Kars Locals Visit Spain


December 2009 : Following a study tour to Spain organized by a UN Programme not only is Nuran Özyılmaz, a small restaurant owner in the remote city of Kars, planning to add paella to her previously traditional menu but dairy farmer İlhan Koçulu has already contacted the mayor of a small town in Spain to exchange ideas about dairy farming and ecological agriculture.

To develop and enhance culture tourism and improve the capacity of the tourism sector, a study tour to Spain in the scope of the UN Joint Programme “Alliances for Culture Tourism in Kars” was organized between 13-20 December. The study tour began in Madrid and continued to world famous city of Granada, the popular ski resort Sierra Nevada, the beautiful port city Malaga and the historical city of Segovia. These cities were chosen by the Joint Programme because of their impressive developments in nature and culture tourism over the last couple of decades. Participants included, Deputy Governor of Kars, Sarıkamış District Governor and Mayor, Kars Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism, experts from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, members of the UN Joint Programme team and entrepreneurs from Kars.

Nuran Özyılmaz, also known locally as Nuran Teyze (aunt Nuran), serves delicious examples of local cuisine, such as the famous Kars goose in her restaurant. In her first trip abroad, Nuran Teyze had the opportunity to grasp the direct impact of the principles of safeguarding and preservation on the city’s tourism sector and overall economy. She concluded that the harmonious combination of past and present is the key to Spain’s tourism success and gathered ideas of how to utilize these principles in Kars.

After seeing Spain for the first time since 1990, İlhan Koçulu a dairy farmer who is interested in ecological farming, remarked that a carefully planned and implemented tourism strategy is crucial to building a region’s potential. He also stressed that visiting Spain with the local authorities of Kars, created a platform for stronger and more genuine communication and interaction between the public and private sector. Koçulu said “UN Joint Programme’s targets and strategy is totally clear and solid for me now. Moreover, I re-established my faith in myself and Kars.”

The study tour in Spain has widened entrepreneur and restaurant owner Göksel Kaygısız’s vision in running his 35 year-old family restaurant. Kaygısız explained he was most impressed with the Spanish approach to safeguarding and preserving both tangible and intangible heritage sites and structures. While visiting Granada’s world famous Al-Hamra Palace, he was fascinated by the cleaning of the palace walls which was done by hand. The gentle and detailed care given to this palace reminded him of the historical stone buildings in Kars that have been neglected. Now, on behalf of the sector specific organization established by hotel and restaurant owners in Kars (KARSOD), Kaygısız plans to prepare a report with his observations and share it with the Mayor of Kars.

On the agenda of the study tour, were meetings with representatives of the tourism sector and local governments, as well as training sessions with experts. The participants were given the opportunity to observe the practical applications of the Spanish tourism strategy in different cities and towns, as well as share important experiences with individuals in the Spanish tourism sector and with local government representatives. Part of the UN Joint Programme’s mission in the Spanish study tour was to improve the knowledge and experience of representatives from Kars’ public sector, the Ministry of Culture and local stakeholders who are also potential members of the Kars Tourism Governance Organization (TGO). During the study tour, Spanish authorities and representatives from the Spanish tourism sector presented comprehensive information about successful TGO examples in Spain and how national strategies and local priorities can be evaluated in this context.

Immediately following the study tour in Spain, the Joint Programme team travelled to Kars, and held a meeting with the Kars local media on 23 December to present a summary of all Joint Programme activities during 2009. Upcoming activities for 2010 were also shared in this meeting In addition; the participants of the study tour shared their experiences first hand.

The UN Joint Programme “Alliances for Culture Tourism in Kars” strives to improve the tourism sector in Kars and create new employment opportunities. Capacity building and training programmes in the tourism and service sector in Kars have reached a wide range of audiences in the first week of October to help construct local prospects for cultural and economic growth. Local men and women from Taşbaşı, Çanaksu, Boğatepe, Doğruyol and Hamamlı villages gathered to learn about possibilities of House Pensioning in the area.

The programme aims to mobilize the culture sector in Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia resulting in increased incomes for the people of Kars and, thus, contributing to the realization of poverty reduction at a localized level. In specific, the joint programme will develop the cultural tourism sector in Kars contributing to social cohesion by recognizing pluralism and by reducing income disparities between people of Kars and the rest of the country. For more information, please visit (http://www.undp.org.tr/Gozlem2.aspx?WebSayfaNo=1741)

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