COMCOT : an innovative tool for improving the competitiveness of community-based tourism

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Title: COMCOT : an innovative tool for improving the competitiveness of community-based tourism
Alternative title: The evaluation of the community-based tourism development process
Author: Lähdesmäki, Merja; Matilainen, Anne; Sudakova, Lea; Evans, Roger; Kattai, Kaili
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto Ruralia-instituutti
Date: 2014
Language: en
Belongs to series: Raportteja 117
ISBN: 978-952-10-8490-4
ISSN: 1796-0630
Abstract: The community-based tourism development process described in this report is based on wide experiences gathered during an international project called “An innovative tool for improving the competitiveness of community-based tourism (COMCOT)”. The aim of the COMCOT project was gather together academics, international tourism consultants and community activists in order to improve the tourism potential in Estonian and Finnish rural areas. The project used a community-based approach whereby the ideas for tourism development were collected from the communities involved in the project and the same communities also implemented these ideas. By expanding the opportunities and knowledge base for local level actors, the project aimed at developing competitive tourism by simultaneously combining cross-border cooperation networks. Accordingly, the main objective of the COMCOT project was further divided into three more detailed practical aims as follows: - assessing, developing and visualizing the tourism potential in the selected pilot regions, - capacity building of the key people in terms of improving their networks, and - creating and piloting a development tool for wider use. The COMCOT project was an international development project funded through the EU (Interreg IVA programme) and partner organisations. The project was led by the Estonian University of Life Sciences. The COMCOT project included six pilot areas: three in Finland and three in Estonia. Characteristic for all the pilot areas was that tourism development was based on water – lake, river, sea or reservoir. The pilot areas in Finland were: the Lake Lohja archipelago and Porla area in Lohja, Pyhtää and Virolahti. In Estonia, the pilot areas were: Aidu mining area in Maidla, Lake Võrtsjärv and Setomaa. This report is based on the evaluation of the community-based tourism development process piloted during the project. The key actors involved in the COMCOT project were asked to assess extent to which the project met the expectations of the key actors, to identify the success factors for an effective community-based tourism development process, and to identify the perceived barriers that may hinder a successful community-based tourism development. Based on the experiences of the COMCOT project, a process description, a COMCOT tool was devised. The aim of this handbook is to guide other interested parties to apply similar processes to community based tourism development. The COMCOT tool thus describes the best practices learnt during the project as well as giving practical level information on how to proceed with each step of the development process. This guide can be found in the project web page: Based on the results of the evaluation described in this report, the COMCOT project had important influence on tourism development in the pilot areas. The project was able to increase the scale and scope of local discussion on tourism development and enhanced communication between local actors and other stakeholders. The project and its community based approach also raised community participation levels through attracting new active people to take part in local development projects and contribute to local discussion. An important contribution of the project was the provision of networking opportunities and it can be seen that sustainable connections between the Finnish and Estonian pilot region communities were established during the COMCOT project. Similarly, tourism skills of local key actors were enhanced through training sessions, study visits and case study experiences. Still, the main challenge of the project was also related to the cross-border networking as the language difficulties, English being the common language for collaboration, prevented some local activists with poor English skills from taking part of the networking activities. The COMCOT project also played an important part in the development of many different tourism products and services in the pilot areas. New tourism products were established and tested during the project – part of the work initiated during the project will bear fruit yet in future.

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