Category: Third sector and social sustainability

Visions and case studies about third sector issues

Environmental sustainabilityMarketing 3.0StrategySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

How Tourism, Conservation, and Local Economies Can Work Together

I’m not a biologist, but my basic understanding of an ecosystem is an interconnected system of organisms that rely on one another to maintain their existence as they continuously transfer energy from one organism to another. It’s nature’s way of sustaining life.

But what does this have to do with tourism? Aside from our focus on developing tourism in a way that protects and promotes the delicate ecosystems within a destination, there is also an interesting comparison between an ecosystem and all the moving parts of a destination. We believe that tourism, conservation and local economies can be and should be approached in a similar holistic, ecosystem way. Rather than focus on only one aspect of a destination, we need to look at the entire ecosystem – how tourism, conservation and local economies interact, what needs they have, and how they can support one another to benefit the entire destination.

Just as energy and nutrients drive the biological ecosystem, money and experiences drive the destination ecosystem. Money helps fund peoples desire to travel and money is transferred from a visitor to a tourism business in exchange for a unique travel experience. Conservation areas and local economies receive money from travelers and travel businesses (gate fees, hotel stays, guided tours, etc.) and use it to sustain their conservation activities and livelihood. This, in turn, helps protect and enhance the destination so that travelers continue to be inspired to travel to it, maintaining the flow of money to support the destination.

Just like the biological ecosystem after which it is modeled, the destination ecosystem is a delicately balanced system relying on each component to work together to sustain the destination. If done well, tourism, conservation and local economies can sustain themselves; but when done poorly, the system collapses. Biologists realized this long ago and take an ecosystem approach to the areas they study and manage. However, for a destination, such an approach is often lacking, which results in damage to the destination as well as the organizations and people within them.

For example, if park managers decided that they wanted more antelope in their park and supported the growth of the population without looking at the entire ecosystem, they would soon find that their large antelope population had eaten all the grass and the ecosystem would deteriorate. The same is true for a destination, if the focus is purely on one aspect of a destination like growing the local economy, attracting as many visitors as possible, or conserving the destination, without consideration for anything else, the system will crash and the destination will suffer. Rather than looking at a tourism business or a park or the communities around it in isolation, an integrated approach to destinations and the tourism, conservation and local economic activities within them is vital for long-term sustainability.

Integrated planning, implementation, and monitoring of activities within a destination helps to ensure that the balance between all the key players is maintained and that each one can leverage the other for its own benefit and the benefit of the destination. It is only when this integrated ecosystem works together in balance that a destination truly thrives.

For examples of how this kind of approach was used in our work in Uganda, download our case studies on destination development and community tourism enterprise development.

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

 

Environmental sustainabilityMarketing 3.0SustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Sustainable Tourism Development: Helping Revive Post-Conflict Destinations

One of the greatest and perhaps least recognized aspects of the sustainable tourism industry is the potential for economic growth and peace building in post conflict areas of the world. Working in these areas proves that not only does sustainable tourism have the incredible ability to preserve natural and cultural resources, but it can play a key role in the revival of economies and communities shattered by conflict.

The State of Tourism in post conflict areas

Some of the major problems faced by post conflict destinations are security based. The first hurdle in the revival of the tourism industry is making sure the destination is absolutely safe for visitors and pushing that message consistently across all channels of communication.

Another issue that arises in regard to security is rebuilding the destination’s image, as these locations are often perceived as degraded during times of conflict and violence.  It’s important to highlight that a destination’s cultural and natural heritage is alive and well by sharing high quality content about the destination, such as images, videos and copy.

The second set of issues facing post conflict destinations relates to infrastructure and human capital. Many times, after a long-lasting conflict like the civil war in Sri Lanka, many forms of infrastructure and many of the industries that service tourists are in poor condition, making it difficult for them to visit in a number of ways. For example, in some areas, roads may have become impassable; buildings may be dilapidated and need to be rebuilt. In order to sustain a tourism industry, these areas need rebuilding and basic resources restructured in order to revive their destination’s appeal and functionality.

How to restart the tourism activity

When setting goals for these destinations it is convenient to mirror that of a brand new, undiscovered destination, even if they had a tourism industry before the conflict. Through clear and coordinated communication between all stakeholders, the first phase of these strategies focuses on building the structures necessary to sustain the tourism industry.

A great way to kick start the tourism presence in these areas is to focus on regions that have not been affected by the conflict. A good approach is to promote off the beaten path, adventurous destinations and target tourists who are interested in those types of places. In each destination this might look different, but strategic marketing and promotion allows for such burgeoning markets to flourish.

Benefits & Outcomes

First and foremost, tourism in these countries means an influential source of capital. It provides economic opportunity through employment, ownership of businesses, and an increased market size. It also perpetuates personal and community empowerment by offering renewed opportunities for self-sustaining businesses and economies.

Tourism can also play a key role in reconciliation. It often unites communities that may have been broken or displaced during conflict around common interests and goals, fostering a sense of peace and cooperation that may not otherwise occur. In some cases, tourism can contribute to preventing the revival of a conflict in destinations with increasingly well-established tourism industries, as it contributes to a virtuous cycle of development and economic growth that would be threatened by the renewal of violence.

By rebuilding and strengthening culture, economy, and infrastructure, the tourism industry provides post conflict regions a chance to make a statement about their future to the world. These communities are able to showcase their homes as more than just what people see on TV news.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Geotourism%20Program%20with%20National%20Geographic

Environmental sustainabilityMarketing 3.0SustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Searching for a Sustainable Destination Management Model in Jordan

One of the greatest challenges facing destinations around the world is finding a way to bring together tourism stakeholders to work collaboratively to develop, manage, and market their tourism destination.

It’s widely understood by tourism professionals that Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) play a key and important role in connecting the tourism industry and serving as an advocate for tourism that grows local economies while mitigating tourism’s negative impacts to the environment, cultural heritage, and local residents.  In most destinations the role of the DMO is focused on destination marketing since most tourism businesses recognize the advantages of working together to create demand for a destination.  But anyone who has been to an overcrowded, too touristy, trash-ridden destination should understand why focusing on destination management is just as important as destination marketing.

As important as Destination Management Organizations may be, unfortunately most governments fail to provide financial support to help them.   In most developed destinations a combination of a bed tax, industry membership fees, and/or government funding provides modest marketing budgets that in turn convenes and unites the tourism industry around a common vision for tourism development.  But this is not always the case in developing destinations.  It’s these types of undiscovered destinations that need DMOs more than anywhere since we all know that it’s unplanned, unregulated tourism development that destroys the places we love to visit.

But how do you finance such an organization when there are only a few small tourism businesses in a destination and reluctance from national tourism authorities to decentralize tourism development and marketing?

Ajloun is one of Jordan’s undiscovered gems that offer visitors wonderful experiences ranging from 12thcentury castles to hiking trails through green forests. But the best is that the majority of these services are provided by local communities that are welcoming visitors into their homes and at their dinner tables to experience the incredible Jordanian culture and hospitality.  Ajloun was not realizing its tourism potential and a main reason for this was because no one was working together to promote and develop the tourism destination.  A DMO was needed, but how to make this work and what is required to make this successful?

Below are my reflections based on experience in Jordan and countless other developing destinations on what is needed to establish and sustain a destination management organization.

While every destination is unique and different I have come to learn that the following three key ingredients are required to establish and sustain a destination management organization in the developing world.

  1.  Willingness to work together –as easy as it sounds the first and probably the most important ingredient to creating a successful destination management organization is making sure the tourism stakeholders are willing and able to work together.  Small tourism destinations are made up of people and people are complicated.  Especially in small towns where religious or political beliefs can be as divisive as loyalty to your favorite English Premiere soccer club or who someone is currently dating.

In essence you are asking people who consider themselves competitors to agree to meet, work together, and invest time and resources for a shared good.  The first thing I did when visiting Ajloun is interview as many people as I could to try and determine if there was a willingness to work together and understand the personal dynamics in the destination that I need to be aware of.  Luckily in Ajloun there was an overwhelming desire to work together.  Everyone I met with expressed an overwhelming desire to be part of something that could help elevate Ajloun’s tourism offer.

  1. Leadership and Passion – while a willingness to work together is critical, to establishing a Destination Management Organization, equally important is finding someone with the leadership skills and passion for making it happen.  This is where most DMOs that are established with the support of international development organizations fail.  It’s much easier for the external consultant to step in and be the leader and initiate the work of the organization.  But who becomes the glue that keeps everyone together after the donor support ends and the tourism consultant leaves?  Who calls the meetings and sets the agenda? Who sees the status quo and is passionate about making change?  Without a clear leader or group of leaders that are willing to invest substantial amounts of time and headaches to make this happen, it will not work.

This was one of the challenges I recognized last week in Ajloun.  While many people I met are willing to come to a meeting and benefit from a destination marketing initiative, it was not clear to me who would be willing to take the lead and sustain this DMO over time.  But this is also why setting up a DMO takes time.  Several more conversations and meetings need to take place before I can say one way or another if there exist a leader in Ajloun that will ensure the long term success of this initiative.

  1. A Sustainable Business Model – To be honest I have seen destinations that lack one or two of the above mentioned ingredients that are still able to sustain a Destination Management Organization simply because it had a business model that provided sustained sources of income or funding to operate. However even those destinations with the best leaders and a willingness to work together have not been able to sustain a DMO without a sustainable business model.

But how do you create a sustainable business model for a DMO?  This is a question that tourism professionals around the globe are trying to solve.  In the US we have the membership model and the bed tax that funds most DMOs or new Tourism Improvement Districts (TIDs).  In Europe, funding from local governments that recognize tourism’s return on investment supports the operating budgets of most DMOs.  But in the developing world or in the case of Ajloun where there is less then 10 tourism enterprises that collectively sell less then $20,000 in services a year, how do we establish a sustainable business model for the DMO?  There is no way the businesses in Ajloun will pay a membership fee and even if they would the amount would not go far.  Government support is out of the question and the lack of large companies outside the tourism sector means that finding a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sponsor will be a challenge.

As I interviewed more and more people I realized that the lack of tour operators in the region combined with the inability of many of the community tourism enterprises to take Internet reservations or create packages meant that there was a business opportunity.  This business opportunity is around the creation of what I like to call a Destination Management and Marketing Company (DMMC).  A DMMC takes the same mission as a DMO and has a governance structure similar to a board of directors of a DMO but it uses a business model that provides services in exchange for compensation to sustain the organization’s operating costs.  By no means is creating a DMMC an easy task but I believe that Ajloun is a perfect destination for this social enterprise approach.  The next step, like any new business is developing a business plan to define the company’s products, services, target markets, operating plan, and financial models.  It is only after this business plan is developed and local stakeholders agree to the concept can the business be established.  I look forward to the opportunity to work with the wonderful people I met In Ajloun to see if the social enterprise business model can sustain and support the needs of the tourism industry.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Destination%20Management?start=10

Business trendsCollaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureEnvironmental sustainabilityMarketing 3.0

Why Do We Need Public–Private Partnerships in Sustainable Tourism?

What is a Public Private Partnership and Why Is It Important?

In sustainable tourism development projects, there are inherently multiple goals in which an array of parties maintains interest. From tour operators to local governments and communities, these stakeholders all have expected outcomes for tourism development. In order to properly represent these interests and create mutually beneficial outcomes, public–private partnerships are essential to a great tourism strategy. The most important piece of this puzzle is maintaining strong relationships and a clear understanding of divergent yet symbiotic objectives.

It is convenient to maintain strong relationships with a wide range of actors in the tourism sector, which is vital to the negotiation of these partnerships. These partnerships leverage financial and technical expertise and promotional benefits from private and government partners in exchange for improvement in stakeholder relations, marketing, and improved product and service delivery. Increased sales revenue and jobs, improved visitor experiences, alternative incomes for local communities, decreased levels of conservation threats in areas of high biodiversity, diversified production and increased production for small farms, and overall improvement of sustainability of destinations have all been marked results of these arrangements.

Public–Private Partnerships in Geotourism Programs

At the onset of each program, a destination Geotourism Stewardship Council is organized, made up of a variety of stakeholders, including communities, non profits, businesses, and governments representing the interests of the natural, cultural, scenic, and historic features of the destination. This group then works with the consultants to develop the regional tourism strategy, defining the vision, goals, timeline, and objectives of the project. The Stewardship Council also plays a key role in implementing the strategy by meeting regularly to generate local nominations, review the information and materials created, and utilize the products established to sustain and promote the destination.

Public–Private Partnerships in Conservation

Another area of tourism that benefits from strategic public–private partnerships is conservation. In areas of high and rare biodiversity, there can be built partnerships between a number of public and private stakeholders, including protected area authorities, government bodies, conservation NGOs, the local tourism private sector, and communities living around the area. Generally categorized as Protected Area Alliances, these groups, similar to the Geotourism Stewardship Councils, play a key role in the development of the tourism strategy as well as its implementation. The alliances continue after the initial implementation of the program, allowing the community to continue supporting and sustaining the protected area. Through these partnerships, multiple goals and interests can be achieved, such as increased protection for the environment, increased revenue for the tourism sector, and increased economic opportunities for the local governments and communities.

Public–private partnerships are essential to sustainable tourism development, as they allow stakeholders across the globe to participate in the development of tourism strategy, communicate and achieve their goals and interests, and successfully implement tourism programs, all while collaborating to achieve a common goal.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Geotourism%20Program%20with%20National%20Geographic

Environmental sustainabilityStrategyStrategy planning & executionSustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Destination Management Planning Initiative for the Colonial City of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Tourism contributes significantly to the inflow of people and to the infrastructure development at cultural heritages. It is both a duty and an act of self-interest for the tourism industry to be invested in the conservation of these heritage sites. This cannot be handled by an external force; rather, the local stakeholders need to embrace the concept of sustainable tourism management using a “destination approach”.

Local destination management organizations (DMO) are usually in the best position to advocate holistic tourism development. They work to facilitate communication between different types of stakeholders, as well as to present commercial and community demands to policy-makers. For cultural heritage sites, without economic investment it can be difficult to maintain conservation of the site from internal and external pressures. For that same reason, destination management cannot effectively be carried out without the involvement of the local community. To do so, consultants are usually hired, by carrying out a Destination Management Plan. In their work, they focus their efforts on the following goals:

  1. Enhanced understanding of the operational structure and understanding of the potential of a DMO by local managers and other stakeholders.
  2. Active use by local asset managers and guides of the tools for development and implementation of a Sustainable Tourism Strategy.
  3. Increased knowledge of local managers on structuring tourism management using a “destination” approach.
  4. Integration of all the parties involved in the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism, using a destination approach for the conservation and empowerment of local communities.
  5. Implementation of the proposed governance structure for the DMO, achieving interagency agreements and work commitments.
  6. Design and implementation of mechanisms for the operation of the proposed governance structure.
  7. Development of an Action Plan as a basis for the strategic implementation of the Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Strategy for the Development of a DMO.

These goals will be achieved in part by hosting some workshops in order to:

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of the current situation based on an analytical framework for sustainable tourism;
  • Create a shared, strategic vision, mission, and priorities for a DMO for the Colonial City; and
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for the management of sustainable tourism that unites all Colonial City stakeholders around a common vision.

To achieve the Colonial City’s conservation, economic and social objectives there first needs to be a shared vision. The Colonial City, the place where native, European and African cultures had their first encounter and left their combined marks, has suffered from natural disasters and most importantly, human impact. Land conversion, the development of underground transport, visitation facilities and tourism itself are taking a toll on the old city.

A successful strategy is one that was developed by the people who will be implementing it. Upon completion of the analysis of the current situation and after achieving consensus on the vision for the Colonial City and the DMO, the Sustainable Tourism Strategy and Strategy for the Development of a DMO will be drafted. The strategies will emphasize the promotion and protection of cultural assets in the destination management practices, as they are crucial in attracting higher-spending tourist segments and maximizing tourist contribution.

The destination management planning development and implementation aims to minimize the possible negative impacts of tourism, improve economic and social development, and preserve cultural heritage sites so that they can share their tales for many more years to come.

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

Environmental sustainabilitySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainabilityTourism trends

Best Practices in Integrating Sustainability in Tourism Management and Operations

The importance of sustainable tourism development is increasingly recognized throughout the sector. However, it has been a challenge for many organizations to integrate sustainability into tourism management and operations. Here are a few tips and examples on how to incorporate sustainability in your destination’s tourism management and operations.

Involve Local Residents and Communities in Tourism Planning

Sustainable tourism development requires the participation of local residents and businesses at the planning stage. By consulting with local stakeholders, you gain their support and reduce conflict as the plan progresses.

In Geotourism projects, which seek to highlight the unique culture and heritage of a region through the voices and stories of the people that live there, local residents are invited to nominate places of interest. This provides more economic benefits to local businesses especially those that are less known. The nominations are reviewed by a Stewardship Council, composed of representatives from the region, before being used to create an interactive website, a MapGuide, and a Smartphone app.

Establish Partnerships with Different Stakeholders

Effective collaboration among different stakeholders from the government, tourism boards, businesses, and local communities is crucial to successful sustainable tourism management and operations. This facilitates a more balanced system of decision making as the priorities of various sectors are considered.

For the assistance of Uganda in tourism development, stakeholders from each part of the tourism and conservation sectors were actively involved. The cooperation among the stakeholders was important to enhance tourism products, build strong community enterprises, strengthen linkages among different attractions, and bolster the success of the program.

Develop Products Based on the Destination’s Strengths

What are the local assets that your destination can highlight? Destination assessment should be conducted to identify the strengths of a destination and determine the best tourism products based on the findings.

In the destination assessment for the Sierra de la Gigante region, potential conservation models leveraging the region’s strengths in order to address conservation goals and provide economic opportunities for the local population were identified.

Strengthen Local Capacity to Manage Tourism

Sustainable tourism management and operations need to equip local businesses with skills to succeed. Workforce development and training is therefore integral to a successful strategy.

To strengthen the capacity of the Ethiopia Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA), many workshops were conducted and materials were created to train personnel in using the necessary tools and activities to implement community tourism in Ethiopia.

Target High-Yield Market Segments

High visitor numbers aren’t inherently valuable for your destination. In sustainable tourism management and operations, it is important to serve the proper target markets. Fortunately, there has been a growth in the number of travelers who demand more responsible travel and have higher visitor expenditure.

The Namibia North American Destination Marketing Campaign targeted travelers who would most appreciate the country’s strong conservation and special interest selling points. These include curious conservationists and experience seekers. This is why a destination assessment of strengths is so important—you must know what you are marketing and to whom.

Use Guidelines to Limit Impact

Creating guidelines is important in sustainable tourism management and operations. It not only helps the destination preserve its ecological value, but also helps businesses limit their negative environmental and sociocultural impacts. Educating visitors and locals on best-practices matters.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) Initiative fosters increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and promotes the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles.

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

Environmental sustainabilitySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

4 Benefits that Sustainable Tourism Development Ensures for Cuba

The story of international tourism to Cuba is a complex one. From the pre-Revolution Tropicana Club and casino days to tourism’s eradication under Castro, and now back again with predominantly Havana and all-inclusive resort promotions, the island’s relationship to international tourism has constantly evolved. Cuba received more than three million international tourists in 2014, more than any other year in its history. This trend shows no sign of slowing down as arrivals for January 2015 outpaced January 2014 by 16%. Most of these tourists come from Canada and Europe, but as you might have heard, Cuba has another huge market entering the mix.

The smoothing of relations between the United States and Cuba nations may allow for a massive influx of American tourists in the near future, but for now this is uncertain. With the potential influx of tourists from the United States, will Cuba develop a sustainable tourism model a la Costa Rica, or will they choose to emulate the all-inclusive route so popular throughout the rest of the Caribbean?

Cuba has already developed a massive all-inclusive resort enclave, Varadero, on the northern coast a couple hours east of Havana. This 20-mile strand of beach is home to many joint ventures between the Cuban government and foreign companies, and only a small percentage of profits ever benefit the Cuban people. Massive all-inclusive resorts, although becoming more sustainability-focused, have a long history of being unsustainable. Profits depart destinations, environmental degradation occurs, and local traditions are shuttered or commoditized, leading to varying degrees of tourism imperialism.

Cuba has developed a few other all-inclusive resorts outside of Varadero, but an overwhelming majority of the island still lends itself to sustainable tourism development. By choosing to move forward with the sustainable tourism model instead of further developing mass all-inclusive resort tourism, four key benefits to Cuba arise:

  1. Protection of natural areas:

Cuba has 263 protected natural areas that combine to make up over 20% its territory. Promoting ecotourism to these parts, while maintaining safe environmental limits, can funnel more money into the conservation and enhancement of these sites or encourage the designation of even more protected areas. Many travelers are seeking an experience beyond the typical sun, sea, and sand of mass tourism. A visit to Cuba’s protected areas would create this opportunity while helping to develop the ever-elusive sense-of-place that destinations desire to create.

Costa Rica has used this sustainability-focused approach to become the ecotourism epicenter of Central America, if not the world. Sustainable ecotourism has become a dominant part of their destination image, and they have well-preserved resources that will sustain their tourism economy long into the future. Why couldn’t Cuba become the king of Caribbean ecotourism? Cuba and Costa Rica have similar natural attractions including breathtaking mountains, extraordinary biodiversity, and pristine reefs and wetlands. No other Caribbean island has an array of natural assets to match Cuba. Developing a sustainable tourism model brings an incentive to keep these areas protected long into the future.

  1. Preservation of cultural heritage:

In addition to amazing natural areas, Cuba has unique cultural tourism assets as well. UNESCO has designated an astounding seven sites on the island as cultural World Heritage Sites. Perhaps most importantly, these are spread throughout the island and only one is in Havana. Havana will never lack for tourists and distributing visitors throughout the rest of the country will be key to developing in a sustainable way. Linking these UNESCO sites and other cultural attractions together will encourage visitors to stay longer while creating a more authentic experience than all-inclusive resort travel. These outcomes fit the sustainable tourism model as profits would increase due to longer stays while spreading beyond the resorts and Havana.

The socialist history of Cuba is a tourism asset in and of itself. Even as Cuba eschews some of this philosophy, visitors will remain fascinated by the stories of Fidel, Ché, and the Revolution. Marketing these already-present Revolution-themed attractions instead of further promoting mass resort tourism builds upon Cuba’s unique cultural assets without further degradation of the natural or cultural environment, a possible outcome of building more resorts. This way, Cuba can show their cultural heritage while further developing the authentic sense-of-place that encourages repeat visits and promotes a positive destination image.

Cultural tourism could become a more powerful force throughout the island and is by no means limited to socialist history or UNESCO-designated sites. Baseball, music, dance, art, culinary traditions, agriculture, and many other aspects contribute to the island’s distinct cultural identity. By moving visitors and profits beyond the resorts and Havana, Cubans have more incentive to simply act naturally and be themselves instead of putting on tacky, commoditized representations of themselves at the all-inclusives.

  1. Support for the Entrepreneurial Movement sweeping the Island

The combination of Cuba’s natural and cultural assets can be integrated into an immensely marketable sustainable tourism arsenal. In theory, this sounds great, but what is the vehicle for achieving this goal? One option would be to facilitate the formation of private enterprise and entrepreneurial development, which has led to innovation, efficiency, and coordination in the tourism sector in other destinations. In recent years, the Cuban government has slowly integrated private enterprise into the economy. This has been undertaken largely to reduce dependence upon the government, which can no longer supply everyone with jobs or a livable wage, and to bring black market activities into the formal economy.

As private enterprise becomes more viable, competition will lead to innovation and increased efficiency in the tourism industry. The Cuban people, who are quite resilient and creative, have actually had to develop a sort of entrepreneurial spirit over the years to overcome economic hardships. In Cuba this concept is known as “resolver,” which literally means “to resolve” and can be understood as something along the lines of “we’ll figure it out,” or “we’ll do what we have to do.” Deep neighborhood and family networks have evolved out of this process. These networks have come together to solve problems time and time again. Isn’t that what entrepreneurs do?

Cuban citizens view tourism as an engine for enterprise creation, mainly in the forms of private houses (rooms available for tourists to rent in private homes), “paladares” (small, privately-owned restaurants) and transportation services. Patronizing these businesses undoubtedly leaves the impression of an authentic experience in the minds of travelers while simultaneously contributing to the well-being of local residents via increased income. However, categories of legal self-employment are still restricted in Cuba. For example, Cuban citizens cannot be self-employed as tour guides, although the government has shown a recent affinity for being more responsive than in the past. Further developing private enterprise in tourism disseminates the benefits of tourism beyond the top level, reduces leakage, and creates competition. Competition is vital to innovation and a constantly evolving tourism product.

  1. Improved well-being of Cuban citizens

As sustainable tourism catches on, Cubans will have access to more jobs and careers, higher earning potential, cross-cultural interaction, and new skills and training. A successful tourism industry with a healthy private sector component reduces dependence upon the government while empowering Cuban citizens to forge their own path. If Cuba can develop tourism similarly to the Costa Rican model, the results will be well-maintained natural areas and cultural sites which will provide jobs and careers well into the future. All of these developments contribute to improved financial security and overall well-being for Cuban citizens.

I see the potential for these four benefits to “spiral up” to create a sustainable tourism model in Cuba. If private enterprise flourishes, resident well-being increases, thus providing further incentive to protect natural and cultural heritage. Cuba has fantastic natural and cultural attractions, and once Cuban citizens gain more sovereignty in the business development process, the potential for innovative and sustainable tourism products is infinite. Of course the government will still be a key figure in this development, but it can help by enforcing environmental regulations and supporting programs to preserve cultural identity. Ideally, the public and private sectors work together to ensure that Cuba’s tourism growth happens in a sustainable way.

During my studies at East Carolina University’s M.S. Sustainable Tourism program, I worked with Dr. Carol Kline on my M.S. thesis and a subsequent publication in Tourism Management. My research examines the relationship between private enterprise and tourism development in Cuba. I traveled to Cuba as part of a research team to interview residents about these topics. Out of this process came a realization that this is a critical time in history for Cuba’s tourism industry. The possible influx of U.S. tourists only adds to the importance and immediacy of the need for Cuba to choose a sustainable path of tourism development. These decisions will determine the long-term success of tourism on the island and who benefits.

This blog post is from www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Community%20based%20Tourism

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

Environmental sustainabilityMarketing 3.0SustainabilityThird sector and social sustainabilityTourism marketing

Destination Marketing for Voluntourism

Increased awareness of world issues and global needs has led to a rise in the desire to help others abroad. Travelers want to reconnect with humanity, find a sense of meaning, and help their global neighbors in a hands-on way, rather than simply through monetary contributions. While there has been some push-back questioning the merits of voluntourism, many eager travelers are still looking for opportunities where their time and skills will be useful to others.

What is Voluntourism?

Voluntourism, the responsible travel experience which combines helping, learning, and exotic traveling, is becoming increasingly popular for people of all ages who are concerned with world issues and social responsibility. Travelers use their holidays to give back to others, rather than as pure recreation. These trips can be anywhere in length from a few days to a few months. Projects can involve teaching, building schools or other infrastructure, helping with agriculture, or assisting with disaster relief.

Participants typically pay their own expenses when volunteering abroad, but some costs can be tax-deductible. In exchange for their time, voluntourists typically receive an affordable alternative to a vacation that includes orientation, language and technical training, a safe place to live and work under conditions common to the country, and a network of logistical staff to help plan the trip.

Types of Voluntourism

1. Philanthropic or donor travel. Travel philanthropy differs from other types of voluntourism in that its purpose is to supplement a philanthropic gift. Charitable organizations sometimes plan or even sponsor trips for their donors so that they can experience first-hand the work that the organization is doing. The trip could be intended to research a cause, establish a relationship with the recipient, or as reassurance that a philanthropic gift is worthwhile.

2. Private or group travel. Individuals or groups who want a charitable experience during vacation can participate in cultural or community exchanges in which they can volunteer their time. Families, groups, or individuals can create their own voluntourism holiday with a tour operator or join an existing trip with an organization.

3. Urgent service travel and disaster relief. There is an abundance of intense volunteer opportunities in second-response disaster zones after any type of natural disaster. This type of voluntourism tends to be less expensive than other types, although some organizations require that the participants raise additional donations above the cost of the trip. Skilled professionals like doctors and construction workers are in high demand, though almost anyone can help to provide immediate relief.

Voluntourism Marketing Strategies for Destinations:

  • Review the region’s current service assets to identify unique opportunities for visitors.Creativity and uniqueness are important, because travelers have a variety of volunteer opportunities to choose from. Offering one-of-a-kind experiences to travelers with differentiate a destination from its competitors.
  • Build on exisiting organizational relationships.Choose service projects that will also support tourism-related causes, issues, and events, such as museums, zoos, historic buildings, national parks, and conservation efforts that will interest tourists as well as connect them to the region’s other offerings.
  • Add information about volunteering to destination websites. The Alabama Gulf Coast’s website promotes future travel experiences in voluntourism on its website and across its social media platforms as a fun activity to participate in that will preserve the coast for generations to come.
  • Create a catalog of volunteering options for travel planners.Providing a program of unique voluntourism activities will interest tour operators as well as individual travelers. For example, partnering with zoos and national parks can provide sustainable conservation opportunities, while arts programs and museums can provide cultural opportunities for volunteers.

This blog post is from  www.solimarinternational.com/resources-page/blog/itemlist/tag/Destination%20Management?start=10

Collaborative business modelsCollaborative cultureEnvironmental sustainabilitySustainabilityThird sector and social sustainability

Voluntourism, beyond responsible tourism

Responsible tourism, Voluntourism, Sustainable tourism…are different concepts with a common idea: the tourism activity in which the visitor brings positive impacts to the destination, either to alleviate poverty, to help in the development of the local economy, rebuilding areas affected by natural catastrophe, etc.

With regards to the kind of people interested in these types of tourism activities, they are not all moved by the same motivations and goals. The visitor travels either passively (holiday trip + sightseeing), actively (holiday trip + volunteering) or as a volunteer (volunteering trip).

Nowadays, Latin America and Asia are the continents offering most of these programs. There are both outbound and incoming travel agencies specialized in this type of tourism, and some tour operators have developed business units based on responsible tourism, whereas in Africa volunteering holiday programs are more popular than responsible tourism programs.

Also in Eastern Europe some countries are discovering in this type of tourism a new source of revenue for its poorest regions. Other Western countries such as the USA, Germany, France, Spain or Italy have also included strategies for the development of volunteering tourism products in their tourism development plans.

These type of holiday programs let the visitor truly discover the local culture, staying in local homes or accommodation facilities managed by locals, visiting the destination and cooperating in different social projects. Some examples may be:

  • Helping in building homes for refugees or in the poorest areas of the destination
  • Working as a teacher in primary schools or supporting in sport camps for children
  • Cooperating with an NGO dealing with the victims of a natural catastrophe
  • Participating in an ecotourism program where to work in the preservation of the environment

Some portals like Xmigrations.com work as a search engine for activities and accommodation where you may find nature, sport and spiritual activities in places where you can work in exchange for a free stay.

http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/turismo-solidario-y-volunturismo/