The Power of Collaboration in Sustainable Tourism during a short RUN-EU exchange programme

Last week, in the picturesque town of Barcelos, Portugal, a group of 25 students from different backgrounds and RUN-EU institutes came together for a unique adventure. Guided by the belief in cross-collaboration, we embarked on a Short Advanced Programme (SAP) journey to find innovative solutions for sustainable tourism.

Our mission was clear: to help Barcelos develop further as a sustainable tourism destination and provide recommendations for a resilient and inclusive future. Divided into project teams, we delved into fascinating topics such as the Festival of Crosses, the St. James's walk, traditional gastronomy, and empowering young artists. After each week (also during online part) the student groups got feedback (from us and the municipal council), in line with the DBE philosophy, to improve their ideas and solutions to ensure they would have the best possible fit for the client and the highest chance to be implemented.

Our Barcelos adventure went beyond academia, becoming a catalyst for bridging gaps and connecting sectors. We brought together experts and stakeholders from academia, research, and industry, creating a diverse tapestry of cultures and perspectives. Our international multidisciplinary students collaborated, explored through interviews and observations towards unlocking new dimensions of creativity.

 The findings and recommendations were presented to, among others, Elisa Braga, councillor of Culture and Tourism. Based on the enthusiastic responses from the representatives of the municipality of Barcelos, many of the ideas were selected to be useable and were likely to become implemented on the short-term. For some other ideas the council thought that it would require a bit more time and effort to get it done.

Together, we've shown the way forward, leveraging collaboration to drive innovative solutions for a brighter future in sustainable tourism. Silvia Raquel Pereira, from our collaboration partner Instituto Politécnico do Cávado e do Ave (IPCA), summed it up perfectly: "This is the power of applied research—the ability of international students to create tailor-made solutions."

The program on Barcelos is a prime example of the potential of cross-collaboration in shaping sustainable destinations.

Bernadett Papp and Dr. Jasper Heslinga