Tuesday, September 11, 2012

«Eco-efficient tourism» project develops tourist sites along the Blue Highway

«Eco-efficient tourism» project is being implemented in the framework of the Karelia ENPI CBC Programme. It is aimed at making Euregio Karelia more attractive for tourists through gradual leveling of the quality of services provided to tourists on the two sides of the border. That also includes introduction of eco-efficient technologies for management of recreational areas and improving the quality of services offered in active tourism destinations in Republic of Karelia (Lake Ladoga and Syamozero areas) in co-operation with adjacent Finnish areas. The project will contribute to making pilot areas more comfortable, safe, environmentally friendly and known for these features. It will also significantly improve cross-border tourism transboundary practices and regional development co-operation. The partner consortium headed by non-profit partnership «Centre for Problems of the North, Arctic and Cross-border Cooperation» unites a number of partners. The Russian partners are Karelian Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Energy Efficiency Centre, Petrozavodsk Municipal Utility College, Pryazha and Sortavala Municipal District Administrations. The Finnish partners are represented by Ecofoster Group Oy, Finnish Environment Institute (Joensuu office), Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for North Karelia, Metsähallitus (Natural Heritage Services, South Finland/North Karelia), Ilomantsi Municipality and an associate partner - Karelia Expert.

Seminar «Strategies and best practices for sustainable/ green development of cities and regions» that was held in Petrozavodsk on June 13-15, 2012 officially launched the Project: the first half of June 13 was given to the working kick-off meeting, where plans for the project implementation were discussed.

Pryazha and Sortavala Municipal Districts became a place for an «Eco-efficient tourism» project expedition that took place on July, 16–17th, 2012. The main goal of an expedition was to explore the area and find most suitable places for the introduction of eco-efficient technologies for recreational area management and the improvement of quality of services offered in active tourism destinations in the Republic of Karelia.

The expedition was specifically aimed at gathering information about the situation in the districts for further selection of pilot areas, that will be facilitated as long-stay recreation areas on the shores of Ladoga and Syamozero lakes and short-stay (from a few minutes to a few hours) stopover sites along the "Blue Highway" route.

The expert team visited more than 20 potential places. In several weeks the experts will choose several pilot areas for further development according to data dealing with issues of property, land acquisition, accessibility, recreational appeal, their popularity among tourists, amount of investments needed, etc. Later, special management models for maintenance of the installed equipment will be elaborated. They will consider interests of local people and tourists, envisage joint responsibility of local administration and businessmen for waste disposal, energy and water supply of chosen territories.

According to the Leader of the Project, the director of „North-Centre“ Igor Shevchuk, in spite of the fact that the Project envisages facilitation of only 2 long-stay areas and several short-stay stopovers, the infrastructure development itself as well as comfort improvement and favorable atmosphere for people has a great significance. It has a certain influence on creating positive image of the Republic of Karelia in tourists' minds and on destination options for tourists. Local people will get more comfortable and sustainable environment in recreation areas, get rid of dumps in these areas, have new opportunities for the development of small business.

The development of caravanning can be considered as one of the most prospective tourism spheres. Nowadays it is one of the most popular kinds of auto tourism in Europe and the US. According to World Tourism Organization, caravanning amounts to 17% of all tourists. According to the representative of „KarelCaravanService“ Konstantin Ekhov, who took part in the expedition, auto tourism in Russia is underdeveloped not only because of rough roads, but also because of the absence of well equipped sites and roadside infrastructure. Though the Project doesn't envisage this scale of investments, the plans for facilitation of chosen areas will provide the opportunities for creation of caravan parking sites and adequate infrastructure. The fact that the Project attracts the attention of potential investors to the issue of caravanning development is a positive factor.

The participants of the Project have a positive perception of the Project's perspectives and believe that the implementation of planned activities and events will make Karelia more attractive for tourists and will contribute to the creation of favorable and comfortable life for local people.

Elena Cherniakevich, project manager

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