Swiss know-how helps tourism in the Carpathian Foothills of Poland

Project completed
A group of Polish entrepreneurs visit a Swiss cheese dairy as part of their study visit on tourism.
A group of Polish entrepreneurs visit a Swiss cheese dairy as part of their study visit on tourism. © FDFA

Switzerland’s programme to develop tourism in Poland’s Podkarpackie Voivodeship is drawing to a close. The project has been supporting local initiatives promoting rural tourism and the marketing of traditional products. One of the key aspects of the programme is transferring Swiss know-how in this field.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Promoting economic growth and improving working conditions
Regional development and employment
01.04.2011 - 31.10.2016
CHF  4’818’388

Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.

The south-eastern voivodeship of Podkarpackie borders Slovakia and Ukraine, covering a territory almost half the size of Switzerland. The region is characterised by its remarkable natural heritage – 10 landscape parks, 16 protected areas, 70 natural reserves and the East Carpathians Biosphere Reserve in the Bieszczady National Park – but suffers because of its rural character and location on the margins of Europe. Unemployment is above 17%, reaching 20% in remote parts. 61% of the population live in rural areas and many young people leave home to earn a living.

The SDC’s programme to transfer Swiss know-how in the field of tourism to local actors in Poland is now coming to a close. Today Podkarpackie Voivodeship has a unique identity which attracts tourists, with the infrastructure and a global network to match. The SDC’s programme focused primarily on the more remote parts of the province – around 24 municipalities, which are among the poorest in Poland and Europe. It was carried out as part of Switzerland’s contribution to the enlarged EU with a total budget of CHF 4.82 million.

Transferring know-how

The programme has been running for five years. Initially a large-scale analysis was carried out in order to identify needs and the potential for tourism in the area. This was followed by an in-depth training period. The local team responsible for implementing the programme were invited to take part in a study visit to Switzerland. In addition, some 460 local entrepreneurs and NGO members also benefited from tailored training courses in Poland and Switzerland. The most important course subjects included partnerships and networks, local production, environmental protection, creativity and innovation, and the sustainable management of natural resources. Most of the course participants were from the hospitality sector or worked in other tourism-related activities such as sport, entertainment and leisure.

Follow-up assessments have highlighted an overall improvement in the quality of tourism services provided in this region. In addition, 113 jobs in a number of new small businesses were created using Switzerland's contribution fund. By sharing experiences, the Polish participants were also encouraged to come up with somewhat unusual ideas. These entrepreneurs went on to launch new services in the region after having been inspired by Swiss tourism products.

‘Made in Karpaty’

An important element to the programme was the development of the ‘Made in Karpaty’ label and its portfolio of services and artisanal products, and the creation of a strong identity for the label. Eighty companies and 162 products were awarded the label after a careful selection process. Visitors to the region can now buy different brands of dairy products, chocolates filled with local fruit or scented with Carpathian herbs and spices, honey, decorative pieces and other locally-produced items. The SDC’s programme to develop tourism in the region also included extensive marketing. One example is the Carpathian lynx, which is being used as a mascot and advertisement for the region.

2016, the year of tourism

Local agencies reported an exceptionally high number of tourists in 2016. More than 127,000 tourists were recorded taking the Bieszczady National Park train and over 10,000 people went hiking in the Carpathian mountain range. This is the first time that the area has seen such high numbers of tourists and is very encouraging for the future of this Polish region, its companies and people.