EXChAngE project is developing a new tourism product – Blue Pass, which will enable visits of new thematic routes with improved infrastructure: Dubrovnik and Aquarium (Croatia), Kotor and Aquarium Boka (Montenegro), Hutovo Blato Aqua Path, and Mostar Old Bridge and River Neretva (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and attracts more tourists in the area. This will be first-ever attempt to create such a cross-border tourism product.
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The project is implemented by the unique consortium with the University of Dubrovnik, the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research as lead, and partners from Bosnia and Herzegovina: Tourist Board of Herzegovina – Neretva Canton and Nature Park “Hutovo Blato”, and Montenegro: Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Montenegro and Tourism Organization Kotor.
On the project main objective, Dr Nenad Antolović, the Head of the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research of the University of Dubrovnik – the lead partner, said, “Activities will be implemented with the main objective to strengthen and diversify the tourism offer through exploring cross-border aquatic biodiversity and to enable better management and sustainable use of cultural and natural heritage.”
The project is supported within the Interreg IPA Cross – border Cooperation Programme Croatia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro 2014 – 2020 and uses ERDF and IPA II funds of the European Union. The total project budget is 1,7 M Eur with EU co-financing of 1,4 M Eur. The project has started on 15th August 2020 and will last for 24 months.
The University of Dubrovnik, the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research
Core competencies of the Institute are marine biodiversity, ecology, and management of the Aquarium. Recent results detect environmental conditions in the cross-border Croatia – Montenegro region and rural educational, cultural, and ethnographic tourist attractions.
Tourism Organization Kotor
TO Kotor main role and activities are preservation, improvement, and promotion of authentic values of Kotor town; organization and promotion of traditional manifestations and all other kinds of events that contribute to the enrichment of tourist offer; encouragement and organization of activities aimed at protecting and preserving the tourist space, the environment, and cultural heritage; valorization of all resources that Kotor town possess in order to enrich its tourist offer and product.
The University of Montenegro, the Institute of Marine Biology
Core competencies of IMB are focused on research in the fields of mariculture, marine conservation, ichthyology and marine fisheries, chemistry, general biology, neurophysiology and ecophysiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Recent results present the marine biodiversity of Boka Kotorska bay and provide inputs for the National Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management of Montenegro.
Tourist Board of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton
Since establishment in 2002 TBHNC creates and promotes the identity and reputation of tourism of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton. TBHNC is active in advertising activities of common interest for all entities in tourism, and for raising the level of quality and the overall tourist offer of the Canton.
Nature Park Hutovo Blato
Main activities of “Nature Park Hutovo Blato” d.o.o. Čapljina are protection, preservation, improvement, sustainable management, and promotion of Hutovo Blato swamp as a nature park, primarily through tourism and fishing and cultural heritage presentation.
Virtual kick-off meeting
Due to Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions, the University of Dubrovnik as the lead partner has organized a virtual Kick-off meeting on the Zoom platform on 31st August 2020 with the main objective to discuss among partners project objectives, main activities, and deliverables, setting project implementation teams and agree on forthcoming implementation steps. Project partners accepted their roles in the project implementation and prepared a Partnership agreement for the signatory process. Preparation of the Project Procurement plan is also initiated. It was agreed that a personal Kick-off meeting will take place at the Institute of Marine Biology, Kotor, Montenegro, on 11th September 2020.
Kick-off meeting of the project “Explore Cross-border Aquatic Biodiversity – EXChAngE” was held on 11th September 2020 in Kotor, Montenegro. The meeting gathered all 5 project partners from 3 countries: from Croatia the University of Dubrovnik, from Bosnia and Herzegovina Tourism Organization of Herzegovina-Neretva county and Nature Park “Hutovo Blato”, and from Montenegro: Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Montenegro and Tourism Organization Kotor. Project partners signed the Partnership Agreement, set project management bodies, and discussed planned activities, with which the project is launched.
Signing the Partnership Agreement
The launching event of the project was held on 19th October 2020 in Dubrovnik and Kotor. The event was organized as a combined seminar and webinar, due to Covid-19 travel and meeting restrictions. All 5 project partners presented planned project activities and deliverables in two meeting rooms: one at the University of Dubrovnik and one at the University of Montenegro, and to more than 30 webinar participants.
On the project main deliverable, Dr. Nenad Antolović, the Head of the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research of the University of Dubrovnik – the lead partner, said, “Blue Pass is much more than a joint ticket for five localities in three neighboring countries. It will offer comprehensive information in digital and paper form, guided tours of Dubrovnik Aquarium (Croatia), Kotor and Aquarium Boka (Montenegro), Hutovo Blato Aqua Path, and Mostar Aqua Path (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and creates a community for sustainable use of the cross-border aquatic biodiversity”.
Next Project Meetings
Tentative timeline of forthcoming project events and pieces of training:
- December 2020, Kotor: D.T1.4.5. Training for EXCHANGE Webmasters, webinar
- June/July 2021 Mostar: D.T1.4.3. Training: River Neretva Biodiversity
- September 2021, Dubrovnik: D.T1.4.1. Training: Adriatic Sea Biodiversity, seminar, and webinar.
- March/April 2022, Hutovo blato: D.T1.4.2. Training: Hutovo Blato Biodiversity, seminar and webinar.
- April 2022, Mostar: D.T1.3.10. Mostar Fair presentation
- May 2022, Kotor: D.T1.4.4. Training: Touristic presentation in English, webinar.
- June/July 2022, Kotor: D.C.2.1. Closing Conference, seminar, and webinar.