At the beginning of April 2017 project “Destination SMEs” partners visited Vidzeme region (Latvia) to study the best practices in the management of tourism destinations.

During the visit partners learned about the national and regional policy instruments designed to facilitate the competitiveness and export capacity of SMEs in tourism sector, as well as visited several companies that pay special attention to cooperation in order to strengthen the common destination.
Project partners recognized Gauja National Park tourism cluster “Enter Gauja” as a valuable example of Vidzeme region tourism destination management. They had a chance to visit and explore various regional and local business cooperation forms that ensure public-private partnerships and promote business competitiveness growth in the region. Partners were particularly interested in the Enter Gauja cluster management model and business cooperation examples.
Project partners met with local project stakeholders - entrepreneurs, representatives of local governments, tourism strategy makers, to share experiences and discuss possible transfer of good practices
Project partners got creative ideas on how to build interesting attractions for tourists in The Gauja Steep Banks Park of senses in Valmiera city. Insight in the gastronomy tourism and advantages of belonging to a branded destination partners got during the visit of Valmiermuiža brewery – member of European Region of Gastronomy. This was a benchmark example for restless creativity and use of networking and smart branding for raising competitiveness. The destination management issues and operational challenges for SMEs maintaining industrial heritage, project partners discovered in Gulbene municipality, visiting Gulbenes - Alūksnes bānītis – the last regular passenger traffic narrow gauge train operating in the Baltics. Narrow gauge railway is the highlight of this area and as linear tourist attraction with leading-brand concept plays strategic role in linking two towns and providing opportunity for promoting other attractions. During visit of Gauja National Park, partners had discussion with director of the Latvian Nature Conservation Agency Vidzeme regional administration about the forms of cooperation between the private and the public sector in nature tourism product development. Gauja National Park is the most competitive nature-based tourism export destination in Latvia, therefore there is a strong focus on sustainability of  natural heritage object maintenance and public-private partnership practices. Project partners explored tourist attraction management and development of cultural tourism products while visiting Cēsis Medieval Castle and Ungurmuiža Manor House.
After visiting tourism destinations in Vidzeme region, the project partners acknowledged competencies and skill level of tourism guides, highlighting the important role of Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences in education of young tourism professionals.
This visit was organized by the Vidzeme Planning Region and it was the third study visit in the project “Destination SMEs”. Next visit is planned in June to Italy and in September to Ireland.

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