Summer School 2015, Vitoria-Gasteiz

DSC_0292Thank you to all participants of the 2015 Summer School, and partner organizations, the European Travel Commission and Basquetour, as well as Vitoria-Gasteiz Council.  We had a wonderful time, with some thought-provoking and inspirational presentations, entertaining and educational social activities and stimulating conversations along the way. Here is a brief summary of the social activities and the conference topics that were enjoyed at this year’s Summer School in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain.

The first day of the Summer School allowed a meet and greet of participants at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to learn more about how the museum successfully regenerated the industrial town and turned it into a hot spot for tourism, improving employment and quality of life for the locals.  It was followed by a transfer to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Green Capital of Europe 2012, where participants enjoyed a Pintxos Pote tour- a Basque Country tradition of small appetizers to accompany your drinks.  We visited 5 different local pubs and enjoyed meeting and eating!

Petra Stušek, General Manager, Ljubljana Tourism

Petra Stušek, General Manager, Ljubljana Tourism

Wednesday was the first day of the conference and we heard from several speakers on best management practices.  Robert Wimmer, Alastaire Upton, Petra Stušek, and Knut Gerber presented destinations and unique projects that offered lessons learned and inspiration.  This session had everyone jotting down new locations for their next vacation.  A small group brainstorming session preceded a delightful lunch, which was followed by four more case studies.  We heard from Alba Caballer on the use of sustainable tourism indicators in Barcelona; from Ander Garciá on the potential of linked data when used for sustainable indicators; Nerissa del Fuerro introduced us to the underground river in Puerto Princesa, Philippines; Andrea Serpagli from IFAD covered public-private partnerships and discussed the cocoa industry.

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After the informative day, we set off to the amicable Viña Salceda Winery.  A wonderful tasting, visit to the vineyards and the cool, expansive wine cellar preceded a satiating 4 course meal, with unlimited appetizers of squid, cured ham, langoustine croquettes and speared prawn.  All this was followed by baked cod, veal cheeks and a delectable custard dessert, and of course, accompanied by their very own delicious red and white wines.

A group of the ladies waiting patiently to taste some wine.

A group of the ladies waiting patiently to taste some wine.

Deirdre Shurland, UNEP

Deirdre Shurland, UNEP

Thursday we opened with an informative presentation from Deirdre Shurland, UNEP Senior Advisor, on the importance of implementing the Windhoek Guidelines.  Discussion from Luigi Cabrini, GSTC and UNWTO Advisor, as well as Cinzia de Marzo, EU Commission, on sustainability indicators.  Funding for sustainability projects was touched on by both Shaun Mann of the World Bank and Xavier Font, and the European Travel Commission’s CEO, Eduardo Santander,  gave a meaningful talk on where promotion should take the direction of European tourism markets in order to improve sustainability.

Shruti Deshepande gave an excellent presentation on PM4SD and APMG, and their value in sustainable tourism projects, and Iñigo Bilbao, and Carmen Baz discussed the awarded destinations of Vitoria-Gasteiz (the European Green Capital 2012) and San Sebastian (the European Capital of Culture, 2016).

Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, Salli Felton, and Alla Peressolova prepare for the round table.

Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, Salli Felton, and Alla Peressolova prepare for the round table.

A panel discussion closed the conference, with Salli Felton discussing the need to transform successful isolated projects into broader, holistic successes; Alla Peressolova, of the UNWTO Silk Road Project, giving us a peek into the complexities and intricacies of managing cross-border projects; and Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir of the Iceland tourism Board and VP of ETC comically introducing her beautiful Iceland, and discussing the need for deseasonalization in tourism.

Several themes tied the conference together.  Of course we were introduced to numerous successful projects and destinations, which we can take lessons learned and best management practices from.  A common theme throughout seemed to be the importance of building sustainable and happy communities for residents first and foremost- sustainable tourism will follow.  It also was apparent that a strategic approach to managing tourism projects is essential to achieving objectives and realizing long term benefits.

Introductions to these successful stories of sustainable tourism destinations was encouraging and stimulating, and much discussion occurred during social activities and lunches. The conference was wrapped up with a Gala dinner on Thursday evening, with food, wine, dancing and photos.

Añana Salt Valley

Añana Salt Valley

Any fortunate participants that stayed on until Friday enjoyed a personalized trip to Añana Salt Valley, where we were guided through the salt mines and enjoyed a foot soak for our tired feet and a brief shopping stint at their beautiful gift shop.  Afterwards, we had a great brunch then headed back towards Vitoria-Gasteiz with a stop at Ataria, Interpretation Centre of the Salburua Wetlands.  The wetlands are a significant part of the green belt that hugs Vitoria-Gasteiz, and is home to a wide variety of species.  Some of which we were able to watch through binoculars on our birdwatching tour.

Ataria, Interpretation Centre of the Salburua Wetlands

Ataria, Interpretation Centre of the Salburua Wetlands

 

 

We had a great wrap up by Anne Maria Mäkelä, who, on Thursday afternoon, summarized our days together simply: LOVE and KISS.   Love, our common language, produces sustainable decision making.  KISS- well, we all know the phrase.  Keep It Simple and Sustainable!

 

 

 

group photoTo view the full program and list of speakers, click here.

A personal blog on the social events can be found here, and more on the presentations can be found here.  Readers are invited to comment and further discuss the topics.

Find us on twitter for Summer School related posts and pictures: @Jlag, @pm4sd, @hollyprievo #SummerSchool2015Euskadi.

The Call for Action as well as presentations from speakers will be uploaded soon to FEST’s website at http://www.festfoundation.eu/.

Written by Holly Prievo, USF Patel College of Global Sustainability graduate student, researching capacity building techniques and methodologies with the cooperation of Silvia Barbone, FEST and Jlag.

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