Tourism is a very important pillar of the economies of most of the European countries, but one strongly affected by seasonality, as well as by stereotypes. For example, whilst Malta’s culture & heritage offering is getting traction, it is still mostly known internationally as a sea & sun destination. Save for Vienna, Austria is typically associated with winter sports. Finland is mainly known for its Lapland visits and aurora borealis sightings, and so on.
To support the industry during the shoulder months, but also to ensure that we maintain our offering interesting and appealing in front of the stiff international competition and ever more demanding clients, diversification of the tourism offer and products is a must. Moreover, the development of transnational niche tourism products is another interesting approach, particularly targeted towards attracting long-distance tourists, from outside Europe.
With these in mind, and complimentarily to regional and national policies, the EU is currently offering about 1.5million euro (at a 75% co-financing rate) to support a number of collaborative projects aimed at the development and promotion of innovative transnational tourism products such as routes, itineraries, trails, tourism offers, etc.
One Call for example is targeting projects focused on sport or wellness activities in relation to coastal, maritime, mountain or rural tourism, covering activities like: nautical tourism, water-based sports (such as recreational fishing, boating, wind surfing, diving etc.), cycle routes, hiking trails, horse-riding routes, adventure tourism trails, itineraries linked to sports events including practice of specific sports like skiing, cycling, water-based sports, itineraries linked to wellness, including spa tourism, etc.
With a view to maximise synergies between tourism, high-end and creative industries, another Call is open for cooperation projects to develop and promote a European cultural and industrial heritage route around luxury goods. For this year’s test phase, the call is open to three high-end products – perfume, chocolate and jewellery – products considered on the basis of their economic potential and capacity to diversify European offer during the shoulder season in a good number of Members States.
Through such projects, the involved partner organisations could undertake market analyses, mapping of attractions, sites, destinations, tourism and cultural services that could be linked to the topic in focus; identification of additional needed partners, key stakeholders and sponsors; development of business plans; networking, awareness raising and promotion, etc. The result could be for example the development and promotion of a European Jewellery Route crossing over a number of Member States, covering historical and contemporary dimensions, following the main steps of the product’s value chain (e.g. visits to silver and gold mines, emblematic jewellery manufacturing quarters, museums, workshops at leading jewellery design schools, etc.).
In an effort to stimulate international public-private-partnerships for the development and promotion of such innovative transnational tourism products, these projects are required to involve a consortium of minimum five organisations from different Members States, including at least one public authority and two SMEs (e.g. tourist accommodation, catering, travel agencies, tour operators and destination management companies, attractions operators, leisure – recreational, cultural and sporting activities service providers, tourism related transport, relevant education and training establishments, creative industry players). Associations, chambers and other umbrella associations are also eligible to participate for the benefit of their larger member community.
Such projects could be indeed an opportunity for us to further stimulate winter tourism, not just by highlighting the Maltese silver filigree on the European jewellery craft map, but also by putting forward a holistic sport & wellness offer based on the numerous recently set-up high-quality spas, emerging healthy and organic eating establishments, sport, hikes, meditation sessions in the lush green and blooming fields of our winter.
Whilst the above mentioned Calls for project proposals are currently open and closing on 16th September and 7th October, another Call aimed at increasing tourism flows in the low/medium season by specifically targeting seniors and youth is expected to be launched in the coming weeks. This third Call will provide another EUR 1.5 million of EU funding.