Wheels rolling for Baltic tourism

The “Country of Lakes” area bordering Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus offers a rich expanse of nature parks, protected nature reserves, spectacular landscapes and water resources. In an effort to boost rural and active tourism, notably cycling, European funding contributed to the project Exciting Cycling Net, which resulted in the creation of 51 picturesque cycling routes, 3 watch towers and almost 100 rest areas nestled in the natural surroundings.

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Copyright: Euroregion 'Country of lakes' archives Copyright: Euroregion 'Country of lakes' archives

“Training on GPS and participation in study tours - this was a great experience. We could make contacts and it was the easiest way to get examples of best practices in tourism development”
Mr Orehov, Head of Tourism Department, Glubokoje district, Belarus

Higher tourism numbers and stronger marketing of cycling activities were key aims of the project.  Three international cycling marathons featured in the promotional campaign, attracting new tourists and nature lovers to the region. Use of GPS technologies and training for tourism workers have also contributed to the improved cycling infrastructure.

Activities for all ages

Some 46 tourist cycle routes have been improved and developed in the three countries involved. In total, there are also 573 route signs, with many information panels describing routes as well as flora, fauna and other items of interest in the region. Chairs, benches, waste bins, cycle bridges and seesaws are just some of the features that make the journeys through the region enjoyable for all ages. The target group of the project includes local and international tourists, tourism businesses, notably in the Country of Lakes region, and local residents (landowners, schoolchildren, students, etc.).

Giving a voice to cycling tourism

Promotion of the project was an important aspect, with 16 local seminars held to examine developing rest areas, admitting tourists, developing routes and using GPS technologies. Major events such as cycle marathons also took place, in 2006 in Rezekne (LV) and Glubokoje (BY), and 2007 in Ignalina (LT). A promotional booklet and route guides were published in 5 languages (LV, LT, RU, EN, DE), and maps were put on the Balticvelo website www.balticlakes.com for downloading. The project also took part in exhibitions such as Balttour 2007 (LV), Vivatour 2007 (LT), and ITB 2008 (DE).

Technologies show the way

The project seized the technological opportunities offered by GPS and purchased interactive maps and GPS devices for tourism information centres in Latvia and Lithuania to help with measuring and planning routes. Five days of theoretical and practical training on GPS and interactive maps were provided to tourism workers. Local tourism specialists also had the chance to learn and exchange experiences by going on 4-day tours in Holland.

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