Hungarian success in Malta

Kaposvár and the Zselic area finished in first place and the Őrség region was a finalist in this year's EDEN Innovation competition.

The EDEN project aims to create a platform for exchanging good practices at a European level and promoting networking between award-winning destinations, thereby persuading other destinations to adopt sustainable models of tourism development. In order to achieve these objectives, in 2008 the European Commission established the European Destinations of Excellence Network (EDEN) to promote sustainable development of tourism. The network consists of all the award-winning travel destinations and finalists of the EDEN project. The members signed the "Brussels declaration" as an official commitment to collaborate with each other and to exchange information and knowledge about tourism development. In 2012, the majority of the members of the EDEN network established an international non-profit organisation, the EDEN network association (AISBL).

The 11th EDEN Network Conference was held in Malta on 26 October 2016 with the participation of 18 countries. Each year, the network provides an opportunity for a competition of the latest innovative developments of excellent European destinations in various categories. This year the contest was announced in three categories.

Kaposvár and the Zselic area won first prize in the "Nature Experience" category. The 1200 km² Zselic area, located south of Kaposvár, is a cultural landscape created by man and nature. Its hills even extend into the city; to the south, it harbours undisturbed forests rich in wildlife, neatly tilled farmland and communities nestling in the valleys. In some parts the night sky is affected by so little light pollution that the area earned the title of "International Starry Sky Park." With the increase of urbanisation, the extent of light pollution has been on the rise. Many people have never seen the starry night sky and the Milky Way. In the Zselic National Landscape Protection Area there is an unparalleled opportunity to observe the night sky. The Star Park awaits visitors with telescopes, a planetarium, a meteorite collection and guided stargazing night walks led by astronomers. The programmes are also accessible for people living with disabilities; the visually impaired can "touch the sky", while those hard of hearing can enjoy night-time nature experiences with visible sign language interpretation.

Most of the areas in the observatory building, its services and the information points have disabled access, including wheelchair access. The stargazing tours take visitors through easily manageable cobblestone or asphalt paths. For our hearing-impaired visitors, sign language interpreters are available. The tours are also recommended for the blind, using special guides. A walk in the night-time forest offers a special experience for everyone. Also at the Zselic Star Park some of the unusual tool and mineral exhibits can be touched, helping visitors to imagine and understand the lives of the forest's nocturnal animals, the night sky, and the stories and descriptions of the astronomers.

In the next category, awards were given to events where guests and local residents alike could actively enjoy the programmes. The outstanding heritage tourism event of the Őrség region is the Pumpkin Festival, one of the finalist events, where one can learn about the local pumpkin mythos in a whirlwind of folk games and art exhibitions, while contestants of all ages can test their skills in the pumpkin toss competition.

Visitors can watch brilliant shows, marvel at the pumpkin creations on display, sample pumpkin specialty dishes and also elect the Pumpkin King.

In the hope of our winning regions doing well in the third category next time ("The promotion of tourism in social media"), Kaposvár's grand prize is a course from the Director of European Best Destinations, valued at EUR 600, on the effective use of social media.