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Veszprém’s ‘10 Months-10 Challenges’: a city-level sustainable tourism development model

Guiding Principle 1: See the whole picture. Recognize that most tourism by its nature involves the destination as a whole, not only industry businesses, but also its ecosystems, natural resources, cultural assets and traditions, communities, aesthetics, and built infrastructure.

It sounds like a TV show concept, but Veszprém’s ‘10 Months-10 Challenges’ Programme has provided the framework for the destination to become the first Hungarian city where every tourist facility has an independent but coordinated sustainability and accessibility program at the city level. No other major Hungarian city has ever introduced such a complex, conscious, unified green action package that extends to all institutions.

The concept began back in 2021, with a tourism audit of Veszprém, one of Hungary’s oldest cities and known for its rich history and culture, to identify any shortcomings that should be addressed before the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) Year 2023. From this, the 10 Months-10 Challenges Programme was developed, to help the destination better position itself in the domestic and international tourism market.

The programme, which ran from February to November 2022, focused on the 10 most important areas to be developed, at both destination and institutional levels in parallel, while also limiting the time frame of the preparation. A key objective of the programme was to contribute to the long-term economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the city's tourism. In line with the horizontal objectives of the ECoC, the programme aimed to create a sustainable tourism action plan for the city and all its institutions.

To address each of the 10 issues, an extensive capacity-building program was designed for the staff members of the city's primary tourism attractions, resulting in the 10 Months - 10 Challenges initiative. Each month was dedicated to a specific theme, encompassing live workshops, online webinars, tailored support materials for individual attractions, one-on-one goal-setting meetings and consultations, group meetings, as well as follow-ups and checklists to track progress toward the goals.

The themes were:

1. Institutional attraction and capacity building

2. Awareness raising – capacity building

3. Knowledge sharing

4. Enhancing online interfaces

5. Streamlining ticketing processes

6. Implementing effective visitor management strategies

7. Promoting sustainability

8. Enhancing and creating local and sustainable product offerings

9. Improving accessibility

10. Enhancing language skills

The 10 Months - 10 Challenges Programme also mapped compliance with the Green Destinations (GSTC accredited certification body) standard and developed an action plan with tasks to be completed by the end of 2023, including the implementation of actions related to sustainable tourism management. This ensured that schemes were created at a destination level as well as an institution level, to contribute to long-term market positioning, such as an integrated tourism system to help manage visitor numbers using digital tools for ticketing and information, based on real-time data.

The programme not only involved each institution thinking about how to reduce its ecological footprint and taking practical steps to achieve this but also ensured that the sustainability goals were communicated together - so that local residents, staff, and guests could see what institutions were doing for the future.

Joint action led to the introduction of selective waste collection in all establishments, the removal of bottled drinks from canteens, the replacement of paper-based administration with electronic administration as far as possible, and the introduction of a gift shop selling local and regional products. Staff buy-in of institutional green goals was essential for success, as well as by the guests who visit.

Key to success was making the tourism offer accessible to all and especially attractive to special groups of visitors such as families and those arriving by bike or with dogs. Accessibility was reflected in the whole visitor management process, including communication, interpretation tools, and services provided. Language accessibility was also prioritised, such as adding pictograms and multilingual options. Institutions now show which facilities offer accessible services, have made a web-based sign language service available everywhere, and an autism-friendly service package has been introduced in several institutions.

A sightseeing audio guide system has been developed allowing individual guests to experience the hidden treasures of the city even when guided tours are not available. Some institutions have also developed their own audio guides, focusing on several target groups, thus creating a unified digital urban experience space that makes exploring the city enjoyable with interesting and entertaining content.

All institutions have reviewed and enhanced their family-friendly services, including child-friendly exhibition content, play areas, and child-friendly toilets. Luggage storage and phone charging points have been made available in several places in the city, making it easier for visitors on bicycles or even on foot to explore the city and visit attractions.

Each institution is now publishing what they are doing to make the future as green as possible on its website. This is complemented by the uniform ‘Green Wall’ – a cardboard paper wall, with pictograms showing the sustainability actions (for example recycling, water saving, local products, etc) - which is already available at most of the institutions, clarifying the actions taken to ensure that Veszprém remains an attractive green city not only in the ECoC year and in the near future but also in the long term.

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