The installation of the touristic catalysts was a move towards arranging the tourism and recreation sector of the Westerkwartier in a better way. The starting point for the appointment of the touristic catalysts was the perception that entrepreneurs are always busy and do not take own initiatives to form networks and do not engage in joint development projects. So they are very glad that one of the 3 catalysts accepted the function of secretary/project coordinator of the entrepreneurs organisation. Also, they appear not to recognise the benefits of working together. It was therefore thought that the formation of networks had to be stimulated.
The touristic catalysts had an important role as network incubators. They initiated a network of touristic entrepreneurs called the ‘touristic platform’ by organizing a number of get-togethers open to everyone involved with tourism activities in the Westerkwartier. These initial get-togethers revealed that touristic entrepreneurs in the Westerkwartier had a lot of development ideas but that these ideas where never put on the table. This fact, as it was argued, demonstrated the necessity of employing facilitators to help connect these entrepreneurs and to support the realization of their development plans through advice and process management.
Besides incubating a network of touristic entrepreneurs and facilitating their get-togethers, the touristic catalysts also introduced annual events to promote and stimulate tourism and recreation in the Westerkwartier. The event “EIEI Westerkwartier”, for example, was started to show people from within and outside the region what is offered with regard to recreational and touristic activities in the Westerkwartier. In addition, the touristic catalysts also organized courses on hospitality for touristic entrepreneurs.
The touristic catalysts were appointed for a period of two years, from 2008-2010. Their appointment and activities were exclusively financed through the LEADER fund. Following their engagement, the touristic entrepreneurs of the Westerkwartier eventually started to formulate joint develop plans and regular contacts were established. The entrepreneurs also recognized the benefits of networking and collaboration. As a final step of their work as catalysts, they managed to transform the ‘touristic platform’ into a legal business association, able to apply for subsidies independently and able to continue work on its own without an external facilitator. Within this association, people are developing new ideas about touristic arrangements / package deals and marketing activities which will boost the touristic and recreational development, also in the future.
The stimulation of the tourism and recreation sector through the catalysts is important, since it provides employment opportunities and contributes significantly to the economy of the region. This development is further supported by its vicinity to Groningen city and the urban touristic development. The emphasis will therefore be to connect the development of tourism and recreation in the Westerkwartier to the development of tourism in the city of Groningen. To be able to do so, however, support and facilitation mechanisms need to be simplified and the level of bureaucracy lowered.