Moving forward to a destinations-centred COOPROUTE

Several cooperatives across Europe are offering a sustainable and innovative tourism experience. In 2014, CECOP, together with other cooperative organisations, local authorities and entities from all around Europe, launched the European route of Cooperative Culture, known as the Cooproute, in order to make people aware of these initiatives. Cooproute groups together cooperatives and museums all around Europe: they preserve local cultural and industrial heritage while promoting the history and values of the cooperative movement.

“The purpose of Cooproute has been always to show how to contribute to sustainable economic development and job creation by boosting locally-rooted tourism activities democratically run by cooperatives. By doing so, not only are they creating wealth by making their area attractive to tourists, but they are also actively promoting cooperative values such as self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity”, said the coordinator of Cooproute within CECOP, Elisa Terrasi. After launching its visual identity and website in 2014, Cooproute has been promoting its itinerary that now includes more than 80 cooperatives from the tourism sector. Their profile can be explored online by sector of activity and by country.

Having accompanied Cooproute in its launch phase, namely during the implementation of a EU co-financed project between 2013 and 2015, and during its follow-up period between 2015 and 2016, CECOP has now passed on the baton to a new coordinating team for the future management of the itinerary. While CECOP will remain involved and will continue to support Cooproute, together with other cooperative organisations, as a member of a Strategic Committee, the new management will focus its efforts on strengthening the connection between the destinations and supporting the creation of a new dedicated association.

In this new phase, the lead is being taken by the Italian social cooperative Betania and the French worker cooperative Ardelaine. “By creating an association, Cooproute will be presented as a touristic product offering new ways to promote cooperative culture through touristic routes”, says Elisa Rota from the Betania cooperative. "The idea is that destinations network and coordinate themselves to make Cooproute visible and promote it by creating itineraries in the different countries, under a common transnational project and branding identity", says Beatrice Barras from Ardelaine in France.

Betania has the entrepreneurial vision of a social cooperative which is both a tour operator and travel agency. Founded in Monza in 2001, the cooperative believes that work is a tool for human and social development. Betania carries out activities aimed at providing employment for disadvantaged people in partnership with local social services for disadvantaged people and offers a "different" way of travelling that reconciles personal needs with the needs of the countries, by harmonizing tourists’ physical and economic possibilities on the one hand, and respect for the host community on the other; this promotes social, affordable, supportive and responsible tourism.

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