Rural tourism and European funds: solutions to COVID-19 to speed up the economy, boost employment and protect the environment and heritage

  • The NAPOCTEP Napoleonic routes project is part of the Spain-Portugal Interreg POCTEP cross-border cooperation programme.
  • This initiative seeks to lay the foundations for the foster of employment, and environmental and heritage protection after COVID-19.
  • The Accelerathon NAPOCTEP aims to encourage disruptive innovation in cultural tourism in rural areas.


Brussels 16/09/2020– Yesterday morning the Accelerathon NAPOCTEP webinar was launched by the FINNOVA Foundation with the collaboration of personalities such as Estrella Torrecilla Crespo, General Director of Tourism for the Junta de Castilla y León. The mission of this initiative is to boost employment after the current crisis caused by the COVID-19 through a programme designed to attract innovation to the cultural tourism sector, especially in rural areas affected by depopulation.

Accelerathon is a methodology promoted by FINNOVA that aims to find solutions to challenges and seek funding through an applied open innovation online system that brings together the innovative ecosystem in the tourism sector. Through it, innovative alternatives will be introduced to projects such as NAPOCTEP, an initiative oriented to mapping out cross-border touristic routes regarding the figure of Napoleon within the framework of the V-A Spain-Portugal Interreg POCTEP cross-border cooperation programme, whose challenge is to protect and enhance the cultural and natural heritage of the Napoleonic era as a key point for development and employment.

For the implementation of the Accelerathons an online competition methodology is established with training, mentoring, jury and prizes adapted to different calls for European funding. Under this premise, Juan Manuel Revuelta, General Director of the FINNOVA Foundation, commented “The experience in Accelerathons has been very positive; we have presented very interesting public-private partnership projects to different European Union funding programmes”. Thus, after the presentation of this webinar, registrations are now open for entrepreneurs, companies, mentors, investors, civil servants, experts in the field, universities, the public sector and, in short, for all those involved in the innovative ecosystem.

Specifically, during the webinar held yesterday morning, the speakers presented their ideas, possible solutions and projects with the intention of overcoming the difficult situation caused by the crisis of the COVID-19. The webinar’s opening was given by Estrella Torrecilla, who introduced EU Green Week 2020 during her speech, scheduled for 19-22 October 2020. Among other issues, Estrella stressed the importance of the sustainable development of the territories as well as the value of promoting quality tourism.

This way, the NAPOCTEP Webinar-Accelerathon was divided into four sections, the first of them was dedicated to the Interreg-Spain-Portugal cross-border programme POCTEP. During her speech, Mª Carmen Hernández Martín, Deputy General Director of European Territorial Cooperation, presented the different initiatives that support heritage and cultural tourism projects, as well as rural development for growth and territorial cohesion between Spain and Portugal.

In line with this, the second topic was explained by several speakers such as Íñigo Bilbao, coordinator of the NAPOCTEP project at FINNOVA Foundation, who presented and introduced this initiative. In addition to the contributions on gastronomy by José Manuel Requena, European Project Manager at FINNOVA, Sara García, Manager of the Ribera del Duero Wine Route, who spoke about wine tourism as a sustainable destination, and Héctor Sáenz de la Cuesta, from the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute, who explained what the cultural routes in the Andalusian Cultural Heritage Digital Guide consisted on, among other conference participants.

In this sense, sustainable tourism was the topic assigned for the third topic of the webinar, where different initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable tourism were presented. Thus, the intervention of Ulrike Bohnet, director of the German National Office for Tourism in Spain and Portugal, was fundamental for understanding the new trends, a German perspective of tourism and how the crisis of the COVID-19 is also affecting this sector in her country. On the other hand, Tomás Azcárate, from the Instituto de Turismo Responsable-ITR, also participated in this topic explaining the Biosphere Responsible Tourism Certification together with Susana Conde, from Genuine Spain, an incoming company specialised in sustainable tourism products.

Finally, European aids were discussed, as well as innovation in rural tourism, with the testimony of Juan Viesca, director of European Funds at the FINNOVA Foundation, and Antonio López de Ávila, former President of SEGITTUR and CEO of Tourism Data Driven Solutions, as well as President of Turisfera, who mentioned the different aids available for the reactivation of rural tourism and the promotion of innovation in this sector.

You can see the complete recording of the Accelerathon NAPOCTEP Webinar at the following link:

About the FINNOVA Foundation

It is a European foundation for financing innovation based in Brussels and whose objectives are to promote public-private cooperation through innovation to address social challenges such as employment, training, entrepreneurship, UN SDGs, the circular economy, etc. FINNOVA organises the Startup Europe Awards, an initiative of the European Commission and the FINNOVA Foundation, to recognise the best European startups in the social field. FINNOVA is one of the eight partners in the NAPOCTEP project.


Napoleonic Touristic Routes in Spain and Portugal for the conservation and promotion of heritage and the creation of rural employment post COVID-19. The project highlights the cultural heritage of the cooperation area, under the Napoleonic theme, with special emphasis on the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death (2021). These routes have been incorporated into the European Cultural Route of the Council of Europe “Destination Napoleon” .

Sobre Interreg

European Territorial Cooperation, better known as Interreg, is a funding instrument for European regional development. Interreg has been designed within the framework of European Cohesion Policy to intensify institutional and cross-border cooperation between regions located on the internal and external borders of the European Union, as well as those within transnational areas.

About Green Week

EU Green Week will be held from 19 to 22 October 2020 and will focus on nature and biodiversity. It will focus on the contribution that biodiversity can make to society and the economy, and on the role it can play in supporting and stimulating global recovery from the pandemic, creating jobs and sustainable development. The new strategy shows that recovery is an opportunity for a fresh start, knowing that transformational change is possible.