Visitors are essential to our inland waterways; enjoying what is on offer and spending their money with small businesses that operate on and alongside them. NIWE members Provincie Antwerpen and Stad Gent focus primarily on tourism and are instrumental in proposing and developing ideas that strengthen the appeal their waterways bring to towns and cities when setting out their ‘tourist offer’. Voies Navigables de France (VNF) tourist development mission statement sums up the general approach all organisations take.
“Contributing through the tourist economy to regional development and quality of life is one of the missions of VNF. The aim is to support activities with high potential, but also to offer a seasonal tourist offer adapted to the use of the tracks, to develop privileged spaces for leisure activities and to enhance the heritage that bears the identity of the territory. It is also about allowing the re-appropriation of the waterway by the citizens…”
The information below sets out some findings from previous and current EU funded projects NIWE members have participated in or are keeping a keen eye on. We also provide some key documents from other sources that support the importance of this theme and waterway sector.
Sustainable heritage management of WAterway REgions (SWARE)
An Interreg North West Europe (NWE) project running from 1 Apr 2016 to 31 Mar 2021
The project was set up to promote the sustainable development of the natural and cultural heritage of waterway regions through the reinforcement of its territorial resources and tourist activities in 5 partner regions in Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands, Latvia and Danube cross border region of Slovakia and Hungary.
The waterway regions involved in SWARE all share unique natural and cultural heritage: protected areas with rich biodiversity and enticing historic cities and buildings connected to water. These amenities make them more and more attractive for leisure activities and a growing number of visitors (30-50% increase in the past 10 years) but which causes tensions with heritage conservation aspects.
SWARE partners recognised that the socio-economic future of their regions needs to preserve the cultural and natural values for the next generations but also “open their gates” to controlled visitor management.
The felt that by demonstrating the economic value that a “green” leisure industry can bring to a region; it can build strong public and political support both for heritage protection and sustainable waterway development.
SWARE worked to stimulate the establishment of new participatory governance schemes that will have more potential to implement efficient policies contributing to the sustainable regional development so that decision-makers, public and private players, as well as inhabitants gain a better knowledge and commitment towards protecting and sustainably “using” their environmental and cultural assets.
SWARE took steps to achieve this by developing and proposing policies that bring about a better balance between protection and sustainable exploitation of the valuable natural and cultural resources.
They jointly assessed the programmes and policies of the partner regions through expertise exchanges and promotion of good practices in participating regions.
5 participating partner regions developed Regional Action Plans in collaboration with stakeholders and built in good practices which will serve as the basis for improved policy and/or new projects.
The SWARE project team organised the digital final conference in October 2020, sharing the results of the past years knowledge exchange and action planning. Speakers from the SWARE project, the INTERREG Europe Programme and the European Parliament spoke about successes of SWARE, continued involvement and possibilities connecting the SWARE lessons learnt to the goals of the European Union and the regions in future projects.
One of the main topics was the sharing of results. All partners discussed how their region implemented the lessons learnt, how they achieved policy change or started projects that were inspired and influenced by good practices from other partner regions.
Key outputs and project related evidence: