An EU-funded project, “Improvement of intangible cultural heritage in cross-border region“, promoted the heritage of the Bulgarian-Serbian border region with cultural activities, including plays and displays of traditional dancing, with the aim of boosting regional integration and increasing tourism and awareness of the area on social media. The activities focused on the municipalities of Montana, in Bulgaria and Nish, in Serbia.
The project was nominated for the Regio Stars Award by the Management Authority of the Interreg-IPA Cross Border Cooperation Bulgaria-Serbia Programme. Even the project was not selected for the final award it was recognized as example of good practice.
The project partners organized four cultural events, two in Bulgaria and two in Serbia, featuring performers from both countries. The audience enjoyed traditional dances and songs that reflected the countries’ common cultural heritage, as well as plays, puppet theaters and modern dance ensembles.
An online cultural calendar was created to inform locals and tourists about events in the area and a common tourism promotion strategy was developed. The result was improved regional cohesion, thousands of people following the project on social media, and a boost to local tourism and economic activity.
Using social media
The project was based on data from the Bulgarian Census Bureau and Serbian tourism officials, showing that tourism in the area lagged behind international trends.
The aim was to popularize local cultural events and create awareness of the attractiveness of the cross-border region as tourism destination and to improve cohesion between the two nations and their shared cultural heritage – reflected in songs, dance, stories and lifestyle.
The result was an online campaign called “Mediana Timeless”. The performances were free and held in public spaces. As a result, residents and tourists, but also people from marginalized groups and those with disabilities were able to enjoy the shows. The performances were filmed and posted on YouTube and promoted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The main benefits were more than 13 000 followers of the project on the three social networks, more than 25 000 page visits and 9 000 interactions with visitors. More than 1 000 local citizens, pre-school and school children attended the events and enjoyed performances by Bulgarian and Serbian musicians and actors.
What was innovative about the project was that when one partner organized an event on its territory, the performance was streamed online, allowing the other partner to organize a public viewing for its citizens and tourists.
An outdoor stage and projection system for the Bulgarian partner and stage equipment, audio, sound and projection systems for the Serbian partner were purchased. The partners aim to continue using the equipment for at least five years after the end of the project. Both partners are ensuring the sustainability of the project by budgeting for it and financing it with their own and other sources of funding.
The common tourism promotion strategy was intended as guide for tourist agencies and organisations. It outlines trends in local tourism and makes recommendations for future plans. It contains information about traditional cultural events and historical and tourist sites.
The common online cultural calendar was elaborated to inform tourists and local residents about upcoming events and attractions, helping tourists plan their visits to the region.
The project provided a boost for companies in the tourism sector, including transport operators, gift and souvenir shops.