The STEEP project (Social Tourism European Exchanges Platform) aims to develop a social tourism web platform to stimulate and facilitate transnational European exchanges between EU Member States, especially in the low season. The project is aimed at professionals: on the one hand accommodation providers, on the other hand intermediary organisations that promote holidays to the target groups (youth, families facing difficulties, seniors and people with disabilities).
A consortium of seven European organisations, led by ISTO, carries out the project, which started in April 2012. This 15-month project is co-funded by the European Commission by 75% of the budget.
Eight working groups have been set up, including one per target group. The goal is to better understand the needs and expectations of operators active in the sector. The four other groups work on the functional analysis of the platform; an ethical charter to which operators will be invited to subscribe when joining; promotion and marketing; and the future structure to manage the platform.
What is the progress of the project?
The web platform contains a public section, which is accessible to everyone, and a private section, restricted to members, with marketing and booking modules. Eventually, the platform will be developed in five languages: French, English, Spanish, Italian and German.
A presentation of the beta version of the platform, available at www.ecalypso.eu, was given at the European Commission in September 2012, with the participation of representatives of EU Member States and the private tourism sector, as well as to ISTO members during the World Congress on Social Tourism in Essaouira, Morocco, in October 2012.
The homepage of this initial version offers, besides an overall presentation of the platform, an overview of organisations having recently joined the platform as members, as well as the most popular offers for each target group. Additionally, there is a “News” segment and a “Notice Board” which allows members to ask for information about package deals (intermediate organisms, for example), look for partners (for setting up consortia) and post tenders (in the framework of public procurement).
The “Resources” section provides a virtual documentation center offering publications, reports and research documents, as well as audio-visual resources on social tourism in Europe.
The “Directory” section lists the members of the platform. It can be consulted by typology (buyer, seller), country or target group. Similarly for the “Offer” section, which includes a range of offered services or packages.
The “Calypso” section is designed to provide a platform and a privileged exchange space for projects which are supported by the European Commission, thus allowing them to continue their activities after the co-financing period.
The private section is reserved for organisations joining the platform as members, either as accommodation providers or as intermediary organisations. Access will be provided through individual access codes, following adoption of an ethical charter, which is currently being finalised. The latter reflects the values and guiding principles of social tourism, as well as the compliance with legal and social standards, accessibility and sustainability.
What are the main challenges of the platform?
Early 2013, the platform shall have completed its technical structure and tested its functionalities. It shall also integrate a calendar of the school holidays in the different European countries in order to highlight the low season. It could also highlight the Senior Initiative promoted by the European Commission.
In Spring 2013, the platform will get promoted among the operators of social tourism in the different Member States of the European Union, to recruit new members active with the four target groups and to establish strategic partnerships with operators likely to offer a significant volume of supply and demand.
Finally, a legal structure, close to a European non-profit organisation type, will be set up to manage the platform, and an economic model will be developed to ensure the sustainability of the platform after the co-financing by the European Commission.
The final version of the platform will be launched in June 2013. In the meantime, social tourism operators –both on the supply and demand sides- are strongly encouraged to take part in this initiative.
Joining the platform www.ecalypso.eu: what are the benefits ?
· Widen your market, beyond the domestic clientele
· Increase the visibility of your offers
· Open up to a new, high potential clientele
· Compensate for low-seasonality
· Six-month free trial without any commitment
· Diversify your catalogue of destinations
· Offer new destinations in Europe at affordable prices
· Widen the horizons of your target groups
· Strengthen the European citizenship
· Six-month free trial without any commitment
Further information: Danny Silva, Project Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org / tel. +32.2.274.15.37 / Mobile: +32.486.041.416.