Launch Countdown

May 30, 2020

As we begin the recovery from the COVID pandemic, our plans to re-define the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program are almost complete and the countdown to the web portal launch has begun.

​We have added a new community in Georgia in the remote and pristine Tusheti region.  Our goal is to keep it pristine by monitoring and helping to manage travel to this beautiful natural resource of Georgia.

​As in all our destinations, we and our local partners are committed to sustainable, responsible travel and development. Safety and well-being are high on our list for both communities and visitors.

​Around June 15 we will launch our BSST travel site - one that emphasizes community participation and traveler experience.  As travel begins again and the emphasis is on the experience, low impact, and no crowds, we look forward to seeing you.

Sustainable Tourism and the BSST Program presented in Turkey

February 29, 2020

Richard Shepard, our founder and Trustee, conducted presentations of the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program, its new web platform for information and bookings as well as the need for sustainable approaches to tourism in Kaş and Datça, Turkey.

Organized by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in Turkey, participants included tourism representatives, conservationists and local government. Following the presentations, the audience asked questions about the BSST Program, its criteria for joining and how accommodations and activities could be shown on the BSST web-platform.

Materials for joining, how the BSST Program works and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council criteria will be distributed by WWF and follow-on meetings will be held the first week of April.

Training to lead the way in 2020

January 7, 2020

Climate change is accelerating and as national governments do little, we have decided that SRDI will expand its efforts in training and capacity building at the grass-roots level. To do this we will be reaching out to our friends and donors to raise funding for two key efforts.

The first is a community-based training center in Ukraine that will expand on existing efforts by local NGOs and clusters to develop the value chain in sustainable tourism so that it supports additional employment and business opportunities for youth and women. 

The second is the development of centers of excellence for young entrepreneurs that include learning centers and a resource to give access to up-to-date computer research resources and the ability to use the centers as incubators for new business.


We hope you will join in our efforts and contribute to SRDI here.

New Consumer Protection

September 12, 2019

On 14 September 2019, new regulations for online payments within the European Economic Area will come into force. Read on to discover what this means.


What is SCA?


Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) is a new European regulatory requirement that is intended to better protect consumers when they pay online, reduce fraud, and make online payments more secure.

After 14 September, banks will require customers to prove their identity before they will process an online transaction. To do this, customers must provide information from two of the following three categories:

  • Knowledge: something only the customer knows
    Examples: password, PIN, or secret fact/answer

  • Possession: something only the customer has
    Examples: mobile phone, hardware authenticator,
    or smartwatch

  • Being: something only the customer is
    Examples: fingerprint or facial recognition


    Is it relevant to me?

    he SCA regulations apply to any transaction where both the business's (our organisation) and the cardholder's (the donor) banks are located in the European Economic Area. Regardless of Brexit, the regulation will be enforced in the UK.

    Volunteer with your practical skills

    August 1, 2019

    Our work involves assessing environments - social, ecological and economic.  Identifying needs to support communities is a pre-requisite to anything we do.  The objective is to help community members accomplish results in which they have had the majority of input - because to be sustainable, they will have to buy into the design with a complete understanding and keep the results going through a flexible approach into the future.

    That is why we are beginning our version of a volunteer sustainable tourism component for those seeking to "pay it forward", experience different cultures and make new friends.

    We will only accept those with the specific skills that are needed for the time that will be required. It may involve teaching practical English or helping design and build a community center for sustainable development. The cost will not be high and lodging, meals and free time to enjoy your new surroundings will be part of your experience.

    Watch for it....coming in late August.

    Sustainable Tourism Hackathon Winners Visit Kazbegi and Begin Work

    April 28, 2019

    The winning team from the hackathon held in cooperation with International Black Sea University in Tbilisi returned from the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program "Get to Know the Community" tour hosted by the Kazbegi Local Action Group and reported on their findings to SRDI and Bridge Innovation and Development.  Their assessment of the tour gave SRDI and Bridge the needed feedback to make some minor changes before it appears as an offer on the web site.


    ​SRDI entered into a contract with the five team members to design and develop the BSST web site for Georgia and they have completed an initial, high-fidelity prototype on the way to preparing for public launch.

    Hiring the team is part of our commitment to engage youth in productive employment while also spreading knowledge of the importance of sustainable economic, social and environmental practices.

    Kazbegi To Host Sustainable Tourism Hackathon Winners

    April 10, 2019

    The five members of the winning hackathon team from International Black Sea University in Tbilisi will be taking the first Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program "Get to Know the Community" tour hosted by the Kazbegi Local Action Group which is supported by the European Union.


    This tour format, designed by SRDI and Vesselka Consulting, puts its emphasis on sustainable development work by the community.  It represents a learning experience for visitors to see how the community works to protect the environment, preserve culture and implements sustainable economic and business practices.


    The team members will be able to use their experience as they build the BSST website and give SRDI an independent view of what travellers can expect.

    Sustainable Tourism Hackathon at International Black Sea University

    March 5, 2019

    SRDI, Bridge Innovation and Development, Kazbegi Local Action Group and Nukriani Workshops successfully held a mini-hackathon at International Black Sea University on March 1-2.  The teams of students were assigned a problem to develop a unique web site for Georgia to be included in the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program web portal.


    On March 1, concept presentations were made by SRDI, Kazbegi LAG and Nukriani Workshops about their respective sustainable development activities and tourism offers.  Beginning on the morning of March 2, the teams spent the next 10 hours developing a model and site plan based on what they learned at the presentations.  The multi-national team members made 15 minute presentations and the winner was awarded a 2 night community tour to their choice of either Kazbegi or Nukriani as well as eligibility to produce the production version of the site under contract with SRDI.





    SRDI Partners with the Georgia Tourism Association

    October 27, 2018

    SRDI is now a partner with the Georgia Tourism Association. 


    Our objective is to continue to promote sustainable approaches to tourism in Georgia through the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program and working with other international partners and national members of GTA.


    As part of our plans, we will be working with Birding Caucuses to offer birders around the world the opportunity to take part in unique birding experiences, not only in Georgia, but in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia, while staying in BSST homes and communities.


    We are excited to expand our contacts in Georgia so that we can promote sustainable economic development practices with practical results.

    BSST Program Presented at Ecology 2018, Kastamonu University

    June 19 - 21

    Between June 18 - 21 the BSST team attended the international symposium, Ecology 2018 hosted by Kastamonu University.  Over 800 participants took part in this unique conference highlighting issues and approaches to tackling climate change, environmental degradation, loss of agricultural land and poverty reduction in rural areas.

    The BSST Program was presented by Dr. Sedat Kalem, WWF-Turkey Conservation Director as part of the sections on ecotourism and sustainable economic development.

    New Office to Open in Kyiv, Ukraine

    April 2018

    SRDI has initiated preparations to open an office in Kyiv, Ukraine.


    and Georgia.  The benefits of a local office include our ability to work closely with partners and experts, Ukrainian offices of international firms working in rural areas and bring us closer to the towns and villages we serve.

    SRDI and BRIDGE Innovation & Development Visit Nukriani, Georgia

    February 23, 2018

    SRDI representative Richard Shepard visited the village of Nukriani, Georgia with the team from BRIDGE Innovation & Development as part of the plan to hold a cross-border workshop and annual meeting for the BSST Program in late May this year.  Nukriani is also the home of Nukriani Workshops which produces hand-made woolen crafts and clothes.  Nukriani Workshops is a social enterprise that consists of 10 women who create these beautiful garments.

    The local government has announced its support for the BSST meeting that will include representatives from Turkey and Ukraine to discuss sustainability best practices for rural tourism.

    Kastamonu Initiative Introduced to the BSST Program

    February 8, 2018

    SRDI representatives Nataliya Tkachenko and Richard Shepard were invited to present the BSST Program to the Kastamonu Initiative,  a recently founded ad-hoc group composed of prominent persons from Kastamonu who live in Istanbul who aim to contribute to the development of their homeland.  The meeting was held at Mimar Sinan University (University of Fine Arts) on February 8th.

    Black Sea Sustainable Tourism Program Secretariat Meeting

    January 19, 2017

    SRDI at BSST Secretariat Meeting in Istanbul

    The Secretariat meeting for the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program was held at World Wildlife Fund for Nature offices in Istanbul, January 19.

    Representatives from the National Office in Ukraine and Turkey attended to review the next steps for the BSST Program in Turkey, announcing the new National Office in Georgia, the status of the BSST web portal and annual fundraising opportunities. 

    Planning for the annual meeting in May moved forward with a contribution of transportation for the Turkish delegation by the mayor of Azdavay.

    Bridge Innovation & Development BSST Program National Office Georgia

    December 15, 2016

    SRDI Partners with BRIDGE - Innovation and Development, Tbilisi, Georgia

    SRDI is very pleased to be working with Bridge - Innovation and Development in Georgia.  Bridge is a spin-off legacy of Oxfam and continues Oxfam's support of agriculture and rural development to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. 


    BRIDGE has agreed to represent the BSST National Office in Georgia and has begun work collecting information from candidate communities. 

    SRDI at DOBRE Investment Conference, Kyiv Ukraine

    October 26, 2017

    SRDI presented the BSST Program at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center in Kyiv as part of the USAID sponsored DOBRE Project promoting investment in Ukraine. The two-day conference covered strategic development and investment and The First Hub for Investors and Consolidated Communities. Representatives from fifty consolidated communities, investment funds and financial institutions attended


    The DOBRE Project, implemented by Global Communities, is part of the country-wide decentralization program that assist the development of the newly consolidated community structures.

    Georgia Partner Meetings

    October 15 - 23, 2017

    A week-long field visit to Georgia to identify potential partners, a BSST Program National Office representative and venue for a spring annual meeting concluded successfully.  With the assistance of the World Bank, SRDI representatives Richard Shepard and Nataliya Tkachenko met with the Community Development Center, Bridge-Innovation and Development (Oxfam), DRONI Youth NGO and others in Tbilisi, Talavi and Nutriana, Georgia.

    The annual meeting is scheduled for mid-May in the Kakheti region and will include representatives from Ukraine, Turkey and Georgia.

    Return to Ukraine and Georgia

    July - September

    SRDI returns its focus to where it began - Ukraine.  Finalizing the BSST web site is almost complete as communities and accommodations give us more material about events and festivals.  During September SRDI will visit a festival in the village of Buda to talk with participants and build relationships.

    After a short trip to Georgia in July the team will spend a week in October on a fact-finding mission and meetings with partners.  The Kakheti region, famous for its wines, is the target.

    Strategic Plan Completes Turkey Expansion

    May 15, 2017

    SRDI and its partner in Turkey, the Kure Mountains Ecotourism Association, completed regional focus group meetings in Trabzon, Sinop, Bartin and Samsun.  The focus groups were composed of representatives from regional economic development agencies, entrepreneurs, academics and accommodation owners.  The sessions measured the understanding of sustainable economic, cultural and environmental practices, needs and future plans.


    The focus groups then convened in a four day interactive strategic planning forum in Azdavay in late April.


    Funding was provided by the EU/Turkey Civil Society Dialogue program.

    Turkey Training

    April 2017

    January - March 2017

    SRDI and its partner in Turkey, the Kure Mountains Ecotourism Association, have completed the first series of specialized training for community leaders, local businesses, accommodation owners and regional economic development agencies.  The training focused on delivery of quality services, gender mainstreaming, accessibility, explanation of GSTC criteria and funding opportunities.


    Funding was provided by SRDI, the EU/Turkey Civil Society Dialogue V Program and is aimed at the expansion of the Black Sea Sustainable Rural tourism Program in Turkey.

    We Prioritize Safety

    July 2016

    A quick word about safety and our BSST Program in the Black Sea Region.  SRDI does not take political positions.  We do monitor events in Ukraine and, now Turkey.  The BSST Program continues moving forward and the selected community members in Turkey and Ukraine are actively taking part in their development as rural travel destinations. All our communities are safe destinations.


    In Ukraine, a new community has been added in Cherkassy Oblast, a quick express inter-city train ride from Kyiv, while the communities in Turkey have been gathering travel information and developing their approach to satisfy GSTC Destination criteria.

    During the final week of July, the Vesselka Consulting management team is heading to Georgia to meet with Elkana - the largest ecotourism NGO, the National Tourism Administration and the Caucuses Nature Fund to set the foundation for the BSST Program in this historic and beautiful country.

    National Office Opens in Turkey

    May 7, 2016

    On May 7 the National Office of the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program opened in Pinarbaşi, Turkey.  At the ceremony, the Mayors of Azdavay and Pinarbaşi and Richard Shepard, SRDI Board Member, cut the ribbon at the entrance gate and welcomed participants from local business, NGOs, regional economic development agencies and representatives from the Ministry of Forests and Water together with partner representatives from Ukraine.  The Program Steering Committee reviewed the Protocol which will govern the implementation of the Program in Turkey, preparing it for signing by the end of May.


    Richard Shepard, a Board Trustee of SRDI and Director of Vesselka Consulting Ltd., said that the Program Secretariat, which is the international organ of the Program, will be based in Istanbul and explains why they started with Küre Mountains:


    “The  Black  Sea  Region  of  Turkey  has  unique  qualities  for  sustainable  rural  tourism  to  support economic and social development. During our search on where in Turkey to start the Program, we were impressed by the natural and cultural heritage of Küre Mountains as well as local efforts in sustainable tourism.  We have coordinated our work in Ukraine and Turkey with workshops and experiential exchanges and by July the new national office in Ukraine will be opened in Kyiv. The program originated in Ukraine and was quickly joined by Turkey. The experience to be gained here, we believe, will contribute to the future of the Program in general and the sustainable tourism practices in Turkey in particular.”

    SRDI and Küre Mountains Ecotourism Association Awarded 147,000 Euro Grant

    December 28, 2015

    SRDI and its partner, the Küre Mountains Ecotourism Association have been awarded a 147,000 Euro grant to expand the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program within Turkey.  Activities will begin in February 2016 and continue until April 2017.  Associate partners from Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey will participate in the training, development and promotion that will take place over the 15 months of the grant.

    Annual Members Forum Successfully Concludes in Hola Prystan, Ukraine

    June 11, 2015

    The Mayor of Azdavay, Turkey, venue of last year’s meeting, joined the Mayor of Hola Prystan in welcoming members to the forum. Danone - Ukraine sponsored the event and also presented its Family Farm program which supports small dairy farms in Ukraine to build sustainable and more productive operations.  The event premiered the new Program web-portal that will form the core of the for-profit component of the integrated community led, sustainable tourism effort as well as presentation of the sustainability criteria to be used by communities, developed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. 

    Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Members Meeting

    May 22, 2015

    The Secretariat of the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program will hold its Members Meeting at Chaika Green Resort in Hola Prystn', Ukraine between June 11 and 14.  Danone Ukraine is a sponsor of the event which is funded by Vesselka Consulting Ltd.

    Community Workshops Held in Turkey

    October 16, 2014

    Between October 16 and 22 three round-table talks were held with community leaders in Ulus, Pinarbaşi and Cide to assess levels of interest for participation in the BSST Program. The round-tables were attended by approximately 30 representatives from NGOs, community activists and local businesses. The responses were lively and informative and the questionnaire developed to gauge needs and knowledge was distributed. The questionnaires will be collected for analysis by our partner, Kure Mountains Ecotourism Society at the end of November.

    Vesselka Consulting, Trustee, Provides Space and Funding

    December 2013

    Vesselka Consulting Ltd., has entered into an agreement as a Trustee and Board Member to provide space and funding advances to implement the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program.Vesselka will exclusively manage all aspects of the Program.

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