Towards child and youth educational tourism in Serbia
–‘Mountains, nature, herbs, healthy food, clean air ... if our children learn that this unique sanctuary is an inexhaustible source of energy, inspiration, enthusiasm, we have achieved one of the important goals of educational tourism!’, highlighted one of 14 participants during the study tour to Slovenia, which took place in June 2011.
The aim of the study tour, which was organized by the Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development UN Joint Programme, was to learn about best practices in child and youth educational tourism and how these can be applied in Serbia. Moreover, the purpose of the study tour was to ensure that child and family related tourism, integrated in national documents that make child and youth tourism policy framework, and its influence on the improvement of rural children’s education in Serbia, is better understood.
The study tour included 14 representatives of local and national institutions from all target regions of the UN JP Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development: representatives of national implementation partners (NTOS and MERD), representatives from local tourism organizations, representatives of the Rural Development Network, school directors, representatives of the Teachers Association, civil society organizations and local entrepreneurs. Evidently, the study tour brought together representatives of rural development and rural tourism providers, representatives from the education as well as the economic sectors.
Over the course of 5 days, the study tour participants visited 17 locations spread across 5 regions of Slovenia. The destinations were various - from those directly connected with Slovenia educational system and child and youth out-of-school activities, to the destinations which grew out of private initiatives, and are used by children and their families. The workshops, most of them taking place during the travels, were organized every day to reflect on the lessons learned.
As highlighted in a formal way – through evaluation forms – as well as in informal ways, the participants indicated that the study was a valuable and important experience as the lessons learned are numerous, and the ideas for their implementation in Serbia are clear. One of the key lessons learned was that effective inter-sectoral and inter-disciplinary cooperation leads to success in child and youth educational tourism. As one of the participants highlighted ‘The workshops brought us together at all points, in a sense that we learned about the resources of all four regions and identified common grounds and mutual interests!.
Following the invigorating study tour, the study tour organizers have mapped out further activities, with some of them being already implemented. This included:
- a follow-up meeting during which the tour participants expressed their wish to establish a connection among their products in order to set up a network of complementary destinations and create a holistic tourism product for the purposes of child and youth educational tourism in Serbia;
- enhanced inclusion of the Teachers’ Association of Serbia, which numbers 8.000 teachers, through – among other – the creation of an accredited seminar for the preparation of children’s excursions, which could be carried out for the first time within the Joint Programme grants;
- piloting the programme of child and youth educational tourism through an open competition for allocation of financial resources for tourism development, which will be opened in second half of August 2011 within the Joint Programme „Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development“;
- awareness-raising, advocacy and promotion of the child and youth educational tourism by the study tour participants through tools such as the video, which has been produced for these purposes.
Vera Jovanovic, the Project Manager for ‘Children in Rural Development’, concluded: ‘It is rewarding to see the inspiration and the determination of the study tour participants to develop lasting partnerships that will contribute to the development of child and youth educational tourism in the target regions and host young tourists in Serbia in the near future’.
About the Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development Joint Programme
The UN Joint Programme Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development works towards the diversification of the rural economy through sustainable tourism to improve the quality of life, reduce poverty, and address environmental degradation in rural Serbia. One of the key activities of the programme is the development of the National Rural Tourism Master Plan. Activities of the Programme are implemented in South Banat on the Danube, East Serbia, Central Serbia and Lower Danube.
Five UN agencies, including UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) in cooperation with a number of Government of the Republic of Serbia national partners, namely the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, and the National Tourism Organization of Serbia are implementing the Joint Programme.
The Spanish Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) is providing 4 million USD for the implementation of the Joint Programme.
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