Tourism in the Vitebsk region to develop in accordance with European standards

Experts of the Belarusian-Latvian project “Bella Dvina” visited the German-French Rheinpark PAMINA where they learned about peculiarities and methods of cross-border tourism development.

Study visit to the German-French PAMINA region was conducted within the framework of the EU-funded project “Bella Dvina”, which is currently being implemented by the city of Polotsk. The delegation included representatives of the project partners from the Polotsk City Executive Committee, Latgale Region Development Agency, Vitebsk Centre of Regional Research and Development, Institution “Interaction” and seven district executive committees of the Vitebsk region. Study visit was organised by the German-Belarusian House and Association “Rheinpark PAMINA”.

Rheinpark PAMINA, established in 1997, lies on both sides of the German-French border. After internal borders had been opened in Europe in 1985, tourism in the cross-border regions of Germany and France began to develop rapidly. Today, inhabitants of the German-French region lead a truly cross-border life: many of them go to work or on vacation to one country, while living in another one. Unfortunately, since Belarus and Latvia are separated by the Schengen border, the PAMINA model cannot be fully introduced in the cross-border Bella Dvina region. And yet, Belarusian experts can learn a lot from their European colleagues, because the Bella Dvina project was developed on the basis of the Rheinpark PAMINA. “The history of our cooperation with the German-French border region Regio PAMINA is quite long and highly valuable for the borders between Europe and its neighbours”, says Patricia Ruppert, Bella Dvina project manager and Honorary Director of the German-Belarusian House. “It is easier to develop cross-border cooperation between Belarus and Latvia if you receive best practice examples from more experienced border regions, like here between France and Germany. Such know-how transfer should be included into the further ENPI and INTERREG programming.”

On 4 June, the delegation visited museums and tourist information centres of the PAMINA region on both sides of the German-French border. Next day, at the common working meeting, German, Belarusian and Latvian experts discussed major problems and came up with practical recommendations on how to develop cross-border cooperation in the Belarusian-Latvian tourist space, how to implement the tourist development strategy which had been elaborated in the course of the project, and how to promote common tourist products on the markets of Belarus, Latvia, Russia and Europe. “The fact that fifteen experts from the PAMINA region have intensively discussed the Bella Dvina tourism development strategy with Belarusian and Latvian experts shows great interest of the Rheinpark PAMINA towards Eastern European border regions. We hope that we managed in such a way to professionally contribute to the benefit of the entire Bella Dvina project,” says Claus Haberecht, Vice-head of the Rastatt district and Managing Director of the Rheinpark PAMINA.

In the course of the study visit, the Bella Dvina experts acquired many ideas for the new tourist information points which are planned to be opened in all seven partner districts. Following the example of the Rheinpark PAMINA, a tourist information point can be combined with a museum, a library, or even a restaurant. Bella Dvina experts noted that the Belarusian-Latvian cross-border region is as rich in tourist objects as Germany and France are. Many exhibition items of the German-French museums can be easily found in Belarus and Latvia. This is true not only of household items, but also of rather unique showpieces, such as the pagan stone with runic symbols which is exhibited in the Krumacker Museum in the French city of Seltz. According to the Belarusian guests, a very similar stone has recently been found in the Rossony district. In other words, Belarus has plenty of material, but lacks knowledge of how to present it in an interesting and efficient way. Another problem of Belarus, European experts noted, is weak cross-border cooperation. One of the aims of the Bella Dvina project is to address this very issue. “There are many museums in the Vitebsk region which we would like to make part of a common cross-border network,” said chief delegate Vladimir Tochilo, Mayor of the City of Polotsk. “Now, when we know how this is done in the German-French region, we are able and willing to do the same in the Bella Dvina tourist space. And, we will soon open a Tourist Information Centre in Polotsk and seven tourist information points in the districts”

For further information, please contact Olga Prokhorova and Igor Zagrekov, Bella Dvina project experts (Department of physical training, sport and tourism of the Polotsk City Executive Committee, tel./fax: +375 214 42 69 49) or Marina Borisova, PR manager of Institution “Interaction” (tel./fax: +375 17 220 22 66)