On Tuesday 21 September 2021 from 14:00 to 17:00 (CET), the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform organised an online workshop on competitive and sustainable tourism sector. Allowing for networking opportunities during breaks, the event was organised around three distinct sessions: a panel discussion with keynote speakers, two parallel working groups, and a plenary session.
You can watch the first session below and the working groups and plenary session on our YouTube channel.
Moderation and concept by Luc Schmerber, Mart Veliste, Astrid Severin and Marco Citelli.
‘Tourism development strategy of Valmiera city and surrounding area (Valmiera+)’
Lienite Priedaja-Klepere (Vidzeme Planning region, Latvia) presented how the promotion of the tourism sector in the region of Valmiera was improved through:
The setup of a shared strategy among Valmiera City, several neighbouring municipalities as well as representatives from academia, research and the tourism industry.
The setup of the Gauja national Park tourism cluster, bringing today together around 50 businesses, 9 municipalities, 13 NGOs and further stakeholders.
Both initiatives contributed to a more efficient governance and collaboration among stakeholders in the tourism area and a 30% growth of the sector. Within the cluster, strategic development projects enabled the attraction of additional resources and the development of new products and services. A strong brand emerged and the open dialogue among regional stakeholders enabled the uptake of nature & culture heritage goals in the regional tourism development strategy
Testimonial of a policy change on Public-private cooperation platforms for cultural and natural heritage-based tourism
Björn Ohlen from the Västra Götaland Region reported how the regional authorities worked on a proactive strategy to draw more local and especially international tourists into the region telling the story of Sweden’s rich industrial heritage. To this end, the region developed an industrial cultural route with hiking and biking trails and a network that connects industrial museums, people and remote places. The PRISMA network enables a close collaboration and provides a common branding and point of entry for a wide range of regional players. With the implementation of its strategy, the Region Västra Götaland has been able to enhance the visibility of its heritage and to involve the local population, on a voluntary basis, in guided tours, to showcase the heritage and the knowledge of ancient crafts.
Trinidad Manrique de Lara Vilchez from the Diputación de Granada presented how they got inspired by Västra Götaland despite the large distance between the two regions. In the CHRISTA project, they learned that the conditions of the two regions were very similar: both are areas with great tourism potential but suffering from depopulation and unemployment. That is why the PRISMA network attracted their interest. Based on the method of Västra Götaland, Granada decided to change the Provincial Geopark Strategy, to showcase an offer for sustainable tourism based on the rich natural and cultural heritage of the area and to create a network of public and private visitor centres instigating cooperation and common development among the Municipalities in the Geopark area. This approach paid off. By 2019, the number of visitors had nearly doubled to 130,395 up from 65,547 in 2017 and the average overnight stays had increased from 1.69 to 3.31 nights per visitor.
Working group I – Cooperation for success: joint branding and multistakeholder involvement programmes.
A well-attended discussion developed around three good practices: ‘From guesthouse to guesthouse cooperation’ (Destination SMEs) about a network of small guesthouses located in rural areas of North Karelia (Finland), ‘Benvinguts a Pagès (BaP) - Welcome to the Farm’ (EUREGA) about the promotion of Catalan food and food producers through direct visits to farms, orchards, herds and fishing boats, and Validichiana Living (BRANDTour) about a model of territorial governance to expand proposals of vacation by integrating products/services and improving the competitive positioning of destinations in Tuscany (Italy).
Teresa Caldarola from the Economic and Tourism Promotion Department or Tuscany Region (Italy) reflected on the good practices presented from a policy maker’s perspective and initiated the discussion.
What have we learned?
Joint branding is a very useful tool to overcome a weakness of many of the small and very small businesses in the tourism sector, namely the lack of resources and skills for marketing and especially communication. This is especially relevant for international marketing.
All three practices show how more value (e.g. increase in overnight stays) can be created by working for common goals. Practices such as these can help overcome seasonality and fragmentation struggles of the tourism sector.
Joint branding is useful to bring together the actors of different supply chains relevant to the tourism sector, like for instance agrifood and transportation.
Well managed brands can significantly contribute to fight over-tourism by bringing tourists away from the main sites and promoting a diversity of interesting sites.
Trust and value-based collaboration among tourist actors is a powerful soft tool to promote diversity in the tourism offer and contribute to the transition towards a more sustainable tourism. Teresa highlighted how the initiatives presented related to several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Referring to Sustainable Development Goals on tourism programmes and products can help communicate and brand sustainable practices.
Working group II – Off the beaten track: Developing new geographically distributed and off-season tourism offers.
A lively exchange took place around three good practices: the establishment of the ‘Visit Prosecco Hills’ network of tourism-oriented enterprises in the Veneto Region (Local Flavours), the quick response given by the Province of Teruel to help the recovery of local tourism in Covid-19 times (RAMSAT), the public-private partnership that made Via Transilvanica possible and is boosting Romanian ecotourism (MOMAr). Thomas Guillot from NECSTouR shared his expert opinion on these good practices as well as additional knowledge and insights for discussion.
What have we learned?
When a strong policy vision encounters entrepreneurial forces committed to promoting the territory it is possible to create «alternative attractors» and break tourism seasonality between major tourism hotspots. That is the case of the ERDF-funded ‘Visit Prosecco Hills’ consortium, which provides touristic services that integrate the wine tasting experience and helps consolidate the hills as an alternative destination halfway from Venice and the Dolomites.
Minimising the impact of Covid-19 on local tourism is a though yet surmountable challenge. The Province of Teruel reacted quickly to the pandemic and reoriented its local tourism development strategy by betting on proximity tourism, showcasing local excellencies and ‘putting on the map’ lesser-known destinations, in cooperation with stakeholders of all kinds. Available data indicate that this approach paid off.
Maintaining and promoting trails is a great way to support ecotourism all year long. The public-private partnership started off in Romania around a 1,200 km trail stretching across Transylvania contributes to enhancing access to the cultural and natural heritage of the region. Building an ecosystem favourable to the valorization of new itineraries is a must for any policymakers to committed to sustainable tourism.
Competitiveness and sustainability: one does not exclude the other! If pursued in parallel, they increase the overall resilience of the tourism sector. In the aftermath of Covid-19 the bulk of regional initiatives and investments needs to target the recovery of local and proximity tourism. As the good practices explored in the working group confirm, this can be done in cooperation with a plurality of different stakeholders – from private companies to NGOs – and should always have the valorisation of the natural and cultural heritage as the ultimate goal, to enable the «tourism of tomorrow».
Financial support for sustainable and competitive tourism under European Structural and Investment Funds
Ramune Genzbigelyte Venturi (European Commission, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Unit GROW G1 – Tourism and Textiles) reminded of the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism sector as well as its importance for the EU in terms of GDP and jobs, and the need to provide support and work on the transition towards a more resilient, sustainable and digital European tourism ecosystem.
She explained how the EC is working jointly with the relevant stakeholders on the co-creation of a Tourism Transition Pathway towards an European Agenda for Tourism 2030/2050, starting from the key lessons from the “Regional impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the tourist sector” study: tourism growth needs to be manged responsibly; new destinations emerge; tourism needs to be sustainable; digitisation becomes the new backbone of tourism; collaboration, innovation and creative ideas are essential. She concluded her intervention by reminding the relevance of tourism for Interreg during the funding period 2021-2027. She also explained that investments in tourism are possible through all 5 policy objectives supported by the ERDF as long as they follow the appropriate intervention logic.
The tourism sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and is now starting to show signs of a slow recovery. This e-workshop on ‘competitive and sustainable tourism sector’ has put the spotlight a number of successful strategies that are driving this recovery by bringing visitors to remote areas, attracting both local and international tourists and increasing overnight stays. A key success factor has been the collaboration of dispersed actors through functioning networks that work under a common branding, as well as the launch communication strategies and marketing campaigns.
The regions have been creating alternative tourism offers, away from the hot spots offering open air tourism, enabling people to slow down and enjoy natural and cultural heritage and the rural environment. This type of tourism has been particularly appreciated by the local population in times of Covid-19. The approaches presented have shown that regions promoted alternative modes of transport ranging from hiking and biking to canoes and horseback riding. They also featured local delicacies enabling them at the same time to strengthen their local businesses, particularly in rural areas. The regional authorities supported the development of these new sustainable and competitive tourism offers financially and through manpower and used Interreg Europe projects to inspire policy changes and new strategies.
In addition to this, the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform can help you address any policy challenges. Through matchmaking sessions and peer reviews we can provide you with experiences and in-depth knowledge from other regions that have successfully found solutions for the challenges you are experiencing. Curious about who these services work? Visit our expert support webpage and contact us.
Policy Learning Platform resources
- Policy Brief: “Internationalisation of SMEs”
- Policy Brief: “Vouchers for the competitiveness of SMEs”
- Policy Brief: “How to boost entrepreneurship in rural areas?”
- Story: “Rural businesses in the tourism sector”
- Policy Brief: “Cultural heritage in mountain regions”
- Policy Brief: “Sustainable tourism: strategies to counteract overtourism”
- Policy Brief: “Built cultural heritage”
- Policy Brief: “Rivers and wetlands: drivers of sustainable regional development”
- Story: “Off the beaten track: Regional strategies boosting tourism through heritage”
- Webinar: “Cycling tourism”
- Webinar: “Ecotourism in riverside territories”
- e-Workshop: “Living rivers: a driver for sustainable regional development”
- Online discussion: “Digital technologies and museums: post-pandemic experiences”
Credit: Photo by ECO-CICLE Public Institution Krka National Park
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