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Competition for European Capital of Smart Tourism is now open



A view of Bordeaux, France
Previous European Capital of Smart Tourism winners include Bordeaux, France, in 2022 | Photo: Guillaume Flandre

The European Commission has launched the 2025 edition of the European Capital of Smart Tourism and the European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism competitions.

Tourism destinations across Europe can submit their innovative practices of smart and sustainable tourism to become leading examples in European tourism.

As the EU’s third largest eco-system, tourism plays a crucial role in economic growth and job creation. The Smart Tourism initiative recognises cities implementing new digital tools and practices such as equal opportunity and access to visitors, sustainable development and support to creative industries and local talent. With these competitions, the European Commission promotes and awards the future of smart and sustainable tourism in Europe.

To compete for the 2025 titles, cities must demonstrate their innovative tourism practices and submit their applications online. Applications will first be evaluated by a panel of independent experts. In the second step, shortlisted cities will be asked to present their city’s candidature in front of the European Jury. A Jury will select two winners, the ‘European Capital of Smart Tourism 2025’ and the ‘European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism 2025’. The result will be announced in November 2024. 

Both competitions are open to cities across both the EU, as well as the non-EU countries that take part in the Single Market Programme (SMP).

The 2025 European Capital of Smart Tourism is the sixth edition of the competition. Dublin was selected as the 2024 Smart Capital. Previous winners include Pafos and Seville as 2023 Capitals and Bordeaux and València as the 2022 Capitals. Helsinki and Lyon won the inaugural competition and jointly held the 2019 titles.

Since 2024, there is only one winner of the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition due to a change in competition rules, whereas previous editions featured two winners annually.

The European Capital of Smart Tourism competition is open to cities with a population of over 100.000.

To find out more, visit the European Capital of Smart Tourism Guide for Applicants.

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Interest-free loans empower indigenous women in Mexico

As the first and only interest-free micro-finance non-profit in Oaxaca, Mexico, Fundación En Vía enjoys 99% loan repayment rates of their loans within 15 weeks or less.



Pregnant with her second child, Yanet Bazan Chavez has been with the En Via program for 15 years.

In a country with interest rates over 11% , one NGO has provided interest-free microfinance loans in Mexico since 2010 empowering indigenous Zapotec entrepreneurial women to jumpstart their microenterprises. Despite a deep trust deficit in financial institutions, the non-profit Fundación En Vía, enjoys 99% loan repayment rates within 15 weeks or less.

“We are the first and only interest-free micro-finance non-profit in Oaxaca with a unique business model that combines business education with responsible tourism to empower Indigenous women entrepreneurs who have the skills and need someone to believe in them,” says Managing Director, Viviana Ruiz Boijseanueau, a Mexico City native and architect by training who left her lucrative career to devote herself full-time to the social justice program that began with a commitment to alleviate extreme poverty among Indigenous population, but evolved to focus on empowering women to discover and develop their skill set to “build brighter futures for themselves and their families.”

Boijseanueau oversees five full-time employees and 20 volunteers on average including tour guides worldwide. Founded in 2010 by Oaxaca-native Carlos Topete and an American Emily Berens, Fundación Emprende, Intercambia y Aprende A. C.–known as Fundación En Vía–evolved to a refined social enterprise model based on Grameen Bank micro-loan model “with a twist.” Since convincing the Zapotec women entrepreneurs to join En Via was challenging Topete decided to offer more than a steady flow of tourists buying their handmade products.

To create a responsible, sustainable program, En Vía evolved to offer interest-free loans to all the women entrepreneurs in need. To be sustainable Topete offered the women “basic business classes, not rules” on business and money management and slowly built positive relations based on trust, connections, and a deep commitment to those who had business ideas and skills–but lacked financial means.

In empowering the women En Via combines microfinance and tourism with a nonprofit organization–providing a deserved basic human right. While Topete and Berens now live and work abroad, they remain board members.

Three Women Solidarity Model

En Via banks on its “education tools and trust on the women” to be responsible loan recipients. This empowerment Boijseanueau believes boosts the women’s self-esteem.

En Via has supported over 800 indigenous women entrepreneurs across six Tlacolula Valley communities in the Oaxaca, Mexico region through donations and income from responsible tourism trips, . Of those, 600 women have successfully secured independent businesses or left the program to pursue other interests. One of these is Teresa Hernandez Lopez whose sister, a beneficiary, encouraged her to join in 2015 to scale the chocolate and dried chilies business she had started in 2009 in her home. En Via business courses taught her how to name and brand her business, customer relations, and product display while engaging with other women entrepreneurs to share challenges while learning. In 2023 Teresa left En Via to manage her El Guajillo store where she continues selling various handmade products.

Currently supporting 200 women businesses–from weavers to livestock and vegetable farmers, to food producers, clothes makers, to storefront owners–the micro-finances help sustain self-employed women who fulfill the required prerequisites and basic principles. Loans are exclusively earmarked for groups of three women entrepreneurs needing to expand their microbusiness. The “solidarity model” jump-starts businesses for women who lack credit history or collateral and defies the gender gaps in financing which exclude women even though women loan recipients have higher repayment rates than men and dedicate most of their income to their household.

Once the team of three completes eight money and business management classes, they sign a contract as a commitment to repay before receiving a loan of 1,500 pesos ($78). All three women must use the loan exclusively for their business and generate income to contribute to the payback–within 15 weeks–before qualifying for a second loan. Mandatory monthly classes equip recipients with the core business concepts of developing, marketing, and presenting their small businesses to a regular flow of responsible tourist groups. Social media training introduces online marketing and new sales avenues, leading many women to build Instagram accounts and offer digital payment options.

After receiving the first loan, most women create additional projects to maintain the circular, sustainable financing–and on average receive at least four loans per year. Traditionally, families in Oaxaca set up collaborative, family businesses that scale as older members, preserving traditional techniques, pass on their cultural skills keeping the knowledge within the family. Most women generate enough profits to afford schooling for their children, savings, and additional ideas to enhance their profit.

Impressed by En Via’s success and its value for the women (primarily Zapotecas), Wellesley College Spanish and study-abroad Professor, Carlos Vega, was intrigued by the NGO’s ties to the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca Spanish language program. Convinced that the program could represent ideal teaching opportunities for his students, he arranged the first study abroad language studies between the two institutions–three Wellesley College students have already completed their internships.

“Wellesley is renowned for ‘women who make a difference in the world’ and I saw in En Vía an outstanding opportunity to learn more about microfinance, sustainability, and responsible tourism, and offer opportunities for our Spanish majors wanting a fully immersive experience in a Spanish-speaking country but who could not study abroad for a full semester or year,” says Vega.

Teotitlán del Valle Village

En Via’s 5-hour responsible tourism trip [$90/pp], brings tourists to respective business sites managed by the women beneficiaries. A 19-mile drive southeast of the color-bursting Centro Historico of Oaxaca de Juarez, the bustling outskirts give way to flat, open plateaus of the Tlacolula Valley district. By the foothills of the Sierra Juárez mountains, the small village of Teotitlán del Valle (Land of Gods in Náhuatl, Aztec, language), is the first area town founded by the Zapotecs where legend says the Zapotecs crossed the Picacho mountain, looked down from its peak, and chose to settle in the valley below. 

The village’s Zapotec and Spanish-speaking indigenous population are known for their generational pre-Hispanic weaving traditions. Throughout centuries, they incorporated loom and wool yarn weaving traditions, introduced by the Spanish, to create unique motifs across handmade wool tapetes (rugs), bags, table runners, coasters, and other accessories.

micro-finance loans make Zapotec Cucina possible.
Brenda Martiniz’s traditional Zapotec Cucina restaurant serves meals learned from her mother and grandmother–are all sourced from her gardens and made possible with microloans.

En Via beneficiary, Brenda Martinez’s local restaurant sits amidst her tree-lined yard hugged by a two-story, multi-generational residence. Brenda, her husband, mother-in-law, and four children help scale the business throughout her four years with En Via. An organic garden, an artisanal workshop teaching her weaving talents learned from her family, and a traditional Zapotec Cucina restaurant serving meals learned from her mother and grandmother–are all sourced from her gardens and made possible with microloans.  

In the middle of the yard, a long tapetes-covered table, shaded with an orange plastic awning, sits by a soot-darkened brick-walled open kitchen. Brenda’s mother-in-law presses tortillas with a metal presser then dexterously flattens them with her hands before tossing them atop Comal’s smooth metal-surface griddle, balanced atop vertical cinder blocks. Brenda’s husband lines the table with large pitchers of juice, baskets of warm tostadas wrapped in handkerchiefs, and an assortment of spicy dips. Soon warm bowls of delicious Cegueza–a Zapotec hoja santa-flavored chicken soup with a broth of toasted, cracked corn arrive.

In preserving her centuries-old practice of extracting pure pigment colors for wool dying, Brenda eagerly demonstrates her rows of nopal cactus leaves hung across the far end of the open-air kitchen wall. Covered with cochineal scale insects, she harvests and sun-dried pulverized female scale insects, which turn into natural red dye for the wools she uses to make bags, tapetes, table runners, blouses, and other artisanal items for sale. Some 70,000 insects make one kilogram of the sought-after dye after they are dried and finely ground in a metate basalt stone grinding slap.

Preserving the traditional crafts and cultural heritage of the Zapotec communities in the Tlacolula Valley En Via’s “Celebrate Culture: Nurture Creativity” campaign engages the young women artisans to continue their ancestral family weaving workshops and diversify into new market trends by capitalizing on the generational talents of the undervalued elderly women to actively pass their expertise to the new generation of cultural preservers.

Driving out of Teotitlan, off a beaten road, we stop by one of the first En Via beneficiaries, Yanet Bazan Chavez, and her husband’s weaving business. Pregnant with her second child, Yanet has been with the program for 15 years and now grows various plants used to dye the wool and teaches dying workshops.  The couple has also built an environmentally sustainable, solar Airbnb accommodation afforded from the profits.

Sitting against a wall of colorful displays of her handicrafts, Yanet explains in English how she set up a wool dying and weaving workshop. As a former En Via employee, she used her loans to fund her jewelry business at first and then reinvested the profits to fund her college education. She now designs jewelry using wool–and makes bags, pillow covers, rugs, runners, and more.

Across the display wall a row of looms thumps away as Yanet’s husband continues to weave. Behind the looms a small, blue-tiled pool is surrounded by trees and hanging plants potted in recycled plastic containers. The couple is now building a brick entry into their workshop.

Hermelinda, another beneficiary has used loans to expand her weaving business.

For the last six years, Hermelinda, another beneficiary has used loans to expand her weaving business. She now has four looms and a permanent booth in downtown Oaxaca from where she sells her products on Sundays. Standing in her yard where her crafts are displayed on clotheslines and hangers, she says she used her loans to purchase wool for tapestries, bags, ponchos and other clothing items she creates.

Her husband, mother-in-law, and sons help make some of the products–she’s invested part of her profits in purchasing an industrial sewing machine to sew her leather-strap wool tote bags with silver clasps. Her husband handles the digital payments standing under the colorful rows of crafts hung across their yard.

On a friend’s recommendation, Beatrice joined En Via nine years ago. Standing beside her small, partially covered barn, and piles of garlic bunches on the ground, she says she used her first loan to purchase sheep to sell the wool to the local weavers. After repaying she invested her second loan in purchasing pigs and cows.

Now she sells the Oaxaca queso cheese, and in a nearby farm harvests beans, garlic, and alfalfa which she feeds to her sheep and cows. She and her husband harvest 800 bundles of garlic, twice a year and have a successful wholesale garlic business–selling one bundle for 100 pesos (about $6).

“The most important thing is how women even during the pandemic went on to start new businesses because they possess higher skills–they just need someone to believe in them and provide them with secure funds,” says Boijseanueau. “What’s more the children of our recipients grow up proud and more confident witnessing their mothers achieving new levels of success in businesses and financial independence.”

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New EU law will protect environment and biodiversity



Alain Maron, Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital
Alain Maron (centre), Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital

The European Union Council has formally adopted a new regulation on nature restoration. This law aims to put measures in place to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

It sets specific, legally binding targets and obligations for nature restoration in each of the listed ecosystems – from terrestrial to marine, freshwater and urban ecosystems.

The regulation aims to mitigate climate change and the effects of natural disasters. It will help the EU to fulfil its international environmental commitments, and to restore European nature.

“I am pleased with this positive vote on the Nature Restoration Law, which was agreed between the European Parliament and the Council almost a year ago. It is the result of hard work, which has paid off. There is no time for a break in protecting our environment. Today, the Council of the EU is choosing to restore nature in Europe, thereby protecting its biodiversity and the living environment of European citizens. It is our duty to respond to the urgency of the collapse of biodiversity in Europe, but also to enable the European Union to meet its international commitments. The European delegation will be able to go to the next COP with its head held high,” says Alain Maron, Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region

The new rules will help to restore degraded ecosystems across member states’ land and sea habitats, achieve the EU’s overarching objectives on climate mitigation and adaptation, and enhance food security. 

The regulation requires member states to establish and implement measures to jointly restore, as an EU target, at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030.

The regulation covers a range of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater, forest, agricultural and urban ecosystems, including wetlands, grasslands, forests, rivers and lakes, as well as marine ecosystems, including seagrass and sponge and coral beds.

Until 2030, member states will prioritise Natura 2000 sites when implementing the restoration measures.

On habitats deemed in poor condition, as listed in the regulation, member states will take measures to restore:

  • at least 30% by 2030
  • at least 60% by 2040
  • at least 90% by 2050

The regulation sets out specific requirements for different types of ecosystems, including agricultural land, forests and urban ecosystems. 

Member states will put measures aiming to enhance two out of these three indicators: grassland butterflies’ population, stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soils and share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features. Increasing forest birds’ population and making sure there is no net loss on urban green spaces and tree canopy cover until end of 2030 are also key measures of this new law.

Member states will put in place measures aiming to restore drained peatlands and help plant at least three billion additional trees by 2030 at the EU level. In order to turn at least 25 000 km of rivers into free-flowing rivers by 2030, member states will take measures to remove man-made barriers to the connectivity of surface waters.  

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Sky inks 10-year deal for clean energy in Scotland



A windfarm in Scotland
Starting in 2025, Sky will receive 100 GWh annually of clean, renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm

Sky has signed a 10-year agreement with Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust to receive renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Under this agreement, Sky will receive the majority of renewable energy guarantees of origin (REGOs) generated from the 46 MW wind farm, which will help Sky reduce the emissions associated with its electricity use.

Starting in 2025, Sky will receive 100 GWh annually of clean, renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm, approximately 69% of the total power generated by the project. This is equivalent to approximately 34,000 UK homes’ annual electricity use. [1]

The agreement is a key part of Sky’s ongoing commitment to sourcing renewable electricity. From being the first media company to go carbon neutral in 2006, to launching the world’s first auto standby set top box – Sky has been committed to decarbonising its business for more than 15 years.

“This agreement is evidence of Sky’s commitment to reducing our environmental impact. We source the majority of our electricity in the UK from renewable energy and this long-term project in Lanarkshire provides us with lasting clean energy for years to come. As a media and entertainment company, we are determined to use our voice to help the media sector and the UK more broadly decarbonise,” acknowledges Fiona Ball, Group Director of the Bigger Picture and Sustainability at Sky.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2022, renewable energy supply from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and ocean rose by close to 8%, meaning that the share of these technologies in total global energy supply increased by close to 0.4 percentage points.

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