Study tour to the Czech and Slovak Republics, April 16-23, 2017

The study tour was organized by NGO Machaon International and Local Action group (MAS) Straznicko for 4 community leaders and enterpreneurs from Ridder and Katon-Karagai district who.  were very active during project implementation period. We organised the tour in order to improve capacities of local leaders who are highly motivated to continew the activities outside the project timelime.

The programme of the study tour was intense: the participants had multiple opportunities to learn about:

·         Innovative approaches for sustainable rural tourism (SRT);

·         development and growth of micro and  small  businesses  involved  in ecotouism 

·         Development of public-private partnerships for SRT and for cooperative products and services;

·         Private accommodation and services for tourists based on cultural traditions;

·         Community-based cultural events and landscape improvement at the village level;

·         Programmes of support for local products such as handicrafts, local gastronomy, etc.

The programme of the study tour was arranged to include the visit to rural regions of Czech Moravia and  in Slovakia. The activities of MAS Straznicko (registered citizen action groups, analog of eco-tourism claster) presented during study-tour highly appreciated by tour participants as they showed examples of preservation of villages as living heritage sites and development of agro-eco-tourism by active community participation. 

 The interesting part for participants was the opportunity to explore local "community-based" tourism and to learn about how local residents and MAS buy out old and deterioriated buildings in order to convert them into hostels (old school), museums, caffee, community-places and small family hotels, to provide tourist services and to start small local businesses such as souvenir production, gastronomy, wine producing and testing, etc.

Special attention was paid to the development of eco-tourism infrastructure in remote villages, i.e. creation of system of visitor navigation and informing - maps, informational centres and stands, trails marking, publications.

Of great interest for the participants was the Czech experience with the organization of cultural events, festivals, crafts fairs and folklore programmes, which intricately link contemporary comforts for enjoyment of the public while helping to re-create and preserve forgotten traditional technologies, crafts and folk art.

Thanks to active and creative work of the manager of the MAS Straznicko V.Hrdousek (leading expert involved to study-tour organisation), the MAS  became the leading institution in rural tourism development of the entire Straznicko mikro-region and attracted many patrons and supporters from local self-governments, the public, EU financial mechanismes and the business sector. This co-operation is not just about sponsorship, but also about active involvement of different partners in events, competions and PR activities where the MAS leads various initiatives in local development based on the tourism potential of the Straznicko region.  

Special attention during the study-tour was given to the project of Machaon International Areas of Inspiration. The participants of the study-tour had a chance to learn more about cultural events (low-cost art-symposia and plain airs) and their positive influence to socio-cultural and economical development of rural settlements

All depends on people was the leading idea that resonated during the whole study tour. Participants were fascinated by the experience of the MAS Straznicko and Machaon International in the establishment of working relationships with different stakeholders for sustainable rural development (including tourism), organization of tours, festivals, art-simposiums and folklore programmes which  helping to re-create and preserve forgotten traditional technologies (i.e. in gardening), crafts and folk art as well as to reconstruct social life, business and leisure activities of our ancestors.  

The capacity and skills of 4 participants (2 male and 2 female)  to create cross-sector cooperation for agro-eco-tourism development, to develop innovative ethnographical and educational programmes, to support the revival of traditions  in the respective regions were enhanced.  The study-tour provided useful inspiration and transfer of know-how to Kazakhstan partners, in particular in the sphere of the public involvement in sustainable tourism development and organisation of events promoting tourism.