By Bejay Browne
THE Paphos regional board of tourism has joined a new EU programme which concerns cultural tourism with the aim to protect and preserve natural and cultural heritage assets, and to develop and promote them in the best way possible.
Paphos is now a partner in ‘CHRISTA’ – Culture and Heritage for Responsible, Innovative and Sustainable Tourism Actions, which is a programme of Interreg, the European Union’s framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local bodies from different member states.
Paphos is also a lead partner in the European Network of Cultural Tourism (European Cultural Tourism Network – ECTN), which is based in Brussels, and has been a member since 2012 and represented on the board since 2014.
Other partners include various bodies from central Macedonia, Veneto – Italy, Vastra Giotalant – Sweden, Granada – Spain, Vintzeme – Ave Guimaraes – Portugal, Sibiu – Romania and Burgas – Bulgaria.
Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, the head of the Paphos regional board of tourism said: “After successfully participating in other EU projects, we are continuing our interregional cooperation with destinations in Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Bulgaria, on major issues of sustainable development and cultural tourism projection. About 85 of the project is co-financed by the European Union.”
The tourist head noted that the move is an important one for the town’s development, as project actions will further consolidate the area as a destination.
“Paphos continues to make a significant contribution to cultural tourism, taking advantage of the European programs and as a member of ECTN. The new project will examine the synergies of culture and heritage in innovation and sustainable tourism development, and will draw up an ‘action plan’. We expect to launch the programme and for important partners to visit Paphos during the period of the Cultural Capital 2017,” he said.
He noted that the new project will improve policies for long term sustainability and that it is a continuation of the cultural tourism project CHARTS which was implemented from 2012-2014.
CHRISTA has a budget of €1.8m for the period April 2016 – March 2020.The Paphos budget is €175,000.
The nine project partners will work on four thematic areas for the development of sustainable and responsible tourism: intangible cultural heritage, innovation and digitalisation, illustrative tools and industrial heritage.
CHRISTA will capitalise on 12 good practices, tested and documented in the CHARTS project, he said. Any action plans which have been drawn up in the first two years will be implemented in the final two years of the project.
Hadjigeorgiou also noted that the project partners will also participate in European forums, conferences and exhibitions, and will present the results at the European Union institutions in Brussels.
The coordinator of CHRISTA for ECTN, Manos Vougioukas, said: “The new CHRISTA project for the Interreg Europe programme will apply the Charter of Thessaly for sustainable cultural tourism. We developed this in the previous CHARTS work on cutting-edge issues such as, development and promotion of the intangible and industrial heritage, with innovations and digitisation, by new illustrative means.”
He added that partnerships of particular importance include important cultural destinations such as Venice, Granada, Gothenburg and Paphos.
He said: “Sibiu (2007), the Guimaraes (2012) and Riga (2014), have already participated as successful European Capitals of Culture; Paphos has been selected for 2017 and Burgas is a candidate for 2019.”
The European Network of Cultural Tourism ECTN was founded in 2009 in Brussels and is the only pan-European network of destinations that actively connects culture and heritage tourism and sustainable development.
Participating in ECTN are tourism institutions and culture organisations from 15 EU member states, as well as three accession countries.
The ECTN also organises an annual cultural tourism conference, which in 2013 was held in Paphos. This year, the ninth cultural tourism conference will take place in Guimaraes in Portugal on “Intangible cultural heritage for sustainable and responsible tourism,” September 23-24.