EU4Business: Shifting towards green and sustainable tourism
Recognizing the demand for green tourism, sustainability and shifting travelers’ trends towards eco-friendly tourism, three municipalities in western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mrkonjic Grad, Ribnik and Šipovo together with its partners started reimagining tourism development in upper Sana and Pliva river valleys. United around the same vision and interest to protect untouched nature they aimed to position this area as a green destination focusing on eco and outdoor tourism. Prior to the pandemic Mrkonjic Grad, as a lead applicant, was awarded the European Union and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany investment grant paving the path towards a new chapter in green destination tourism development in the country.
Through the creative process the area was named Dinardica, meaning explorer or an individual continually searching for the self. Nataša Arežina from Mrkonjic Grad municipality added “Dinardica was the first destination in the country to establish the Sustainable Development Management Board that defined strategic direction along with steps to transform this destination and to submit combined application within the prestigious global certification programme the Green Destination Standards (GDS).”
Initiated back in 2015, the GDS are structured by the sustainability management guidelines to cover globally agreed sustainability requirements. There are two types of destination certifications: pre-certification awards that recognize excellence in the primary aspects connected to the destination’s quality offer to travelers, and full certification program for destinations that aim for full adherence to the GDS guidelines. In addition to these two, the TOP 100 Stories competition is a list of 100 excellent initiatives for sustainable destination development from all around the world.
“There were many challenges ahead of us” Nataša recalled. “The GDS is a very demanding process, the certification requirements are identical for all. Dinardica had to fulfill the same set of tough criteria as a similar destination in Switzerland. In addition the country Baseline Assessment of Sustainability was required, and Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t have it. Thanks to hard work and joint efforts with the state and entity ministries this Assessment was completed so we could proceed with the next steps.” In 2020, Dinardica team decided to make a submission for combined awards – 2021 TOP 100 stories within Nature and Scenery category, and Bronze under pre-certification Green Destination Awards.
Setting standards for sustainable tourism development
Beside global GDS standards, or so-called primary certification, countries can opt to establish a national sustainability model, a secondary certification that includes a certification scheme that can be used as a practical, efficient, and simple tool to speed up the introduction of sustainable business models in tourism at the level of destinations and businesses. Underpinning the initiative to establish a model of sustainable tourism development and certification in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU4Business project supported its key partners the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federal Ministry of the Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Trade and Tourism of Republika Srpska and Government of Brcko with capacity building and the implementation of two green pilot projects, Dinardica as destination, and Hotel Stanica in Ravno, as business.
Being recognized internationally as one of the most developed sustainable tourism countries with solid national green destination certification scheme, Slovenian GoodPlace, the leading Green Destination partner organization, hosted EU4Business project beneficiaries. The study visit to Slovenia served as a good practice example in the tourism sector and as a starting point for institutional capacity building. Relevant ministries are ready to support the national certification scheme. However, considering that is very lengthy and complex process it is mandatory to establish preconditions. Slovenia as a country with the greatest number of certified green destinations and businesses serves as a good model to adjust this scheme in BiH.
Dinardica. Towards nature. To myself.
Over 18 months rich cultural and historical heritage of Dinardica region was enriched with new tourist offers aimed for visitors looking to get away from cities and reconnect with nature. Tourists can opt and book an online mushrooms course, Dinardica challenge 8 mountain summits, water adventure, etc. The first outdoor experience park with amphitheater, suitable for hosting 80 individuals, was built in Pecka village. While grown-ups are exploring different options in Pecka, kids can entertain on a newly built education trail or playground. Biker lovers can enjoy a ride on the pump track.
In late 2021, the springs of the river Sana were protected and the area of 3.2 km2 that includes three karst springs, the lower course of the river Korana and the cave Mračaj was proclaimed a Natural Monument by the Government of Republika Srpska. Another challenging task was to build bridges over Sana and Korana rivers. An 18 meter long bridge over Sana also serves as entrance point to the protected area. For the first time a 3 km long path through the Korana canyon was made providing a mesmerizing experience for visitors. Services providers received training and recommendations how to improve their services, promotion, storytelling, so they can meet the requirements defined by the Green Destination Awards. The influx of newcomers is evident, as well as economic benefits for businesses.
Dinardica team efforts paid off. In 2021, their story “From the battle to protect one river to the formation of critical mass and a new green destination” was included in the "Top 100 stories of sustainable tourist destinations", a competition organized by the international foundation Global Green Destination (GGD). They also presented their experience as the first green destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the conference “Green Destinations 2022 & Future of Tourism Summit” held in Athens in September 2022.
Green destination scheme
With the further support of EU4Business project the state and entity ministries in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue working on defining suitable sustainable tourism development and certification scheme for the country. Tourists, both domestic and from abroad, are becoming more eco-conscious, they are aware what green certifications means and entails. They appreciate businesses that are investing in recycling, renewables, proper waste disposal, organic food and they are ready to support it considering green economy and sustainable tourism are the future. By developing the tourism industry, we are also supporting the competitiveness of other sectors such as agriculture, textile, furniture, energy, etc.
With the aim of strengthening BiH’s economy EU4Business, stimulates development of entrepreneurship, export-oriented sectors, tourism and agriculture, as well as rural development. EU4Business is worth EUR 16.1 million; EUR 15 million is funded by the European Union and EUR 1.1 million by the Federal Republic of Germany. Project is jointly implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), UNDP and International Labor Organisation (ILO). EU4Business is part of the Local Development Strategies – Local Self-Government and Economic Development Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).