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Within the framework of Component 1 of the EU-funded Twinning Project “Strengthening the capacity of the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan” workshops dedicated to “Regional and Local Tourism Planning and Management” were held Ismayilli (Ismayilli Vocational Educational Centre) rayon and Lenkoran (“Gala” Hotel) on 10th and 12th of September 2013.
The workshop was organized at support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and under the supervision of the twinning team which included: MS Project Leader Florian Sengstschmid, RTA Daiva Kirkilaite-Chetcuti, Component 1 Leader Ferdinand Posnik and a representative of DoT.
Wide and diverse audience of invited participants included representatives of local departments of Culture and Tourism from Ismailli and Lenkoran and surrounding rayons, local administration and municipalities, tourism information centers, museums and national reserves, hotels and mass media.
The purpose of the workshop was to familiarize the stakeholders with core principles of Tourism Destination Management, share with them success stories from Austrian practice and preconditioning aspects as well as to build a dialog with participants targeted at developing ideas towards their particular destination management.
The MS Project Leader Mr.Florian Sengstschmid and the short-term expert Mr.Ferdinand Posnik delivered a presentation which covered the tourism destination marketing, product development, value-chain approach, life-cycle of tourism destination, destination branding and other related issues and made a particular stress on similarity of focal tools which can be used to turn a geographically and historically exuberant region into an attractive tourism destination regardless of location of the destination.
In the atmosphere of active interaction the participants at each workshop sessions shared their views on developing the unique character of their destinations. Moreover, they spoke about the strengths and weaknesses of their destinations, among the primary stressing the availability of natural resources, geographic location, and among the latter - problems like the low quality level of services, need for qualified professionals as well as general managing skills, proficient presentation of destination and bundling of tourism routes.
The participants also mentioned some threats for currently attractive and popular destinations pointing out that authentic handmade crafts are getting assimilated with imported ones, thus breaking the uniqueness of the destination components. Availability of easily accessible homestays preferred by tourists to hotels and providing low services was also raised in discussion as one of the bottlenecks to solve.
The Twinning experts recommended at both workshops that tourism stakeholders from each region find a common platform for developing ideas and directing actions with the aim to improve their tourism destination, since making the destination different and unique can be made only by people who are aware of visible and unrevealed advantages of their location and can build relevant stories and experiences around the regional places of interest and enhance the professional skills of the tour guides.
By the end of the workshop sessions the participants emphasized the importance of such workshops, as they carry a useful knowledge, which could be used in tourism development sphere and provided their feedbacks by filling in the evaluation forms.