The tourist accommodation and additional services in the Biebrza Wetlands in Poland – case study of Biebrza Eco-Travel

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Biebrza Eco-Travel  – a nature tourist agency operating in the Biebrza Wetlands (north-eastern Poland, Podlaskie region) – shows how to integrate local entrepreneurs and community around tourist services. It is also an interesting example of reversed tendency in the development of services in rural areas as the additional services were a trigger for the development of accommodation services (whereas in the other good practices detected within the CesR project the accommodation was the basis for the development of services). Thus it proves that once the additional services exist, the accommodation facilities starts to develop.

The founder and owner of Biebrza Eco-Travel is Katarzyna Ramontowska, who as a Biology student started her own business at the age of 20. There were neither accommodation facilities nor transport for tourists available in the area of the Biebrza Wetlands in early 1990s. Katarzyna was the only qualified and available tour guide and she started to organise the entire tourist sector from scratch.

Biebrza Eco-Travel has been operating by combining various services in one place and offering them as a whole package for tourists for the past 20 years. It involves close cooperation with 15 guides (selected from among 180 people who were trained by Katarzyna Ramontowska), 28 lodging providers (selected out of 300 existing now in the region), several transport providers, around 20 souvenir manufacturers, 15 tourist equipment rentals and over 20 food providers (restaurants, bars, etc.). All services are available in one common tourist portal of the Biebrza Wetlands:

  • rental of equipment (rafts, kayaks, bicycles, canoes, binoculars, spotting scopes, etc.),
  • folk artists and producers of souvenirs,
  • rental of buses, minibuses, off-road vehicles,
  • nature coaches, guides, experts in the Biebrza River,
  • taverns, restaurants, bars,
  • visiting the Biebrza National Park.
Kayaking on the Biebrza River

Photo 1: Kayaking on the Biebrza River

The most important element of success is a tailor made offer for enjoying wildlife in the form of well organised packages that include nature trips, accommodation and additional services. The main motivation for coming to the Biebrza Wetlands is nature. Biebrza Eco-Travel took advantage of this amenity and started to offer trips into the remote parts of the region. The company offers the broadest selection of regional highlights like: bird-watching, night escapades, rafting, ballooning, walking through the wetlands, wolf tracking, elk (moose) trip, beaver trip, etc. Some of them are arranged as separate short trips during the tourists’ stay in the Biebrza region. The company also offers full-programme stays, consisting of professionally guided, few-day-long nature exploring tours including: accommodation, food and transfers.

Examples of packages and products offered by Biebrza Eco-Travel:

Biebrza in a nutshell - wolf tracking

Photo 2: Package: Biebrza in a nutshell, Product: “happy cows” from Brzostowo (cows crossing the river every day at 5 pm in summer)

Photo 3: Package: wolf tracking, 130 km by car, 12 km on foot + 1 km through swamps

 Package: wolf tracking

Photo 4: Package: wolf tracking, Product: swamp trail crossing

Photo 5: Package: wolf tracking, Product: snooping on an elk

Biebrza Eco Travel recommends and cooperates only with the leading lodgings providers and guides by means of cooperation agreements that lay down the rules and responsibilities to ensure the best quality and service for customers visiting the region. The company runs its own ranking of accommodation and service providers using specific evaluation criteria. The lodgings are monitored by Biebrza Eco-Travel on a regular basis, several times a year, in order to constantly improve the tourist service standards.

Examples of accommodation available in the Biebrza region

Photos 6-7: Examples of accommodation available in the Biebrza region

Such a system ensures reliable service for customers and ethical approach to nature when visiting the Biebrza region with qualified guide. Moreover, it is a natural incentive for other providers in the region to upgrade the standard of their services and their own professional qualifications in order to be more competitive.

The company invests significant financial resources in their website: its structure and positioning. A new website in Polish (http://new.biebrza.com) was launched in 2011 and the English version can still be found in the old version of the website (http://www.biebrza.com). As a result, Biebrza Eco Travel is listed on the first page in all search engines when potential customers are browsing for the word “Biebrza”. Good leadership and strong motivation of Katarzyna Ramontowska are the key issues that contributed to the success of this project. What is more, further development of the company (the scope of their activities and services) should be emphasized, as the company’s owner takes care also about the publicity and the improvement of people’s ecological awareness. Katarzyna Ramontowska has already taken part in over 100 TV and radio programmes and served many press study trips to the region. She is also a winner of the contest for “The best guide in 2011”, organised by Rynek Podróży (one of Polish leading tourist magazines). Such a professional approach may encourage other local entrepreneurs to join the company and in this way to strengthen their position on the local market of services providers. As a consequence, it may contribute to the creation of new jobs in the area or at least to the maintenance of the existing ones, improving their sustainability in the whole year.

 

Company address:

Katarzyna Ramontowska

Biebrza Eco-Travel

ul. Kościuszki 26/11, 19-110 Goniądz

e-mail: eco-travel@biebrza.com

http://www.biebrza.com/en/

http://new.biebrza.com/

Study visit in Olomouc region (Czech Republic)

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At the beginning of June 2013 a study visit in the Olomouc Region has been organized so that the representatives of partners of CesR project could altogether meet in terms to get a better knowledge about the good experience in the area of the rural development and the tourism support within the Olomouc Region.

On this study visit 13 foreign guests from 7 European countries took part.

The first day of the visit has been dedicated to the conference where to the rural development actors and to the tourism support initiators across the Olomouc Region, the project CesR was introduced including the project’s objectives. Thanks to the Thomas Ducloutrier’s presentation, who is a representative of the Regional Tourism Development Board of Auvergne, all the conference participants obtained the first information about the identifiable good practices in so far visited regions. Further on, Marta Novotna from the Regional Authority of the Olomouc region introduced the activities and tolls supporting rural development.

Conference in OlomoucThe conference 11th June 2013 – foreword of Vice-president of Olomouc region Michal Symerský

After this The representatives of Ministry of Regional Development and The Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic carried out their presentations where they acquainted the others with the updated information about the support of tourism, international cooperation and the rural development after 2013.

The final part of the conference has been dedicated to the examples of the innovative project across the Olomouc region. The first project was presented by Katerina Cadilova who informed the others about the system and results of the regional branding that is in the Olomouc region a very successful project thanks to the collaboration and the financial support of the Olomouc region. Another presentation led Ivo Škrabal who introduced the activities and objectives of the first Business and Employment Co-operative (BEC) within the Olomouc region which is built up on the good experience from Spain and France.

“Presentations from the conference are published here

The study field trip to the village of Bouzov was another part of the program. The mayor Zdeňek Foltýn introduced such projects focused on the tourism development within this appealing village. Then we moved on to the main attractive spot of this region – excursion of Bouzov castle, accompanied by the castle manager Zuzana Sulcova. In the end of the excursion the main activities of regional brand – Hana were introduced.

 Bouzov Castle

The study trip of village Bouzov had to include the short excursion of the fairy tale dominant

The second day of the visit has been dedicated to the necessary discussion of the Steering Committee of the project after which followed the excursion to the town Horní Lipová:

–          The owner of the pension Mr. Josef Sekula, except the refurbished house also introduced other services (ski slope, accommodation facility for tourists, bed and breakfast) all that he offers to his guests;

–          Mr. Zdenek Korčian – the owner of the pension “U Ospaleho Heligonu” and in the same time the theater artist, introduced his pension and other social events that are meant to draw tourists to the Horní Lipová locality. One of the events of this remote locality is the close connection to the movie “Alois Nebel” and the tourist web application related to this region and to this movie.

Meeting with pensions owners Partners met owners of pensions in Horní Lipová (Mr. Sekula and Mr. Korčian)

After this, the best practices examples were introduced in the tourist center Ramzová where:

–          Mr. Miroslav Jon, the owner of the pension “St. Roch” is except the accommodation services also offering to his guests services related to wellness activities;

–          Ms. Hana Olejnikova, the coordinator of the regional brand Jeseniky, introduced the activities and outcomes of the regional brand for the certified producers and services providers.

In the end of the comprehensive day a very congenial excursion of the newly arising brewery Kolštejn has been carried out. This brewery is one of the many peaces of the mosaic of services being offered by the Relax center Kolštejn.

The last day of the study visit was held in the valley of the river of Desna. The Olomouc Region has decided to introduce to the foreign partners the services related to an active program of leisure time in the country-side. Particularly this was concerning:

–          Multi-functional grounds in Kouty to the accompaniment of the director Petr Marek

–          The town of Loucna nad Desnou and the leisure time grounds named Kocián to the accompaniment of the mayor Pavel Martinek

–          Hand made paper mill Velke Losiny

The very interesting example of the cooperation of the public sector with private investors has personally introduced the mayor of the town of Loucna nad Desnou Pavel Martinek. The town on the long term basis invests into the leisure time ground Kocian and into the town center area and by this encouraged the private owner of the castle – unused for a long time – to refurbish it.

CesR provides links for Ireland’s largest Business Gathering – CorkMEET 2013 – with a group of businesses from Slovenia

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Ireland’s largest business networking forum CorkMEET 2013, took place in Cork from 10-12 April 2013. First held in 2009, CorkMEET is a International Business Networking Forum open to Irish and international small and medium sized businesses from all sectors looking to expand into new markets or find a new partner. The three day event offered companies a range of business activities, including pre-arranged meetings, a business conference, a Gourmet Food event with all food and drink sourced locally and a networking dinner, each providing an opportunity to make vital contacts.

Links were made through the CesR Interreg IVC project whereby the partners participating in the CesR project were made aware of the project by the Irish Partner, Cork County Council representatives.

Slovenia, one of the eight european partners participing in the CesR project, expressed an interest in the Event and they were then put in contact with CorkMEET Organisers by the Irish CesR partners.  Slovenia CesR partner organised a group of 11 delegates to travel from Slovenia to Cork for the Business Gathering.  The delegates represented 8 different businesses from Slovenia.

All businesses who attended CorkMEET were offered up to 16 pre-scheduled one-to-one meetings with companies of their choice in a speed networking format. These meetings were pre-selected by delegates from the CORKMEET 2013 website. Over 400 participants registered and availed of over 7,500 individual meetings, thus initiating thousands of business partnerships between SME’s in Ireland and overseas.

While the majority of delegates 85% were Irish businesses, overseas participants included delegations from;

  • United Kingdom Trade & Invest – Bristol based businesses and Wales.
  • InterTrade Ireland – government agency focusing on all Ireland trade.
  • Polish Embassy, Trade Department
  • Slovenia – SPIRIT & Regional Development Agency MURA Ltd.
  • Slovakia
  • Poland
  • Belgium

During CorkMEET, an Exhibition Area with over 31 interactive stands hosted government support agencies, export promotion organisations and Embassies in order to facilitate enquiries and promote business growth and export potential.

CorkMEET 2013 is a not for profit partnership between Cork County Council and Cork City Council, Cork County and City Enterprise Boards and Cork Chamber.

Corkmeet Slovenia

Anne O’Donnell

Tourism Development Officer

Cork County Council

email          anne.odonnell@corkcoco.ie

Tel               021 4285650  (Internal Ext 5650)

Mobile        087  2808660

CesR area visit to Auvergne (France)

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The partners of the CesR project met in the Auvergne region from 16th to 18th April 2013 for an area visit organised by the Regional Tourism Development Board of Auvergne (CRDTA).

The objective of this trip for the 19 participants was to deepen their knowledge of Auvergne examples identified by the CRDTA in terms of services for tourist accommodation clients on one side, and job-sharing on the other.

On the menu for this study visit, in addition to the meetings necessary to steer the project, there were several technical meetings:

  • Mr Erwan Le Capitaine, regional coordinator of Accueil Paysan, presented the association with a particular focus on the services offered by certain accommodation owners in a real logical network, since most of the services are carried out by other members of Accueil Paysan.
  • Mr Samuel Houdemon opened the doors to Fortuniès 1864, two lovely holiday cottages in a rural mountainous area in the Cantal. He also presented the numerous services offered to clients and the involvement of neighbouring service providers in the implementation of these services.
The CesR project partners with Samuel Houdemon

The CesR project partners with Samuel Houdemon, during the visit to the Fortuniès 1864 holiday cottages.

  • Mr Stéphane Crégut presented his businesses: the estate agents AIP Sancy and Arvernha Resorts. Mr Crégut provides solutions to investors, acquiring a property in Sancy for a holiday let, then carrying out the management of this accommodation: reservation, welcome, upkeep, provision of services…
  • Mr François Bigot, owner of Le Charlet hotel in La Bourboule, explained his operating methods for the tourist accommodation that he offers to rent close to his hotel. This proximity enables significant collaboration, particularly as far as client services are concerned.
François Bigot presenting his company to the CesR team

François Bigot presenting his company to the CesR team

And finally three meetings dedicated to the solutions of job sharing and division, the study of which could fuel the thoughts of the CesR partners on sharing human resources between several property owners:

  • Mr Michel Yperzeele presented his job-share company, called Exceltio, in detail. This type of structure enables the provision of personnel to the clients, adapted to their needs, without being subjected to the risks and procedures linked to having an employee. With Exceltio employing their staff using Contracts of an Indefinite Period, this is a job-sharing solution that contributes to making people and jobs in rural areas durable.
  • Mrs Aurélie Laniray and Mrs Clotilde Maire, Heads of Development, explained the functioning of GE2A, a group of employers working essentially in the field of sports and leisure in Auvergne. This association provides its members, mainly from associations and authorities, with solutions for common human resources.
  • Finally Mr Antoine Faure from Appuy Créateurs gave a presentation on the production worker cooperative companies (SCOP), as well as Cooperative of Activities and Employment (CAE), before going into detail about Appuy Créateurs and its subsidiary dedicated to services, Appuy Dom.

These numerous examples have enriched the reflection of the CesR partners by providing solutions, even partial, to the issue of implementing services in holiday cottages and accommodation when the recruitment and direct employment of staff is difficult or complex.

 

More information from Thomas Ducloutrier, Regional Tourism Development Board of Auvergne, +33 (0) 4 73 29 49 40 or thomas.ducloutrier@crdt-auvergne.fr.

 

Chata Magoda in the Bieszczady Mountains (Poland) – an example of holiday home and a guesthouse with in-house services for tourists

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CesR partners intend to create favourable conditions for the development of the neglected market of tourist services in self-catering holiday homes. Various examples from many European countries demonstrate an increasing demand for such kind of services.

Chata Magoda is one of good examples of self-catering accommodation with an offer of additional services. This SME operates as a guesthouse and a holiday home in the rural area of the Bieszczady Mountains (south-eastern Poland).

Jagoda Miłoszewicz and Maciek Pawlik – owners of Magoda guesthouse – moved from Szczecin (Western Pomerania region) to Lutowiska in the Bieszczady Mountains in 2004 with an idea to change their lifestyle from a big city to a rural area. It took 1.5 year to build a guesthouse, and 2 years to open the first tourist season. The guesthouse was called Chata Magoda (it derives from the owners’ names, Maciek and Jagoda), with 12 beds in bedrooms for 2, 3 and 4 persons.

The owners of Chata Magoda also rent one holiday home called Chata Bojkowska. This 100-year-old cottage was fully renovated in 2010 and equipped with floor heating, electrical cooker and modern bathrooms. It offers 8 beds in 3 stylish bedrooms. Chata Bojkowska has turned out to be a very successful investment since its first season in 2011. It was fully booked for the summer and winter season 2012. What is more, very early bookings have already been made for 2013.

The additional services offered in Chata Magoda (guesthouse) and Chata Bojkowska (self-catering accommodation) can be divided into two types: those offered directly by the owners and those offered by other local entrepreneurs that collaborate with the owners. In order to provide internal services, the owners of the guesthouses , apart from working themselves, employ 1-2 seasonal workers. Tourists staying in Chata Magoda are offered accommodation and two meals (breakfast and supper). Chata Bojkowska is rented as a holiday home with the possibility to order regional products for breakfast and supper (bread, cheese, honey, jam, sausages, etc.) and home-made dinners (soup, main course, cake and fruit compote). It is possible thanks to the close cooperation with a local entrepreneur providing catering for tourists staying at this self-catering accommodation.

Chata Bojkowska accommodation

Chata Bojkowska accommodation

There are also in-house services available for tourists staying in the guesthouse and in the cottage:

  • Campfire with sausages
  • Sleigh ride with a bonfire
  • Sandwiches for trips
  • Rental of cross country skis
  • Sledge rental
  • Transport for 6 people
  • Souvenir shop offering products from local entrepreneurs: honey, local alcoholic drinks (fruit liqueurs), jam, handmade postcards, books), guide books, maps, products of local art – dream catchers, crocheted doilies, woollen socks, jewellery, felt products)
  • krywulki – wide flanges woven with fine glass beads www.pracownia-miodosytnia.pl

 Additional services offered by local entrepreneurs need to be booked in advance: horse-riding, nordic walking, wicker, ceramics and felting workshops, and massages.

Chata Bojkowska accommodation

Chata Bojkowska accommodation

A few facts on Chata Bojkowska and its location

Chata Bojkowska is a part of the “Three Cultures” Ecomuseum trail in Lutowiska. The Ecomuseum (a museum without walls) is a theme museum with exhibits scattered in various locations. The exhibits create a living collection of nature and culture of the region. The name of Three Cultures is associated with the history of the region, where 3 nations had been living before WWII – Jews, Ukrainians and Poles.

Chata Bojkowska is also a part of the Chyże Bojkowskie Trail – a special type of old cottages serving both for living and working, made by carpenters from what was available in the nature: wood, stones, straws and clay.

Lutowiska is a commune in the Podkarpackie Voivodship (476 km2) with less than 2200 inhabitants (density of population – 5 people per km2). 82% of the area is covered with forests. There are 57 establishments, hiking trails (107 km), horse (142 km) and cycling trails (106 km).

Address:

Chata Magoda

Gospodarstwo agroturystyczne

Jadwiga Miłoszewicz

38-713 Lutowiska 27

e-mail: chatamagoda@gmail.com

www.chatamagoda.pl

A Regional Workgroup Meeting held in Cork, Ireland

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The initial meeting of the Irish CesR Regional Workgroup meeting was held in Cork County Council Head Quarters, County Hall, Cork, Ireland on 28th February 2013.

17 Stakeholders attended this meeting, representing the following Organisations:

  • Cork County Council
  • Fáilte Ireland (National Tourism Authority)
  • Irish Self Catering Federation
  • Irish Hotels Federation
  • Owners of self catering properties
  • University College Cork
  • Cork Institute of Technology
  • Tourism Consultant (who prepared Regional Analysis)

A presentation giving an overview of the CesR project, its aims and objectives was given followed by an outline of the purpose of the Regional Workgroup.  Members were advised that the purpose of the workgroup is to assess the learnings and good practices in the different partner regions and to examine ways to successfully transfer these good experiences to the Irish self catering sector.  The Group were advised that a Policy Handbook will be developed in 2014 which will summarise recommendations for regional and local public policies based on the identified good practices in each Partner region and the outcome of the Workgroup meetings held in each partner country.

The Regional Working Group was also advised that following the completion of the Policy Handbook, an Implementation Plan will be developed by each Partner Region.  The aim of the Implementation Plan is to encourage all partners to consider carefully about how their region can benefit from the project.

The Tourism Consultant from CHL Consulting Ltd gave a presentation on the Regional Analysis prepared for Cork and the three Best Practices identified in Co Cork.  This was followed by a question and answer session.  One key issue raised was the issue of classification for Self Catering Accommodation.  Members of the group advised that while a classification system is in place, there is no Irish legislation in place to compel owners of self catering accommodation to participate in this classification scheme.  In addition, members complained that the criteria attached to the certification system was outdated and was in need of review.  It was agreed at the meeting to seek information on the classification system in place in each of the other partner regions.

A presentation was then given to the Group on the learnings from the two previous partner visits to Gozo in Malta and the Troodos Region in Cyprus.

The next meeting of the Regional Workgroup will be held in December 2013 at which learnings from the partner visits to Clermont Ferrand in France, Olomouc Region in Czech Republic, Latvia and Granada in Spain.

Attendees at Cork Regional Workgroup Meeting
Attendees at Cork Regional Workgroup Meeting

Attendees at Cork Regional Workgroup Meeting


 

 

CesR presented to members of the Committee of the Regions in Dublin

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On 28th February and 1st March 2013, a conference for the Regions Committee was held in Dublin on the subject of new skills and new jobs (“Europe 2020 Conference – Agenda for new skills and jobs”). This theme is in fact one of the 7 priority themes of the Europe 2020 strategy adopted by the European Union.

At the request of the Regions Committee, the CesR project was the subject of a presentation in the exhibition hall, alongside other European projects dedicated to employment and human resources.

The project partners on this occasion were represented by Mr Thomas Ducloutrier, from the Regional Tourism Development Board of Auvergne and Mr Fergal Gough from Cork County Council.

This event was a very good opportunity to inform the 200 European public decision-makers present about the existence of the CesR project, its objectives and the results expected.

More information about this event here: http://www.cor.europa.eu/en/news/events/Pages/europe-2020-conference-agenda-for-new-skills-and-jobs.aspx

Presentation panel for the CesR project

Presentation panel for the CesR project

 

"An agenda for new skills and jobs" conference, Dublin

“An agenda for new skills and jobs” conference, Dublin

CesR study trip to Troodos, Cyprus

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The partners of the CesR project had its fourth meeting in Troodos Cyprus on the week starting on Monday the 10th of December 2012. The meeting in Cyprus had two objectives:

–       to review organizational issues with reference to the project and review the way ahead and

–       to visit the study area and observe examples of best practice vis-a–vis the projects objectives of promoting sustainable development in rural tourism, care and other services and cooperative forms of rural employment such as part-time, flexible schedule and job sharing.

CesR Steering Committee meeting in Troodos

CesR Steering Committee meeting in Troodos

 

All the partners stayed in the Troodos Hotel (www.troodoshotel.com) which is strategically located in the heart of the Troodos National Forest Park, the highest peak on the island, and from there they traveled to the various villages in the region within an hour travel by car.

 

On Tuesday afternoon after the Steering Committee Meeting, the group visited the Pitsilia area in the south east of the Troodos region. The group visited Agros village (www.agros.org.cy) and family businesses Nikis Workshop and Rose House, based on traditional agricultural and animal products, and learned about the local hotel “Rodon” (www.rodonhotel.com) that runs as a public company listed in the stock market owned by the people of the village and people originally from the area.

 

Later in the afternoon they visited the Tsiakkas Winery (http://199.236.92.105/tsiakkas/) in Pelendri village (www.pelendri.org) and later on met the owner of Symposio, (http://www.pelendri.org/english/symposio.shtm) a typical mountainous village tavern. What is interesting about this tavern is that the owners own a number of houses next doors that are available to tourists throughout the year and for those interested they offer catering and cleaning services as part of the services they offer.

 

CesR partners in Troodos

CesR partners in Troodos

On Wednesday morning the partners visited the Troodos National Park and the Environmental Center in the Troodos Square (http://cypruslife.akrifiles.net/Page22_4.html) and later on the Platres village (www.platres.org). In the local community center they were briefed on the activities of the three sister organizations:

–       the Troodos Development Company,

–       the Troodos Regional Tourist Development Board and

–       the Troodos Network, which is the company that executes the projects and activities.

Their joint efforts are considered as a very good example of local best practice as to how to build on synergies and bring together state and local actors in promoting the economic development of the Troodos region.

Casale Panayiotis

Casale Panayiotis

 

In the afternoon the group visited the Marathasa area and Kalapanayiotis www.kalopanayiotis.com/  village. In kalopanayiotis they visited one of the most pioneering projects in agro tourism in Cyprus offering rural accommodation and catering, Casale Panayiotis (www.casalepanayiotis.com). There they were welcomed by the owner who happens to be the President of the local Community Council and the Troodos Development Company. They were briefed on the projects underway in the village in an effort to expand and improve the local tourist product services. Casale Panayiotis is a very interesting practice of joint management of bedrooms belonging to different owners. A management body has been created, and provides various services to the customers.

 

On Thursday morning the partners visited the wine villages’ area in the lower southern part of the region with a meeting with the owner of Lambouri winery at Kato PLatres, (www.lambouri.com/). Later on they participated in a joint open conference on rural development and agro tourism with the participation of a number of local council members from a number of villages and public officials in Omodos village.

 

The official visit ended with another four hours long technical meeting well into the night, during which the partners presented their work towards developing a SWOT analysis for their respective regions and deciding on the steps ahead including the future meetings in 2013.

CesR study trip and public conference in Cork County

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Cork County Council hosted the third CesR project partner meeting and study visit from the 10-14 September 2012.

All 8 CesR partner regions participated in the event and all agreed that the Irish partner meeting and associated tourism conference were highly successful events.

There were some excellent exchanges of information and identification of new learning’s and best practices with potential for transferability across the partner regions.

The initial CesR partner meeting took place on the 11 September in a former stone grain-house building converted to a modern conference facility in the grounds of Ballymaloe House and self catering accommodation facilities in the Irish rural countryside 32 km east of Cork City.

After the financial and technical updates from each partner there was a presentation by Ms. Hazel B. Allen proprietor of the Ballymaloe facility followed by a Walking Tour of Ballymaloe 100 acre Organic farm Ballymaloe Cookery School and Self-Catering Accommodation facilities (www.ballymaloe.ie).

A total of 7 one and two bedroom farm cottages adjoin the main Ballymaloe Country House which have all been converted from previous agricultural uses. A further 8 wooden chalets have been added as staff and guest accommodation and there are 9 self –catering lodges attached to the Cookery school property.

CesR Irish Partner Meeting in The Grainstore, Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, East Cork.

CesR Irish Partner Meeting in The Grainstore, Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, East Cork  CesR Irish Partner Meeting in The Grainstore, Ballymaloe, Shanagarry, East Cork

The sustainable approach to farming, food tourism and the self-catering accommodation sector was clearly in evidence in this best practice example. Members were particularly impressed with the family ethos of the Ballymaloe enterprise and the engagement and partnership with the local community in job creation and rural development.

A Tourism Conference entitled “Driving Corks Tourism Industry: A Best Practice Approach” was held in Cork County Council building  headquarters, County Hall on 12 September 2012 (www.corkcoco.ie).

Ms. Anne O’Donnell, Tourism Development Officer, addressing CesR Tourism Conference, County Hall , Cork, Ireland on 12 September 2012

Ms. Anne O’Donnell, Tourism Development Officer, addressing CesR Tourism Conference, County Hall , Cork, Ireland on 12 September 2012

The tourism conference was attended by over 90 delegates from Corks tourism industry and public agencies.

Speakers were drawn from Failte Ireland South-West; Cork County Council, Port of Cork, LEADER Companies, Food Tourism interests as well as representatives from Cork’s tourism industry. The conference participants debated Cork County’s strengths and opportunities as an international tourism destination.  There was also a particular focus on creating job and employment and challenges for the self-catering accommodation sector.

CesR partners learned of the lead role that the Cork County Council Local Authority has taken in the promotion of Tourism in the region and the partnership approach that has developed with the National Tourism Development Agency, Failte Ireland. Flagship projects such as the development of the Mizen Bridge Experience and Spike Island were discussed.  The challenge for peripheral rural areas in attracting tourists were debated and potential solutions were brought forward. The unique selling points of Corks Food Culture and Cruise Tourism destination were also highlighted.  In addition CesR partners learned of the challenges for Local Rural Action Groups in accessing European funding and delivering funding to local tourism projects.

This tourism conference was also attended by Corks local media and generated positive publicity for the INTERREG IVC CesR project and for Cork County as an international tourism destination.

CesR Partners at County Hall Buildings, Cork.

CesR Partners at County Hall Buildings, Cork.

A study visit to Cork Harbour was the focus of the final full day of the study visit including an examination of the Bella Vista Hotel and self-catering accommodation and Cork Harbour Angling Hub and how this integrated approach is benefiting the tourism angling industry and accommodation providers in Cobh and the wider harbor area.

Bella Vista (www.bellavistahotel.ie) is a 2-star hotel located on an elevated site in the town of Cobh, Co. Cork.  It enjoys excellent views over the town and Cork Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world.  In addition to 18 en-suite rooms and a block of 10 self catering units the Bella Vista also offers a fleet of 10 well-equipped fishing boats and is extremely popular with German and Dutch anglers.   Under the auspices of Failte Ireland (National Tourism Development Authority) the charter boats and angling operators in the harbor area, along with accommodation providers, pubs and restaurant, have come together to promote Cork Harbour as a destination of excellence.  The Angling Hub of Excellence is very much driven by the local community and local accommodation providers. Further information from http://corkharbouranglinghub.blogspot.ie and (www.failteireland.ie).

This part of the study visit also included a trip to Spike Island, Cork Harbour.

Spike Island occupies a key location in the lower Cork Harbour, which is the second largest natural harbour in the world.  Spike Island has recently been transferred into the ownership of Cork County Council and is currently under development as a major international tourism heritage attraction. The multi-cultural island has hosted a monastery, a fortress and a prison within its 104 acres, all of which have left their mark.  The Council is seeking to develop the island as a vehicle for retelling the story of 1400 years of history and the Irish diaspora.  It is hoped that the development of Spike Island as a visitor attraction will help build on the existing tourism and heritage infrastructure in Cork Harbour (www.spikeislandcork.ie).

A CesR Technical Meeting also took place on the 13 September 2012.  Members discussed learning’s from the Irish Study visit and also discussed common issues that have been identified to date from the Regional Analysis of each partner region.

Overall CesR partners thoroughly enjoyed their stay in Cork County. Partners stayed in the Vienna Woods Hotel (www.viennawoodshotel.com) and also had an opportunity to view the self catering lodges which operate from the grounds of the hotel. On departure Michael Magner Host of the Vienna Woods Hotel presented each partner with a select basket of Irish food produce for the journey home. All partners agreed that they experienced a completely unique Irish welcome and hospitality for the duration of their visit to Cork.

Study visit in Gozo, Malta

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CesR minibus

Study tour in Gozo

From the 26th to the 29th of June, CesR partners met in Gozo, the second island of Malta, to learn from very interesting business examples.

Actually, the CesR project idea was born in Gozo, when the Lead Partner observed the products of a company called Baron Group Malta. The idea behind the CesR study trip to Gozo was to show all partners these positive initiatives and to investigate it deeper.

CesR partners and Baron Group Malta

CesR partners and Baron Group Malta

Various meetings were organized, with key stake holders:

–          Mr Brian Meilak, Operations Executive, Baron Group Ltd (http://www.barongroupmalta.com/)

–          Mr Paul Scicluna, CEO of Gozo Farmhouses Ltd (http://www.gozofarmhouses.com/)

–          Mr Manuel Tabone, Director, Tourism & Economic Development, Ministry for Gozo (www.visitgozo.com)

–          Mr Anthony Zammit, Director, Eco-Gozo & Regional Development, Ministry for Gozo (www.ecogozo.com)

–          Mr Joe Muscat, Chief Executive Officer of Gozo Tourism Association (www.islandofgozo.org)

These meetings allowed the partners to understand better a business model of self-catering holiday homes with a la carte in house services included.

The development in the CesR regions of such business model represents a very high potential of jobs creation. The analyze of its transferability in different countries with different legal contexts is one of the next tasks of the CesR partnership.

This study trip was also the occasion to organize a steering committee meeting of the project.

Steering Committee meeting

Steering Committee meeting