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Cultural Routes and Tourism
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Cultural Routes

What is a Cultural Route?Click to read  

The Council of Europe officially defines a Cultural Route as: “A cultural, educational heritage and tourism cooperation project, aiming at the development and promotion of an itinerary or a series of itineraries based on a historic route, a cultural concept, figure of phenomenon with a transnational importance and significance for the understanding and respect of common European values. From this definition, a Cultural Route is to be understood not in the restricted sense of physical pathways. “Cultural Route” is used in a more conceptual and general sense, expressing a network of sites or geographical areas sharing a theme (CM/Res (2013)66)”.
According to the above definition, a Cultural Route is a cooperation project that refers to a specific theme/concept and connects different sites and areas. The European Cultural Routes, in particular, are characterized by the respect for the common European values, and they should be developed in more than one European country, following a certification process.

How to initiate a Cultural RouteClick to read  

The first steps for the creation of a cultural route include the determination of the route's theme, the involved partners and stakeholders as well as the legal status of their cooperation and the identification of the route's title.
Some issues that should be determined from the beginning, are: the points of interest that will be connected by the route, the form of their connection, i.e. asphalted roads or not, railway network, etc. Visitors' transportation is an important issue and the sufficient signage along the route significantly facilitates it.
        • The title should be short and easy to read.
        • The theme of a cultural route must be widely recognized by the audience. It could refer to history, culture, environment, religion or arts.
        • A suitable legal setup is important to establish a structure that will be coordinating the promotion, implementation and management of the route. This setup can have the form of an Association or Foundation or other similar types operating on a non-profit basis, or could be a company.
        • Partners or stakeholders can be private or public entities such as local communities, regional and municipal authorities, local development agencies, regional/local tourism organizations, transport and rural/urban development departments.
        • The points of interest could include cultural or environmental heritage, local typical products, cultural events. The points of interest can be connected through trails, unpaved rural roads, etc. The transportation along the route could be accomplished by cycling and/or mountain biking, riding, and other means.
        • The signage (traditional sign posts, display boards, etc.) that will be present at various points along the route should be eco-friendly and inform about the points of interest and the provided services.
Services to the visitorsClick to read  

The offered services along the route can be linked to tourism and local economy as well as route's identity and certification. It is equally important to provide information on the navigation of the route and the points of interest along it.
Tourism services include accommodation, food, entertainment, rental of transportation means, souvenir shops, etc.
Information about the route and what happens on it, such as cultural events, conferences, trade shows etc., can be provided through stands, websites, travel guides, information points, social media, and other promotion means.
Along the route, it is important for the visitor to find sale points of local products in which local producers will participate. These products could potentially be regional flags or brands.
The route should be fully accessible, designed to provide access to visitors even people with reduced mobility or other special needs.
The certification of the route will give visitors an additional motivation to visit it and buy the products sold along it.

Action planClick to read  

        • Planning of actions and outputs
Each action should be defined in such a way that the associated results are coherent with a financial, strategic, marketing, sustainability plan.
The actions and the action outputs have to be measurable. It is also important to design actions in such a way to avoid or minimize possible conflicts or interferences between two or more actions, thus affecting the involved partners or stakeholders.
On the contrary, functional- and time-integration among actions may contribute to an efficient use of human, financial and other available resources.
        • Identification of the action stakeholders
Stakeholders are important during both the preparation of the plan and in securing a permanent joint cooperation to ensure sustainability of the planned actions. It is therefore important to confirm route's suitable key-stakeholders, assess their interests and outline their participation strategy.
        • Cost and other resource estimate
It is necessary to identify and estimate the level of resources, human, financial and other material ones such as equipment, consumables etc., necessary for the implementation of every action. The plan shall also attempt at identifying the source, timing of procurement/allocation and other relevant modalities.
        • Priority setting and timing
The use of a logical process-approach in establishing the order by which the defined actions will follow during the plan execution can be very convenient.
It is important to establish the duration of each action. When required, the involvement of partners or other stakeholders should be included. This increases the level of commitment and sense of responsibility in their participation.

ImplementationClick to read  

The implementation of a cultural route includes securing of financial resources, i.e. financial procurement, stakeholder involvement and action execution.
        • Financial procurement
A financial budget should include the cost of labour and materials to start up but, mainly, to maintain the route. Income could come from membership fees, sponsorships, donations, publications, crowdfunding, international, national or local programs etc. Membership fees create a sense of commitment.
        • Stakeholders' involvement
It is of significant importance to identify stakeholders and involve them during the whole period of planning the cultural route - from the formulation to the implementation and management.
        • Action execution
When executing the planned actions, attention should be drawn to the interaction management, that is to facilitate interdependencies between actions' processes. This can be achieved, for instance, by holding meetings with the responsible persons of the various actions, resolving conflicts of their responsibility as early as possible, measuring cross-performance and carrying out action evaluations at specific intervals or whenever needed.
ManagementClick to read  

The individuals that will participate in the operation of the cultural route should receive special training in learning foreign languages, in the provision of services and in the sale of products related to the route.
Meetings, workshops and other activities should be held at regular intervals to address issues such as ensuring that resources are allocated and used effectively, justifying funding, providing an argument for future funding, and generating evidence that will help inform the development of future activities. Moreover, such actions ensure the results achieved, stakeholders' awareness and participation and the evaluation of project achievements.
Monitoring of the achievement of the route's objectives can be applied through actions such as interim or annual reports, follow-up of previous reviews, requests from new partners/stakeholders to join the route organization, quality measurements, comments etc.


MarketingClick to read  

        • Cooperation and networking in promotion actions
The route implementation can offer new business opportunities. Therefore it can generate a potential for increased product sales and improvement of the local products.
The cooperation and networking enable the route's partners to take advantage of their complementarities and benefit from their similarities.
        • Means of promotion
The promotion of a cultural route can be achieved through specific means such as:
- Branding of route's theme;
- Thematic website;
- Virtual interactive tourist guides;
- Augmented Reality (AR) applications related to the points of interest;
- Promotional events;
- Brochures, maps etc.

Types of alternative tourism related to a cultural routeClick to read  

Trekking tourism

Trekking is a trip on the trails of relatively unspoiled natural areas with the purpose of exploring and enjoying nature.
It can be included in the adventure tourism, ecotourism, cultural tourism, or can be a combination of all three.
Trekking is often implemented without prior booking accommodation, meals and transportation.
In classical trekking one must use specialized facilities, equipment and apparel (camping tents, portable toilet, trek shoes, etc).
Diet and food selection are important and one needs to have prepared adequate supply of potable water.
The travel agencies can provide appropriate tour guiding services. The guides can receive suitable training by the management authority of the area.
Pilgrimage tourism 
Pilgrimage tourism is the type of tourism that motivates tourists for religious attitude and practices.
However, preferences for destination selection are related to the improvement in basic services. Namely, reception upon arrival, reservation procedures, front office staff, room and personal hygiene, food services, are some of the critical elements of improving the quality of accommodation services.
Moreover, it is strongly recommended that the transport network highlighting on the connectivity, operation, regularity and reasonable fare should be improved, especially during the festive occasions. The transport tariff should be reasonable to the pilgrims as the majority of them are tourists of budget category.
Last, but not least, improvements should be applied to roads, parking areas, traffic and health services.