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Leader seminar "Challenges and methodology of transnational Cooperation"

2-6 April 1997, Dieulefit (Drôme), France

Case study

Via Mediterranea - a rural tourism cooperation network

The action

The Via Mediterranea project came about in 1991. For three and a half years it brought together ten Mediterranean rural areas that organised themselves to conduct cooperation projects in the form of an association operating under French law where each partner is also represented. The coordination was ensured by the Syndicat d'Aménagement des Baronnies (SAB). Eight of these areas subsequently became LEADER areas.

The initial objective was to arrive at the creation of a transnational group of rural tourism enterprises capable of assuming the form of a Tour Operator specialised in the production and marketing of holiday packages targeted at a cultural image.

The initial objective of creating a tour operator was not achieved, but the impact of Via Mediterranea is quite real for most of the areas that were involved in the project: creation of a voluntary rural inn in Tierra de Campos, a tourism cooperative developing educational holidays in Sierra de Maria, a tourism office in Sitia (Greece) working with French and Belgian tour operators, a hotel cooperative in Basilicata, a tour operator in Epirus (Greece) and a travel agency in Serra do Caldeirao in Portugal.


The key elements


  • The original idea was very ambitious: the creation of a rural tourism tour operator. The project's initiators felt that they had to find the means to market their rural tourist products, because conventional tour operators showed little interest in this type of product.
  • The absence of a selection of partner areas in the beginning, which resulted in the heterogeneity of the areas, was from the start a factor limiting the probability of achieving the objective.
  • The establishment of a network concerned people who had the profile of rural development coordinator rather than creators of enterprises and tourism professionals who at the beginning usually did not exist in the areas concerned.
  • The creation of a structure comprising all the partners enabled focusing the project on a common identity.
  • A well organised network head with the appropriate means facilitated intense cooperation work.
  • The connection with the tourism group of the Leader network enabled taking into account the achievements of the Leader seminars.
  • It was as a training network that Via Mediterranean demonstrated its know-how. Via Mediterranea was an excellent management training school for the development of local rural tourism initiatives.
  • The halt in European funding put the network on the back burner, because from the start local funding to operate the network was insufficient.


Local context

The 10 areas involved in the project are quite diverse but all share a Mediterranean culture. Eight of them have become LEADER areas.

Via Mediterranea came into being at a time when the first networks involving Europe's rural areas were created. The action was driven by the desire to see rural militants communicate between themselves, to imagine new forms of development adapted to rural society, to innovate in rural development matters.

The Syndicate d'Aménagement des Baronnies played a very important role by providing technicians.

A decisive element for the network's existence was the knowledge an outside consultant had of the ins and outs of European financing.

The LEDA programme of the European Commission's Directorate General V enabled launching the Via Mediterranea network.


Point of departure

The point of departure of the project was a proposal made by the five areas of Leda - Baronnies (France), Serra do Caldeiro (Portugal), Basilicata (Italy), Sitia (Greece), Sao Mamede (Portugal). The proposal consisted in a rural tourism cooperation project. The creation of the network was more an answer to the goal of communicating and exchanging than that of implementing a series of actions. It was decided to prepare and organise a seminar to launch the project in order to obtain European funding under Article 10 of the ERDF. This funding was obtained in April 1991 to set up the network and prepare a transnational training plan. In November 1991, the Via Mediterranea association was legally created. The objective in the beginning was to market thirty holiday packages developed by local enterprises.



In 1992 and 1993, financial means were mobilised in the framework of Euroform and Article 10 of the ERDF. The network head was structured: one coordinator plus one independent outside consultant. Via Mediterranea set up local offices with means at their disposal.

The objective of test marketing a rural tourism product was decided for summer 1993. In March 1993, 10,000 copies of the Via Mediterranea catalogue were published in six languages. The first market test of the product was analysed in November 1993. The results were insufficient: product too expensive, poor distribution of catalogue, only 20 clients.

The results of this first experience were an opportunity to refocus the network's objectives:

  • emphasis was placed on training the people involved.
  • particular care was given to developing products, preparing a new and more precise
  • catalogue.
  • abandonment of the idea of a transnational tour operator to focus more on national
  • markets.
  • collaboration with existing tour operators to market the rural tourism products.

The implementation of these new objectives led to a marketing test for summer 1994 that was more satisfactory in terms of the number of tourists. Nonetheless, it was not a model from an economic point of view.

At the end of 1994, the network was put on hold because of a lack of financial means. Since then, the network's members have been refocusing their attention on the local level, taking care to organise local rural tourism enterprises.

The network will have obtained a total of ECU 300,000 in European funding. The breakdown of the budget according to the various items of expenditure is the following:

  • 25% for coordination and technical assistance;
  • 35% for trips and seminars;
  • 30% for training at the local level;
  • 10% for the production of catalogues and for communication.


The project had a great impact for all of the partners:

  • 13 workshop seminars lasting four days were organised with an average of 25 people per seminar totalling 1,500 training days.
  • 50 trainees benefited from 3,000 days of training.
  • 30 "standard" tourist holidays were created and 2 catalogues produced.
  • 2 market tests totalled some one hundred clients.

In addition to this quantitative impact, the project has led to a structuring of the tourist offer in the areas concerned: creation of a voluntary rural inn in Tierra de Campos, a tourism cooperative developing educational holidays in Sierra de Maria, a tourism office in Sitia (Greece) working with French and Belgian tour operators, a hotel cooperative in Basilicata, a tour operator in Epirus (Greece) and a travel agency in Serra do Caldeirao in Portugal.



Via Mediterranea

Gilberte Brémond

BP 35

26170 Buis Les Baronnies

Tel: 33 4 75 28 00 73



ANEZ, Epire

BP 1232


Tel/Fax: +30.651.32686

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