Following the Agenda, we have now the UNESCO and the European Commission presentations.

Prior to the first speaker Peter DeBrine, we all enjoy the video from the UNWTO campaign #Travel.Enjoy.Respect as a reminder of the International year of sustainable Tourism for development, and in recognition of the important contribution tourism brings to the three pillars for sustainable development: Environmental, Social and Economical.

Peter DeBrine works on the development of world heritage and sustainable Tourism programme. He is raising awareness on the importance of sustainable tourism in protecting the environment and the heritage.

“Everybody in this room knows about World Heritage and maybe everyone in this room lives near a World Heritage site. You can’t really go very far without encounting a World Heritage site.

The world heritage is the starting point for our involvement in tourism, because our goal is   


Currently there are 1 thousand and seven-three World Heritage sites, to be exact; one of the thing that they all have in common is something we refer to as OUSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE (OUV). This is very important as it is what determines whether a site is inscribed in the Wold heritage list. It is also very important in terms of storytelling, because here at UNESCO we like lists…we have the World Heritage list, the Intangible Heritage list, our creative cities programme. We like grouping things together and it is interesting when you think of it in terms of sustainable tourism. This OUV manifestes itself in many ways.

We always state that World Heritage isnt a beauty context. We have sites on the list that are mining sites, we may argue on the beauty of them but one thing you cant say is that they arent interesting!  And looking at why sites are on the World Heritage list as the previous speaker from the Danube Competence Center was talking about that, all important INTERPRETATION of the heritage is at the core of what UNESCO mission is all about.

Some of these sites are beautiful-Santiago is beautiful. But they also document moments in human history and human achievements.

Another thing that World heritage sites have in common is Tourism . World Heritage sites are some of the top destinations, some of the most iconic destinations in the world. We have Machu Picchu, we have Florence, we have Venice… What we are seeing more and more is that world heritage in terms of the brand, sells. We see people traveling from China, Japan and Korea, and create their itinerary based on the world heritage sites. So it does sell!

As previously mentioned our starting point for all this is the protection and safeguard of world heritage and how we can look at Tourism as that important vehicle.

It is interesting to see what has evolved from the past few years in terms of heritage and sustainable development. There was couple of years ago in 2015 a new policy that the World heritage General Assembly adopted to integrate sustainable development into world heritage dimension. This is a very important milestone because for many of us in this room the connection between sustainable development and world heritage is Tourism-

it is undoubtedly one of the number one connection you can’t ignore. If you look at the world heritage convention itself there is one mention of Tourism and it is mentioned as potential threat. So again this idea of looking at this old heritage community and at tourism differently is happening now and it is happening at a very fast pace.

The basic message that UNESCO is trying to put out there is that Tourism doesnt have to be that negative threat, why can’t we look at tourism as enhancing the OUV, not to detract from it but to make it better, more interesting.

How do we do that ?

How do we change some of these patterns that have occured across the world?

We heard about the issue in Venise and Barcelona with over-tourism. So how can we get people to travel differently?

I think that the concept of heritage and transnational routes is very important and that’s a way perhaps through which we can help start solving some of these problems. And of course we talked a lot about the experience; this is the other important pillar: if we focus on experiences , here the connection.  My theory is that if you go to a World heritage site and you have a very good experience, the chances that the site is well managed in terms of conservation and well managed in terms of tourism are in the high 90%. There is a direct connection between a visitor’s experience and the goal of conservation for UNESCO. Given such direct connection everybody should be thinking how to enhance the visitor’s experience and how we make it better.

Communication and marketing is key to all this. Its how we get information, its how we travel, its inspiring and it’s how we get inspired in the first place. Communication and marketing is the other important pillar in terms of this idea of sustainable tourism and trying to change the way we travel.

The challenges for the marketers and communicators is to tell something different…to tell us what to see, what to do, what to eat, how to experience destinations perhaps in another way. There are people traveling the same time of the year, in the summer…how do you make people to change their habits and inspire them to travel at a different time of the year? i.e. a festival in March instead of a festival in July.

Its really looking through that experience lens and UNESCO loves storytelling, so connecting those two is going to be important for us.

And telling those stories to those amazing people doing amazing things is probably as interesting as looking at an old building or an old Church.


is a big word; when we think of it, we often think of it in terms of restoring old things. It is an automatic connection in our mind. In fact there is so much more than that: it is the song, it is the music, it is the food, it is our launguage, religion, it is the natural world that surrounds it:


So how can we make that coming to life through Tourism and do it in a way that provides high quality and ‘authentic’ experiences. What is ‘authentic’ ?

We talked about interpretation, the importance of interpretation and whether you are telling the story to an archeologist or a traveller… how do you get that interpretation to reflect what UNESCO will want to reflect. We can do that… if we don’t ignore the need to communicate in certain ways to certain people. So we have to tell a story in a way that is compelling.

Social media is key to all this: we are in another era for the way we travel and the way we get information. And more importantly for the way we connect and we share; it goes back again to that notion of tourism and that cross cultural communication that can really solve many of the problems we see across the world.

How can we use this important brand of UNESCO to start perhaps showing another type of travel, another way to visit these destinations?

We received a grant from the EU because of that. The Parliament thought that the member States of the European Union werent doing enough with UNESCO Brand to promote sustainable tourism in Europe, and we are not talking about Florence or Venice, we are talking about the hidden gems. How do we get people to go and experience different places? Take the example of Venice: there are probably only 5 kms before you hit another world heritage site where little people go. This is in the idea of how we do encourage people to stay longer, to spend money, to not go in for 2 hours, but to experience those destinations in a different way.

We approached this with over 480 cultural heritage sites in Europe, so how do we start ?

We developed 4 themes that were tested with the travel trade. These themes helped us looking at World heritage differently.

One of these themes is called UNDERGROUND EUROPE: i mentioned some industrial sites, there are lots of mining sites. Those are the obvious ones. But another site that was selected to be part of this theme is Champagne in France for example. You would not necessarily consider Champagne as an industrial site, but most of the process for making champagne happens underground. Those cellars are part of the heritage sites. So again we are trying to position World heritage in another way.

A more obvious theme is what we called ROYAL EUROPE: this theme though is focusing not on palaces but on gardens. We have for example the amazing site of Caserta in Italy as one of those sites that needs more visitors in the garden. They dont get many visitors going to the garden.

This project sponsored by the European Union links also to this EU-China tourism year. So we are looking closely at China as source market, and when all those increasing number of Chinese visitors comes to Europe, how we can present Europe in a way that is different…that its not just going to shopping or going to Paris; but there are for example amazing sites to visit in Poland!

This idea of how we increase sustainable tourism, thus how we increase the lenght of stay, and raise support to all the world heritage sites and programmes.

This is another issue for UNESCO. We are in a different world today about public budget for maintaining the sites, for conservation. How do we do that creatively? An example is given by this project we are working on with another powerful Brand, the National Geographic. We think that providing these two brands together will help us in that goal of marketing and promoting the World Heritage in a different way; and marketing and promoting a different kind of travel.

We created the tagline,


I think that sums up what we are doing: we want that when you look at the destinations you really learn why is that…. a world heritage site.

Why Santiago is a world heritage site ? Its not just the pilgrimage….its the garden, its the Church, the Roman and Baroque architecture of the town and how that had an impact not just in Spain but in the all of Europe. The other important thing in this project is that we are trying to tell that European story. All those sites connect and tell our European story. So we spent a lot of time developing that inheritance and then selecting those sites based on their inheritance. And it is an European story. How many of us do know that the iron from a Swedish world heritage sites was used to build the Eifel Tower? This is an interesting European story that connects points on a map that could be very interesting for a traveller.

The project platform is going to be finished by this year and hopefully you are going to hear much more on it next year.

For UNESCO this is a new territory, we havent done this before, we havent created a travel website on world heritage sites. Currently our website is very scientific and it has to be because it provides that kind of information.

I feel indeed that this path will lead us to succeed and could even go beyond Europe.”

You can watch the video here: Peter DeBrine.

Ilona Lelonek Husting from the European Commission talks about number of collaborations with transnational tourism projects and the opportunity to receive grants available for similar initiatives every year.

“Its a pleasure to be here in Santiago, a very inspiring and perfect place for the transnational tourism theme.

We are very glad to have the opportunity today to present what the European Commission is doing to support transnational Tourism programme.

I would like to highlight that tourism is very important for the European Union : it is 10% EU GDP and a driver for Regional development.

In general Europe is the number one tourist destination, nevertheless there are some challenges and EU is focusing on actions on those as priority.

For example we are improving the business environment and facilitate access to finance; we are also supporting promotion for Europe as tourist destination and internationalisation of SMEs; we are working to encourage the uptake of Digitalisation and also we are improving skills and training and workforce mobility in the tourism sector..

In general regarding the Legal Framework, EU can complement, support and coordinate the action of the Member States in the tourism sector by Promoting cooperation between the Member States, particularly by the exchange of good practice; of course Regions and member States have Bodies of competence to implement policies but we can facilitate this Inter-regional and Inter-national cooperation at new levels (and encouraging the creation of a favorable environment for the development of undertakings in this sector).

In 2010 EU had published: Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination that has had identified for us the one priority action:

Diversifying tourism products capitalising on European common and rich heritage.

Therefore the Commission is supporting very actively the transnational cooperation through common themes, itineraries and routes.

You can see summarized the themes that are very relevant for Europe and the European Tourism offers.

How does the Commission support these themes, routes, and itineraries?

In two ways:

  1. We are funding transnational projects; these are the grants that we give to stakeholders to promote and support transnational projects. We are co-financing 75% of the eligible costs of the projects;
  2. We are also actively working with international Organizations for ad hoc grants, such as Council of Europe, UNESCO, UNWTO, ETC.

Let me focus now on the private grants that go to projects:

Since several years now we have launched regular calls for proposals opened to support diverse types of transnational itineraries, routes, trails, etc. This project has to involve minimum 4 countries, public – private partnerships to manage the project, including SMEs.

We have been co-funding project for several years through different programs; currently the program that we use is the COSME programme, this is also the reason why involving SMEs is so important for the development and promotion of transnational tourism programme. The Calls for proposals have been very successful in promoting the transnational tourism itineraries. Sometimes we receive 80-100 project proposals and due to budget limitation, we can co-finance 6-10 projects. The amount of the grants given equals to 200-300k EUR depending on the Call for proposal. More than 300 Organizations have been participating already in these projects.

I will highlight examples related to sustainable transnational tourism activities. These are also many examples of cultural tourism and accessible itineraries projects:

All projects and the results for those finished are published on our website.

It is clear that a well conceived transnational thematic tourism product can contribute to:

✓increasing tourism demand;

✓ diversifying/modernising tourism offer;

✓ boosting growth and job creation in rural areas or in areas suffering for industrial decline;

✓ creating new business models;

✓ fostering European identity and values

Examples of activities we are co-financing with these projects focusing on the two groups of development and promotion.

We’re always strengthening on the fact that we don’t want to promote local offers but this joint visibility to the whole ‘trail’ as it is there that we have an EU added value contribution, to promote this joint Tourism.

This year we have run a Call for proposal with a budget of 1.5 M euro with 43 projects proposals received. The successful applicants will be notified in December. But most importantly there will be more EU funding next year with the objective of supporting and promoting the transnational tourism products exploring synergies between tourism and Cultural and Creative Industries:

The grant publication is planned for the second Quarter.

I would also like to mention this initiative of European Destinations of Excellence in tourism that has been implemented for many years because through this initiative we visualize how we can encourage stakeholders to work on common themes. In fact every year the audition is focusing on different themes.

In every audition, 15 or 20 destinations from different member States are selected, being clustered already by themes. They have also worked together and developed those themes jointly.

Let me mention the collaboration with the Council of Europe on the European Cultural Routes initiative;  we have had three successive joined agreements on the Cultural Routes  programme. We are cooperating with UNESCO, and we will have a new grant agreement next year; we are exciting to help making the transnational tourism routes to link with UNESCO sites more visibly. We are also supporting the Western Silk Road and finally we are cooperating with ETC to promote Europe as tourist destination and its transnational thematic tourism products in third country markets. We are also working on the preparation of B2B events with ETOA as well.

There are different programs that are available at EU level and some of them can be relevant for co-financing projects in the tourism field.

For transnational tourism project the most relevant on top of the Call for Proposal are COSME, but also ESIF and INTERREG programme where the cross border collaboration can be supported; also EMFF that in 2016 have launched several Calls for Proposal to support nautical and maritime routes.

We hope that with these events planned and the Handbook just launched by UNWTO, the transnational tourism offer for Europe will become more visible.”

You can watch the video hereIlona Lelonek Husting.






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