Success factors of touristic projects in the LEADER program


With the beginning of the LEADER-funding period 2014-2020 high funds are available for many rural regions in Europe.  LEADER is one of the few financial instruments of the EU which provides explicit financial support for tourism.

Many innovative, sustainable and successful touristic initiatives owe its existence to the LEADER program.



Thereby the range of projects is very wide. New products and organization structures can be developed, marketing and promoting strategies are originated, new value chains arise and the networking to up- and downstream industries can be accomplished or deepened. On the other hand the fact, that there are failed projects from time to time, should not be ignored, because then the used tax money does not have any adding value effects.

After sending the grants to most of the federal states, the project applications can be proposed. For the next years an exciting period starts in which some rural areas receive more funds in order to develop further their tourism. Hence the question arises which is the difference between successful and not so successful LEADER projects.

So what makes up a successful LEADER project?

In our projects we experienced that the following factors make a significant contribution to creating from first ideas successful and lasting projects of tourism development.

  1. “Targeting the right topic” – A topic which is from the region and also typical for this area. Too general projects with diffuse objectives mostly lead to unnecessary and long lasting discussion. To focus on a concrete topic is better than striving for an extensive tourism development.
  2. “Communicating with the citizens” – Good ideas do not only arise from the tourism sector! Especially cooperation with the agriculture sector, planning authorities, architectures, schools and the retail business lead to new perspectives and integrated projects. As a result the first question of a project should be: Who is affected by the tourism and can participate?
  3. “Asking for participation” – Integration of the tourism players in the concept of the project is necessary. But: Not always the same please! Try to persuade others to participate. Besides, everybody should be informed about the opportunity of active participation.
  4.  “Expertly organizing” – Either professional (!) organization structures or – mostly more useful – a connection to supra-regional institutions (nature parks, development companies) should be created. Where contacts and structures already exist, it is easier to realize professional project management.
  5. “Evaluating success and talking about it” – The definition of measurable objectives and regularly evaluations lead to an early recognition of undesirable developments and also lead – in a positive case – to a number of imitators.
  6. “Asking the others” – The integration of extern, gladly from outside the sector, presenters and pulse generators lead to another perspective and new ideas. Either a visit of a “best-practice” destination in order to get to know success factors or the invitation of extern experts entail another perspective to the region.
  7. “Looking for people with passion” – The best LEADER-project managers are not necessarily studied administration specialists or confessed advisors, but rather local people with passion for the special topic and fun approach to independent work.
  8.  „Always pointing out what is going on” – LEADER subsists on active participation. In order to receive high acceptance from the population, the authorities, the companies and the politics a permanent and transparent intern communication is absolutely necessary.  A good website or a regularly maintained Facebook account can inform about current occasions.

Before that the criteria, which the regions have to fulfil to be a candidate for the program, have to be pointed out. Although the criteria differ in the different federal states and between the local workgroups, there are obligatory standards from the EU which lead to a successful LEADER-funding.

Those are especially the objectives of the strategy Europe 2020:

–          Employment support

–          Innovation

–          Climate change and energy

–          Education

–          Poverty reduction

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Author: Karsten Palme

I am Managing Director of COMPASS. I studied Geography of Economics and Tourism M.A. (RWTH Aachen) and I am certified trainer for innovation and management. My consultancy focus lies in destination management and tourism marketing with focus on cross-border cooperation. I also offer managementtraining and train-the-trainer-seminars. Economic Development: Cross-border co-operations, promotion of investments, city and location marketing, development of business clusters. Contact:, tel. +49 (0)221 94339638

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