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You wouldn't be here if you weren't curious.*

Hi! I'm Elena! Welcome to my travel blog Creativelena.com.
For me, it is all about “life-seeing instead of sightseeing”: Join me as I create, eat & live my way around the world. Curious?

*Check out my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook”, for learning more about what we mean by creative travel. Travelling means the world to me, makes me fit for everday life and sometimes, I trust, also calmer on the inside. Read this blog with a smile, share what you love and remember to check back regularly: After all, when was the last time you did something for the first time?

#EuropeTour kicks off in Bad Wimpfen, Germany

“The principal aim of EUROPETOUR is to empower local stakeholders in rural cultural tourism across Europe in the use of Social Media & modern communication technologies for taking better business decisions.”

Phew. What reads as a somewhat lengthy explanation, is my try to sketch three years of work, eight European partner institutions and a total funding volume of € 321.000 emitted by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme. Phew that!

 

I have always loved the principal aim of the EU: Facilitating workflow, knowledge transfer and regional development across all of its member states. This time, we are here to learn from each other on innovative aspects managing & developing cultural tourism in rural areas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To this end, the German small town Bad Wimpfen, a cultural heritage and health (spa) resort some 50 minutes drive from Stuttgart, provide me & my fellow colleagues and networking partners from around Europe with a good example. Bad Wimpfen, the host city of our meeting place, is a member of the German “Schlösserstraße” (Castle Route), a pilgrimage spot for living traditions, festivals, Christmas markets and heritage buildings. The town has already been active in the development of Social Media guidelines through its adherence to the kiratour network, promoting GPS guided tours, the use of QR codes, Social Media marketing and the opening of local hotspots for visitors. As our town host Ruth says, “We might be a little town, but we have short ways for decisions.”

Bad Wimpfen ...

Bad Wimpfen …

 

… is a lovely place to be ...

… is a lovely place to be …

 

… especially now during Christmas ...

… especially now during Christmas …

 

… and to taste its lovely Swabian food, such as typical "Maultaschen" meat & veggie soup.

… tasting its lovely Swabian food, such as typical “Maultaschen” meat & veggie soup.

 

The #EUROPETOUR team has gathered for the very first time, including participants from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. Love the international atmosphere and knowledge combined!

The #EUROPETOUR project team has gathered for the very first time, including participants from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. Love the international atmosphere and knowledge combined!

 

Cultural tourism in rural areas: What are the approaches & objectives in the HeilbronnerLand of Baden-Württemberg?

At the beginning of our meeting in Bad Wimpfen, Tanja Seegelke, who is the managing director of the HeilbronnerLand tourism association, explains that their goal is to encourage sales for partners, 46 local municipalities among others, reaching some 1.4 million overnight stays and working with an annual budget of € 350.000 – “by motivation, not orders”, she adds with a smile. The challenge faced by the HeilbronnerLand is one shared by many rural areas across Europe: Cultural tourism is based on day trips for visitors, with little or no motivation for visitors to stay the night. At the same time, the much larger province Baden-Württemberg only has to look to the Black Forest and Lake Constance for the more internationally known, stronger brands. Could the answer for rural areas in the HeilbronnerLand be niche products for special interest visitors? Developing a “unique USP”? Networks? The qualification of stakeholders? The result, as Tanja demonstrates, is a mixture of all of the above, as recent initiatives such as the Württemberg Wine Culture Festival have shown.

For the first time, 150 single events & offers combined into packages for individual & group travellers, marketed as a one-month festival in 2015, succeeded in raising the attention of the national media (150+ press clippings) as well as the Baden-Württemberg tourism marketing organization, without having to pay extra for any of their services.

Developing and learning: The main goal of our EuropeTour kickoff meeting ...

Developing and learning: The main goal of our EuropeTour kickoff meeting …

 

… including learning more about local best practice examples ...

… including learning more about local best practice examples …

 

… in the HeilbronnerLand managed by Tanja Seegelke, as seen during our local city tour in Bad Wimpfen.

… in the HeilbronnerLand managed by Tanja Seegelke, as seen during our local city tour in Bad Wimpfen.

 

As much as Social Media plays a key role in linking relevant (marketing) information ...

As much as Social Media plays a key role in linking relevant (marketing) information, and broadcasting them to targeted audiences …

 

...

… we equally learn about the effective use of traditional media for cultural tourism communication purposes.

 

So who is involved? #EuropeTour brings together a wealth of knowledge and many warm-hearted, very experienced stakeholders indeed.

Besides Germany being represented by the HeilbronnerLand as well as the project management being run by the association “Kultur & Arbeit e.V.“, notably our dear Karin Drda-Kühn, there are seven more nationalities at the table. I am happy and honoured to share the insights gained from working on Kreativ Reisen Österreich – Creative Tourism Austria and myself, Creativelena.com as an international Social Media and tourism consulting business. Together with my Austrian colleague, Wolfgang Eisenreich of the organization “E-C-C Education Citizenship Culture”, we make up the Austrian branch of #EuropeTour. Wolfgang has an astounding background in dealing with European Union programs, such as LifeLongLearning, Erasmus+, language learning, ICT and many more – some 30 projects since 2008!

Then, there are our colleagues Wolfgang Kniejski & Angela Ivanova from Bulgaria, whose company INI-novation has developed with a focus on:

A place I am personally very excited to go to is Bucovina in Romania, represented by our local partner Lacramioara Beilic, of the Bucovina Tourism association. Their area, combining culture with folk art, tradition and nature-based experiences, is marked by the motto: “A place where you come as a guest and leave as a friend.” We shall see more about this in our project meeting there in the summer of 2016!

Really enjoying the time with my European colleagues ...

Really enjoying the time with my European colleagues …

 

… working hard ...

… working hard …

 

… developing offers and introducing us to new ideas ...

… developing offers and introducing us to new ideas …

 

… sharing insights ...

… sharing insights …

 

… sometimes thought to precious to reveal ...

… sometimes thought almost too precious to reveal …

 

… to just anyone: Here, our Spanish partners from Cantabria present a facsimile of a very old book from a local monastery.

… to just anyone: Here, our Spanish partners Pilar & Marina from Cantabria present a facsimile of a very old book from a local monastery inspiring many visitors to travel there today.

 

Pilar Bahamonde and Marina Bolado, besides adding interesting information about their Camino Lebaniego project in the Spanish province of Cantabria, also add a lot of flavour – “latin blood” – to our meeting! From the wine chocolate tasting to working hard in the conference room, I will never forget our shared laughter and moments of understanding, creating the start of new friendships among all of us. Besides, Vincenzo Zenobi, of the Italian Marche region, introduces us to challenges faced by rural cultural tourism development there, such as sustainability, long-term strategy, and what to do with the local arts & crafts paper museum. Can’t wait to go to both places, either!

From Poland, I am pleased to introduce our project partners Stefan Beier & Izabela Matusiak, working on the Klosterland network, a transnational Polish-German network counting three monastery buildings in Poland and 11 in Germany: Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and Westpommern. The network is growing constantly, with the main challenge being to secure funds for renovating buildings: “During the past 20 years, money in Poland has mainly been spent on infrastructure renovation and upgrading”, Izabela adds during our #EuropeTour kickoff meeting. The main goal of the Klosterland network is to highlight new opportunities in the market, by offering members services such as Social Media know-how, knowledge exchange, funding opportunities etc. For visitors, Klosterland provides information, events, maps, or contacts. As there are no living monasteries, the focus is on reusing buildings for cultural tourism. “We have achieved a unique German-Polish cooperation for cultural heritage, a step for opening up to the East encouraging cross-border visitor (and workforce) flows”, Izabela is proud to conclude.

The #EuropeTour dream team ...

The #EuropeTour dream team: Proud to be present here among my colleagues from all over Europe …

 

… who are as much about sharing & exploring ...

… who are as much about sharing & exploring …

 

… as they are about learning from each other ...

… as they are about learning from each other …

 

… growing together as a team.

… and growing together as a team.

 

PS. All this wine & chocolate for sure has helped ...

PS. All this wine & chocolate for sure has helped …

 

… in the forging of new friendships like these: Proud to have a spontaneous reading from my book, "The Creative Traveler's Handbook" here at the #EuropeTour kickoff meeting in Germany!

… in forging new friendships like these: Proud to have a spontaneous reading from my book, “The Creative Traveler’s Handbook” here at the #EuropeTour kickoff meeting in Germany!

 

Last but not least, let me introduce you to our project team from the Netherlands, Lilian Grootswagers & Sandra Coumans. They have gathered here in Bad Wimpfen to represent their organization FRH Future for Religious Heritage, as well as being responsible for developing the first outcome of #EuropeTour: A country analysis evaluating the needs of cultural tourism stakeholders, to proceed with adequate training material from there.

“Future for Religious Heritage” started with a conference meeting in Canterbury and has its headquarters in Brussels. It is a European network active in 33 countries, with well-known members such as the Scotland’s Churches Trust, Friends of Friendless Churches, Offene Kirche, and many more. “Secularization is everywhere”, Lilian says with a slight alarm in her voice, ” and small shoulders are often seen to carry the weight of larger institutions. As for religious heritage, we have noted that people believe someone will take care of it, because it has always been there, and why would it ever be lost?” Today though, she adds, there is a real danger of “losing Europe’s biggest museum in the world: Religious buildings are essential for community life, and we want them to be used more widely.”

To that end, she and her team have come up with “Religiana“, a platform and knowledge tool for church managers to promote the community use of their facilities, as well as tourism, by sharing basic information through international standards.

Sharing. It really is all about sharing, I believe.

“We are a part of a larger paradigm shift in society. Earlier on, it was all about gathering and storing information, in keeping it to yourself. Now, we have machines to do that. Our only – intelligent – way forward is in networking, linking and liaising that information in the right way, to the right audiences, at the right time.”

Thank you, #EuropeTour ...

Thank you, #EuropeTour …

 

… for shedding a new light ...

… for shedding a new light …

 

… on the (re)use of otherwise abandoned cultural heritage structures ...

… on the (re)use of otherwise abandoned cultural heritage structures …

 

… and for lightning the way ...

… and for lightning the way …

 

… of innovative thinking, networking and sharing ...

… of innovative thinking, networking and sharing …

 

… including the use of more unusual tools ...

… including the use of more unusual tools …

 

… for the benefit of all of us: Cheers and see you next time round!

… for the benefit of all of us: Cheers and see you next time round!

 

#EuropeTour is active on the web & Social Media, too: Please check out our Facebook & Twitter pages and stay tuned through our Flickr Photo Gallery, taking you around Europe for cultural travel in rural areas:

 

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Written by Elena

Elena writes about creative destinations, shares her personal travel stories and brings inspiring photography & interesting news updates home to you. Her mission is: "Continue to be amazed at this world, one creative travel experience at a time."

Ready for learning even more about creative travel?

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3 Comments

  1. Karin Drda-Kühn

    Dear Elena, what a wonderful summary of our most successful kick-off meeting! Seems that we won’t need minutes as long as you are with us. 🙂 Great job done with this blog which reflects the spirit of the project as well as the excepional people we will be able to work with. See you in Austria in April 2016!

    Reply
  2. Elena

    Dear Karin,

    Thank you so much for your kind feedback !! I am glad and happy to be with you in this project and equally look forward to our next meeting here in Austria next year. See you there 🙂

    Reply
  3. #EuropeTour goes Austria: 2nd European Project Meeting in Waidhofen, Mostviertel - Elena Paschinger Creativelena | Reise-Blog, Sprachen, Übersetzungen, Tourismus-Beratung, PR & Social Media | Elena Paschinger

    […] Together as a team, our EuropeTour experts from Spain, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany & Austria have gathered for the second time after kick-starting our three-year Erasmus-funded qualification programme for developing cultural t… […]

    Reply

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