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About the project

REHIO project covers Dolj, Olt and Mehedinţi counties in Romania and Vidin, Montana, Vratsa, Pleven, Veliko Tarnovo and Ruse districts in Bulgaria.  These counties are characterized by plenty of highly valuable monastries and churches located on the both sides,  some of them dating from mid-centuries, and by intangible religious heritage, having huge potential for tourism develpment. Nevertheless, religious tourism is underdeveloped in the area and foremost unevenly distributed between the Black Sea and the whole rest of the region.
Overall objective and expected change to the current situation:
The overall objective of REHIO project is to promote the cross-border region, covered by the project, as a destination for religious tourism. The achievement of this objective will mark the religious tourism as new brand in cross-border tourism marketing and moreover, will create a conditions to increase the number of overnights in the both areas.
Programme output the project contributes to:
REHIO project will contribute to the achievement of specific objective 1.2. Cross-border tourisitic product, more concretely for the achievement of I9 – Number of integrated tourism products/services created and I10 – Number of common strategies, policies or management plans for valorising (including raising awareness) the cultural and natural heritage through its restoration and promotion for sustainable economic uses. It suggests common strategy to promote religious heritage (both tanglibe and intangible) along the Danube river in the both countries, and a new joint cross-border touristic products, i.e. e-guide, online platform and mobile application for religious routes, presenting the religious heritage, places for accommodation and leisure activities,  in the cross border region. REHIO project objective contributes to the fulfilment of the programme objectives by addressing common challenges and needs that are shared across the border and cannot be sufficiently addressed by one side alone (irrespective of the national level involved).  This is the common religious tangible and intangible heritage of a territory along the Danube river, which cannot be tackled separately due to the joint historical development of the Christian church regions during the last few centuries. The project expected outputs add values because not only the religious sites and monuments will be promoted, but also the common hirstorical non-tangible heritage, including religious feasts, traditions and practices, which has gone hand by hand from early centuries to present, remaining remarkable trace on their presence today and on the expression of the similarity of the both cultures.

The proposed project foresees the implementation of the following activities: 
1) Project management
2) Two field studies (1 in Bulgaria and 1 in Romania) to analyse the religious sites and intangible Chrisian heritage  (common Christian feasts, practices and customs in the counties, covered by the project), but also places for accommodation/and leisure activities around the identified sites;
3) Workshops for the target groups from the border areas (Bulgaria and in Romania) to present and discuss the outcomes of the studies and to outline the strategy.
4) A joint strategy for promotion of the religious tourism development and for diversification of religious heritage (tangible and intangible) in the two regions;
5) On-line guide to present religious heritage (tangible and intangible) of the regions, covered by the study,  places of accommodation in monasteries and guest houses, and hotels around the monasteries, including leasures activities and maps of religous sites, from the both sides of the border;
6) E-platform for pilgrims/tourists interested in religious tourism, indicating religious sites; intangible heritage – joint feasts, customs, practices and/or traditions; places for accommodation (monasteries and guest houses/hotels); leisure activities and map of the religious sites of the cross border area, covered by the project;
7) Publicity and information, i.e. advertasing campaign to promote the project, its results and outputs, including four  pressconferences; brochures and leaflets; documentary film to promote the religious heritage (tangible and intangible).; tematic publications for local media; two short TV ads to promote the cross-border potential for religious tourism, broadcasted on local TV channels.
7) A mobile application for smart devices – will be created to indicate the religious sites/routes, developed by the project.
What is new in the project are the proposed strategy for religious tourism development, the on-line guide and e-platform, and the mobile application, which will interactively present the identified religious sites, but also intangible religious heritage – common customs, feast and common history of the cross border regions. The suggested tourism products will be for the first time presented as new brand in cross border tourism marketing.
The indicative budget  (total contribution) is 394 500 EUR for the both partners. It is in line with the activities and demonstrate coherence with the results, respecting the price ceilings presented in the call.

REHIO project proposes new approach and innovative methods, such as elaboration of strategy for promotion of the religious heritage of the areas, covered by the project, suggesting religous tourism routes in an on-line tools such as e-platform, e-guide and mobile application, including also an intensive promotion of the e-products. The proposed solutions of the problems tackled by the project create a ground for establishing of a new brand for tourism and for increasing of the number of the overnights in the both regions.
Considering the favorable location of the regions, covered by the project, next to the Danube River, we believe that building a common and effective marketing strategy and innovative tourist’s products to promote the religious heritage goes beyond the existing practice to promote tourism, suggesting new brand, that will be added to the tourism marketing and will substantially increase and improve tourism sector in project areas, which in turn may effectively lead to increase of the number of the overnights and for improvement of the living standards in the regions.

The religious heritage of the cross border region is one of the tourists’ sectors with huge potential for development, offering new opportunities in the border region. However, the Danube-centred sustainable  tourism is still emerging and evolves in a totally different market (quantitatively and qualitatively) than the Black Sea seasonal mass tourism.  This feature and its divergence from the evolution of the other counties/districts is indicative of the development of a sustainable tourism in these areas. The current condition shows a discrepancy between the religious tourism potential and undeveloped tourism.  Some major weaknesses and constraints are related to the low popularity of religious sites, and intangible religious heriatege of the both regions, leading to insufficient number of nights (also in monasteries, which offers places for accomodation) realized in some border districts (Vidin, Montana, Vratsa, Pleven and Veliko Tarnovo in BG and Olt, Dolj, Mehedinți counties in Romania), some of them facing the lowest share of tourist visits. In addition to this, local tour operators and church workers are yet not well aware and has no capacity or knowledge to promote the full potential of religious sites. 
The project tackles the following common territorial challenges: 1) The perception of Olt, Dolj, Mehedinți counties and Vidin, Montana, Vratsa, Pleven, Tarnovo and Ruse districts as religious tourists’ destinations is still unclear; the religious tourists sector still has a small contribution to the total revenue of the regions. They don’t have a reputation as destination for religious tourism bona fide opportunity, which is caused mainly by: destination marketing deficiencies; lack of government support in tourism, unprofessional practices in the tourism business, low standards of services for visitors, poor tourism infrastructure, and merely inexistent facilities for leisure time. 2)  Some of the monasteries in the cross border region offer also accomodation, but their accommodation facilities are not being fully exploited. 3) The fact that a significant part of companies involved in the tourism sector register low profit is due to the lack of stable tourist flowsand low solvency of the population. There is poor presentation of the religious sites, but also of the intangible religious heritage; inadequate planning of pilgrimage tourist routes, and lack of established and promoted religious tourists attractions. Moreover,  tour operators rearly sugges trips for pilgrims in those regions. Summarizing all problems, it can be stated that the main problem is the low popularity of the religious heritage among tourists.