tourism to sustainable development and has kept on studying ever since. Her current interests are sustainable development in Latin America and Small Island Developing States and tourism development. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and exploring new places. For her, the internship with Solimar represents an opportunity to learn about destination management organizations and to connect with great people from around the world.
I am just finishing up my undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at the University of San Diego. I am originally from Sun Valley, Idaho and I love skiing, hiking, mountaineering, and all other mountain activities. I'm also passionate about travelling and global experiences! My favorite place in the world is the South Island of New Zealand. I'm so excited to combine my interests and learn more about global sustainable development through Solimar.
Zane Emilija Zagere
I’m Alicia, a 25 years old British native and I am an avid explorer. I have dedicated my life so far to travel! I studied Tourism for five years, from this I have worked within the tourism industry for luxury tour operators in London and North West England, that pride themselves on their responsible tourism policy. I have to place myself in the clients’ shoes and judge everything I see, ensuring the hotels and destinations I select, complement the companies identity and are right choices for the target market. I have visited 5 out of 7 continents, yet to conquer South America and Antarctica. I have seen everything from deserts to rainforests and skyscrapers to the townships of South Africa. I am extremely passionate about Sustainable Development, being part of Community based Development projects in Cape Town, and rescuing women at risk of FGM in Tanzania.
Amélie is a Master’s student in International Tourism at the Università della Svizzera italiana, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, with a minor in Sustainable Management. Originally from Geneva, she had started her academic studies in multilingual communication and translation, before realizing that she needed to head towards a more dynamic and challenging industry. She tried to combine her passion for traveling and interest in business management, which led her to start a Master 1 in Tourism Management in a French business school. She decided to come back to Switzerland last year to pursue with passion a master’s that is now allowing her to reflect on the multiple issues destinations are facing to ensure or approach sustainability.Amélie has always loved to discover the world and new horizons, but it is her experience living abroad that made her understand how limited was her life in her hometown – that is why she strongly believes that tourism can change one’s life. She is now eager and motivated to work alongside sustainable tourism and destination management experts to apply her theoretical knowledge.
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.
Kuan Lin Lu
Kuan Lin is a master’s student in European Master in Tourism Management under the Erasmus Mundus program, currently based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The joint master’s program follows a mandatory mobility scheme in Denmark, Slovenia and Spain for each semester, which enables Kuan Lin to study and focus on sustainable tourism destination management in different European cities. Originally from Taiwan, Kuan Lin had a bachelor’s in hospitality management and had been working in international trading tourism industry with multi-national working experiences.
Kuan Lin enjoys hiking and meeting people from different cultural backgrounds. She is passionate to leverage her tourism management skill in sustainable tourism, and believes that the internship experience with Solimar International will significantly help her gaining holistic knowledge in the field.