Posts Tagged Rural Tourism,

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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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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Accreditation of VET in Bulgaria

At our last project meeting in Bulgaria there was a sense of acheivement from all our project partners.  This sense of acheivement is the result of the efforts of all the partners collectively over the last year.  The partners are now comfortable with each other and feel confident of their roles within the project.

Our project partners BARET organised for Mr. Nikolov from NAVET National Agency for Vocational and Education Training to come along and speak to us about their role in accreditation of training in Bulgaria.  He explained how BARET is licensed by NAVET to deliver VET training and that our ‘train the trainer’ was viewed as a module within the field of Rural Tourism.  A Rural Tourism training programme in Bulgaria would encompass 900 hours of training and our proposed module would encompass about 100 hours of training.  The accreditation was granted in the form of a letter from NAVET to BARET.

We were intrigued to learn that Bulgaria does not have a credit system in place and at a national level they are working with colleagues in France to develop a credit system.  Mr. Nikolov was accommodating of all the questions which were asked by our project partners and was enthusiastic about the work undertaken as part of our project. 

Our meeting continued with a workshop which was jointly facilitated by partners from Romania & Ireland.  Whilst we had touched on this important subject during other meetings, this was the first time where we reached a consensus of the content of the ‘Train the Trainer’ in Rural Entreprenuership syllabus. 

We finished our meeting with a tour of some wonderful walking trails which have been developed by our host BARET and we learned a few lessons about European Integration Bulgarian style!

Bulgarian approach to EU Integration

Why carry four tools when one will do!

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Train the Trainer in Rural Entrepreneurship Launched

Professor O' Cathain acknowledges support of Leonardo & contribution of all project partners

Train the Train in rural entrepreneurship is launched

The ‘Train the Trainer’ module in rural entrepreneurship was launched in Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), Ireland on the 27th May 2010.  At an international gathering of the Rural Tourism International Training Network the module was launched by the President of Athlone Institute of Technology, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin.

This training module is unique in a number of different ways, mostly because the team that developed the module are from various organisational backgrounds and countries.  This team of academics and rural development agencies have worked together to improve the standard of training available in rural areas for enterprise development beyond the remit their normal daily duties.  It was also unique to have the experience of defending this training module in front of an academic council in Athlone Institute of Technology.  This was done in the spirit of partnership and as a team which worked well together. 

This accredited ‘train the trainer’ rural entrepreneurship module will provide a vocational education training which will embody the competences of rural entrepreneurship and establishes clear guidelines on the competences of an effective rural entrepreneur trainer.  We will continue to seek accreditation in the remaining partner countries and will endeavour to raise awareness about this course as tool for rural development accross the EU and beyond.

AIT highlights support for the Train the Trainer in rural entrepreneurship module

Project Partnership acheives accreditation for training module

Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin complimented the work of the partnership and highlighted the core thinking behind this module by saying that; ‘At the heart of this Train the Trainer module is recognition of the needs of rural entrepreneurs for short, focused training programmes to develop the knowledge, capabilities and skills of their staff. By equipping rural entrepreneurs to offer training to their own local communities it invokes a powerful model of peer-to-peer learning. Such an approach is cognisant of the learning which people do everyday in their jobs and builds on that experiential process.’

We are interested in attracting further interest from potential partners whom may wish to have this course delivered in their area.  Initially we hope that this training may prove to be attractive to LEADER companies.  We will add some case study examples of how rural entrepreneurs in Ireland and Quebec, Canada have benefited from pilot versions of this programme todate.

International RTITN member from Quebec, Canada delighted with module launch

At the launch, the speakers included John Toland and Mary Mullen from Cavan-Monaghan LEADER and Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin from AIT.  All speakers acknowledged the valuable support of the Leonardo Da Vinci Programme in this project.

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Invitation to Launch of Train the Trainer

Our plans have come together for the launch our ‘Train the Trainer’ (Rural Entrepreneurship) programme in Athlone on Thursday 27th May at 15.00 hours.  We have colleagues from a number of tourism organisations and training institutions from eight European countries and Canada coming to the launch and other related events.  We have invited Ambassadors from each of the countries, Fáilte Ireland, Leargas and Government to our launch.

We are excited about this launch as it is a cumulation of work that has been ongoing for the last two to three years.  Within the context of our current Leonardo project this is an important milestone and we are working towards accreditation in a further three EU countries.  This module is ideally targeted at either 1. rural entrepreneurs who wish to offer training to their wider local communities in the skills of rural tourism/entrepreneurship or 2. trainers who currently operate in the public/private sector to become proficient in training adults in rural areas.

As a network of organisations from a wider variation of bodies internationally we are focussed on developing training to meet the needs of communities specifically within the rural tourism sector.  During our planned meeting we will also be endeavouring to develop initial plans for new projects.  Some ideas include online learning, training for ecotourism and accreditation of training modules which be delivered by our trainers.  With this in mind, we are interested in welcoming new members who wish to become in developing these ideas in to projects for the future.

Since this programme of events is happening in Ireland, we welcome anyone who is involved in delivery of tourism related training or involved in delivery of the LEADER Rural Development Programme to come along to our launch.  Equally you may be interested in attending our training workshop, which will be delivered by trainers from Bulgaria, Ireland and Romania on the morning of the 27th May.

If interested in attending, it is essential that you email John Toland from Cavan-Monaghan LEADER immediately. There are limited places left for the workshop.

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Project Partners second meeting in Romania

The second meeting of the PART-RTi Leonardo Partnership Project was held on the 10th and 11th of December 2009 in rural Translyvania, Romania.  Our meeting was held in the beautiful rural location of Sâncraiu (Kalotaszentkirály) village, approximately 50 kilometres West of the Cluj-Napoca city.  We were well looked after by our host Mr. István Vincze-Kecskés who offered us excellent hospitality in the village. 

During the festive holiday period time is devoted to family and other activites are forgotten for a few weeks and that included this blog!  It is the begining of a new decade and within our project partnership we are fast approaching our next project meeting in Bavaria.  So the time has come to update this blog and I am delighted to report that our 2nd meeting was a success.  Collectively all of our project partners have become familiar with the project objectives and are working towards our agreed goals.

Rural Tourism Partners meet in Translyvania, Romania

Partners discussing national accreditation systems in Europe

Whilst this was our second meeting we were still getting to know each other and were clarifying the project objectives.  It is a priviledge to have the opportuity to work with a diverse group of professionals from accross Europe in the field of rural tourism.  At each meeting there are always new challenges and it is not easy to come to an agreement on certain tasks.  These challenges are presented in the form of communication difficulties through the language of our project which is English.  Those of us for whom English is our first language have to keep reminding ourselves to slow down and ensure our points are being understood.  There are always a few new faces at each meeting and this presents another challenge in trying to maintain the focus of the project on track.

During the meeting, we gained knowledge from each other on how the accreditation systems of each of the partner country operates.  There are many similarities and some obstacles to overcome, but we all agreed that we would work as a team towards the development of a common syllabi.  Our aim is to have our rural tourism ‘train the trainer’ programme acheiving national accreditation standard in each of the partner countries. 

The main priority for the partners for the next meeting is to reach a consensus on the Irish accreditation template which has been led by Kevin McLoughlin from Athlone Institute of Technology.  In addition, we will be agreeing the timeframe for accreditation delivery in each of the partner countries over the coming year and half of our project.

2nd Meeting Group Picture of Partners in Romania

Project Partner Countries include Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and Romania

We are now at the stage where we will be inviting national and international silent partners to participate in our project.  We are seeking further guidance from international experts and wish to raise awareness about our project among those involved in Vocational Education Training and organisations who promote high standards in tourism training.  We will be sending out emails over the coming weeks, but if you have an interest in our work please post a comment here.

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Project partners first meeting in Ireland

On the 1st of October our Leonardo Partnership project got underway with the first of a two day meeting, held in a local rural tourism visitor attraction; Bear Essentials in County Cavan.  One of our main objectives initially was to become familiar with the partners, organisations and with the project which will we deliver over the next two years.

First meeting of Leonardo Partnership Project

First meeting of Leonardo Partnership Project

Within our partnership project we have a diverse group of partners which represent training institutions, agricultural colleges, ecotourism, rural development and the guesthouse accommodation sector.  The common objectives of the partnership is the development of a sustainable rural tourism sector across the EU and in particular the countries which we represent including; Bulgaria, Germany, Netherlands, Romania and Ireland.  We all have a commitment to achieve this through the accreditation of our Rural Tourism International – Train the Trainers programme.

Following our initial introductions, Anke Morgonroth the proprietor of Bear Essentials and a rural tourism trainer delivered a short workshop which helped us to focus on the competencies of a rural tourism trainer and a rural tourism entrepreneur.  This was a worthwhile activity which was engaging, creative and provided some insight in to andragogy.

Kevin McLoughlin introduces partners to Irish accreditation system

Kevin McLoughlin introduces partners to Irish accreditation system

This was followed by a presentation by Kevin McLoughlin from Athlone Institute of Technology on the National Qualifications Framework in Ireland, the European Credit Transfer System, Recognition of Prior Learning and the assessment system.  This created a high level of discussion among the partners as we started to prepare the ground work for our project. 

The second day of our meeting was held in a rural guesthouse based in County Monaghan where we continued with our meeting agenda.  I was happy at the end of our meeting as each of the partners had clarified their roles within the project and we all agreed that we must support each other through regular communication to ensure the success of our project.

Partners delighted to have project support from Polar bear as a 'silent partner' ???

Partners delighted to have project support from 'Knut' the polar bear as our first 'silent partner'

This is the first step in achieving our project aims, objectives and building a strong project team. Watch this space for further updates and opportunities for ‘silent partners’ to become involved in our project and we are looking forward to our next meeting planned for early December.

We would like to here comments from RTITN members or any other individual involved in the rural tourism sector.

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