Over 60 people came together in the first week of April to celebrate the launch of the TUI Care Foundation’s “Flavours from the Fields” initiative. The event was held at the Muğla Chamber of Commerce and Industry and opened by its Chairman Mr. Mustafa Ercan, followed by a keynote speech from Frank Oostdam, member of the TUI Care Foundation’s Board of Trustees. In his address Mehmet Fikret Çavuş, Deputy Governor of Muğla, expressed his full support for the new initiative.
The event attracted a broad spectrum of stakeholders from across the region, including representatives from the public sector, businessmen, hotel associations and farming cooperatives. Speeches emphasised the importance of projects such as “Flavours from the Fields” to help reduce accelerating urbanisation and the younger generation from leaving the countryside in search of better opportunities. Participants stressed that supporting communities and strengthening rural economies was key to fostering the inclusive and sustainable development of the region.
The Chairman of the Muğla Chamber of Commerce and Industry celebrated the initiative: “we are proud to host the launch event of such a project which will support the livelihoods of local farmers.” The Chairman of the Village Cooperative Union explained how this project would help in their mission of training and supporting villagers to sell their produce with profitable margins. The Deputy Governor of Muğla also highlighted the project’s effort to enhance the links between the local population and holidaymakers visiting the region. Mr. Mehmet Fikret Çavuş explained that “the cultural dimension of tourism is an important element for people to recognise each other” and that “this project may help to bring back the close relations between tourists and local people.”
More than 50% of the population in Muğla is rural and although the tourism industry is booming along the “Turquoise Coast” in destinations such as Marmaris, Bodrum and Fethiye, most farmers do not yet profit from the growing tourism market or take their products to the next level to create added value and increase their profitability. This new project by the TUI Care Foundation will work on bridging the gap between the coastal cities and the countryside in the Muğla region and on developing a local supply chain between the two which brings people together in a sustainable and inclusive way. The tourism sector offers a natural market for agricultural cooperatives which produce a variety of products like honey, olive oil, table olives or pomegranate juice.
Frank Oostdam, Member of the Board of Trustees of the TUI Care Foundation, explained: “We believe that tourism is a very effective sector in launching and promoting different projects in destinations. We are currently managing 30 projects in 25 countries and this is a project very close to our hearts, fitting 100% into our vision that tourism can be a force for good. That’s what modern tourism looks like.”
After the event, local delicacies were offered to attendees by local producers. In addition, the TUI Care Foundation and its partner in the project, the Travel Foundation, initiated discussions with TUI Turkey to explore further ways of cooperation in the distribution and promotion of local products.
The success of the launch served as a stepping stone for local farmers to reach out to relevant stakeholders and to promote the initiative more widely.