Cooproute: the co-operative heritage trail across Europe

The European confederation of co-operatives and worker-owned enterprises active in industry and services (Cecop-Cicopa Europe) is designing an innovative itinerary in the field of cultural and industrial tourism...

The European confederation of co-operatives and worker-owned enterprises active in industry and services (Cecop-Cicopa Europe) is designing an innovative itinerary in the field of cultural and industrial tourism to promote and preserve co-operative heritage.

The European Route of Co-operative Culture – Cooproute will include co-operatives that are deeply rooted in local territory and whose economic activities contribute to preserving traditional local skills and products.

Elisa Terrasi, Development and Studies Officer at Cecop, explains how the project came about: “The idea of this project came from the need to value the specific contribution of co-operatives to sustainable tourism: co-operatives active in the tourism sector respond to a number of challenges such as the respect and reinforcement of local communities in tourist areas as well as the stronger involvement of citizens, environmental sustainability and accessibility for everyone (regardless of age, health and economic profile).”

The UK’s Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum, which represents the birthplace of the modern Co-operative Movement, will be one of the tourist attractions included in the route.

Jennifer Mabbott, Museum manager, welcomes the initiative. “Cooproute is an exciting project that will connect centres of co-operative heritage and culture across Europe,” she says. “The project specifically aims to provide co-operative experiences for young people to inspire a new generation of co-operators.”

As part of the project, Cecop will launch a dedicated website and an online guide with virtual tours of co-operative sites as potential tourist attractions. Cecop’s project is supported by co-operative organisations from 17 European states, all hoping the interactive Cooproute itinerary will help to promote co-operative values and principles, particularly among young people.

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Ms Mabbott adds: “The creation of a European Route of Cooperative Culture is very innovative, but this must be accompanied by a strong and efficient communication strategy able to reach young people, who are the main target group in this project.”

The initiative is co-financed by the European Commission and supported by 17 European states. Representatives from each state met last year to discuss the best methodology to identify the co-operative sites that will be part of the route.

At the meeting they agreed on the selection criteria to identify these co-operative sites and worked towards determining the best communication strategy to give the project visibility. As part of the project, representatives from each partner state will distribute a questionnaire to their members to explore what destinations should be included on the route.

Due to their strong emphasis on environment and sustainability, co-operatives play an important role in the development of sustainable and responsible tourism in Europe. Worker, social and artisans’ cooperatives help create and maintain jobs within their local communities.

“More than 1,000 worker and social cooperatives from the Cecop – Cicopa Europe network involved in activities linked to tourism,” says Ms Terrasi. “We believe that this represents a huge potential in terms of creating of a more sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism.”

According to the European Commission, tourism represents today an important sector of EU’s economy, generating over 10% of EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 9.7m people across 1.8m businesses.

Cecop aims to have the trail recognised as a European Cultural Route by the European Council, where it would sit alongside routes such as the Via Frangelica pilgrim way from Canterbury, England to Rome, and the European Mozart Way between Milan and Salzburg.

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