Exchange trip to Belgium opens new doors for tourism

Funded by the EU Interreg IVB project, five local business owners from Hay on Wye, the Upper Swansea Valley, Talgarth, Bwlch and Llanfihangel Talyllyn took the opportunity to visit Belgium and learn from their tourism business counterparts. 

The exchange visit provided a platform for local businesses to broaden their horizons, to learn from their EU partners and to exchange ideas and information with other like-minded businesses.  As part of the exchange the group visited many of the key visitor attractions and initiatives in two specific regions of Flemish Belgium – Meejesland in the West and de Merode in the East.  Whilst there, the representatives had an opportunity to discuss their respective businesses as well as learn from similar businesses located within the project’s five participating countries: Wales, England, Ireland, Netherlands and Belgium.

Nick Stewart, Collabor8’s Sustainable Tourism Officer for the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “This programme has so many benefits to tourism businesses in the Bannau Brycheiniog.  We focus on encouraging relevant tourism-related businesses from the Bannau Brycheiniog to work together on practical projects and initiatives in order to create quality, sustainable products and services that promote local ‘sense of place’.  The uniqueness of this area and the importance of embracing appropriate ‘new technology’ to enhance networking and marketability of businesses benefit not only the businesses themselves, but also our visitors and residents.”

Speaking of the benefits of the exchange, Anna Heywood, owner of Drovers Holidays in Hay on Wye said:  “I found the trip enjoyable and stimulating on a personal and professional level. When you’re running a tourism business it’s sometimes hard to step back and see things from the visitor’s point of view. In Belgium I was a tourist so the tables were turned, which was quite enlightening. It was clear that an innovative approach and an emphasis on collaborative working had really benefited businesses in the Meetjesland and the Merode.  I valued the opportunity to talk directly with fellow entrepreneurs. The trip may be over but we will definitely keep talking.”
Elizabeth Jeffries of Bannau Brycheiniog Tourism, a sub-partner in Collabor8 said:  “It was stimulating and inspiring to meet and share ideas and experiences with like-minded businesses and Collabor8 partners from other countries and regions. It also gave us the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the real potential of small businesses working together collaboratively to achieve sustainable economic activity and promote local sense of place to compete effectively nationally and internationally.”

COLLABOR8’s next transnational exchange will take place with the West-Country Rivers Trust, Cornwall in April 2010 and a later exchange in October 2010 at the New Dutch Waterline in the Netherlands.  For more information on how you can take part in the benefits of Collabor8 please contact Nick Stewart on 01874 620 490 or email