Kosovo’s economic region of West is mainly rural with agriculture being the prime economic activity of the population. Relying solely on a single sector is a rigid option for the uncertain future. The immediate consequences can be seen even now, as young people and families flee to urban areas looking for jobs.
The needs for a more diversified rural development have already been acknowledged within the local development strategies of the four municipalities that this project targets (Deçan/Dečane, Klinë/Klina, Istog/Istok and Pejë/Peč). Tourism, and particularly rural tourism therein, has been recognized as one of the opportunities for a more diversified economic development. Tourism indeed has potential for the region. For instance visitors from Kosovo may spent weekends in the area, visit traditional cultural events, experience traditional dishes, enjoy the environment.
The overall objectives of the project are:
- Regional economic development of Kosovo, especially the region West is supported;
- Implementation of local development strategies of the municipalities in the West region is supported;
- Implementation of LEADER approach is promoted.
The specific objective of the project is established foundations for diversified economic activities in the region related to tourism.
The expected results of the project are:
- Identified and developed local tourism products
Тhe focus of the project will be to identify genuine local tourism products with market potential. Although there are preliminary information about such products, the intention here is that a more thorough mapping should be done on the field. An important issue is the involvement of local stakeholders in the identification and selection phase. This is related to the “ownership” of the products, but also it reflects our conviction that local people (stakeholders) know best what is in their own interest if provided the right tools, processes and empowerment.
Then the project continues by selecting the most promising products and completing their development so they can be ready to be marketed. The products herein should be well thought from various aspects. Each should be packaged well to best suit the needs of the targeted clients, be it from Kosovo or from the region.
- Developed capacity for tourism
The second result focuses on improving the deficient skills of the local tourism-related actors. These range from those directly involved in the tourism industry such as suppliers of accommodation and/or restaurant services to less direct such as local shops, event organizers, municipality (or even LAG) personnel etc. All of them should be well equipped with knowledge and skills about good practices in tourism, standards in tourism, attitude towards tourists etc.
- Promoted tourism potential of the region
The third result is about promotion. It is a very important one for at least two reasons. On one hand, tourism is new to the region and it will take some effort for people to be (self) convinced that it can be a viable economic activity in parallel with the dominant agricultural pursuit. This is hence an awareness raising effort among local population, in addition to the previous capacity building result. On the other hand, promotion of products to potential clients is crucial for market success of any other business activity and by far more important for tourist products of a region that has long been neglected. The promotion will be fine tuned for each product and each targeted client group in Kosovo as well as the neighbouring countries.
- Improved capacity of sectors complementary to tourism
The fourth result may at first seem redundant however it is extremely important for two purposes: one is short term and the other is long term. The first is related to the need to demonstrate immediate results. Namely the project will be expected (and actually it would be beneficial) to yield visible results in the short-term. Our intention is that the best way is if these are small-scale public investments in tourist infrastructure and environment. People can see actual investments on the field and thus be inclined and assured that tourism may indeed provide a new and different image in the region. This will also invigorate the LAGs in these municipalities, considering that the same was written in the local development strategies (the success of the LAGs depends largely on their ability to show short-term results). As for the second (long-term) purpose of this result, it is crucial that some efforts are channelled towards protecting the environment and landscape. Currently the area is under the threat to be deforested and degraded by the forces of economic despair and improper land, forest and agriculture management. If this takes place on a larger scale, then prospects for tourism development will diminish exponentially. For this reason it is important to undertake some environment protection and awareness measures at this point of time.
The target group
The target group of the project are entrepreneurs and employees related to tourism and the Local Action Groups (LAGs) in the four municipalities of the Kosovo’s economic region West: Deçan/Dečane, Klinë/Klina, Istog/Istok and Pejë/Peč.
A wider target group will also include foresters, farmers and construction companies whose activities (may or actually) degrade the environment and hence the tourism potential of the region.
The final beneficiaries of the project is the total population living in the four municipalities of the Economic Region West, totaling to 340,839 inhabitants
Partners of the lead applicant are the four Local Action Groups (LAGs) in the targeted municipalities of the economic region West. These LAGs have only recently been established as part of an EU-funded project “Local Development Strategies”. The positive side of the LAGs is that they are community-based groups and that members are high-profile individuals within these municipalities. However, their institutional capacity as LAGs is rather low. Therefore, this project should serve as a starting reference point in their development. They should come out from the project more strengthened, with concrete and relevant results. Their legitimacy hence will be reassured. They have real interest in taking part in the project. They therefore participate as partners and have managed to ensure financial participation for the project, in spite of the difficult financial situation of these municipalities.