At the beginning of October 2016, Regional Council of North Karelia organized the first meeting of North Karelian stakeholder group in Joensuu, Finland. In addition to disseminating information about Destination SMEs project and its objectives, the meeting focused on discussing the experiences and practices identified by the project partners relating to tourism destination management.
The meeting was attended by regional tourism experts representing regional tourism bureau Karelia Expert Tourist Service Ltd, development companies, Koli Tourism Association, University of Eastern Finland and Karelia University of Applied Sciences.
These stakeholders will be actively involved in the project activities and they have clear views on tourism development needs of the region.
The stakeholder group meeting started with a presentation of the project, its partnership, main activities and time plan. After this, the participants were divided into two groups who studied the practices proposed by other project partners. These examples relate to the development and management of tourism destinations. Some of them deal with tourism strategies and programmes, others with collaboration and networking in tourism sector or with tourism destinations and events.
What is common to all these practices is that they have improved competitiveness of tourism SMEs in partner regions. The objective of the workshop was to find out which of the given examples could be useful for North Karelia and could help the region to improve the operational environment of tourism SMEs.
During the workshop, the group members spoke about branding of traditions and local products and discussed how networking and co-operation between tourism enterprises could be encouraged. Furthermore, the stakeholders stated that there are good nature tourism services and destinations in North Karelia, but they should be marketed more effectively. Finding employees that have experience in entrepreneurship was also another topic that interested the participants.
As a result of the workshop, several destination management practices were identified which could be studied further during the project implementation. Discussion about the practices will continue during the next stakeholder group meeting that will be held in the first half of 2017.