When we planned the Tourban project back in 2019, obviously the last thing we thought about was that by June 2020, when the project was supposed to start, the whole world would be sunk in chaos and tourism almost inexistent due to the sanitary and travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world. Hence Tourban, which is all about urban tourism and was thought to contribute to solving problems linked to overtourism by supporting businesses in implementing sustainability measures, also found itself in a complex situation. On the one hand, the tourism industry as one of the most heavily affected sectors by this crisis needed, and still needs, support more than ever. On the other hand, it was the most inconvenient moment to launch an international cooperation project. Especially one meant to address a problem – overtourism – that has turned into its opposite, within a sector concerned with struggles more acute than seeking sustainability.
By spring 2020 we were still trying to make ourselves believe that all of this would be over very soon, we decided to postpone our project start to September 2020. Back then, it seemed like the far future, when life would have come back to normality and people would travel again as usual and be happy ever after (a thin hope that was soon overtaken by reality, as we all know).
Nevertheless, when September came, we kicked-off Tourban, under somewhat different circumstances but with great enthusiasm and motivation to support the tourism sector that has been so severely stroked by the pandemic. Launching an international cooperation project with 8 partners from 7 countries digitally was surely a challenge. But all our project partners are so strongly committed to the objectives of Tourban that nothing could stop us from finally getting started.
In between 22 September and 15 October we held 3 online meetings among all project partners to set the basis for implementing our project. Besides laying a solid foundation for an efficient project management and a targeted communication strategy, we focused on starting the actual work: building up our support services and acceleration programme for tourism businesses.
The first 6 months of the project are dedicated to generating knowledge for tourism businesses in our pilot cities Amsterdam, Barcelona, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Kiel and Tallinn. During our first meetings, we therefore defined the right strategy on gathering data on the main challenges faced by urban tourism from a sustainability perspective same as practical information on opportunities ahead of tourism businesses to become catalyst for innovation and sustainability.
Obviously, the context of especially city tourism has changed 180º degrees from when we were planning the project in 2019, when overtourism was a serious challenge in many European cities, to the current situation under the pandemic in 2020, where the inexistence of tourism caused existential threats to many businesses. Under this dilemma, one of the main challenges and discussion points for our project consortium was how to provide valuable support to tourism businesses in these complicated moments, while at the same time adhering to the principal objective of Tourban to make urban tourism more sustainable.
Our project clearly is no definite remedy to the struggles of businesses caused by the pandemic. But we are decided to dedicate all our efforts and means to help businesses be in the best possible position to restart tourism and their activity in the post-Covid tourism scenario. Under these new circumstances, customer preferences will most possibly have changed, and sustainability will have come to the fore and be a decisive competitiveness factor.
In early spring 2021, based on the results of our analytic work and the first-hand information gathered from businesses and stakeholders, we will set about the next phase of our project. It will be focused on raising the capacity of tourism businesses through trainings, peer-to-peer sessions and further activities. All our preparatory work will finally lead us to the core of the Tourban project – our 12-months acceleration programme including a 10.000 € grant for a minimum of 60 tourism SMEs participating in the programme.
Until then, we will keep you posted on our progress and all possibilities to participate in Tourban.