Archive for Leonardo da Vinci Partnership Project

Rural Tourism Case Study from Bulgaria

Throughout our partnership project we held our meetings and stayed in a number of rural tourism accommodations. Each were examples of good practice in their own countries.  I came accross this example of a rural tourism accommodation from Bulgaria that our colleagues from BARET prepared for us during one of our meetings. I decided that it was worth sharing with you as an example of a typical small tourism enterprise from rural Bulgaria.

Guest House “Villa Alamurovi” is located in the village of Bov within the Western Balkan Range, some 51 km north of downtown Sofia – the biggest source of tourism demand and 10 km from the small town (and municipal center) of Svoge, on the shore of the Iskar River in the picturesque Iskar River Gorge.

The rich vegetation and biodiversity, nature reserves and parks and protected landmarks in the vicinity of the village, made the Iskar River Gorge a major attraction for all nature, sports and tourism followers. The proximity of the guest house by the river provides opportunities for practicing river fishing, but there are also many walking routes of varying difficulty. Villa Alamurovi is located just 1.5 km. away from the newly developed Vazov green trail.  It is located close to other tourist attractions including; the Seven Altars Monastery, Cherepish Monastery, Chemernik ecofarm, Skaklia waterfall and the Izdremetskite lakes to name a few.

Ownership and Registration
The guest house represents a typical case of family-run hotel because the staff consists of family members only, who posses the land. The area of about 4 ha is owned by Mr. Petko Alamurov since 1952, as it subsequently was inherited by his son Mr. Kiril Alamurov. With joint efforts family members built three-storey house which originally was not intended to be turned into a guest house. It was more recently when Mr. Georgi Alamurov Manager, came up with the idea of operating the facility as a small family guesthouse. Thanks to many satisfied customers service and atmosphere, today Villa Alamurovi attracts more and more visitors from different parts of the country and even from abroad. In this context, the object is registered in the municipality of Svoge in 2009 as a “guest house” and is currently still in the process of categorization and certification. This category of accommodation facilities is two stars according to categorization regulations in Bulgaria.

Villa Alamurovi is a guest house consisting of a three-storey building located in a yard area of 4 ha. The villa has 12 +1 beds, household furnished restaurant, barbecue, furnace and well equipped kitchen. The interior of the house and the yard arrangement are distinguished for its unique mixture of Bulgarian and Hungarian tradition. This symbiosis of cultural layers makes the overall look of the place even more exotic and interesting.
Currently available accommodation facilities satisfy the demand and the expectations of the visitors, but the in the future, additional lodging facilities and a swimming pool are planned.


Currently the guesthouse relies on its website of the guesthouse and on satisfied repeat guests who return again and share experiences with family/friends.  The return visitors are the best living advertisement for the quality of services and accommodation available.
Potential target groups for the guest house are: people looking for a short-term holiday, mostly residents of the capital Sofia, connoisseurs of brandy and wine tourists along with fishermen, cavers, people interested in trekking, or people who simply enjoy nature, and of course, admirers of good cuisine (Bulgarian and Hungarian).

Types of Tourism
The region favors the development of different types of tourism activities, primarily brandy and wine-tasting, rural, religious, speleological and off-road driving. Villa Alamurovi Guest House has a tradition in the production of white wine and various types of rakia, produced in accordance with Hungarian and Bulgarian traditional recipes. Production is now bottled and consumed by family members and friends of the manufacturer. Alcoholic drinks are not for sale to visitors because of a lack of license.

Tourists can practice a variety of activities such as fishing, hiking, and off-road driving with jeeps provided by the guest house manager. Visitors can buy fresh dairy products from the nearby ecofarm (blue cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yogurt) where visitors can see also the beautiful red deer. These dairy products can also be purchased at the guesthouse, not only at the ecofarm itself. Also located nearby is another farm which main activity is raspberry growing . All this, along with the unique “rakia” and “wine” tasting tourism make the site extremely attractive and highly competitive.

Competitive advantages

• Unique blend of Hungarian and Bulgarian folk style that gives a particular atmosphere and mood. This feature is not detectable only in visual contact with the place, but when tasting the authentic Hungarian goulash and fuller taste of brandy and white wine;
• Weak competition in the area – there are no similar facilities for accommodation;
• Proximity to the capital – which is the main source of tourism demand
• Close to the village of Iskrets – the place with the least number of foggy days in the country and the microclimate is suitable for the treatment of lung diseases.
• Close to many natural/cultural tourism attractions

The construction of the following facilities is planned for the future:
Outdoor swimming pool, Summerhouse, A smaller guest house for up to 6 people and provision of Internet access.

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Conclusion for Project Partners

We are currently discussing the acheivements of our Leonardo Partnership Project and looking to the future on a farm guesthouse in Katwoude, Netherlands.  It is interesting to receive feedback from our partners in respect of what they have acheived personally and as an organisation from our project.  We have achieved our primary stated project goals and everyone has benefited in many ways from being involved in EU cooperation project.

I have asked each of the partners to share their thoughts on what they have gained from the project here and I will update later with more concrete outcomes of this project. We are continuing now with our preparation for our dissemination event which has been planned for tomorrow.

Meeting was held on farm B&B in Katwoude, Netherlands

The burning question now is to identify a way forward for our network and how our rural tourism training network can support its members.  This is our main objective for our meeting tomorrow.

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Bavarian Hospitality

Project Partners meeting in Bavarian Guesthouse

Bavarian Hospitality at its Best

A week ago we experienced Bavarian hospitality at its best in guesthouse Zehmerhof where Ingrid and her family looked after our project meeting from the 6th to 8th April 2011.  We were treated to two beautiful days weather and our hosts organised lunch in the garden on both days which helped us all to concentrate on our project. 

Bavarian case study of rural tourism accommodation:

Our host Mrs Ingrid Eisenmann provided us with a presentation on how their 9 hectare family farm developed since 1973 in to a 25 room guesthouse & apartments today. Mrs Eisenmann married in to the family farm business in 1996 and came from a background of working in the financial sector.  The majority of employees are members of the farm family and Mr. Eisenmann farms a poultry unit with 8,000 chickens.  In 2003 they built the apartments for self-catering guest accommodation and to their dissappointment visitor numbers was low. 

In 2008, the local Therme was built near Erding which brought a new type of tourist to the area who required accommodation for shorter stays (the Therme is one of Europes largest water based spa facilities which caters for all the family).  The family then experienced an increase in demand for accommodation with breakfast and their self-catering apartments.  They upgraded and expanded their reception area to make their accommodation more comfortable for their guests.  In order to increase their guest numbers further they developed their website and began offering packages which included entrance tickets for the Therme.  Since then their business has taken off and they are happy with their income from the tourism enterprise.

I will not forget the friendliness of our host and the high standards of their accommodation & food.

Spring Sunshine in Bavaria

Partnership agrees that sunshine has helped project to progress!

Partnership Meeting:

Personally for me, this was perhaps one of the most enjoyable meetings of our project todate.  All the remaining tasks for our project have fallen in to place through the dedication and hard work of all the partners equally.  Our partners from Babes-Bolyai clarified that their accreditation has been officially approved and how they are preparing to deliver the course next autumn.

Dr. Anja Hensel-Lieberth from the State Leadership Academy for Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry provided an insightful presentation on how our project syllabus has been adapted for delivery on a pilot basis.  This course will be presented to a working group who have been working on Europes first Certificate for European Consultants in Rural Areas (CECRA).

This was followed by a presentation by Mr. Wein a colleague of Dr. Hensel-Lieberth and also a senior member of the International Academy of Rural Advisors (IALB) who have been instrumental in developing CECRA.  He clearly highlighted the main objective of CECRA as being the development of a standardised training for agriculture advisors and related stakeholders throughout Europe. 

Our project partners received these presentations enthusiastically and we are going to explore opportunities for the implementation of our train the trainer programme in rural entrepreneurship through CECRA and IALB.  In addition, we are organising a meeting to bring together a number of key European stakeholders in the fields of rural tourism / entrepreneurship, certification and agriculture advisory to a meeting on the 27th May 2011 in the Netherlands. 

We  have developed a worthwhile training programme and are interested in hearing from organisations that we can collaborate with in the future.  I will add more details about our plans in the coming days and we welcome your feedback.

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Dutch Rural Tourism Expert Meeting

On the 19th of January 2011, a number of our project partners and RTITN members attended a meeting of Dutch rural tourism experts held in Hogeschool Van Hall Larenstein, Velp, Netherlands.  The meeting was organised by the European Centre for Eco Agro Tourism (ECEAT).

Dutch tourism discussions on future cooperation

The meeting was organised following research which was published by Kenniscentrum Recreatie indicating that a number of improvements could be possible in the rural tourism sector in the Netherlands.  The first half of the day included presentations from Francesco Fratto, Agriturist in Italy on their Italian case study, Dr. Paula Weinberger, Bavarian State Research Center of Agriculture on the organisation of rural tourism training in Bavaria, John Toland, Cavan-Monaghan LEADER regarding this Leonardo project and a some other Dutch presentations.  As a guest at this meeting, I was quite surprised by how the rural tourism sector operates in the Netherlands.  There is little cooperation between the various interest groups who each operate their own groups through self-regulation and with no nationally agreed standards.

The day was chaired by Ellen Kok from the Taskforce Multifunctional Agriculture.  The main issues were addressed in by the meeting participants in the afternoon included, Dutch Rural Tourism: entrepreneurship, hospitality, product, quality and marketing. What are the developments in the Netherlands and what does it mean for the education sector? 

Dutch rural tourism expert meeting

Participants consider content of presentations

The afternoon workshop included discussions on the potential for greater cooperation among the various sectors representing rural tourism in the Netherlands.  Those present represented the education sector, private schools, farming representative bodies, tourism marketing groups, camping organisations, nature conservation and the eco-tourism sector.  At the end of the day, this diverse group of participants agreed to future cooperation on a number of issues, mainly related to training and quaility standards for rural tourism

In the Netherlands there are many organisations involved in the rural tourism sector.  All agreed that there is a need for the establishment of an umbrella body to pull together all the rural tourism interest groups and work towards a common strategy.  The meeting concluded by agreeing to examine the potential for seeking further EU assistance towards developing a cooperation project through RTITN and/or some of its member organisations.  If you would like to know more please contact Carolien van der Laan in ECEAT.

For me this was a positive meeting and provided opportunities for the development of new contacts within rural tourism in the Netherlands. Thanks to ECEAT for organising the meeting and good luck with your next steps in developing the sector.

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Focusing on the future of our project:

There is nothing better to focus the mind more than an imminent presentation to a room full of tourism experts tomorrow in the Netherlands.  I have my presentation prepared and I am looking forward to sharing our network and project work with the participants of the meeting tomorrow in Van Hall Larenstein – University of Applied Sciences.

This opportunity has arisen as our project partner; Europees Centrum voor Eco en Agro Toerisme Nederland (ECEAT) has been proactive is seeking to develop a common approach to rural tourism training within the Netherlands. 

De Barendonk estate near Beers

Project partners experience the best of rural tourism in the Netherlands

Our last Leonardo partnership project meeting was held in early December 2010 and I am glad to report that our project has acheived another milestone.  Our Romanian partners confirmed that our ‘train the trainers’ programme has been their national accreditation body.  This is the third country in the EU which has accreditated our training programme which has been jointly developed by all the partners in accordance with the European Qualifications Framework. 

The Romanian partners from the Centre for Tourism Training, Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj have taken the process a whole step further.  They have used the common sylabus we have agreed upon within the project and developed the module for implementation in the Romanian language this year.  This is beyond the expectations of what we aimed to acheive and is testament to the commitment of all partners who have worked on this project.

We have been fortunate to work with partners who understand the ethos of rural tourism and the importance of highlighting examples of best practice in this sector.  At each of our project meetings we experienced excellent standards of service, food and hospitality within the rural tourism facilities that we stayed.  This was particularly evident at our last meeting “Landgoed de Barendonk” farm where we well looked after by our host Elisabeth Hermanussen and her family.

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