The building blocks for a high-impact tourism experience and a flourishing destination do not all lie within one, delineated sector. Culture, heritage, nature, residents, entrepreneurs; everything is connected. People, organisations, events and places have an impact.
Tourism centres on hospitality and that is something between people. Whether a visitor feels welcome does not depend on just the entrepreneurs or policy makers. It lies in the hands of everyone who encounters a tourist, from the quality of the meeting itself to the power of the place.
“They are special words. They say something about the happiness of people who feel appreciated and welcome. And something about the joy that hospitality offers to the host. That illustrates the essence of how rewarding it is to work in the tourism sector. What could be better than that?”
Hilde De Laet, Hidrodoe
“It all starts with asking the right questions”, says Jan Rotmans. “And it's really useful to have free-thinkers and fresh-eyes on board too. Of course you have to work with the people in the tourism business in order to come up with future visions, but that’s not enough. You must also invite people from outside, people who operate in different fields and sectors. These fresh-eyes and free-thinkers will open a whole range of topics up for discussions. Anything that seems obvious must be discussed. You must look in from outside rather than the other way around. You must see what’s going on in the world. Otherwise, you’ll just come up with standard questions and ordinary solutions and won't get anywhere.” Where is it happening already?
Collaborating to safeguard nature …
“The Hoge Kempen National Park is a unique nature reserve covering over 5,700 hectares of heath land and forests in the Regional Landscape of Kempen and Maasland, where many partners, each in their own workspace, would like to achieve the very best results. As a result of collaboration and co-ownership, the National Park has become a success for nature, tourism, heritage, spatial development and science. In order to realise this, there is collaboration with a range of partners, including nine local councils, the provincial board, agencies and services provided by the Flemish government (infrastructure works for creation of wildlife corridors and the management of forestry and heath land, tourism, ….), tourism services, nature and environmental associations, hospitality businesses and residents (including voluntary site management and rangers). The area has thus expanded to become a flourishing place that is much more than the sum of its parts. Tourism is the result of investments in the quality of an area.”
Johan Van Den Bosch, Regional Landschape of Kempen and Maasland
If we see the destination from a broader perspective, rather than just in terms of the actors that earn money from it, we will gain additional benefits. This approach encompasses the community which facilitates the activities that take place.
— Marianne Schapmans, Network Everyone Deserves a Holiday
… and open up unique sites for the neighbourhood
“The Abbey Neighbours is a great example of citizen participation. In 2007, some of the neighbours in the Machariuswijk in Ghent put their heads together to talk about the St Bavo’s Abbey. It is an intriguing site with a stunning garden in the centre of the city that, at that moment, had been closed to the public for five years. The neighbours succeeded in reopening the site to the public. Sometime later, TRACK took place in the area (art event of SMAK in 2012, at various locations around the city). The gatehouse from the old abattoir next to the Abbey site was repurposed as a temporary meeting place under the name Herberg Macharius. The Abbey Neighbours seized upon the opportunity and, once TRACK had finished, created a permanent activity centre at the location, for and by the locals. It is inspiring to see how collaboration around a place can lead to further initiatives. A few of the Abbey Neighbours became involved in the challenge of renewable energy. They wondered if they could realise this via the strong neighbourhood alliance. A cooperative has now been created to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. The EnerGent energy cooperative was formed four years ago and became a city collaboration that has now realised a whole range of objectives. It’s amazing, what a few astute neighbours can realise together.”
Eva De Groote, author