Outcomes of the Routes4U project in the Adriatic and Ionian region And Reflections and proposals for cultural tourism in a post-Covid19 context

On Wednesday 22 April 2020, the teleconference “Macro-regional strategies of the EU regarding the Adriatic & Ionian Region, Cultural Tourism and Regional Development: The Routes4U project, results & perspectives”, presented by the Cultural Foundation The Routes of the Olive Tree and its network, was held.

Its main purpose was to present the results achieved by the Foundation in the framework of the Routes4U project, a joint programme of the European Commission and the Council of Europe for the development of the European macro-regions defined in the Faro Convention, 2005.
The cultural itinerary of the Routes of the Olive Tree has been an actor of this project and was committed, with the help of the European Institute of Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, to contribute to cultural cooperation, territorial development and to stimulate a regional, transnational and international platform of actors around its main theme, the olive tree.

The greetings by Mr Stefano Dominioni, Ph.D. Executive Secretary, Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, Council of Europe Director, European Institute of Cultural Routes; Mr Edouard de Laubrie, President of the Cultural Foundation «Routes of the Olive Tree» and OTRoutes Network; Director, Agriculture and Nutrition Pole, Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM, France); Ms Vlasta Klarić, Ministry of Tourism of Croatia, Directorate for Strategic Planning, EU Programmes and International Cooperation | EUSAIR Facility Point, Thematic Expert, and Ms Marianthi Anastasiadou, Ministry of Culture and Sports of Greece and Head of the Department of International Relations, provided a rich overview of the Routes4U programme and its impacts on the Adriatic and Ionian region.

The core of the teleconference was on :

  • the presentation of the importance of cultural tourism with the intervention of Mr. George Assonitis, representative of the Union of Hellenic Chambers and the INSULEUR Network, member of the OTRoutes Network which dealt with the macro-regional strategies of the European Union in the Adriatic and Ionian region and the contribution of Cultural Tourism to regional development.
  • the presentation of the results obtained by The Routes of the Olive Tree Foundation in the framework of the Routes4U project with the intervention of Ms Vassiliki Dadavassili, member of the Routes4U working group at the Foundation and coordinator of the teleconference.
  • the presentation of the cooperation Foundation The Routes of the Olive Tree / ZRS Science and Research Centre of Koper, Slovenia with the intervention of Mrs Milena Bučar-Miklavčič, member of the Scientific Committee of the Routes of the Olive Tree and representative of the Honorary member of the OTRoutes Network “ZRS Science & Research Centre Koper / Head of the Laboratory / Institute for Olive Culture.
  • the detailed presentation of the results obtained in Croatia thanks to the cooperation between The Routes of the Olive Tree Foundation / DUNEA Agency / Dubrovnik Neretva County, Croatia with the intervention of Mrs Gorana Margaretić, Representative of Regional Development Agency DUNEA and Dubrovnik Neretva Country.

Following the presentation of the results, the conversation turned to the hottest topic of this spring’s news: the Covid-19 pandemic, which is having a brutal and profound impact on the cultural tourism sector.

Mr. Nikos Dimitriadis, CEO of Stratis Consulting and member of the OTRoutes network presented his vision of post-coronavirus tourism and the urgent measures to be implemented by cultural organizations.

Mrs Olga Mezeridou, Member of the Board of Directors of the Cultural Foundation The Routes of the Olive Tree, former Financial – Commercial Counselor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece joined him on this point by presenting the AGORA project, carried by The Routes of the Olive Tree Foundation and its network: an initiative to bring together communities far from each other and transform mentalities and nutritional habits around traditional Mediterranean cuisines.

Ms Georgia Zouni, University of Piraeus Ph.D in tourism Marketing, OpenTourism, Co Founder , presented an academic analysis of tourist behaviour during and after the pandemic, revealing some avenues to be exploited for the adaptation of cultural organisations to this situation.

To conclude on this subject, Mr Costas Economopoulos, Researcher at the University of Piraeus, Secretary General and founding member of the NGO “Third Third Society” and Member of the Cultural Foundation The Routes of the Olive Tree stressed that, in order to adapt to this crisis, Cultural Routes and other European cultural organisations urgently need clear instructions from the hierarchical institutions. The full cooperation of all sectors, particularly from the academic world, is required for an integrated management of the situation.

The final word was left to Mr Stefano Dominioni again, who spoke on the last points discussed, post-covid-19 cultural tourism. He stressed that the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe – although preparing for a major backlash – had all the cards in hand to be major stakeholders in this new tourism era, by positioning themselves in niches such as slow tourism or offers off the beaten track. A breath of hope for the players in cultural tourism!

Around forty people accompanied these speeches, including several Slovenian, Greek and Croatian journalists, in order to pass on information on the local scene.
We warmly thank them as well as all the speakers for their contribution to the success of the Teleconference.