The Vysočina region where The College of Polytechnics Jihlava (VŠPJ) is located has a great potential for tourism mainly because of its pure nature and rich cultural heritage including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Žďár nad Sázavou, Telč and Třebíč). However, tourist industry is not sufficiently developed in the region. The annual numbers of visitors are not comparable with other regions of this type in the Czech Republic (according to the statistics, the region has the second lowest number of accommodated guests among all the Czech regions). Besides missing quality of the infrastructure and services, there is also a lack of usable knowledge about the region itself. VŠPJ as a PHE institution with explicit regional mission and with accredited study program on tourism wants to be an important driving force in developing of the regional tourism. Therefore VŠPJ established its own travel agency in 2008 and yet it made the first step in promoting tourism in the Vysočina region. This type of entrepreneurial activity is very innovative and exceptional in the context of the Czech higher education. This agency provides standard tourist services and at the same time it is also an organization where students of tourism can complete their trainee-ships and develop their practical skills. Travel Agency of VŠPJ currently focuses on out-coming tourism including tours/trips to cultural events such as concerts, theater performances and musicals. Students expand their creativity while working together with other regional actors, such as diverse providers of tourist services, regional tourist offices etc.
What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?
Impact of this action relies in the enhancement of students' abilities and competences in bringing knowledge to practice. They gain experience in organisation, negotiation and communication within specific tourist events.
What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?
There are important conditions on the side of HEI that have to be in place. It has enough personnel with work experience and relations to tourist industry in the region. The facilities for organisation and communication have to be set and a support structure for students' placements helps to fully benefit from the action.
What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?
The agency still focuses only on outgoing tourism, i.e. organizing tours and trip for people to go out of the region. The main challenge is how to develop progammes and offer for incoming tourists in the region. These challenges have not been addressed yet.
Feasibility & Sustainability
What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?
The action is relatively efficient to sustain. It needs experienced employee to be responsible to manage it, but it also brings profit from the events. As the practical training is very important and obligatory part of the curriculum, this action offers rather affordable way how to provide it in-house.
Replicability & Upscaling
What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?
This good practice is more or less easily replicable in other contexts. It needs legal provision that enables the HEI to establish private entities from business. As the travel agency does not need heavy infrastructure, it can be established with minimum costs. The most important facilities needed are ICT and PR capacities in the city or region.
What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?
While out-going tourist services are well established in the travel agency, in-coming tourism is still missing. Yet there is still great opportunity for developing programmes and overall framework for in-coming tourism. The first aim would be to develop attractive brand for the Vysočina region based on its natural and cultural heritage. The region has enough potential that has not been taken as a comparative advantage yet.
Considering the role VŠPJ´s travel agency so far, it can be noted that it might play a more active role in regional tourism. It can not only help to develop attractive image of the region, but also to increase visibility of VŠPJ within region and to improve its regional engagement which is an important part of its mission.