Since 2008, IUCN has organised a series of training workshops focusing on integrating business skills into ecotourism operations in different destinations. These workshops are aimed primarily at conservation organizations and cover a number of key themes associated to ecotourism development (see below). The focus is to transfer business skills from the business to the conservation communities.
Themes covered by the training workshops:
- Understanding your market and product – Which tourism products/locations have the greatest potential to succeed? What elements determine their success? This theme provides conservation organisations with a better understanding of the market requirements that make a destination interesting and a product commercially viable.
- Developing a sustainable business plan – A successful business needs to be supported by a long term and well designed business plan. This session summarises the key elements that need to feature in a business plan, including, setting up the business, making the business economically viable, financial planning and improved management of internal records.
- Running sustainable operations – The participants, as representatives of the conservation community, have considerable knowledge of sustainability issues. This theme focuses on sustainability from the business perspective and provides participants an overview of how to run sustainable operations.
- Enabling Human Resources – At its heart, tourism is a people business. Your employees will be the most important point of contact with your customers and will be the ones who ensure that your business is being run the way you want it to be run. In this theme an overview is provided of how to find and hire the right people as well as how to ensure employee satisfaction.
- Focusing on Health and Safety – Safety is not something that can be advertised as a benefit when providing a tourism product. It is an essential condition expected by consumers that can be costly to a business when things go wrong. This theme draws upon the regulatory environment of the tourism industry as concerns health and safety to better inform tourism product design.
- Marketing and sales for your ecotourism business – Tapping into the right channels for marketing a tourism product is one of the key elements in a viable tourism venture. This theme gives an overview of the marketing process from product development, to targeting the right market segments and to distribution through mainstream channels.
- The importance of customer service – As a people business, customer communication and care are at the centre of successful tourism development and their importance must not be underestimated.