The Slovenia Times

Finding Green Ways to Holiday



The International Ecotourism Society has a clear definition of the type of travel it wants to promote. Ecotourism is, the Society says, "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wellbeing of local society." It is a clear and concise definition. But review the current state of tourism in Slovenia and it becomes clear that an alternative and equally accurate description for ecotourism would be: "the new watchword for tourism in Slovenia."

Look at any of the recent work of the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) and the focus on green travel is unmistakable. It was the sole focus of the twelfth Slovenian Tourism Forum, held this past December in Radenci, and is set to be a key part of the Board's tourism marketing strategy for 2011.

A green country - literally

The focus on green holidays doesn't only reflect a desire to address concerns about the environment. It is also a simple case of Slovenia playing to its strengths. The country is the second most forested in Europe; has 36 percent of its surface area included in the European Union's ecological network of protected areas; and is home to more than 22,000 animal and plant species.

"Nature based tourism in Slovenia is [already] very popular," says Nataša Slak Valek, spokesperson for the Slovenian Tourist Board. "And since only tourism which is kind and constructive towards the natural, cultural and social environment can be competitive in the future, we are convinced it represents the essential orientation for further development of tourism in Slovenia."

Flower power

In Scotland, there is a man who heartily agrees. Ian Mitchell works for Scottish National Heritage but, thanks to a 28-year love affair with Slovenia, is as dedicated to preserving the delights of the Slovenia as he is to conserving the stunning environment of his native land. As a result, Mitchell is the first non-national to serve as a warden at Triglav National Park and has in recent years helped establish the Bohinj International Wild Flower Festival. The event, which first took place in 2007, was specifically designed with a view to promoting sustainable tourism in the area.

"Slovenia has a real future in tourism provided that tourism is sustainably developed," Mitchell argues. "It has a truly outstanding nature, awe inspiring landscapes, a clean and peaceful environment and welcoming, friendly people."

Country pride

Ask David Robertson why he has travelled to Slovenia six times and he gives a strikingly similar answer. Robertson and his wife Sarah have spent more than eight months in the country in the past nine years, exploring its countryside on foot. The two have even set up a website and written a book to encourage other English speaking walkers to visit the country.

"There is such a variety of scenery and so many places to explore," Roberston enthuses. "We love to see the pride that Slovenians have in their country, the way that the countryside is so well tended and cared for. It's not a show for the tourists - it's just how they want to live."

But it's not just besotted visitors who are shouting about Slovenia's eco credentials. Last month the Bohinj Park EKO Hotel became the first in the country to be awarded the Green Globe Certificate, a prestigious award which recognises travel and tourism companies operating in a sustainable way. The development is just one indication of the increasing interest in Slovenia as an eco holiday destination. And it is an interest which seems set to increase further.

"In the coming years tourists are not going to travel less," argues Nataša Slak Valek. "But they will want more information on the environmental impact of their travel and they will decide about trips based on this."

If that is the case, many more will pick Slovenia as their holiday destination.

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