Category: Strategy

Strategy planning, strategy execution and business model design focused on collaborative modelling

Collaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureMarketing 3.0Strategy

For Smart Cities, to collaborate is the smartest thing to do

According to a United Nations report, 70% of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities by 2050. This is why overcoming many of today’s humankind challenges in areas such energy, water, food, climate change, health, etc.  will depend mainly on the success of the so called Smart Cities strategies. But as urgent we consider the implementation of smarter cities, making it really happen still remains a challenge several years after the concept was first coined.

As in many other cases, we think too collaboration should be a key factor implementing a truly transformative Smart City strategy. Considering the broad and diverse kind of stakeholders, expertise, knowledge, technologies, etc. needed for an average Smart City project, it is difficult to imagine any that does not require the commitment and dedication of a collective team.

The idea of a Smart City promises to improve municipal operations and the health and safety of citizens. New models of cooperation and engagement will make a tangible difference for this promise to move to a reality. These are just few of the many possible…

Organizational changes in local administrations

City managers are main actors on the potential gains of properly implementing Smart City initiatives. But many of the challenges they confront in order to achieve efficient outcomes of such initiatives still lie on the way city government is structured. As it happens in many other organizations, many departments and units in city councils are operated in isolation without any or little consideration of other departments. Add to that, an extra layer of red tape and special sensibility about the immutability of roles and positions that sadly are still typical of public government organizations.

But despite these cultural and organizational barriers, when projects need to address such variety of issues as, for instance, transportation systems, law enforcement, community services, water supply networks or waste management, some Smart City projects have become the driver for cultural changes and shifting attitudes that seemed impossible so far.

Sharing experiences and knowledge

“Lessons learned” are an important asset in competitive markets in which proprietary Know How can be easily turned into a competitive advantage. But it does not make much sense for cities to compete with other cities to be smarter, especially in the case of cities at the same continent and in projects funded by the same supranational organization.

Knowledge exchange and transfer is a crucial element of many of the projects funded by the European Union. The GrowSmarter project is one of the most important bets of the European Commission for the smart development of urban areas, and represents one of the only three projects that the Commission has financed under the umbrella of the “Lighthouse”. GrowSmarter brings together cities and industry to integrate and demonstrate ‘12 smart city solutions’ in energy, infrastructure and transport.

Key for the project is the concept of “Lighthouse Cities”, as the 12 smart solutions are being rolled out in designated sites in three cities: Stockholm, Cologne and Barcelona – including industrial areas, suburban and downtown districts, ensuring a sample base representative of many European cities. The idea is for these three “Lighthouses Cities” to show how ‘smart’ can work in practice documenting their journey with regular news updates. This way, the project specifically aims to provide other cities with valuable insights on how the smart solutions work in practice and the opportunities for replication, creating a butterfly effect.

GrowSmarter even considers the existence of five “follower cities” (Cork, Graz, Malta, Porto and Suceava) which role is to work closely with those “Lighthouses Cities” to learn from their experiences.  The three Lighthouse Cities will each host a number of study visits and European workshops, providing opportunities to see first-hand technological application of the smart solutions.

Sharing Standards

The performance of a city is intimately linked to its physical and communications infrastructures and the delivery of resources through these infrastructures. At present, the delivery of city services tend to operate in isolation from each other, in silos of activities, governance and information. But new digital infrastructures offer the potential of increased service integration that could ultimately result in services provision cost reduction, natural resource savings and efficiency gains for cities and their inhabitants.

Standards are required in order to accommodate such integration of data. But smart city implementations tend to focus on specific cities or services rather than multiple locations and services. This individual focus in the main cause of the lack of standards across the market. Many organizations and analyst, including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), advocate the development and generalization of international standards for smart cities.

In UK, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills commissioned the British Standards Institution to develop a standards strategy for Smart Cities in the county. The strategy identifies the role of standards in accelerating the implementation of Smart Cities. As part of this strategy the Cities Standards Institute is a joint initiative of the British Standards Institution and the Future Cities Catapult bringing together cities and key industry leaders and innovators to work together in identifying the challenges facing cities, providing solutions to common problems and defining the future of smart city standards.

By developing a coherent set of standards that addresses key market barriers, smart city products and services become easier to be widely accepted. Promoters of the consortium consider than an easier acceptance of these products and services ultimately accelerates the growth of the future cities market, first in the UK and then globally. The Cities Standards Institute is also leading a set of programs to help cities, companies and SMEs to implement standards-based solutions and strategies, and to ensure the uptake of smart city standards regionally and internationally.

This blog post is from www.co-society.com

Environmental sustainabilityStrategyStrategy planning & executionSustainability

Johnny Cay Regional Park: Strategies for Conservation in the Caribbean

Johnny Cay, a small Colombian island in the Caribbean, faces significant conservation challenges. Although the park is a protected area, currently no license system or code of conduct exists for the tour operators who bring tourists to Johnny Cay from nearby San Andres. This lack of a tourism management plan has led to negative environmental consequences on the island, which in turn jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of businesses operating in Johnny Cay Regional Park.

A Sustainable Tourism Strategic Plan for the park has been recently developed. The plan supports conservation and business development in Johnny Cay Regional Park by identifying conservation threats, creating a plan to mitigate those threats, and implementing sustainable tourism best practices.

Principal conservation threats include environmental degradation, mainly pollution, both on the island and within the surrounding waters. The island is also losing its cultural identity and turning into a daytime party spot, leading to an abundance of alcohol consumption and diminishing authentic cultural interaction. Operations must become more conservation-focused if tourism businesses hope to use Johnny Cay Regional Park as part of their long-term business strategy.

The Sustainable Tourism Strategic Plan addresses conservation threats by employing five specific strategies over the course of three years:

  1. Creation of a Sustainable Tourism Department within Coralina (The Organization for the Sustainable Development of the San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina Archipelago).

This department will ensure that businesses comply with specific operational standards while operating within the park. The department will also develop training programs, implement environmental education programs, and act as a link between Coralina and tourism associations on the island.

  1. Develop a Sustainable Tourism Certification Program within Johnny Cay Regional Park

This program will serve as a tool for setting operating standards and increasing sustainability awareness among local stakeholders. The program will provide best practices and codes of conduct for businesses and use the implementation of these practices as a filter to determine who can operate within the park. Businesses will be encouraged to gradually implement best practices and will receive recognition upon successful implementation. Businesses will also receive training related to different strategies for improving their product offerings. Ideally, this will serve as a pilot program for the region with possible extensions on the nearby islands of San Andres, Santa Catalina, and Providencia in the future.

  1. Provide a Business Support Program for tourism businesses operating within the park

A relatively low standard of technical business knowledge emerged through the project’s initial assessment process. This negatively impacted total revenues and product quality while poor marketing limited the ability for businesses to attract new clients. A business support program, run through Coralina, has been proposed to provide training in business planning, marketing, and monitoring and evaluation. A competition has also been proposed through which locals will develop their own business plans and compete for initial funding based on plan quality.

  1. Develop a Communication Strategy to increase cooperation between tourism businesses and Coralina

Improving communication among local residents, tourists, businesses, Coralina, travel agents, and national tourism entities will be vital to the success of the sustainable tourism strategic plan. This communication strategy hopes to strengthen conservation efforts by ensuring that residents and visitors understand that Johnny Cay is a nationally-recognized regional park. The goal is to invoke a sense of pride within locals and operators to foster a culture of conservation. Additionally, the communication strategy aims to facilitate a smoother communication process between businesses and other entities while keeping businesses up-to-date on the implementation of the overall sustainable tourism strategic plan.

  1. Develop a system for tourism businesses to pay a concession fee for operating within the park

The plan calls for this implementation to occur in year 3, after the above strategies have had time to take hold. Each business applying for a concession will have their tax calculated based on their financial projections. A maximum tariff will be established and businesses will have to comply with certain standards in order to apply. Very clear communication and successful implementation strategies 1-4 will be vital to establishing the concession system.

Johnny Cay faces serious conservation issues that threaten the long-term viability of its corresponding tourism economy. However, with the proper strategy and training, these negative consequences can be reversed.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Destination%20Management

Collaborative business modelsIntelligenceStrategyTourism trends

The pressure is on for destinations to make the sharing economy work fairly for all

UBER and Airbnb were recently announced as the two most valuable travel startups in the world, recently valued at $40 billion and $20 billion respectively. Last year Airbnb processed nearly 1 million bookings per month, while UBER drivers took passengers on 1 million rides per day!

It’s not hard to see why hoteliers and taxi drivers around the globe are stepping up the pressure on legislators to clamp down on what may label as the ‘black economy’. In San Fransisco, the debate about the success of law enforcement and potential legislation revisions has already begun just one month after the short-term rental ordinance took effect, with both lawmakers and hosts expressing concerns about limited staff resources and complex registration procedures. In the meantime, Uber and Starwood have recently launched their own partnership, blurring the lines between traditional and contemporary providers of travel services by allowing travelers to accumulate Starpoints while riding with Uber drivers.

Legislation on short term accommodation rentals and local taxi transport is usually down to politicians at municipal or regional level to solve, and many have found themselves in legal deep water as they have struggled to meet the demands of hoteliers and taxi drivers, while being reluctant to shut off the flow of visitors who use and enjoy the flexibility and unique experiences that short term renting brings.

The above concerns and many more where echoed at ITB. Over the course of various seminars, directors of Europe’s top DMOs, hotel groups, limo firms, lawyers and representatives of the top sharing economy platforms got their chance to air their views on the sharing economy. CEO of VisitBerlin Bernard Kieker made his views clear: “We do not want Berlin to become an Airbnb city where local residents are priced out of their apartments” while acknowledging the additional streams of visitors that were coming to the city precisely because this option is currently available (though perhaps not on such a large scale for much longer).

CONTROVERSIAL, BUT ALSO SMART

Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, General Manager for Western Europe of Uber explained his firm’s position in a different way: “Our main competitor is not the taxi driver, it is the very concept of car ownership”. With 1 billion cars on the planet only being used 4% of the time, Uber’s target customer is the customer who given up his or her own car in favor of shared rides. This raises the broader question of how sharing economy platforms can be used to help solve some destinations’ biggest problems, not least traffic congestion or hotel capacity during conference season.

While politicians argue over the subject (or try to look the other way), local residents continue to offer their accommodation to visitors and visitors get hooked on the practical benefits of using shared resources such as apartments, cars, bikes, boats and much else.

This blog post is from   http://www.toposophy.com/insights/insight/?bid=398

StrategyStrategy planning & execution

The World Bank builds country ownership in the National Tourism Strategy of Georgia

Tourism strategic planning is a comprehensive process for determining what a business or destination should become and the steps needed to achieve that goal. Many times when consultants are hired to create a strategic plan, the plan is at risk of remaining on the shelf and never being fully implemented. Why? Because those most affected by the tourism development plan may not have been fully integrated into the development of the strategy, and may not agree with the ideas. This is an ongoing issue the tourism industry faces, and a difficult one in which to find a solution.

The World Bank and the Georgia National Tourism Administration (GNTA) recognized this problem in the past. As part of the solution, they decided to develop a tourism strategy for the Caucasus nation. The consultants were asked not to lead the development of the strategy, but rather facilitate and guide the GNTA through the strategy development process to ensure it was collaborative and comprehensive as possible.

Between the years 2009 and 2013, Georgia’s international tourism arrivals grew over 300%. This was largely in part to its envious location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as increasing amounts of exposure in international press as a unique, exciting destination. Georgia is the birth place of wine, has an exquisite culinary tradition, a rich early Christian history, and an abundance of natural assets – including 7 national parks. These attributes – if developed practically – demonstrate a significant strength to the country’s tourism sector within the high-value European marketplace, while improving the industry’s ability to contribute economically.

To keep pace with the increasing demand for tourism in Georgia, additional financing for private and public investments will be necessary. “The joint World Bank and IFC collaboration [in Georgia] focuses on fostering entrepreneurship and access to finance, improving the investment climate, and developing Georgia’s tourism strategy that will determine how to improve the sector’s performance, align implementation priorities and enable job growth.” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus.

Georgia’s tourism development approach has generally been focused on regional advancements rather than a cohesive national-level plan. However, to maximize tourism’s national impact, a national strategy is required that takes into consideration large scale infrastructure and marketing activities that cannot be achieved by the regions alone.

 “The tourism sector currently provides nearly 20 percent of export earnings. The national tourism development strategy is, therefore, an instrument to take full advantage of Georgia’s potential and position it globally as a rich, diversified and high quality destination.” Ahmed Eiweida, Program Leader for Sustainable Development Programs in the South Caucasus.

Where is the Georgia National Tourism Administration now?

With the support of the World Bank, the GNTA produced a 2025 strategic plan that articulates the country’s current position, its vision for the future, and the key activities required in order to get there.
To build buy-in for the strategy, the GNTA led regional workshops, communicated with inter-government committees, issued press events and integrated action plans from other tourism-related sectors. The final document describes how the GNTA and its partners will deliver creative marketing to attract to higher income markets and statistical projections on how the GNTA will achieve a minimum of 5% growth rate over the next 10 years.

Where does Georgia National Tourism want to be in 2025?

The GNTA envisions the country as a premier, year-round, high quality tourism destination – a destination centered on its unique cultural and natural heritage, its world-class customer service, and timeless tradition of hospitality. The GNTA will be at the forefront of tourism competitiveness, through strategic investments in infrastructure, education, marketing, and the development of unique Georgian visitor experiences that appeal to high-value markets around the globe.

How does the GNTA lead the tourism industry to reach it’s vision?

Extensive stakeholder consultation resulted in the identification of 50 priority actions that have been grouped around the following 8 strategic objectives.

1.Respect, enhance, and protect Georgia’s natural and cultural heritage
2. Create unique and authentic visitor experiences centered on those natural and cultural assets
3. Enhance competitiveness, through delivery of world-class visitor services
4. Attract higher spending markets, through increased and more effective marketing and promotion
5. Expand and enhance Georgia’s ability to collect and analyze tourism data and measure industry performance
6. Enhance the business environment, to facilitate increased foreign and domestic investment
7. Expand public and private sector investment in the tourism sector
8. Build partnerships between government, industry, non-governmental organizations, and communities that will be needed to achieve all of the above

What will the challenges be?

Even though the GNTA has completed their strategic plan and found positive monetary incentive to start implementation; the national and regional tourism stakeholders must work as a team to have success. And most importantly, the 2025 strategic plan will only be effective if the GNTA continues to be committed and take ownership of this visionary strategic plan.

This blog post is from  www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Destination%20Assessment

Marketing 3.0StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA Part 4

Firstly, there is no one action or magic bullet that can save places from the Anytown, USA sameness trap. However, one thing is certain, and that is that it will take leadership and a holistic approach involving many local organizations, along with the support of residents. Among the considerations are:

  1. A clear vision that crystallizes the city’s competitive advantage and distinctive strengths.
  2. A brand strategy that embraces competitive positioning and is aligned with the vision. It should provide the guidance for compelling communications and delivering the city’s distinctive identity.
  3. A focus on what’s authentic and organic about the city.
  4. Develop a long-term tourism strategy that embraces Geotourism principles to focus on what sustains or enhances the character of the place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.
  5. Don’t settle for cookie-cutter designs and every development that is offered to the city.
  6. Identify, preserve and present the city’s heritage and stories. Tell the story in engaging ways for locals, as well as visitors.
  7. Invest in the city’s aesthetics and gathering places because these are focal points for both locals and visitors.
  8. Introduce development guidelines for buildings and signage that enhance heritage, streetscapes and viewing corridors.
  9. Urge hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers to enhance the appeal of the community by developing sites that are sensitive to local heritage, materials and style.
  10. Protect and enhance community gateways and viewing corridors to provide a distinctive sense of welcome.
  11. Restrict or eliminate billboards because they can strip away scenic beauty and a community’s distinctive character faster than other factors.
  12. Encourage the development of experiences that provide opportunities to encounter the city’s authentic cultural and natural environment.
  13. Encourage residents, business, developers, and all relevant government departments to respect the city’s heritage and environmental context when considering new developments and restoration.
  14. Build community pride and ownership in what is distinctive and special about the city.

If a city is not clearly differentiated or remains in the shadow of its competitors, it will always be seen as a pale alternative, and proving that it is different, relevant and adds value will become increasingly difficult. The rewards for small cities that break out of the Anytown Syndrome are considerable. There are great opportunities for leaders to offer citizens a vision and policies that will retain and develop their city’s distinctive character and take the road away from being another Anytown.

Those that take the route away from Anytown status are rewarded with increased income, investment, talented new residents and a great place to live.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA: Part Three

There are many reasons why even well-meaning cities can end up being bland and uninteresting. The most common causes are that they lack bold vision, belief in themselves and don’t have a focus on their distinctive points of difference. On many occasions it’s because they try to be all things to all people and lack the will to stand for one thing around which they can build a competitive advantage. They may also be neglecting their natural, heritage or cultural assets. To get beyond this state takes vision, some good old-fashioned guts and stop trying to please and appease local interest groups.

Great place brands thrive when there is a touch of tension derived from making a stand around a singular brand concept that resonates strongly with customers and that competitors can’t easily match. It may sound simple, but achieving this takes courage, leadership and imagination – and a great amount of selfless teamwork.

Dare to be Different

To avoid the Anytown, USA syndrome a city cannot present itself as all things to all people, or claim that they “have it all” or are “the center of it all”. These platitudes simply dilute any competitive edge and the city ends standing for nothing and being a weak imitation of other places.

We rarely conduct a Brand Retreat or focus group for a community when someone doesn’t say, “This is the best place to live, work and play”. Further, many residents advocate that it should be the city tagline.

While researching for “Destination Branding for Small Cities” I Googled the term, “a great place to live, work and play” and variations thereof. I found over 4 million results. So if you are considering joining the masses in building a community brand based on being “a great place to live, work and play”, you have simply identified an entry level ticket to play the game. There are tens of thousands of places in the USA and even more around the world that can match that claim. You simply have to dig deeper to uncover the heart and soul of your city and what will help it stand out and be valued.

It is easy for residents to overlook the appearance of their streets, the absence of trees, the poor lighting, trash and bad signage that may have evolved over the years. Visitors, however, are much less forgiving. When attention has been paid to the aesthetics of a place, including preserving or enhancing its natural qualities and environments, the city gains the reputation as a “special place” or a “fun place to hangout”, and this goes a long way toward supporting its brand identity.

City Image Boosts Economic Development

Tourism is now one of the key drivers of the American economy. It’s a leading employer in communities across the country, and a highly efficient revenue generator for state and local governments. States and cities are increasingly treating their travel promotion budgets like strategic investments that will be rewarded with more visitors, more jobs and higher tax revenues. But gaining these rewards means not being seen as Anytown, USA.

When city leaders recognize that there is a direct link between their city’s image and reputation and its attractiveness as a place to visit, live, and invest it is off to a good start. If a city isn’t attracting more income, talented people, new residents and investment then it is slowly dying.

A 2015 landmark study by Oxford Economics analyzed the tourism performance of more than 200 U.S. cities over 23 years and found widespread economic benefits from those actively promoting tourism. The study clearly showed a direct link between marketing expenditure of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and long-term economic growth.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

Marketing 3.0StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA: Part Two

We are living in the most competitive time in history, where cities of all sizes find themselves competing more fiercely for relevance, respect and reputation. In the USA alone there are approximately 20,000 incorporated cities, 3,400 counties, and myriad downtowns and suburbs clamoring for attention. Many are trying to compete with an image that is out of date, bland or inaccurate. These images, whether accurate or not are the reality for people who may be searching for a place to visit, live, or invest.

The biggest challenge facing many places is taking control of their identity and reputation which may have been unmanaged for a long time. Without a clear vision or a place branding strategy, a city may bounce from one set of messages to another without considering what the place should be known for.

Place branding involves much more than a new logo and snappy slogan. It should provide a framework and toolkit for differentiating, communicating and focusing the location’s competitive and distinctive identity.  It must be grounded in truth and reality, and not wishful thinking and hype. This means that what cities are promising must be met or exceeded when people are actually experiencing the place. Ambitious places wanting to avoid being Anytown, USA should first resolve a few basic questions:

  1. What do we want to be known for?
  2. How can we stand out from the crowd and be more competitive?
  3. What thoughts and feelings do we want to come to mind when people are exposed to our name?
  4. How can we build and preserve our heritage and authenticity?

Great Leaders Lead to Great Places

Many communities are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to proactively shape and influence what the world thinks of them and not allow inaction, the media or competitors to define who they are. They must resist developers and corporations far removed from their communities who would like to plant their cookie cutter designs and architecture in their towns. An important starting point is for city leaders to recognize that there is a direct link between the city’s distinctive image, respect and reputation and its attractiveness as a place to visit, live, invest, and study.

An even greater realization for some is that inaction is not a viable option if they genuinely want to display their distinctive character and improve local prosperity. Unfortunately, while many cities and regions are attempting to avoid Anytown USA status, many simply settle for cookie cutter architecture, a new logo and new design for their website.  They totally miss the transformative power of differentiation through branding.

This post is from http://citybranding.typepad.com/

StrategyTourism marketing

The Basics of Integrated Marketing Programs

An integrated marketing program in the travel trade is a comprehensive marketing solution specifically designed to ensure that all messaging and communications are unified across all channels and strategically focused to attract the customer- travelers.

It is a concept based on the principles of inbound marketing: providing valuable content to highly targeted consumers, which attracts and engages them, moving them down the funnel towards buying your services, product or in our case- a destination. This way, businesses and destinations spend their valuable resources in the most productive way, and consumers are delighted by content relevant to their interests.

There are seven essential steps to creating a great integrated marketing program. Through these steps, your business will be able to develop and maintain a simple yet productive integrated marketing campaign. They are:

  1. Marketing Strategy – After a thorough analysis of the business or destination’s features and attraction, an integrated marketing strategy must be developed. The strategy will serve as a road map for the implementation of an integrated marketing program—and should be tailored to your product’s needs. The strategy should integrate social media, search engine optimization, blogging, content and lead nurturing, public relations and trade relations.
  2. Brand Analysis – Prior to implementing any integrated campaigns, a specific brand or logo should be developed in order to improve your look and focus your message.
  3. Website and Content Development – Once a consumer finds your website, the goal is to make it so captivating that they want to stay on the site, engage in your content, and share it with others. To do this, both content and a schedule for posting it should be generated.
  4. Social Media Strategy and Blogging – Social media gives you a place to talk to your consumers before they travel, while they travel, and after they have returned. This includes social networks, blogs, micro-blogging sites, and third party sites. It is important to determine the best channels to use for your target markets, and what content to post.
  5. Creative Campaigns – With all pieces of your marketing foundation in place, now is the time to develop and implement creative campaigns and sweepstakes designed to draw visitors to both your site and social media platforms, while synchronizing your marketing message and brand value for maximum effectiveness.
  6. PR/Media Outreach Strategy – In creating a PR/Media strategy, it is important to employ simple but effective monitoring tools to allow you to identify influencers in your market. Then you can “listen” to the conversations taking place online, join ongoing conversations, build trust, and demonstrate expertise. It is critical to develop a database of contacts and design effective outreach campaigns to reach local and national media, relevant bloggers, guidebooks, and sales intermediaries.
  7. Trade Distribution Strategy – If you work with business to business (B2B) sales, it is most effective to take your relationships online by developing a dynamic database that tracks all communication with trade partners; from the initial email/call, to in-person meetings at trade shows, and shares on social media sites by each partner. Having a detailed record of your communication history with your partners helps you strengthen your business relationships.

In sum, integrated marketing programs provide an effective and streamlined solution to marketing, which is thus more productive for both the businesses and the consumers. They create a pleasant marketing/consumption experience, ultimately leading to more concrete results for businesses.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Integrated%20Marketing%20Program

StrategyTourism marketing

How to Avoid Being Anytown, USA – Part 1

Last summer I was relaxing in a small park in downtown Anchorage AK and watching a musical performance by local kids. I was immediately taken by the peaceful atmosphere, hometown feel and the distinctive precinct that surrounded the park with rows of independent businesses and traditional streetscapes. Crowds of visitors and locals alike were enjoying a sunny afternoon (yes, it was Alaska!) in an area that had not lost its soul to the sameness that shapes so many small cities today.

Many have lost their battle to cookie-cutter architecture and present an over-abundance of national franchises which give way to a blandness and homogeneity that lacks any distinctive character. Then there are the look-alike strip malls, car dealerships, and doppelgänger sub-divisions and suburbs that greet us as we approach many cities. Too many times it’s the result of unimaginative leaders and outside developers imposing their cloned thumbprint on the character of a place.

The downtown precinct in Anchorage was an unexpected contrast to many places I have visited in recent years. While places like Carmel IN, Galena IL and Fairfield IA have retained much of their independent character, local identity and distinctive sense of place, hosts of others have lost theirs.

Some cities are gaining bland Anytown, USA status long before people travel there. An online search quickly reveals many places that are not putting their best foot forward in an effort to stand apart but are relying on attributes that are common to thousands of other cities. If small cities and towns in Southern Michigan look and feel much like cities and towns in Northern Michigan, why would anyone spend the time and money to go there?

It’s Easy to be Anytown, USA

Ed McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser Chair in Sustainable Development at the Urban Land Institute, first coined the term, “Anyplace, USA” in a 1997 article. He captured the city sameness sentiment when he said, “Today, if you were suddenly dropped along a road outside of most American cities, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea where you were because it all looks exactly the same. Over the past 50 years too many of our townscapes have gone from the unique to the uniform and from the stylized to the standardized.”

And as McMahon points out, this sameness can extend to just about every new bridge which is constructed using a Jersey barrier to facilitate the economical and fast movement of traffic, at the expense of everything else.

We can detect the degree to which a city is Anytown, USA through:

– Communications promoting the city, such as brochures, advertising, websites, social, etc.

– Interactions with residents and businesses

– The journey to the place and its setting

– The sense of arrival in the location

– Time spent in the place as a visitor or resident

– Music, movies, stories and books depicting the city

It’s not enough to simply say your town is different and special in some way, or that it’s the perfect choice for a visit. Your reality must match the promise you have made in brochures and advertising whether trying to attract visitors, new residents or investors. If the place isn’t distinctive or doesn’t measure-up they will quickly tell the world via social media – and you will be left floundering with thousands of other clone towns.

This post is from  http://citybranding.typepad.com/

Environmental sustainabilityStrategySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Six Models to Link Tourism to Conservation (II)

If developed and managed properly, a sustainable tourism strategy can aid conservation efforts. A destination’s natural environment, often the catalyst for tourism development in the first place, must be preserved to sustain tourism in the long run. Part I of this article discussed the first three of Solimar’s six models that link tourism to conservation:

  • Improve Tourism Operations and Guidelines
  • Increase Tourism Awareness and Constituencies
  • Increase Income Diversification

Here are three additional ways that tourism can assist a destination’s natural conservation efforts:

  1. Increase Monitoring and Research

This model supports conservation by increasing the presence of guides, visitors, and researchers in critical areas where environmental degradation occurs. Two main strategies arise:

      4.1 Increase the Role of Local Residents in Monitoring and Research

Local residents often participate in conservation efforts by forming patrols or gaining employment as research assistants. Coastal residents can conduct nightly beach patrols to prevent the poaching of sea turtle eggs or illegal fishing. Tourism stakeholders can commit funding to these patrols or commission research projects with local residents as assistants. Execution of this strategy often depends on vital support from NGOs. By playing a role in monitoring and research, local residents gain awareness of conservation issues and form a deeper attachment to the local natural environment.

       4.2 Increase the Role of Visitors in Monitoring and Research

‘Voluntourism’ increases in popularity every year. Tourists increasingly seek travel through which they can learn about a cause while making a positive impact on their chosen travel destination. Tourists can sign up for long-term stays at ecolodges or engage in direct conservation efforts through National Parks or private businesses offering such experiences.

  1. Increase Tourism-Generated Conservation Financing

Most conservation professionals agree that increased funding would help their efforts. If tourism can increase the amount of funding available to conservation-related businesses and organizations, reliance upon donations decreases and the whole operation becomes more sustainable. This model involves four strategies:

     5.1 Utilize Sustainable Tourism Profits to Support Conservation Activities

This should be seen as investing in a destination’s long-term future. The natural environment often draws tourism to an area in the first place, so investing in the future of that environment enhances the likelihood of long-term sustainable tourism. Examples of profit reinvestment include increased monitoring and research, hosting ‘volontourists,’ or replacing less efficient equipment with new, more eco-friendly equipment.

     5.2 Develop Travel Philanthropy Programs

Creating programs that provide a reliable way for visitors to donate can greatly aid conservation efforts. This strategy involves several steps: developing visitor appreciation of the site’s resources, increasing visitor understanding of the threats to those resources, fostering visitor understanding of efforts to mitigate those threats, and finally, presenting the visitor a reliable way to donate to those efforts.

    5.3 Develop Conservation-Themed Brands and Merchandise

Many National Parks and conservation organizations sell t-shirts, mugs, hats, and other merchandise. A simple, easily identifiable logo with clear text should be used on merchandise as well as websites, publications, and news releases. The WWF and their panda logo provide a good example. Publicizing details about how merchandise sales lead to conservation can encourage sales.

   5.4 Promote Mandatory or Voluntary Protected Area Entrance/User Fees

Visitors often have to pay a mandatory fee to use a protected area. Parks can sell daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, or yearly passes. Sometimes fees correspond to an activity undertaken in the park so entrance may be one price while an additional fee may apply for fishing or camping. These fees can be used to hire more guides or rangers to protect the park or to increase the availability of interpretation within the park.

  1. Increase Conservation Partnerships:

Increased cooperation between local residents, protected areas, NGOs, and private business can accelerate conservation efforts. When communities can share in the economic benefits of a sustainable tourism strategy, the likelihood of effective long-term partnerships increases. This model involves two main strategies:

     6.1 Developing Partnerships between Protected Areas, NGOs, and Universities

Attracting researchers from NGOs or universities brings revenue to protected areas through the provision of food, lodging, and other services. The research itself builds a more thorough understanding of the natural processes taking place and can inform future conservation efforts. The Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador often hosts researchers for months at a time while bringing in large student groups for 2-3 day tours and hikes. Many of these efforts develop through a partnership with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

     6.2 Developing Partnerships between Protected Areas and Communities

Concession agreements, which allow local businesses to operate within protected areas, are becoming more widespread. This creates a financial incentive for local residents to engage in sustainable tourism practices. As business flourishes, commitment to the sustainable management of the protected area arises.

Destinations seeking sustainable solutions to conservation issues should employ the models and strategies listed above.

This blog post is from   www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/item/222-solimar-s-six-models-to-link-tourism-to-conservation-part-ii