Sustainable Tourism in Slovenia
– The Kočevsko Region –
By Lilli Lorenzen
Sustainable tourism has gained more recognition over time, as it creates a travelling experience with a generally low-impact, and represents a small scale alternative to commercial mass tourism. Since mass tourism has become a global problem, regions like Kočevje in Slovenia fight against the trend by focusing on alternative practices. Despite its positive intentions, sustainable tourism is criticized as another buzzword, used to generate a positive perception of the industry. This involves greenwashing and other non-sustainable procedures. This short report wants to briefly prove that tourism indeed can contribute to sustainability if it ismanaged well. To get an overview of sustainable practices within tourism, one can refer to The Sustainable Tourism Index as a guideline.
Slovenia, and especially Kočevje, is a paradise for outdoor tourism. It is a town located in the southeast of Slovenia, next to the Croatian border and belongs to the region of Kočevsko, an area of 555 km2. Ninety percent of the land is covered by forests which makes the region one of the most naturally preserved areas of Slovenia and Central Europe. The unspoiled nature provides home for various bigger mammals, like bears, wolves and lynx. The terrain invites hikers, mountain bikers and wildlife watchers to explore its natural beauty. But culture lovers are also well served. The region, with its ancient history of the German exclave of Gottschee and the Yugoslavian war, offers a wealth of history for interested people. Although Kočevsko specialises mainly in outdoor tourism, you can also experience the cultural side of the region in various ways. For example, by tasting beer at the family craft brewery MATT, visiting the weekly local market, or the parish church of St. Jernej, as well as by joining a survival tour with a local tour guide.
Although tourism in Kočevsko has only recently been fully established, positive aspects and impacts on the region can already be recorded. Tourism in Kočevsko makes optimal use of environmental resources, preserves ecosystems and supports natural heritage and biodiversity. Furthermore, it respects socio-cultural authenticity of the local community and ensures viable economic activity, which provides socio-economic benefits to multiple stakeholders. By fulfilling these criteria, it meets the UNWTO definition of sustainable tourism. But how could such a successful small scale tourism be built up in the first place?
As one factor, the general political approach towards a national sustainable tourism plan in Slovenia has been crucial. Supported by political initiatives, it was possible to set thefocus on sustainable tourism on different levels. Implemented monitoring tools and certificate programs encourage the region in particular to control and improve its sustainability. Therefore, tourism actually intensified the awareness of environmental performance and resource efficiency in Kočevje. Educational aspects of ecotourism in Kočevsko and further information on how to behave around flora and fauna, led to more sustainable practices within the region. The community well-being and equality are also positively influenced by tourism here. For example, the increasing cooperation between involved stakeholders is particularly noteworthy. Also the economy benefits from the new established industry. Local companies feel overall supported and represented by the tourism management. In addition to the residents of Kočevsko, visitors are also highly delighted by the ongoing progress. Tourist numbers increased over the past years enormously and thus boosted the local economy. Even though Kočevsko’s tourism appears rather small in comparison, the outcome can have great impacts. If other smaller destinations aim to extend their reach by investing into tourism in a sustainable manner to attract more tourists, the accumulation would possibly continue to disperse. This could help to counteract unsustainable mass tourism eventually.
For further Information or detailed reports about the sustainability in Kočevsko’s tourism check out the following links:
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