The opening for another set of very interesting sessions and key speakers, following the Silk Road:

  • Tim Faithurst – ETOA
  • Danko Comic – Danube Competence Center
  • Jordi Tresserras – IBERTUR
  • Jacques Mattei – European Federation of Napoleonic Cities

Tim Fairhurst shares ETOA’s prospective on the key factors defining a successful initiative in the area of transnational tourism Themes and Routes.

“What is ETOA?

We are a travel Trade Association, which means that most of our members are businesses from anywhere in the world; and they can also be destinations; i.e. as of yesterday we went up to about 950 members, and a quarter of those are Associates; so they can be operators based in China, operators based in US; they dont have to be necessarily tour operators, but it can be anybody buying your services in the toursim sector.

Everybody else is providing something in the tourism Industry, that can be food, hotel accomodations, all sort of specialist advices, and it can also be destinations, marketing and management Organizations as well.

We spend a lot of the time in Brussels since there is a large EU component to Tourism. The next two days will illustrate though at what degree the regional and local competences really affect the type of tourism that people experience…

…We get involved in operational support that comes up in Routes and Themes, because the ideas are lovely but do they work in practice?! If the demand doesn’t quite much with supply, how do we manage a fine line supply that suits people that are local as well as the demand side.

We set up working groups, this is usually private and public sector. Given that mostly the expertise here in this audience is on the destination side, I would try to provide something about the commercial operator’s prospective.

In a formal life I used to run product development for a big educational cultural Travel Company. We worked with markets worldwide. I had never heard of cultural Routes, have I heard of it it would have made my job a lot easier. I knew about Themes, that used to pop up frequently.

How do operators look at product development ?

Certainly ‘deliverability’ is very important in this Industry….Seasonality and business cycle too: different markets book at different time, often people are booking 18 months ahead of the departure date; and this really affects how you deliver the product.

Demand is often more influenctial than the concept; meaning that it is the commercial competitive impulse to often driving specific choices that are made on the product. So what can be done to respect the fact that the famous things are popular and at the same time to use them as springboard to the less famous ones?

Dynamic of selling and marketing via group organisers  is very important as well: if you have a relationship with repeat travelers that can themselves bring first time travelers, these represent a potential, they are influencers that are a very different audience from the first time visitors.

Collaboration between DMOs and themes/route network is critical; in fact we are trying to build from the supply side an economically effective product that has versatility. We need to ensure from the supply side that people fit in a variety of themes and routes not just fit in one box.

What is success look like ?

From the private sector, it is simple : you look at satisfaction…. whether or not people think it is amazingly unique and authentic, and they go back home having had a great time….

…For route managers, what can you look at is: infrostuctures, hotels, how many people are identyfying with the product.

Infrastructure and capacity management are very important: you can have lovely things that are hard to get to, with not enough toilets for example. Particularly in the case of old tourists. ‘Fit for purpose’ these days means that your work has to be in the language of the visitors you are seeking to attract, with at least some material online or elsewhere to which they can relate to and access.

This is about tangible and intangible culture from a world heritage prospective, it is about sharing with everybody without compromising…..

It is an opportunity to create cross borders collaboration because it is a pratical thing that we work on together-

tourism punches through all kind of political orders, and if we can use it creatively, not only it is a shared interest it is also very worthwhile.”

You can watch the video hereTim Fairhurst


Next on the schedule, Danko Cosic from the Danube Competence Center. He stresses on the importance of ‘INTERPRETATION’. 

“We are a membership based organization working with its members and stakeholders to build Danube as a single destination and competitive destination too.

In the third and forth century AD, the Danube was the northern border of the roman Emperors and as such, was costantly accompanied by a military presence….

The route connects 4 countries: Croacia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania and it has 20 archeological sites. The route contains 4 categories of archeological sites: sites with direct and documented association with Roman Emperors; sites with well preserved monuments of Roman architecture; sites associates with the roman military presence in defence of the northern frontier and sites associates with other aspect of life such as art, culture and religion.

One challenge is connectivity: the route connects the Adriatic with the Black Sea, most of its line going along the Danube. Its long over 3000 kms which creates some sort of traveling issues: i.e. when selecting which archeological locality should be included in the route with the national partners, they have a national prospective rather than transnational; as a consequence localities that were included in the route are often distant from one another. Of all of the 4 countries, only one is in the EU and none is in The Schengen Agreement. This adds another constraint on travelling along the borders. The mobility services for transportation are poor and do not connect the different localities.

Very important to our route and same time very challenging is the INTERPRETATION; different type of visitors have different type of expectations; their itinerary may be different: some are on a city break, some on long distance trip; at the same time each locality has more than one important story to say….So how these two live together?

In my view the purpose of INTERPRETATION is to enhance visitors experience, understanding and enjoyment of heritage. Therefore while interpreting the story of a site, it is necessary to avoid lecturing and decide which story fits interest and absorption capacity of the visitors. Instead of the classic lecture, given by the guides, same for everyone regardless whether the visitor is an IT expert, an history professor or a plumber. It is important for the visitor to feel involved so that the information provided complements the knowledge and the experience already acquired.

The issue of poor connectivity can be addressed by restructuring the routes from thematically connected archeological localities in a concept of routes HUBS: areas where number of different attractions are gathered together to offer an interesting story and an interpreted offer for visitors. In such approach the archeological localities become  attractions supplemented with nature, gastronomical experiences and so on; this may also include visiting other existing cultural sites related and not so related such as traditional villages, churches, festivals, varies other events. The importance is that the common goal of all hubs is to be a tourist attraction but also an entry point for additional attractions and offers. Each hub has strong transportation links so it can represent both the entry and the exit point.

Another opportunity for development that was already mentioned a number of time by other speakers is the route’s potential to become a platform for cooperation amongst various and interesting stakeholders. The thematic and transnational approach is a perfect baseline for initiating this sort of ‘niche cooperation’. Closer and better coordinated collaboration between Tour Operators, local service providers and regional tourism Organisations can lead to better tailored packages and services; at the same time this collaborative development allows for stronger focus on visitors, allows the visitors to feel involved, enhance their experience, understanding and enjoyment of the heritage.

Let me conclude with the prospective of the visitors…..since the


This is the route from the people’s eyesWhat people think…  “.

You can watch the video hereDanko Cosic.

Jordi Tresserras gives emphasis to the importance of creating experiences for visitors; and show some best practises on themes and routes in Spain.

In Catalonia IBERTUR is working with UNESCO to create synergies on labels and names. The most known example is the Saint James Way that is the first European (30 years) cultural route and a World Heritage cultural site.

This route combines backpackers and premium tourism in the same destination. There are people that come here for spirituality, culture and/or gastronomy, nature, social inclusion……..Another examples are the European vineyards where it is combined the cultural landscapes in World Heritage sites and the European Cultural route of the Council of Europe. 

Tasting wine after a trekking activity means creating experiences here. Same as for the new platform trip4real acquired by Airbnb with the objective of selling experiences.

You can watch the video hereJordi Tresserras.

Jacques Mattei talks about the purpose of the European Federation of Napoleonic cities to promote cultural heritage through tourism.

“It was founded in 2004, by the latest branch of descendants of Napoleon. It is a brand, as you can see from these numbers:

The last agreed re-enactment was in Waterloo 2 years ago in 2015. Napoleon is a very important figure today.

We are in 60 cities in 13 countries from Portogal to Russia. We dont work to promote the great figure of Napoleon, but we work with local Authorities to develop and promote every page of what he left. We are also going to work with Lithuania and Egypt soon.

In 2015 we have been certified by the Council of Europe. We got in touch with the Institute of cultural routes of the council of Europe in 2015 and have been preparing our candidature for 2 years. This has given us the visibily to better engage with local Authorities.

One challenge is to manage 13 steering committees since our staff is distributed amongst these munipacilities and a small number directly dependent on the Federation.

We created the steering comitees with the role of bringing together private and public stakeholders; and also very important is the scientific comitee to give solidity to the history as such (president is Jacques Olivier Boudon). 

Regarding our activities, every two years close to 1 million euro is invested to develop events near Paris (invested mainly by private Companies).

The photo in the middle shows our President, Prince Charles Bonaparte, The Duke of Wellington on his right and Prince Blucher von Wahlstatt on his left. This highlights that we want to build something positive together by overpassing the opposition and history as in this photo…

…We also want to improve tourism in specific places with less economy like in the case of Sardene, a small place in Corse.

 How to develop the attractiveness of a place and at the same time be able to manage it….

You can watch the video hereJacques Mattei.

What all these presentations have in common is surely the importance of the visitor’s experience to really communicate via tailored storytelling the essence of a place;

whereas only a synergic collaboration amongst different stakeholders can ultimately enable the creation of these unique and authentic experiences.



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