“Cultural heritage is considered a driver for a more sustainable and enriched tourism experience,” said Paulo Bota, Chair of the Tourism & Cultural Heritage Sector Group, during a visit to Malta for the official spring meeting of the Group for 2018. The Group was hosted by the Malta Business Bureau (MBB), which forms part of the Tourism & Cultural Heritage Sector Group within the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) network.
“Cultural tourism is an important subject matter for our Group – particularly during the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage. When hosting us, MBB organised a very timely best practice visit to meet with the Valletta 2018 Foundation where collaboration opportunities were discussed. Throughout the visit in Malta, we were presented with a number of local case studies, which served as inspirational motives for the Group’s work. We discussed a number of current cultural heritage opportunities under the Horizon 2020 funding as well as innovative ways through which we can strike more international partnership agreements for the local tourism SMEs in our respective countries. We will now be increasing our efforts to pool and match our client resource (“buyers” and “suppliers” more precisely through the incoming company missions that the Group organises,” Mr Bota said.
“The European Commission is strengthening its focus on Cultural Heritage through the COSME programme. As a result, several transnational tourism products and routes are being funded, based on tangible and intangible European cultural assets. During the group meeting, MBB invited a Maltese start-up company to present an innovative service model which has been set up to manage private collections and local heritage that is privately owned. It was made clear just what an important role digitalisation plays in this industry at a global level, particularly with regards to supporting the internationalisation of services and also being able to follow developing trends in this field,” added Mr Bota. “The Sector Group will be helping businesses in the tourism sector find the best international tech-solutions to improve their digital environment and services, thanks to the network’s partnering services and close cooperation with ICT experts.”
During the two-day meeting, a wide variety of topics were discussed. “We are a team of 26 active members in the sector group coming from different parts of Europe. Sharing our individual experiences and having the opportunity to learn from other Sectors Groups such as ICT and Retail, as we did during our meeting, enriches our meetings as we tend to find new innovative ways to bring value to our clients. EU Funding Opportunities and the latest news from the European Commission are always on the top of the agenda during our meetings. However, this time we also had the pleasure of interacting with some local guests which were invited to our meeting. It was interesting to learn about various project initiatives of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) aimed at increasing tourism awareness to different age groups, as well as the MTA’s initiative which is currently highlighting the many career opportunities in this sector”, said Sandra Festin, International Business Advisor at the EEN.
With 2018 also being the official EU-China Tourism Year, members of the Group discussed the prospects for tourism between Europe and China. “We can say that Chinese tourism is just starting to discover Europe’s beauty, as numbers have shown a strong increase in international arrivals over the past years,” Mr Bota said. “Some European destinations are taking the lead on this move through innovative market approaches and sound preparation of local tourism facilities aimed at receiving Chinese tourists. For instance, many are now using the “Welcome Chinese Certification” scheme -the new hospitality Standard specifically dedicated for Chinese travellers. In several seminars and webinars of the Tourism Year agenda, experts have argued that Chinese tourism is now moving from group and family tours in the biggest European cities (albeit still a main trend) towards more independent and niche travel, including cultural and lifestyle tourism.”
“Prospects for tourism between China and the EU are considerable,” Ms Festin added. “The Chinese economy is growing, and larger sectors of the population have the possibility of international travel. The EU and China are also making progress on visa facilitation. In general, I think we have a good understanding of what Chinese travellers wish to experience when visiting Europe. However, I think we can improve our understanding by analysing deeper Chinese traveller digital behaviour such as bookings, social media, payment methods etc. in order to be able to market the European destination better. The EU-China tourism year is a great opportunity to promote Europe as a destination as well as it is a good way to increase the understanding between Europe and China.”
“For the work of our sector group to thrive, it is imperative to strengthen the collaboration amongst other sector groups within the network,” said Ana Vella, EEN Co-ordinator for the Malta Business Bureau. “In fact, just this March we have kick-started two very promising agreements with the EEN Retail and ICT Sector Groups - the outcomes of which will pave the road to new opportunities for us to strengthen our services for our SME clients. It is exciting to see just how these fresh activities will unfold throughout the year – particularly in light of the new horizons we shall explore together with our new counterparts.
“A new development for our Group is that over this year we will map out various tourism clusters which exist but are not being supported as they should. Giving these very specific and non-traditional niche areas of tourism a voice in each member country is one of our main objectives together with bringing our tourism SMEs to the forefront of EU – China cooperation platforms,” she concluded.
To find out how the Tourism & Cultural Heritage Sector can support you please contact Ana Vella, EEN Co-ordinator for the Malta Business Bureau on T: +356 2125 1719 or E: [email protected]