Senior tourism in Warmia-Mazury

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Warmia-Mazury region is one of the most beautiful regions of Poland. Thanks to its unique location, natural values, diverse tourist attractions and numerous historical monuments, the region for many year has been attracting thousands of tourists from both Poland and abroad. Natural values form the most important assets of the region. With thousands of lakes and vast forests, the region ranks as the top tourist destination for sailors, hikers and all those looking for peace in natural tranquil surroundings.  The regions great tourist potential was further was further recognised internationally in 2009 when the Masurian Lake District was elected as one of the finalists of the prestigious New 7 Wonders of Nature contest. Another famous attraction, the Elbląg Canal is considered one of the most significant monuments related to the history of technology and was listed on the UNESCO world heritage list. Its unique system of inclined planes allows small cruise ships, pleasure boats or yachts to be transported more than 100 metres uphill thus connecting the Vistula Lagoon with the nearby Iława Lake District.

Taking into account all the natural riches of the region, it is hardly surprising that tourism ranks as one of the most important parts of the regional economy. Despite this, the region still faces significant socio-economic challenges, including peripheral location, inadequate infrastructure, significant unemployment and gradual ageing of the entire population. Overcoming these challenges, the region puts significant emphasis on those parts of the economy with the greatest potential for development. Tourism has been high on the agenda of the regional development policy and now is being also included in other policy instruments focusing also on the older population.

These new approach is clearly visible in the Regional Programme for Seniors 2014-2020 which was drafted by the Centre for Social Policy in Olsztyn and the FOSa Federation of Social Organisations. The drafting process included various stakeholders such as regional politicians and civil servants, representatives of senior citizen organisations, NGOs, academia and law enforcement agencies. This joint cooperation resulted in the concept of senior tourism, along with other activities such as sports and recreation, becoming one of the key areas of intervention in the new regional programme, thus enabling the development of the existing senior tourism in the region already promoted on both local and regional level. The new programme aims at expanding and adapting the existing tourist infrastructure for the needs of seniors. It also advocates creating a year-round senior-friendly tourist offers and promotes active lifestyle among the senior communities in the region.

Another important event promoting senior tourism in the region is the biennial Warmia-Mazury Senior Games. The project responds to a growing demand from the senior communities in the region which seek different forms of leisure and recreation during their retirement. The aim of the Games is to integrate active people through sport and encourage them to participate in various sport disciplines, regardless of their age. The first edition of Warmia-Mazury Senior Games was organized in response to the initiative of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union which proclaimed 2012 the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations and received a widespread support from national authorities including the President of Poland who assumed the honorary patronage over the event. The Games not only promote tourism, sports and recreation among the seniors of Warmia-Mazury, but also promote the region itself as an area of sustainable development and interesting and desirable tourist destinations for tourists from abroad. The first edition of the Games was very well received among the seniors and by the general public in Poland. The second edition will be held in 2014 and is already being prepared in by the regional authorities in cooperation with seven cities that will host particular events.

The abovementioned examples signify an important change in thinking about the problem of empowering senior generations thus allowing for a more sustainable socio-economic development of the region. Promotion of senior tourism in the region of Warmia-Mazury is just one albeit important step towards reaching this goal.