The 18th EUSAIR TSG 4 Sustainable tourism meeting held in Greece
The 18th EUSAIR Thematic Steering Group 4 Sustainable Tourism meeting was held in Thessaloniki, in Greece, on 18 October, with participation of all EUSAIR member countries representatives - Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, San Marino, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia – as well as guest speakers from the European Commission, the European Institute of Cultural Routes and the AI NURREC PLUS Initiative. The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, as a coordinator of EUSAIR thematic pillar 4 Sustainable Tourism and partner in EUSAIR Facility Point project, and the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Greece, as a host of the event. After two years of online meetings, this was the first one that opened, with its hybrid event format, the opportunity to participate in person in Thessaloniki. Along with the operational part, the meeting was covered several, for the further implementation of the Strategy, important issues.
Sustainability plays a crucial role on the travellers’ choice for a destination. But we believe that our work in EUSAIR had always complied with this need. As you already know, the key objectives of our Strategy are: diversification of the macro-region’s tourism products and services along with tackling seasonality of tourism demand, improving the quality and innovation of tourism offer and enhancing the sustainable and responsible tourism capacities of the tourism actors across the macro-region. In order to achieve these, our task focused on two topics: Diversified tourism offer and Sustainable and responsible tourism management. Through cooperation at macro-regional level, we can obtain the sustainable diversification of the Region’s tourism offer, thus extending the tourism season.This diversification of products and services can be a vehicle for attracting more and/or different types of tourists, as well as prolonging the tourism season, strengthening ‘all year-round tourism’ and creating more and better jobs for the benefit of the Region’s societies and economies. By building new products, such as the ones based on the cultural routes (i.e. CultourAIR, AIR cultural routes) we aim to find a solution towards mass tourism, to involve the principle of sustainability in the tourism planning process at a European level - opened the event on behalf of the host dr. Panagiota Dionysopoulou, Director General for Tourism Policy of the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Greece.
Referring to the current state of the implementation of EUSAIR goals, dr. Dionysopoulou pointed out the achievements made, but also the fact that the concept of sustainable tourism, as well as the development of innovative, quality tourism products and services has not yet been taken fully on board by the tourism actors across the Region. And this is one of the cross-cutting issues need to be confronted in the EUSAIR.
Many alternative and potentially sustainable forms of tourism have not been sufficiently developed or integrated in the wider regional development strategies to capitalize on the strong tourism development potential the Region possess. Improving quality is crucial for developing sustainable tourism products and services. This is the challenge we, the members of EUSAIR, need to measure up to. Our mission is to build a common understanding of cooperation for a harmonized, integrated and sustainable region and our common vision is to set joint multi-level solutions for common challenges towards a stronger Adriatic and Ionian region – concluded dr. Dionysopoulou.
Macroregional strategies do not have separate funding sources, funding through projects is crucial
The macro-regional concept is an important innovation in territorial cooperation and cohesion, based on a broader regional sense of identity, the desire for joint strategic planning and the willingness to pool resources. However, the implementation of macro-regional strategies is set around the "3 NO's": 1. No new institutions, 2. No separate financial instrument and 3. No new regulations. Although this can provide a high degree of flexibility for the participating countries in the way they structure and implement their participation, the above, on the other hand, creates difficulties, especially in the area of financing, since EUSAIR activities are financed exclusively on a project basis through Calls for Proposals. Therefore, information on financing possibilities, on the one hand, and preparations of flagship projects through which the Strategy would be implemented, on the other hand, is always an integral and important part of meetings of all pillars of the EU strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian region, as well as other three EU macro-regional strategies.
The EUSAIR Thematic Pillar 4 Sustainable Tourism initiated, coordinated, developed and prepared project documentation and established partner consortia for seven macroregional sustainable tourism projects that are waiting for funding opportunities, as it was presented at the meeting: Projects Living the Sea 4.0, CulturAIR, AIR Cultural Route aimed at diversifying the offer and projects Green Mapping, Des_AIR, Cruise_AIR and ProDestAIR, aimed at the sustainable management of destinations. This shows the importance of tourism for the entire Adriatic-Ionian region.
An overview of funding possibilities from European Territorial Cooperation Program 2021-2027 was prepared and presented at the meeting by the representatives of the Croatian Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds. Barbara Di Piazza, Head of the Joint Secretariat of the ADRION program, presented funding opportunities from the IPA ADRION transnational program 2021-2027 in more detail.
Nadine Lakhal, EC DG REGIO, informed the participants about the funding opportunities though the EC Calls for the Proposals: until November 30, 2022, Sustainable growth and resilience of tourism was opened for SMEs projects in tourism focused on twin transition: green and digital. Total allocation of funds of 20.5 MEUR. The first call from the European Urban Innovation Actions (UIA) for public sector is open until January 19, 2023. Total allocation is EUR 50 MEUR, a maximum of 5MEUR per project. The Call is intended for innovative European projects focused on the New European Bauhaus.
The European Route of Fairy Tales, the Route of Women Writers and the Route of Historic Cafes are three new certified Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe
Cultural routes, especially the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, as pointed out, are an example of good practice on the way to sustainable and responsible tourism. The director of The European Institute of Cultural Routes, Stefano Dominioni, informed about the recently held 11th Annual Council of Europe Cultural Routes Advisory Forum in Chania, Crete, which also celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Council of Europe's Cultural Routes program. The event brought together 400 stakeholders and 100 speakers from all over Europe, and on that occasion three new cultural routes - the European Route of Fairy Tales, the Route of Women Writers and the Route of Historical Cafes - received the Council of Europe Cultural Route certificate.
Through a rich program of panels, interventions and meetings, the event provided a platform for bringing together the program's main stakeholders: a high-level dialogue segment, three general sessions and three special thematic sessions addressed topics such as the safeguard of European values and heritage , intercultural dialogue, cultural diplomacy and sustainable cultural tourism. For the first time in the history of the Forum, a macro-regional session was held and nine speakers presented examples of good practice in the use of cultural and touristic products on EUSAIR's cultural routes in front of about a hundred attendees. The marco-regional session was organised by the members of EUSIAR TSG 4. At the moment, there are a total of 48 certified Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, and the Program - The Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe (EPA) - which was joined this year by two more EUSAIR countries, North Macedonia and San Marino, counts nowadays 37 European countries members.
The 2nd revision of EUSAIR Action Plan
The 2nd revision of the Action Plan of the EU Adriatic-Ionian Strategy EUSAIR is ongoing: public consultations are opened. The adoption by the European Commission is expected at the beginning of 2024. According to a survey among stakeholders conducted in May and June 2022, the key word that marked the previous period of implementation is Cooperation, while the new period, according to the opinion and wishes of the respondents, will be marked by the word Sustainability.
EUSAIR pillar 4 Sustainable tourism next activities
From October 24 to 28, the final 3rd module of the EUSAIR Communication Academy will be held in Bled, Slovenia, as a capacity building program in the field of communications, organised by the leading partner of the EUSAIR Facility Point project, Slovenia. The first module was held in April, and the second in May this year.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports Republic of Croatia is organising a capacity building workshop on EUSAIR monitoring and evaluation. Event will be held in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, 10-11 November.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, which currently chairs EUSAIR, is preparing two round tables within the framework of the activities of the 4th thematic pillar: the first in Sarajevo on 30 November on the topic Cultural heritage as tourism development drivers, and the second in February 2023, in Banja Luka, on the topic Various tourist offers as a driver of sustainable tourism. In addition to the above, Bosnia and Herzegovina will also host the 8th EUSAIR Forum in 2023, as part of which it will organize the panel Green Tourism - Inspiration for New Tourist Destinations. In March 2023, he plans to hold a Tourism Festival in Sarajevo, and within the framework of the festival, an international conference Youth in the Tourism Sector.
After great success of an issue paper Manual for Participatory Tourism Connecting Community and Culture through Storytelling, financed from the EUSAIR Facility Point project, two new ones are currently in progress to be developed: Wellbeing Tourism Handbook and Gastro Tourism Handbook.
The proposal to create a mini study The Attitude of EUSAIR Visitors Towards Tourism was adopted. The study will analyse the AI macro-region through all relevant parameters of tourist supply and demand, with a focus on preferences of AI macroregion visitors according to motivation and choice of destinations and products.
The next EUSAIR TSG 4 meeting will be held in Croatia.