Hiking project

Project no. LLI-448, Development of Forest trail In Latvia and Lithuania and expanding the Baltic Coastal Hiking route in Lithuania (Hiking Project)Budget and funding:

Total budget – 788 104.45 EUR

ERDF (Euopean Regional Development funds) – 669 888.76 EUR

Total co-financing – 118 215.69 EUR

Project duration – 24 months

Start date – 01.06.2020

End date – 31.05.2022

The project meets the objective of the BSR strategy to increase prosperity in the region. The hiking trails are non-commercial products, however, hiking tourists use local services, especially food and accommodation. These services will be promoted as part of the nature hiking tourism product. The project reinforces cooperation in the BSR region contributing to more than one key challenges of the BSR strategy:

1. To enable a sustainable environment. The project aims at creating a sustainable nature friendly tourism product in the Programme area. Hiking tourists are environmentally responsible, and they do not cause environmental problems. By using local services they will contribute to sustainability of local economies.

2. To enhance the region’s prosperity. The trails cross large territories in the Program area increasing the expected numbers of visitors in the area and stimulating the region’s economic activity.

3. To increase accessibility and attractiveness. Natural values and heritage will become more accessible to general public thanks to the trail implementation and information.

The common challenge:

The project addresses the challenge defined by the Programme – sustainable preservation, promotion and development of natural and cultural heritage objects, services and products. In this context the project partners have identified the following challenges in the Programme area:

1. Underused potential to increase numbers of hiking tourists.

2. Lack of large-scale, professionally designed and sustainable tourism products to attract visitors to rural areas.

3. Underused potential of nature heritage in tourism.

4. Underused potential of cooperation between stakeholders for development, maintenance and marketing of tourism products.

The overall objective:

The project overall objective is to increase number of visitors to the Program area through developing and promoting two joint cross-border nature long distance hiking trails crossing the Program area. Project partners expect at least 5% increase in overnight stays in rural areas within a year after the hiking trails are developed and launched through marketing and promotion activities.

The main project outputs and who will benefit from them:

The Forest Trail in Latvia and Lithuania, and The Baltic Coastal Hiking Route in Lithuania will be developed and promoted. Both will link with the existing long distance hiking trails filling the gap in long distance hiking trail network.

The Forest Trail will cross LT and LV for ca 930 km (351km in LV, 671km in LT) taking hikers to the most beautiful forest and landscape areas. The Forest Trail will be linked with the Forest Trail Riga-Tallinn being currently developed under the Central Baltic program project No. 779 ‘Long distance cross border hiking trail ‘The Forest Trail”. The same trail title will be used for recognition as both trails will be linked. The same trail marking system will be used. Both trails will fill the gap in the E11 route of the European long distance hiking trail network by ERA – European Ramblers’ Association. The total length of the Forest Trail in all three Baltic states would be ca 2000km.

The Baltic Coastal Hiking Route will start from LV/LT border and it will go for ca174 km in Lithuania. The route will expand the present Coastal Hiking Route Tallinn – Riga – Nida village (in LV) that has been developed under EST-LAT program project No. 22 ‘Coastal Hiking Route along the Baltic Sea Coastline in Latvia and Estonia’. The trail ends on LAT/LIT border, and Lithuania is the only gap for the European long distance route E9 now. With Lithuania added, the Baltic Coastal Route will cover all three Baltic states and will be ca 1374 km long. As with the Forest Trail, the same title and the same marking system will be used for recognition.

Benefits will be gained by local stakeholders running their businesses along both trails – accommodation, food, transport service providers, local shops and others receiving more visitors in the area. Social environment in local areas will improve local networking and participation in trail development. Travel industry will receive an opportunity to develop tour packages based on hiking facilities and local services. General interest tourists will receive new products in new destinations as the forest and coastal environment will be made accessible safely and comfortably on marked trails and using the satellite services. Hikers and ramblers will receive new long distance hiking destination in the Baltics. Image of Programme area as a hiking and nature ramblers will receive new long distance hiking destination in the Baltics. Image of Programme area as a hiking and nature tourism destination will improve.

The approach:

The project takes a cross boarder approach to fulfil the ambition to create good quality long distance hiking trails and integrate them in existing trail network. Local stakeholder involvement along the trail route is the key principle to ensure local acceptance, sense of ownership and sustainability.

What is new/original about it:

A long distance hiking trail will be implemented for the first time in Lithuania. The certification Leading Quality Trail – Best of Europe will be applied for the first time in the Baltic countries. Services specialising to cater for the needs of hiking tourists will be marked with a “Hikers’ Friendly” sign. The project is strongly aimed at creating synergies with similar initiatives and integration in the BSR and European context. The expected project result is two joint Latvian-Lithuanian cross-border long distance nature hiking trails crossing the Program area, linked with the Baltic and ERA long distance trail network and increasing expected numbers of overnight stays of visitors in the program area. Overnight stays are expected to increase because the product experience includes overnight accommodation due to logical customer journey. The target audience divides into:

1) short time hikers (mainly local markets – estimated 60-65% of all hikers) taking the route sections for weekend, expanded weekend or short holidays, hiking 2-3 days. Hiking by sections they cover all the route in a longer period.

2) medium (5-9 days) hikers – the main target group from European countries, estimated 30% of all hikers. They prefer active holidays, discover new countries by hiking, and LT/LV are really new destinations for them as they have hiked many routes and are looking for something new in the Baltics;

3) long distance hikers, collecting trails and hiking all the trail in full length.

Estimated 2-3% of all hikers. Overnight stays are also expected to increase due to marketing, promotion and international networking activities. Detailed information for advance planning and for use during a hiking trip will be easily accessible online and downloadable in mobile devices. Both trails will be promoted in internet media, to travel trade, to general public in tourism fairs, and directly reaching hikers’ community through ERA network. The potential to contribute to the Program result indicator is ca 4500 visitors that is estimated, based on project partner experience with hiking products and capacity of the potential accommodation sites on the trail. Project partners will not gain any commercial benefits from the project outputs. Tourists will bring income to rural areas using services such as accommodation, food, local guides, local shops, etc.

Project partners

Partner organisation Contacts
Public body Kaunas regional development agency (LP) gaila@krda.lt
Countryside tourism association of Lithuania linas@atostogoskaime.lt
Directorate of Žemaitija National Park ramunas.lydis@zemaitijosnp.lt
Curonian spit national park administration lina.diksaite@nerija.lt
Latvian Country Tourism Association “Lauku Celotajs” asnate@celotajs.lv
Kurzeme planning region aiga.petkevica@kurzemesregions.lv
Kuldīga County Municipality aiga.vanaga@kuldiga.lv

Cross-border cooperation will ensure sustainability of the route after the end of the project. Route development activities and marketing (inspections, marking, information collection and content for marketing) is done by staff members of project team. The expertise stays within partner organisations. Trail supervision will be integrated in daily tasks of partners. The ownership and further responsibilities will be divided among their competences.

The Forest Trail and the Baltic Coastal Route maintenance will be under responsibility of partners in their territories of operation. The Kurzeme planning region will be responsible for arrangements with municipalities in Latvia regarding trail maintenance after project.

In Lithuania Zemaitija national park covers territories of 6 municipalities:

1. Skuodas district municipality with protected areas: Bartuva ichtyologic reserve, Salantai Regional Park; Žemaitija National Park.

2. Plungė district municipality with Žemaitija National Park.

3. Telšiai district municipality with protected areas: Buožėnai geomorphologic reserve; Germantas landscape reserve; Varniai regional park.

4. Šiauliai district municipality with Kurtuvėnai regional park.

5. Kelmė district municipality with protected areas: Kurtuvėnai regional park, Tytuvėnai regional park.

6. Kretinga district municipality.

Kursiu Nerija national park covers territories of 5 municipalities:

1. Palanga city municipality;

2. Klaipėda city municipality;

3. Neringa city municipality;

4. Šilutė district municipality;

5. Klaipėda district municipality.

Seaside Regional Park, Kuršių Nerija National Park, Nemunas delta regional park. KRDA covers territories of 6 municipalities:

1. Prienai district municipality with Nemunas Loops Regional Park.

2. Birštonas municipality with Nemunas Loops Regional Park.

3. Kaunas City municipality with Kauno Marios Regional Park.

4. Kaunas district municipality with Kauno Marios Regional Park.

Trail supervision will be done in cooperation with local stakeholder networks who will be interested in the Forest Trail and the Baltic Coastal Hiking Route as a product attracting tourists to their destination. They will be motivated to monitor and report the necessary trail improvements, renovation of marking, changes in hiking conditions, etc. This does not require significant financial resources and can be financed from partner organizations and negotiating with stakeholders, e.g., tourist service providers, where possible.

Maintenance of infrastructure – ownership of small scale infrastructure developed under the project and responsibility for maintenance is defined in WP Investment.

PP2 and PP5 will be responsible for continued promotion of the trails and information updates. This will be done by collecting and updating the local information on regular basis, at least once a year before active tourism season. Information about changes in the local nature and heritage attraction objects, services will be collected through the stakeholder network established during the project. Both organizations will regularly exchange information and agree upon common actions for further trail development and promotion actions whenever relevant.

The web platforms www.baltictrails.eu and www.coastalhiking.eu as the key marketing instruments will be maintained by PP5. Partners will update information using their access rights.

PP2 an PP5 will be responsible to coordinate the promotion of the Forest Trail and the Baltic Coastal Hiking Route with ERA as part of European long distance hiking paths.

Both trails have a great potential to be integrated in new tourism products/packages and destination promotion campaigns in the scope of the Baltic Sea region.

The trail implementation experience will be actively promoted by partners to stakeholder target audience inside and outside the Program area.

Activities:

Implementation (period 06.2020 – 05.2022):

Objective of the work package is to create Forest trail, crossing Latvia and Lithuania and expand Baltic coastal hiking route in Lithuania. It will be reached by following activities:
– Study visits to explore best experience from Europe and lessons learned from Kurzeme region. All partners will take part in study visits, by inviting also local stakeholders – representatives of municipal planners and tourism specialists.
– Precise route of the trails will be set in the process of local planning workshops and on-site inspections by project team and local stakeholders. To unleash the networking potential, public and private sector stakeholders will be involved through local planning workshops, networking seminars, local trail inspections and marking activities. The route inspection will methodologically collect structured information on the route and tourist services available.
– Partners will organize series of events to spread the project ambitions and involve stakeholders in both routes development and to raise awareness.
– To identify the route in nature – marking of the route will be done by partners staff members. Each partner will have team leader for marking, who will arrange marking in cooperation with local communities.
– PP2 and PP5 will represent the route on international level to promote and inform international hikers organisations about developments in Latvia and Lithuania to provide long distance hiking routes.

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Last update: 05-06-2020