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SIRT

Suwałki Chamber of Agriculture and Tourism (SIRT), established in October 1991, registered basing on the Act on Chambers of Commerce, is the organization recognizable on domestic as well as on foreign market. It supports the economic development of Suwałki region, cooperates with local governments, tourism and gastronomy business sector, as well as with food manufacturers, especially by promoting regional and traditional polish products. For its work, the Chamber received a number of honors and awards, including distinction of the Polish Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the two main prizes of the Polish Ministry of Regional Development in the contest "Poland even more beautiful".
Since 1996, Chamber has been a Centre of the National System of Services for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (KSU), and in November 2002 obtained accreditation to perform information, consultancy and training services.

Main objectives of Chamber:

  • activities targeted at development of the production of healthy food, its processing and distribution
  • sustainable development of the region by supporting tourist activities and enterprise development
  • activation of rural areas by development of agricultural tourism and ecotourism as an alternative or additional source of income
  • improving the standard of the services rendered in the tourist sector and their accessibility with special care given to the needs of the disabled
  • creation of the regional, integrated system of tourist information
  • promotion of the region and its tourist offer
  • representing the interests of Chamber members

Among the main activities of Chamber there are:

  • consultancy and training services for the development of tourist and food enterprises, with special regard to rural areas
  • active transborder cooperation with foreign partners in tourist and food industry
  • standardization of the rural accommodation facilities
  • direct cooperation with businessmen, development of different forms of active tourism and creation of the regional tourism product basing on the cultural heritage of the region and its natural and landscape advantage
  • working out promotion publications, the participation in tourist trade fairs, public relations and other activities connected with the promotion and publicity of the tourist offer
  • management of the Tourist Information and Regional Promotion Centres along with the reservation of accommodation services.
  • working out and realization of projects connected with the development of tourist infrastructure, including the adjustment of the facilities for the disabled persons

Members and territorial range:

  • over 50 members (mostly owners of country guest houses and other units offering tourist services ) from the Podlaskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie Provinces
  • cooperation with many local authorities and institutions acting in the area of tourism and regional development
  • the area of the Polish Republic and foreign countries;
  • immediate concern - the area of north-eastern Poland (Podlaskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie Provinces) and the border regions of Belarus

Facilities:

  • modern office in the centre of Suwałki and IT equipment,
  • Chamber has at his disposal office-operational facilities in downtown Suwałki,
  • Integrational Recreation and Training Centre for 46 persons in Nowa Wieś near Suwałki

Achievements to Date and Current Undertakings

In the course of 24 years, the SIRT has realized a number of undertakings in support of the development of the regional enterprises, focusing especially on the sector of tourism and food:

  • We have conducted over 100 training sessions, workshops, study visits and seminars in the development of the traditional food, the tourism /especially the rural tourism/ and tourist product creation, ecological education and transborder cooperation, inter alia:
    • In 1993, Chamber organized in the Suwałki Region, the first in Poland, all-Poland’s agro-tourist conference titled “Agricultural Tourism Development in Poland - Chances and Threats” dedicated to a comprehensive political and social debate on the perspectives and problems of the agricultural tourism. It contributed to the acceleration of the work on the new law regulating the development of rural tourism, creation of new agricultural tourism associations and their national federation. Such symposia, a proven method of experience exchange and common search for new solutions by different bodies responding to the changing the reality of the agricultural tourist market, have been held since annually in different regions of Poland.
    • In 1999 Chamber organized the seminar titled „Development of Tourism inTransborder Areas, an Essential Element of Activation and Integration of Local Borderland Communities” – the conclusions of the seminar have been consistently put into practice in the form of common Polish-Lithuanian projects.
    • In 2000 and 2002 we co-organized, with the City Council of Suwałki, “The Typical Regional Dish” competitions, as result of which best regional dishes were awarded and recommended with the tourist logo of the Polish Tourist Organization. The event essentially contributed to the promotion of our traditional cuisine and fostered discussion on its importance in the development of the Polish tourist product.
    • In 2002, by organizing the seminar titled "Tourism - Entrepreneurship - Regional Development”, co-financed by PARP within the framework of the project “Generations’ Relay”, Suwałki Chamber of Tourism and Agriculture again undertook the organization of a meeting of local authorities with the tourist trade, agencies training personnel for tourist industry and other organizations connected with regional development, for the purpose of summing up of the activities hitherto conducted in support of the development of the tourism in the region and the continuation of the discussion on the perspectives of the development of the local and regional tourism product,
    • In 2003 Chamber organized two regional seminars with the participation of international experts titled:
      • “Economic Advantage of the Development of Tourism in the Region - from Diffuse Activities to an Integrated Programme”, Suwałki - 27 June 2003,
      • ”Influence of Active Tourism on Sustainable Development of Functional Areas – Integrated Network of Bicycle Routes in Suwałki Region”, Suwałki - 13-14 November 2003, which contributed to the integration and active cooperation of various parties /local authorities, national parks, forest inspectorates, tourist businesses and country guest houses, training institutions and non-governmental organizations/ for the benefit of the development of the tourism as the main branch of the local economy and its development, with special regard to rural areas,
    • In 2003 SIRT was the main co-organizer of the 10th Jubilee all-Poland’s Symposium on Agricultural Tourism „Rural Tourism - from Diffuse Activities to Complex Strategy” under the patronage of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Economy, Labour and Social Policy /Cracow - 15-17 September 2003/ including analysis and the diagnosis of the rural tourism in Poland and formulating guidelines for future development.
  • Till 2013 there were organized many international seminars dedicated to the co-ordination of activities in the development of tourism in Suwałki region as an important sector of its economy and to working out of an integrated system of tourism management.

During last three years SIRT has elaborated and realized over 30 international projects, inter alia:

  • “Improvement of cross-border region attractiveness through the introduction of ethno-cultural resources into the tourist activities. (A trip to the ethnic fairytale).” - Cross-border Cooperation Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine 2007-2013. EU financial contribution - 1 270 306 EUR – 2012-2014 (trainings, workshops, study tours for journalists, preparing and printing of tourist guide, construction and renovation of ethno-cultural tourism objects)
  • “Communication without limits” – creating a cross-border network of tourist information. Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine 2007-2013, EU financial contribution - 323 760 EUR – 2012 (creating and equiping of 7 Tourist Information Points in Grodno region, trainings, workshops, study tours for journalists and local authorities)
  • “Unknown Europe” – tourism infrastructure development in the cross-border area of Augustow Canal and the Neman river.” Neighbourhood Programme INTERREG IIIA TACIS CBC, EU financial contribution 666 000 EUR – 2008/2010 (purchasing of such equipment as bicycles, canoes, elements of high ropes park and other to Belarus, equipping of TIC in Grodno, trainings, workshops, study tours)
  • “Sustainable Management of Angling Tourism in Natura 2000 and other Sensitive Areas” BSR Baltic Sea Region, INTERREG IIIB Neighbourhood Programme,– EU financial contribution 95 580 EUR – 2005/2007
  • “Dynamic clustering of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector in the border regions of Suwałki and Alytus” European Regional Development Fund. Neighbours in Action - EU financial contribution 77 050 EUR - 2010 (workshops and social consultations for more than 120 people, two-days congress for 100 participants, creating of a database for a joint cooperation platform)
  • “Extension of infrastructure for the needs of active tourism within Polish-Belarussian borderland” – INTERREG III A, Neighbourhood Programme Poland – Belarus – Ukraine – tourist investment development programme – eligible costs 1 300 000 EUR – 2005/2007 (sports and recreation centres, beaches, wooden piers)
  • “Baltic Sea Cycling – the development of the infrastructure within the integrated network of cycle trails in Suwałki Region” - Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare - EU financial contribution 187 000 EUR – 2005/2006.
  • “Employability – (Re-)integration to the labour market” – EQUAL Project with Polish, French, Italian and Lithuanian partners – 1 800 000 EUR – 2005/2008.
  • “Transborder Tourism Development – a chance for the young on the labour market” – National Programme for Poland 2003, Small Projects Fund – EU financial contribution 65 036 EUR – 2005/2006 ( tour guides training course, tourist workshops, seven days long cycle rally for young people from Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Russia – Kaliningrad Oblast).
  • “On the Baltic Trail – the development and promotion of the tourist product” – National Programme for Poland 2003, Small Projects Fund - EU financial contribution 66 433 EUR – 2005/2006 (workshops, tourist fairs, transborder promotion publications).
  • Baltic Sea Cycling project – strategies for more cycles in the transport system for developing attractive and sustainable townscapes – BSC project INTERREG IIIB Neighbourhood Programme – eligible costs 2 295 428 EUR – 2004/2005 ( 22 regions from seven Baltic Sea countries).
  • “Under a professional eye of the instructor” – Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare – Baltic Sea Region 2002, Small Projects Fund RMB/2002/24 – UE financial contribution 42 705 EUR – 2004/2005 (training courses, instructor courses – more than 80 participants got new qualifications/state entitlements as organizers and instructors of horse riding, kayaking, hypotherapy, survival, fitness – new forms of gymnastics).
  • “STOP – acquaint yourself with magical spots of the borderland!” – Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare, National Programme for Poland 2002 (Eastern Border), Small Projects Fund GWFMP/2002/89 – 2004/2005 (training courses, workshops, study tours for journalists, tour operators, tour guides from Lithuania, Belarus, Russia and Poland).
  • “Tourist product development programme within the borderland as an essential element of Niemen Euroregion tourism development conception” - Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare, Programme for Polish Eastern Border 2001, Small Projects Fund GW/2001/49 - EU financial contribution 28 173 EUR – 2003/2004 (preparing programme documentation).
  • “Baltic Sea Cycling – integrated network of cycle trails within Suwałki Region – feasibility study” – Baltic Sea Region 2001, Small Projects Fund RMB/2001/29 - EU financial contribution 47 169 EUR – 2003/2004.
  • “Baltic Sea Cycling – integrated network of cycle trails within Suwałki Region” – Baltic Sea Region 2001, Support Scheme SW/NIE/04 – UE financial contribution 182 828 EUR – 2003/2004 (training courses, seminars, publishing of bike trails map connected with the EUROVELO network, marking out new bike trails as well as the preparation of technical documentation for about 60 tourist investment places close to the bike trails).
  • “Integrated network of tourist service in Niemen Euroregion” - Polish Eastern Border, Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare 2000, Small Projects Fund GW/II/07 - EU financial contribution 14 125 EUR – 2002 (training courses, seminars, establishing of financial and legal guidelines to create joint tourist product and cross-border co-operation).
  • “Tourist infrastructure availability improvement in Niemen Euroregion” - Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare – Baltic Sea Region 2000, Special Project in Aid of Baltic Sea Region – Small Project Fund – EU financial contribution 72 937 EUR – 2003 (training courses, tourist trails and tourist attractions marking, a network of bike hires creation).
  • “Model system of tourist service recommendation in Niemen Euroregion” – Polish Eastern Border, Cross-Border Co-operation Programme Phare 2000, Small Projects Fund, SPFG/EN/23 – EU financial contribution 25 435 EUR – 2003 (training courses, promotion mark, promotion brochure).

Publications and educational materials, inter alia:

  • The Practical Guide „Rural Tourism Development” within the framework of the TOURIN II Programme,
  • The Practical Guide „Country Guest House” published along with the Polish Foundation for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises”,
  • The guide: „My Tourist Business Project of the in the Region”.
  • Guidebook: “Suwalszczyzna. The Place Like Fairyland”
  • Guidebook: “Guidebook to Belarusian and Polish Borderland Poniemnie and Suwalszczyzna”
  • Guidebook: “The 9 Wonders of Suwałki Region (Suwalszczyzna)”
  • Guidebook: “ Suwałki Region (Suwalszczyzna) for the Active”

SIRT was the first organization in Poland to form an association of guest house owners in Poland. It has directly activated over 300 farms in the north-eastern Poland that began agro-tourist services.

Since 1996 SIRT has been one of the centres of the National System of Services (KSU) for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, working at the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. Within the framework of KSU, Chamber renders services in information, consultancy and training, particularly for businessmen in the tourism sector.

Chamber initiated the creation of the cultural trail in Suwałki region called: “Handicraft and Traditions of Suwałki and Mazurian Village”, as well as a horse-riding trail and an integrated network of bicycle routes in the Suwałki region.

We founded the Centre of Tourist Information and Promotion of the Suwałki Region with the exposition “Traditions, History and Folk Culture of Suwałki Region and Mazuria”.

In 2000 we founded the Transborder Computer System of Tourist Information and Promotion of Poland-Lithuania Border Region with the network of 20 centres and TI points on both sides of the border, equipped additionally with external, twenty-four-hour TI kiosks

Within the framework of its marketing objectives, Chamber conducts systematic research and market analyses and prepares promotion and information publications (e.g. 40 catalogues, brochures and tourist guide-books, we participate yearly, along with the City Council of Suwałki, in the most important tourist trade fairs, prepare and facilitate the commercialization of the regional tourist offer).

Chamber has undertaken the task of the creation of recreation, integration and rehabilitation facilities for the disabled persons utilizing the natural resources of the Suwałki region, based on the facilities of a former school created the Integrational Centre of Recreation, Education and Rehabilitation “Maniówka” in Nowa Wieś, near Suwałki, as a model centre of rural tourist accommodation.

For many years now SIRT has conducted activities for unemployed and youth, with the aim of their activation and increasing interest in the possibilities of initiatives in the tourist industry potential of the land, facilitating young people’s search for personal careers and professional success in their own region. This has included a number of undertakings which have involved over 300 young persons, e.g.:

  • Within the framework of the project "Youth Integration and Stimulation of the Sense of Belonging to the European Community through Active Forms of Transborder Cooperation” there was a cycle of meetings, competitions, quizzes and sightseeing tours for Polish and Lithuanian children and youth, allowing the mutual recognition of history, cultural traditions and values of natural-scenery of the border regions as well as development of personal contacts between the members of the young generation /1999/
  • The project "Training of Professional Personnel and Development of Practical Skills in Active Tourism” gave the possibility of a 10-month training for six young people in the organizations involved with active tourism in the department of Jura, France.
  • Another project: "Development of Professional Qualifications in Tourist Services”, elaborated and implemented by SIRT, covered a group of 20 unemployed young people who took part in a three-month professional training at the tourist base of the German administrative district of Muritz, co-operating with the authorities of Suwałki.
  • The project “Generations’ Relay” /2002/, connected with a development of entrepreneurship and development of entrepreneurial attitudes among the young, was directed at a group of 100 secondary school students from four secondary schools in the Suwałki region,
  • The project „Increased potential...” /2003/ - was connected with the development of a system of entrepreneurship in the region.

 Another initiative of the Suwałki Chamber of Agriculture and Tourism meant to support the development of tourism in the region was Chamber’s assumption, on 12 December 2001, of the duties of the Local Tourist Organization, the requisite part of the new structure of management.

In 2002, SIRT prepared, along with its local partners /25 autonomies, 3 parks, 7 forest inspectorates, tourist subjects/, a project for Structural Funds in the creation of the base for the development of active tourism: “An Integrated System of Utilization and Development of Tourist Trails in the Suwałki Region”,

In 2003, Chamber prepared the Tourist Audit and Complex Programme of Development of Tourism Product in Suwałki-Augustów Lake District and Sejny Land.

In the years 2003-2004, Chamber realized two projects: “Baltic Sea Cycling - Integrated Network of Bicycle Routes in Suwałki Region”, preparing the planning documentation and the feasibility study for tourism investment situated around bicycle routes

In 2004, a new tourism promotion logo for the Suwałki region has been developed /including the slogan “Suwałki Region, Land like Fairy Tale” /within the framework of the SIRT project “Audit and Programme of the Development of Tourism Product in Suwałki-Augustów Lake District and Sejny Land”

Chamber elaborated the project and has carried out a cycle of specialist training in tourism. The objective was the skills development for the personnel employed in tourist services. The instruction covered the training for: instructor of the motor recreation with specialization in: horse riding, hippotherapy, fitness, cycling, kayaking; organizer of angling tourism; animator of culture and recreation.

SIRT Personnel and Co-operating Partners:

  • The employees of Suwałki Chamber of Agriculture and Tourism (15 regular posts) have extensive experience and qualifications indispensable for the realization of Chamber objectives, obtained through long involvement in the tourism sector as well as participation in training in Poland and study visits abroad. Their qualifications and input in the development of the tourism have been recognized by numerous awards, e.g.:
    • First prize (in the category “Promotional Product”) in V edition of nationwide contest of Ministry of Regional Development “Polska Pięknieje” (“Poland more beautiful”), 2012
    • First prize (in the category “Transborder and International Tourism” IV edition of nationwide contest of Ministry of Regional Development “Polska Pięknieje” (“Poland more beautiful”), 2011
    • “Diploma of the Ministry of Sport and Tourism of the Republic of Poland for contribution to tourism”, 2011
    • „Diploma of the Ministry of Economy and the Polish Tourist Organization for active participation in the work on the creation of the image of Polish tourism and engagement in the development of tourism product”, 2000.
    • „Diploma of the President of the Office of Physical Education and Tourism for outstanding achievement in work in support of the development of tourism”, 1994,
    • „Green Leaf Award” for the activities conducted for the benefit of sustainable development of rural areas and the environment friendly tourism”,1998 (granted by the Chapter of „The Green Lungs of Poland”)
    • Diploma and Award of the Mayor of the City of Suwałki for creative activity in promotion of the city and the development of tourism in the region in 2001.

At the realization of many of its tasks SIRT cooperates with well-known tourism experts and foreign and Polish specialists.

  • SIRT cooperates extensively at the local, regional, national as international level realizing with its partners joint ventures contributing to the economic and social development of the region through tourism.
  • SIRT partners, supporting ventures undertaken by Chamber, are, inter alia: the city of Suwałki, the Forum of Local Authorities of Suwałki-Augustów Lake District and Sejny Land, Province of Podlasie Marshal's Office, KSU Centres, the Association of Polish Local Authorities of Euroregion Niemen, as well as other autonomies and organizations cooperating at the local, regional and national level. Chamber conducts also cooperation at the international level with partners from such countries as, e.g: Lithuania, Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia and Belgium.
  • In 2003, on Chamber’s initiative, was appointed the Convent for the Development of Tourism in Suwałki-Augustów Lake District and Sejny Land associating regional municipal authorities of all levels /4 administrative districts/ and District Tourism Development Teams, workgroups supporting Chamber and undertaking complex and coherent actions for the benefit of the development of tourism in the region.
     
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