The first international conference entitled Prospects for Development and Promotion of Rural Tourism and Agrotourism in Poland was held 17-18 April 2009 in the Kielce Fair’s Conference Centre.
The scope of the conference was to show the tourism potential of agricultural areas, the state of rural tourism and agrotourism in Poland; to present development of rural tourism observed in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship and the role of the Polish Federation of Rural Tourism “Gospodarstwa Gościnne” (Hospitable Farms) in the development of agrotourism; to analyse the opportunities and threats of this kind of entrepreneurship; to present the role of cuisine, natural and traditional food in the development of rural tourism; to exchange ideas and experiences as well as to discuss the perspectives for the development of agrotourism farms during the workshops moderated by the experts.
The event was organised by The Ministry of Sport and Tourism of the Republic of Poland, The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, The Marshal’s Office of Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Świętokrzyskie Office of Regional Development in Kielce, Regional Tourism Organisation of Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship as well as Kielce Fairs Ltd and the School of Economics and Law in Kielce.
The conference was attended by over 350 visitors, including 30 international guests from 10 countries. Among the participants were the representatives of Local Initiative Groups, agrotourism societies, education and science environment as well as organisations and institutions supporting the development of rural tourism. There also was an impressive turnout of international guests – the conference was attended by the delegates from Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Germany, Ireland, Ukraine and Sweden.
The conference was officially opened on 17th April 2009. The participants to the meeting were welcomed by the board member of Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Marek Gos, and by the chairman of Kielce Fairs, Andrzej Mochoń. The floor then belonged to Katarzyna Sobierajska, Undersecretary of State in The Ministry of Sport and Tourism of the Republic of Poland who presented “Directions of Tourism Development until 2015” with the special emphasis on rural tourism, which had been approved by the Government on 26th September 2008. The main assumption of this document is the idea that tourism is strictly connected with numerous development processes and that it should be shaped to suit other socioeconomic targets connected with the country’s development. According to these assumptions, transforming Poland into the country which is attractive for both domestic and foreign tourists, shall transfer tourism into an important tool of socioeconomic development.
In his lecture, Artur Ławniczak, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, presented the resort’s actions aiming at development of agrotourism with special emphasis on the sources of subsidising the development of services connected with the tourists’ stay on the rural areas within the Rural Areas Development Policy (PROW) programme 2007-2013. The conference was a place to discuss other topics, such as the state of rural tourism and agrotourism in Poland, the development of rural tourism in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship and the role of the Polish Federation of Rural Tourism “Gospodarstwa Gościnne” (Hospitable Farms) in the development of agrotourism.
The conference was also attended by the representatives of the European Network of Regional Culinary Heritage. It certainly helped to discuss the role of culinary heritage as well as the natural and traditional food market in the development of rural tourism. It was important to mention other highlights of the Polish rural areas, such as the natural wealth (including Nature 2000 areas), cultural heritage, regional and culinary product and their role in the development of rural areas.
A press conference with the appearance of Katarzyna Sobierajska, Artur Ławniczak, Marek Gos and Andrzej Mochoń was held at 11:30 on 17th April.
After the press conference, the ministers visited the exhibitors’ stands. They emphasised very good quality of stands, especially those presented by the Local Initiative Groups, some of which had never appeared on any fair event before.
The second day of the conference was devoted to workshops, in which the following issues were discussed:
- Marketing management of tourism offer of rural areas, including: market values of the rural tourism offer, methods and forms of marketing communication on the rural tourism market, creating experience as an overriding aim of marketing actions within the rural tourism;
- Cultural heritage in the innovative tourism products, including: natural wealth, heritage and infrastructure as opportunities for the development of rural tourism, the role of rural tourism in the balanced development of rural areas, regional and local products;
- Supporting rural tourism, including: the forms of supporting rural tourism within PROW 2007-2013 and other sources. Local Initiatives (partnership of cooperation of three sectors for the development of rural areas), the National Network of Rural Areas as means of exchanging code of practice and promoting rural tourism, the role of local officials and rural counselling in the development of rural tourism;
- Culinary heritage and tourism, including: natural and traditional grocery products, traditional dishes in rural catering, culinary heritage of Polish rural areas.
Simultaneously to the main events of the conference’s first day, the youth participated in workshops entitled “Rural tourism – the Chance for the Future”. The event was organised by the School of Economics and Law in Kielce for the high school students of tourism, agriculture and economics as well as college students of tourism, leisure activities and economics.
The aims of this meeting were: to provide the youth with the basic knowledge on creating rural tourism offer; to present rural tourism as a real opportunity for creating workplaces, as a form of career choice, as an active form of protecting the environment, as a way of shaping new social models within local communities and as a way of starting entrepreneurship. The workshop was attended by over 150 students from 9 schools.
The participants to the conference were also present in the study visits in agrotourism farms. One could choose from three available tourism products:
- Active tourism – “Kraina Legend Świętokrzyskich” (The Land of Świętokrzyskie Legends). Our guests were taking part in a field game. The route (6km long) led through Fir Woods. They were guided by the qualified Świętokrzyskie Region Guides, who enriched the field trip by providing information on the history and nature of the Świętokrzyskie Mountains.
- Culture tourism – “Szkoła wrażliwości” (The school of Sensitivity). Drama play based on the legends from the Świętokrzyskie region was followed by pottery and herbal medicine workshops, preparation of traditional “podpłomyk” (traditional bread) and weaving workshops, during which one could learn how flax becomes linen.
- Specified tourism – the participant had an opportunity to learn how to ride a motorbike, they visited a farm and a wildlife farm (with deer, fallow deer, alpacas, raccoons, etc.)
The turnout to the event grew beyond the organisers’ imagination. The agenda worked perfectly – especially the division into general (introductory) part on the first day, in which the floor belonged, among others, to the international guests and more specific part in the form of workshops and study visits on the second day of the event.
The choice of the conference leaders and moderators was also right. Introductory lectures were given by the first-class, influential experts with whom the contracts of specified work were signed. On the basis of the aforementioned lectures the reviewers have prepared articles later published in the post-conference publication. Gathering and reviewing the conference material as well as other works on the publications was coordinated by the Publishing House of the School of Economics and Law in Kielce. The publication (under the conference’s title), containing scientific and popular scientific articles registered by the lecturers and conference leaders, had been broadly advertised among the conference participants’ companies and participants themselves.