The opening meeting of the Latvian Stakeholder Group (SHG) for the Destination SMEs project took place in the last days of September, when regional and national stakeholders and project representatives met in Valmiera city (Latvia).
As this was the first meeting, the focus was on the overview of the project. Destination SMEs stakeholders received information about project aims, planned results and further activities. Representative of the Ministry of Economy informed the audience about the relevant policy document, events planned and performance indicators in tourism in last programming period. Stakeholders were interested in the planned marketing activities that will contribute to the attraction of foreign tourists to the Vidzeme region. It is expected that these activities will be carried out in collaboration with regional tourism associations. New Latvian Tourism Marketing Strategy is currently being developed since the previous version expired in 2015. Project Destination SMEs Stakeholders will have the opportunity to get acquainted with this strategy and to discuss it during the next meetings.
The SHG meeting in Latvia, managed by the Vidzeme Planning Region (VPR), also included discussions about Reciprocal Improvement Analysis done by Project partners. SHG members were particularly interested in the issue of governance - the management of partners' regional networks of destinations united promotion and positioning.
SHG members recognized the importance of clustering of tourism service providers to enhance the competitiveness of destinations, so it is necessary to promote entrepreneurs' awareness of the benefits of cooperation. It was stressed that in order to make destination management more efficient, it is important to promote a cluster initiative and cooperation of enterprises at local and international level.
The next SHG group meeting is scheduled for April 2017, when all the project partners will visit Vidzeme. During the visit, the VPR project partners will present the Vidzeme good practices in the management of tourist destinations.
Involvement of the stakeholder groups is a very important aspect of the Destination SMEs project. The stakeholders will be able to directly influence the project results (most notably – the Action Plan for the change of the addressed policy instrument), therefore the quality of the SHG work is essential to the project output. Destination SHG group include important regional and national organizations regarding project topics: increase the competitiveness of SMEs of the tourism sector through the implementation of destination management policies.