Key function of the universities in the development of strategic Barents Tourism Development Action Plan

Key function of the universities in the development of strategic Barents Tourism Development Action Plan
11.05.2012

On April 24–26, Murmansk hosted the international working seminar related to “BART: Public-Private Partnership in Barents Tourism” – a project being implemented within the framework of EU Kolarctic ENPI CBC Programme. The venues for the seminar were Murmansk State Humanities University and the world's first atomic icebreaker “Lenin”.

The seminar was participated by all members of the project partnership consortium from Finland, Sweden, Norway and North-West Russia – educational institutions, regional authorities in charge of tourism development and members of BEAR Joint Working Group on Tourism. NArFU was represented at the seminar by S.V. Koptev, project lead specialist and associate professor of Forest Inventory Department at Timber Engineering Institute, and project coordinators from Department of International Cooperation.

The Murmansk meeting mainly focused on the presentation and comparative analysis of the social research, carried out in all the partner regions, into the tourism market players' needs and expectations of tourism development in the Barents Region. The research was participated by more than 60 companies and organizations in project member-countries – tour operators, travel agencies, hoteliers, catering businesses and regional tourist associations. The benchmarking of the outcomes enabled to identify the protects of the BEAR tourism development and the common challenges the tourism industry is facing. Among the challenges discussed are the underdeveloped tools and mechanisms of governmental regulation and public-private partnership (PPP), weak infrastructure, scarce investments, the need in tourist products promotion, hesitant reaction on the part of educational system to the demand in specialists, low service quality and poor availability of informational resources.

Among the scheduled seminar activities was an analytical session where the participating experts have come up with the list of measures designed to foster mechanisms of tourism-oriented cooperation between authorities, universities and businesses. The peer review groups have identified five core areas requiring improvement through such partnership relations: education and personnel training, infrastructure, new tourist products development, information exchange and brand promotion. All the suggestions generated during the session will be covered in the Barents Tourism Development Action Plan, a document to be developed as an outcome of BART project.

The importance of the Action Plan can further be supported by the fact that tourism industry, given its status of an independent sector, can largely enhance gross domestic products of the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Russian regions. Another fact that adds to the importance of the tourism industry is that the added value it creates is based on the innovative applications of the cultural and natural heritage that, in turn, keeps harmless nonrenewable resources, on the application of cutting-edge info and marketing technologies and on the development of human potential. The benefits that northern rural areas in the participating countries can acquire through promotion of ecological, rural and ethnic tourism include improved competitiveness and better employment. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that tourism industry can be efficiently developed only if supported by public-private partnerships. All these conditions and priorities explain the motivation and participation of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk governmental authorities in BART project. The core input to the project will be contributed by universities that are regarded as the structures able to efficiently ensure intellectual support and mediate the public-private partnership system.

The outcomes of the social research will be published in the annual collection of scientific papers of Lapland Institute for Tourism Research and Education. The strategic Action Plan to be developed by the partners will be presented at the meeting of BEAR Joint Working Group on Tourism, at tourism-related workshops in Sweden and Norway and at the international tourism development seminar to be arranged by NArFU in autumn 2012. To provide the project second phase – BART-2: MICE Tourism – with necessary resources, the partners have applied for the participation in the fifth call of Kolarctic ENPI CBC programme. In addition to the educational institutions, the second phase involves an active participation of tourism businesses operating in the Barents Region.

S.V. Koptev, associate prof., Forest Inventory Department, Timber Engineering Institute

A.O. Podoplekin, Head of International Cooperation Department

L.A. Zarubina, Head of International Projects Unit

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This project is co-funded by EU within the ENPI CBC Kolarctic Programme

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