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Exploring Effective Strategies for Destination Enhancement through Samira Holma's Community-based Approaches!

Updated: May 28

The notion of travel transcends mere sightseeing; it embodies a celebration of independence, lifestyle design, and authentic exploration. At the helm of this movement is Samira Holma, a visionary strategist hailing from Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia, Samira is currently based there and considers it one of her favourite places. However, she has a diverse background, having grown up in Sweden with parents from Finland and Bangladesh. Samira hasn't had a fixed base since 2016 and left Sweden many years ago.

Her mission?

To elevate destinations and brands while fostering genuine connections with local communities. Samira's innovative approaches not only attract the right audience but also weave a richer tapestry for each locale. Join us as we unravel her transformative methods, where love for independence and lifestyle design merge with authentic travel experiences, paving the way for sustainable growth and empowerment for all involved.

 1. What inspired you to pursue a location-independent lifestyle, and how has it shaped your journey over the years?

I've always been curious. Even before starting this lifestyle, I had travelled a lot and lived in many different places. Before making the change, I had a good job, a nice apartment, great friends, hobbies, and so on, but still felt as if something was missing.

I started to research, spoke with different people, and looked into options. Heard about the location-independent lifestyle, and decided I wanted to have that kind of freedom too. Even though I thought it sounded too good to be true! There weren't so many examples of it back then. 

I created a strategy for myself, just as for a business. I thought about what's most important, how I want my life to look like. I identified values and goals, like freedom, personal development, making an impact, and more. It made me realise that I should start my own business.

I then saved money, created a plan, took a break from the company I was working for, and bought a one-way ticket to Cuba. This was in 2016. I've been travelling full-time while building my business ever since with many ups and downs, and learnings along the way.

My life and business have changed a lot since then and I could never have imagined how things would turn out. I regularly review if any changes are needed, if I'm happy, and so on, and tweak accordingly. The most important lesson - life becomes so much more exciting when you challenge the stereotypes of how you "should" live.

2. Can you share some of your top tips for designing a flexible lifestyle that aligns with your values and passions?

My number one advice is to think about what kind of life you want to live. If freedom and time are important, you better set up your business in a way that gives you more of that - not the other way around. 

A common challenge is that people zoom in only on their career or travel for example, and forget to see the bigger picture, like how it affects their life quality. Take the time to understand what you want and be open to the fact that this might change over time. Then it's about looking into options and experimenting! Even if you don’t have everything figured out, a big part of lifestyle design is continuous exploration. Create a plan and goals for yourself and take action. You don't need to make extreme changes in the beginning. You can for example start with a one-month experiment and see what that feels like. I break this down more on my website for those who want to dive into the details. :)

 3. What are some common challenges you’ve faced while traveling full-time, and how have you overcome them?

Work-life balance, disconnecting, building genuine relationships, finding what works for you, getting up to speed on how new places work (all the time), picking up new languages, unexpected happenings around the world, and more. Nothing surprises me anymore! It comes with lots of freedom, which I love. But if you're not used to that it can take some time to figure out what works for you. These days there is also lots of advice on how you "should" live. My best recommendation is to use it as inspiration, but also challenge what you hear and test your way forward to find a good balance that feels right for you. By now, I've experimented a lot and found a good set-up, where I mix longer stops with shorter, new places with returning to my favourites. I take care of myself and set off time for what gives me energy. A lifestyle of travel is very different in comparison to just taking a trip somewhere. It's key to understand what you need to sustain this lifestyle long-term. What's "right" might change in the future, that's also what makes life exciting. ;)

4. You’ve visited 50+ countries and picked up 5 languages along the way! Which country or culture has had the biggest impact on you, and why?

So many places have had an impact on me in different ways - hard to pick one! First time I arrived in Latin America, I felt as if I found my place. I remember very well when I was able to spend a longer period in Brazil for the first time thanks to this lifestyle. It had always been my dream to live there at some point. I was walking down to the beach on a normal Tuesday having Acai, people were playing volleyball, the ambiance felt magical, and it was just a normal day after work. I've returned many times ever since, been based in most of the countries in Latin America, and worked on several local projects. It has taught me so much about myself, people, cultures and how many ways one can live.

 5. As someone deeply passionate about lifestyle design, how do you balance work, leisure, and personal growth while on the road?

I'm very intentional about how I live my life. I've invested a lot of time into understanding how one can optimise various areas in life. How to become more productive, and design a lifestyle that makes you happy. I often check in on how my preferences and priorities might have changed, and make sure to set off time for continuous learning and the things I love. Most importantly, I've taken the time to get to know myself and understand why I need to feel at my best, as well as what areas I can work on. We're all a continuous work in progress. 😅

6. Could you elaborate on some successful strategies you’ve implemented to boost local economies and communities for destinations and brands you’ve worked with?

I have worked on many different projects across the world, with clients ranging from leading brands and destinations to local entrepreneurs. I've helped position and promote indigenous experiences in collaboration with local communities across Bolivia and Ecuador, to generate independent direct income streams for these communities. I've teamed up with underrated areas and places dependent on seasons to help them implement more sustainable models. This included optimising their offers onsite, looking at new target groups like digital nomads and locals in nearby cities, creating new packages for longer stays, and promotion strategies. 

We also focused on making the places a destination for locals and teamed up with local talents like yoga teachers so they could come there and run their events. A lot of focus on collaboration between brands and places. 

As a result, we strengthen the relationship with the local community and balanced visitor numbers more throughout the year. I also hold classes for brands and universities in sustainable hospitality and marketing and often support NGO projects in the places where I'm based.

 7. What are some key considerations for brands looking to appeal to the growing demographic of remote workers and digital nomads? 

The digital nomad/remote community is more diverse than most people think. Start by defining who you’re targeting. Who would be a great match with your destination? Within the category of "digital nomads/remote workers" you will find all kinds of people, ages, travel styles and preferences. 

A few factors they usually care about (these may vary for different people):

  • Basic infrastructure to be able to work. Like good Wi-Fi, a comfortable space to work from, coffee shops, and co-working options. Plus for smooth payment options, such as the possibility to pay with a card in most places, even if it isn’t a dealbreaker if you can’t.

  • Good accommodation options suitable for longer stays that aren’t too overpriced (from a few weeks to a few months).

  • A welcoming atmosphere and culture.

  • A community of locals and other nomads. So much potential when you manage to connect your local community with talents from all over the world.

  • Events, from business meet-ups to concerts, cultural festivals, or gastronomy.

There are so many stereotypes about this lifestyle and I don't want to add more to those. Some people only want to go where there are established nomad communities, while others (like myself) also are open to exploring places that aren't known at all. Some travel full-time, while others have a base and do more of part-time nomad-ing. And I could go on… Instead of assuming, the best way to find out what your target group is looking for is simply to research and ask! Identify what your destination offers and who'd appreciate that. Then focus on those people, instead of trying to appeal to everyone. 

8. In your experience, what are the most effective ways for destinations to differentiate themselves in a crowded market?

Authenticity, a good understanding of your target group, collaborations, storytelling, and creativity. Teaming up with the local community to make sure your destination is represented genuinely and that locals feel involved. Then it depends on the goal of the project, there are always creative strategies one can implement across media and communities! 

 9. How do you integrate sustainability into destination marketing strategies, and what impact does it have on attracting the right audience?

It's a lot about a mindset shift and redefining "successful tourism". Looking at the place and the local community first, what do they need, and how can we use tourism as a tool for that? It’s important to have a plan from the beginning and work proactively to avoid or minimise the effects of common challenges even before they arise (like too many visitors coming over, increasing prices and more).

Before kicking off any new sustainable tourism initiatives, we usually start by carrying out a detailed audit, covering visitor numbers, impact, target groups, challenges, and opportunities. When you have a good understanding of the starting point, it’s time to develop a long-term vision for sustainable tourism that balances economic growth with preservation. We'll create a vision, diversify offerings, redefine target groups, set up new collaborations, and more - it depends on the goal of the project, as no one solution fits all. When it comes to attracting the right audience, it's about changing the stories we tell. Instead of only encouraging people to visit the same top places, inspire them to go deeper by sharing real stories about your culture, people, and underrated places. Make it more about connection and meaningful experiences, rather than checking things off, and you will attract people who appreciate that. You can also clarify that some behaviours aren't welcome (like those that disrespect the local culture/community) - via marketing, regulations, and policies. I dive more into how destinations can transition to a sustainable model here.

10. Can you share some insights from your courses on marketing and sustainable hospitality, and how they empower businesses and universities to embrace innovative approaches?

I've held several different courses. They are always action-oriented and interactive, with real case studies and examples of what's working and what isn't around the world. We dive into common challenges and how to overcome them - like balancing promotion with preservation, cultural differences, adjusting vs. staying true to your values, how to move from mass tourism to a more sustainable model, how to follow up on success, new technologies, solutions, and more. There is a natural focus on sustainability and meaningful experiences that support local communities  Many destinations and brands will have to rethink their strategies and set goals that prioritise community well-being, not just short-term profits. We also look at exciting trends - such as how they are the driving force for why people are traveling and experiences are changing. We'll see different focuses on areas like personal development, digital detox, mental health, and more in the future. Tech will make it easier to recommend and inspire people to visit places beyond the typical.

We'll also see many more collaborations. This has started to happen already and will continue. Between destinations, brands, and more, to create holistic experiences that resonate with travellers on a deeper level.

Connect with Samira Holma:

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