The Slovenia Times

Trends in Tourism: Green Sleeping


It is an increasingly well-known fact that the winning formula for competitive tourism in the long-run consists of many factors, but all of them with the fundamental tendency of being sustainable. One of the most important trends is holidaying in rural areas. This trend has been recognised in the EU and efforts made to boost its development. One such project is ICER (Innovative Concept of Eco-Accommodation Approach in Rural Regions), an initiative which offers public support policies for eco-investors. Its Slovenian partner is Regional Development Agency Mura Ltd. The Agency believes that tourism is indeed becoming an essential part of the economy of rural communities.
"It has the capacity to create considerable employment in these areas," argues Daniel Ulčar, project manager at the company. "This potential is particularly important given the decrease in the agricultural sector employment. Moreover, the jobs created in local tourism projects are not likely to relocate to other areas."
Ulčar points out that tourism spending in rural areas is lower than in other areas. Consequently, that makes it more difficult for tourism promoters to make profits from their investments in such locations, comparing the situation to cities or coastal regions. Moreover, it is harder to attract new investors or project creators to rural areas. "This is a rather ironic situation since the demand for rural tourism is significantly increasing," Ulčar says.

Higher accommodation demands

Since tourists interested in rural tourism are seeking higher standards of accommodation and pay more attention to environmental issues such as building quality and energy management, the key to finding a solution to the unfavourable profit situation lies here. Ulčar points out that "it's important that public authorities do not miss this opportunity to capitalise on the great potentials that exist in rural tourism. They need to develop and deliver ambitious public policies for the sector; that is, policies that are geared to meet the needs of investors. The right support must be given for the provision of quality tourist accommodation which is at the heart of the industry."
The future of rural tourism in Europe, Slovenia included, lies in self-initiative of the communities to attract investors and meet the increasing demands for rural-based holidays. "This drive to grow will, of course, need to respect the intrinsic values of each territory, so all policies and supports must be based on achieving sustainable development. This is the underlying principle on which the entire ICER project is based on," explains Ulčar.
The project aims to establish recommendations for rural tourism public sector policy and support in terms of technical, financial and legal aspects while also developing guidelines for investors within the framework of sustainable development programmes. "The project's find¬ings will be based on the exchange of practical experiences and activities in each partner region," says Ulčar. "We have to point out that the project is implemented within the Interregional Cooperation Programme INTERREG IVC, financed by the European Union's Regional Development Fund, which helps the regions of Europe to work together, share experience and good practices in the areas of innovation, knowledge economy, environment and risk prevention."

The French set an example

The ICER project is led by the Regional Committee for Tourism Development of Auvergne from France; its partners come from six countries. One of the best practices identified is French and called Nattitude. Its aim is to meet the new demands of a nature-loving clientele. This is achieved not only through the quality of the buildings and their locations, but also through tailor-made services and activities. They developed an advice tool with 250 key ideas to support investors in the eco-accommodation sector. They also offer numerous training programmes and have a very strong marketing strategy.
Ulčar notes that "Slovenia already has some excellent examples, but still there is great potential for the future. The issue is receiving growing attention from the authorities which is very stimulating." He hopes that ICER project will contribute to further policy development for supporting sustainable tourism. Bearing all this in mind, a bright green eco future seems to await the rural areas in Slovenia.
This project is co-financed by the ERDF and made possible by the INTERREG IVC programme.


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