“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.
Ardelaine is a cooperative which was created in 1982 to restructure and develop the local wool industry on the site of a derelict wool mill. Today, it is involved at every stage of the manufacturing process and develops major cultural and tourist aspects of its activity, including museum tours on the history of wool, workshops, a shop and a restaurant. Since it is accustomed to receiving visitors and creating networks, Ardelaine believes that “the Cooproute can develop cooperative tourism at the European level, promote cooperatives to a wider public, train cooperators and young people in cooperative entrepreneurship, open up new horizons for leaders by meeting with cooperatives from different countries and enhance cooperatives’ creativity in social innovation”, concludes Ms Barras.
Next steps In the short term, the new coordinating team have identified the following steps to be taken: - To involve all the destinations that are already part of Cooproute more actively - To include new destinations - To promote package tours - To establish a common governance structure through the creation of a dedicated association “In the long run, we imagine Cooproute becoming a reference point for European cooperatives as an example of a concrete and active network promoting cooperative culture and disseminating good examples in Europe”, says Ms Rota from Betania. Expanding the participation of cooperatives from European countries still not involved, developing a real cultural and touristic proposal which would make Cooproute attractive for cooperatives, establishing a communication strategy and brand capable of reaching new and larger audiences, stakeholders and partners and developing appropriate strategies for the sustainability of Cooproute are just some of the actions currently being considered.