NDPC seminar and workshop in Madona, Latvia, within NDPC Collaboration Project: CreaDigi&Tourism

On August 16 and 17, 2018 a seminar and practical workshop by NDPC titled Tell a Story – what is the Unique About Your Place. Creating a Story of Your Place, Product and Service. Design Thinking - an Introduction took place in Madona, Vidzeme region of Latvia.

The aims of the seminar were to give practical knowledge to its participants on the importance of storytelling in creating image and in promotion of the town and the region, of development of CCI products and services; to share good examples and case studies of Latvia and Denmark and use experts’ knowledge and experience in developing ideas for regional development of cultural tourism; to bring ideas and concrete suggestions for future developments, future projects and collaboration; to prototype regional problems, challenges and solutions in local story development for other similar cases and places.

The event consisted of presentations and practical exercises involving CCI, city development, tourism experts from Latvia, Latvia&Switzerland and Denmark on one side, and local CCI, tourism SMS and municipal operators on the other side.

During the first day of the event, participants were taken on an excursion to explore local tourist attraction sites, including culture and nature pearls. Amongst the places visited were Madonas karameles, a local caramel-making workshop and factory; winter and summer sports and leisure centre Smeceres sils, where numerous national and international sports championships are held; ceramics workshop of Jānis Seiksts; home wine makery Domu pietura; amazing nature spots around lake Lubānas - Lubāna wetland information centre and water tourism development centre Bāka.

The second day was started with presentations of good examples and case studies of Latvia and Denmark on storytelling, place branding and tourist attraction. Andris Klepers, Researcher, PHD Geogr., Associated Professor of Vidzeme University, expert of tourism marketing, Latvia, shared the success stories of Latvia in place branding and marketing and gave tips on how to tell the local story. Johanne Buur Bruntse, Consultant of city development and CCIs, Municipality of Aarhus, Denmark, presented Denmark’s experience on how non-urban areas and regions can develop their stories and profiles. The first two presentations were followed by exploration of tourist offering in Madona and what good things are already happening there. Andris Karpovičs, Nature Protection Administration of Madona, spoke about natural values in nature reserves and beyond. Ilze Stūre, Tourism Information Centre of Madona, presented activities, events and offers of Madona tourism promotion in 2018. Finally, Māra Lieplapa, Plūkt LLtd, Madona, inspired others with Madona business incubator and her own company story.

The afternoon part of the workshop was dedicated to idea generation for Madona by stepping into users’ shoes, led by Signe Adamoviča, IdeAllies leader, Creativity Lab partner in Latvia, and Charles Bušmanis, designer, founder of Design Elevator, Latvia/Switzerland. The challenge given to the participants was: how to attract more tourists to Madona. The participants were divided into 5 groups, each group representing one of the user profiles: local tourists, international tourists or entrepreneurs. Problems and opportunities discovered, and ideas generated were all from the perspective of that particular user group chosen. At the end of the day, the teams came up with the following ideas:

1) The team 3 V (varbūt varam vairāk / translation from Latvian: maybe we can do more) wished to brand Madona as a creative centre, attracting more craftsmen and creative professionals to the city. They proposed to set up a web camera in a public space (possibly using the existing ones) where artists could come and present their work to everyone;

2) Madona box idea was developed by the second team who suggested to launch a get-to-know Madona campaign on Facebook and visitmadona.lv page to Latvian tourists who do not know much about the city. The amount of physical boxes would be limited to 100 and they could be won by participating in a contest. There would be boxes filled with local Madona products, souvenirs, tickets to visit places - under certain sub-categories, for example, nature, food, culture etc.;

3) The third team saw the need to facilitate cooperation of local SMEs and encourage others to start up business in the city to maximize the market opportunities serving tourists. They presented the idea of launching a business club for local entrepreneurs, thus fostering their networking and new business-collaboration opportunities;

4) The team Ābols (translation from Latvian: apple) tackled the problem of information accessibility for tourists. They suggested an available platform - accessible to everyone when entering Madona - for distributing information about up to date happenings in Madona and places to visit which would be easily printable. The team also came up with the new brand idea for Madona - they proposed to position Madona as a good place to go when it rains: there will be something to do for everyone;

5) The problem the fifth team touched was linked to the fact that Madona is losing to its competitors regarding the number of tourists. Team’s target audience was local tourists from Riga and big cities who come to Madona with their cars. They presented the idea of Madona as a winter capital and developing tourist offering exactly under this theme: business, catering and nature offering would comply with winter capital brand. The slogan “Mad on nature” which is the interpretation of “Madona” name could be used also in summer time for summer tourism attractions.

During the workshop, there was a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats generated by all the participants which could help Madona and its people to further work on fostering tourist attraction to the city.

The seminar and workshop as idea generation laboratory and inspiration boost, bringing together stakeholders and those interested, was a first step in local efforts and work ahead achieving Madona’s goal to become more visited by tourists.

Project CreaDigiTourism is co-financed by the EU Baltic Sea Region Interreg programme. Partners of the Project are Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture, Northern Dimension Institute/ Aalto University and National Association of Creative Industries of Lithuania. Project collaborator locally was Madona Museum and municipality.

Contact: ilze@norden.lv

Photo gallery of the event: