Good example: Slovenia
Slovenia and its secrets to green success
Slovenia is green, acts green and promotes green. A unique national program, well thought-out management and natural resources as well as a warm hospitality are drivers in making Slovenia pioneers in sustainable tourism destination development.
by Anne Franze-Jordanov
Slovenia is undoubtedly one of the leaders when it comes to sustainable tourism destinations. The country was the first in the world to be declared a green destination based on the Green Destinations Criteria. At this years ‘World’s Top 10 Sustainable Destinations Awards’, Slovenia’s Green Destinations have been awarded as „Best of Europe“. What is their secret?
Secret 1: Slovenia is green
Slovenia has plentiful and diverse natural resources. Mountains call for hiking and skiing, the Adriatic Sea invites for swimming and sunbathing. More than half of the country is covered with green forests, rich traditional culture and healing thermal springs bring peace of mind. Approximately 2,000 sun hours per year and plenty of snow in winter, popular wines and delicious traditional food add to the country’s offerings. Slovenia is green. This is the country’s competitive advantage on which the Slovenian Tourist Board defined its focus on.
Secret 2: Slovenia acts green – Development of green tourism
The Slovenian Tourism Board developed a unique national program, called the ‘Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism’ (GSST). It brings together all efforts that focus on the development of sustainable tourism in the country. Moreover, it offers tools to service providers and destinations to evaluate and improve their sustainability activities. Based on global criteria, the GSST is a combination of the Green Destinations standard and the European Commission’s ETIS tool.
The GSST is actively managed by a manager of the Slovenian Tourism Board who offers educational support and establishes promotional channels internationally. Another face of the GSST is an accredited partner who is licensed to make assessments using the Green Destinations Standard. The program is a tool and a certification programme under the ‘Slovenia Green’ umbrella brand. Slovenia Green is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Secret 3: Slovenia promotes green – Repositioning of Slovenian Tourism
There are two levels, the fundamental level destinations and the fundamental unit service providers. The aim is that destinations motivate their service providers to operate sustainably and become eco-label certified. Only if the destination has a critical mass of certified service providers, it can become a green destination. All certified ‘Slovenia Green’ members benefit from promotional activities which are planned and implemented by the Slovenian Tourist Board and promoted through the Slovenia Green’ brand. Thus, tourism service providers and destinations have incentives switching to sustainable practices.
Therefore, the GSST supports the Slovenian Tourist Board’s mission, placing the integral implementation of sustainability at the heart of its operation to use sustainable tourism for the benefit of Slovenia’s development.
How destinations obtain the ‘Slovenian Green Destinations’ label
The destination must follow eleven steps:
• appoint a green coordinator
• set up a green team
• increase awareness
• sign a green policy
• carry out surveys
• gather information
• submit reports and the application for an assessment
• draft an action plan for measures
• determine the local character and the USP
• submit an application for a field visit
• realize measures & reassessment after 3 years
• pay a membership fee. These steps are evaluated using a point system from 1 to 10.
If a certain number of categories have 8 or more points and if at least one of the categories is directly linked to tourism, the destination receives, accordingly, a SGD gold label, silver label or bronze label.
How service providers obtain the ‘Slovenian Green Accommodation/Travel Agency/Park’ label
The service provider must proof the ownership of one of the six internationally recognised labels that are also verified by ‘Slovenia Green’: Travellife, Green Globe, Ecolabel, Bio Hotels, Emas, Green Key. Parks that join the GSST with the ‘Slovenia Green Park’ label must submit proof of ownership of the labels UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme or Europarc Federation. In addition, the service provider has to complete an application form, sign a green policy and pay a fee.
What is the status of the Slovenia Green brand?
So far, there are 44 ‘Slovenia Green’ label holders. 23 of them are destinations, 16 are accommodation providers, three are national parks and two travel agencies. 14 new destinations have been evaluated last year and will join soon. This year, 15 new stakeholders are currently undergoing the evaluation procedure.
Further recognitions by the European Destinations of Excellence Network (EDEN) also confirm that Slovenia is at the forefront of sustainability.
The secrets of green success in Slovenia
The Slovenian Tourism Board focuses on the impact of tourism on the green economy. It supports the tourism industry to develop green business models and encourages destinations to set up sustainable development models based on sustainability indicators. By raising awareness, tourists focus on a more sustainable lifestyle and a friendlier attitude towards their own environment. These activities result in competitive tourism offers.
Attractive tourism offers such as delicious local culinary specialities, brewing tradition and beekeeping, warm and refined hospitality, unspoiled nature experiences and relaxing thermal spas are based on the concept of sustainability, contributing to Slovenia’s economy and well-being as a whole. This wide range of high-quality and innovative tourism products make Slovenia stand out from other tourism destinations.