Every year the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition collects sustainable tourism stories and good practices from destinations all over the world to be shared as inspiring examples to others, from tourism professionals to travellers. By telling their stories, destination management organisations can be acknowledged and recognised for the solutions they have implemented in response to challenges and problems they have faced. With the tourism sector facing very challenging times in the past years, the resiliency and hard work of these destinations to become more responsible should be celebrated.
The 2021 selection included Rogla-Pohorje Tourist Destination, with the story “ HAND IN HAND INTO A GREEN FUTURE«.
Collaboration serves as the bridge between all tourism stakeholders and the added value that can offer the most to both locals and tourists and visitors to a destination and brings together various stakeholders. Unfortunately, too frequently, destinations do not liaise with neighbouring destinations. Four municipalities in the area thus liaised and established the new Rogla-Pohorje Tourist Destination intended to strengthen and provide a framework for collaboration on development and promotional activities and further development of a joint brand.
Tourism stakeholders had wondered how to promote a breakthrough in less-visited municipalities and to bring visitors/tourists from more crowded areas thereto, thus ensuring a more balanced distribution of visitors/tourists and providing the local population with the opportunity to earn additional income (concern for their welfare). In all of this, we wanted to follow the Triple Bottom Line (TPL) model of visitors/tourists and providing the local population with the opportunity to earn additional income (concern for their welfare). In all of this, we wanted to follow the Triple Bottom Line (TPL) model combining the environmental, economic and social aspects of tourism development. After the municipalities joined forces, the sustainable management of the Rogla-Pohorje Tourist Destination (hereinafter referred to as the “RPTD”) was added.
“2017-2021 Rogla-Pohorje Destination Tourism Development and Marketing Plan”
It was first shifted towards combining destinations with the adoption of the “2017-2021 Rogla-Pohorje Destination Tourism Development and Marketing Plan”, developed as a collaborative effort of the destination stakeholders and containing the starting points for the visions of all participating municipalities so as to constitute the Rogla-Pohorje destination. The good present-day quantitative and qualitative performance of the RPTD has resulted from active and systematic implementation of the aforementioned strategic tourism documents. Importantly, the strategy did not collect dust in a “drawer” but the implementation of our pursued objectives has, in fact, been ongoing during this five-year period and has been successfully completed in the vast majority of cases.
A joint strategy, as well as a joint vision of the following, has sufficed for our success story, which all engaged municipalities have striven towards:
The VISION implemented by pursuing development and marketing qualitative and quantitative goals reads as follows:
In 2021, Rogla-Pohorje is recognised as a rural destination with premium health and well-being preservation programmes, active holidays and athletes’ preparations, creative wine and culinary stories, profound space culturalization experiences, experiences associated with discovering nature, a rich cultural heritage and crafts, globally-recognised sports and traditional events and business gatherings between Rogla mountain and the wine-growing hills of the Dravinja Valley, to which hospitable and active locals invite visitors.
The RPTD is also represented by its own visual image and a joint slogan: Explore, feel, enjoy.
Local brand Tastes of Rogla
Bringing together all tourism stakeholders in our destination through the “Tastes of Rogla” brand and providing locals with an additional source of income serves as an important aspect of the presented good practice case. The RPTD wishes to significantly contribute to the welfare of the local population. The “Tastes of Rogla” brand brings together local providers of culinary services and producers of agricultural and food products and handicrafts, culinary events, and guided experiences for tourists. Both products and services are assessed under the watchful eye of certificate-awarding experts. Autochthony, domesticity, local production, natural materials, a sustainable philosophy, etc. play an important role.
Key success factors and business opportunities
The key success factor of the RPTD sustainable development management is, as repeatedly mentioned, the actual monitoring and implementation of the strategic document, active liaising of all tourism stakeholders, their strong support and, last but not least, raising awareness of the importance and effects of sustainable development through various channels (educational workshops, zero-waste events, appearances in local printed media and on social media platforms). Without actively raising awareness of the importance of sustainable development, taking care of the natural environment, and the importance of preserving cultural heritage, no mindset shifts in people can be expected. Major shifts start with small steps, through education and continuous awareness campaigns for the local populations and tourists.
It is our belief that organising the development of tourism in the RPTD in such a way will result in long-term effects for everyone involved. This allows the destination to gain business opportunities that it otherwise wouldn’t as the process of bringing together makes it more attractive for many local (restoration of the Trebnik Mansion with guest rooms in Slovenske Konjice, restoration of the Oplotnica Mansion, Brodej Glamping in Vitanje, modern restoration of the Žiče Charterhouse Chapel, etc.) and foreign investors (The Pohorje Treetop Walk on Rogla). In collaboration with the German Stöger + Kölbl architectural firm, the Czech investor ZAK has brought a new philosophy of experiencing nature to Slovenia: “opening” forests and nature to the public in a sustainable manner that strictly adheres to environmental protection principles. As we can see, satisfied investors invest in innovative stories that provide for a green future to successive generations as well.
Through its joint brand, the destination has been gaining visibility, a good reputation and trustworthiness. It is important to know that the destination management is here to serve tourism providers, business partners, visitors and the local population. The local population is communicated with directly or via local government. Communication therewith must be regular and well-considered in order to achieve its purpose.
As the proud holder of the Slovenian Green Destination Gold designation, the destination will put all its resources into the safety and health of the local population and its visitors and the systematic sustainable and socially responsible development of local tourism.
All changes must be embraced and recognised as essential and beneficial for all involved. For this reason, more than 70 workshops were carried out with various tourism stakeholders (hotel owners, caterers, local governments, various associations, the local population, etc.) at the beginning of the RPTD development process to bring home the idea of bringing together tourism activities and establish trust among stakeholders, which is key for liaising and collaboration activities. These workshops were also intended to acquaint the destination management with the diverse interests of various stakeholders in order to observe them insofar as possible and to also engage the local population in the creation of the RPTD. This way, RPTD was more easily embraced by the local population since it was established with their help and their conceptual contributions. The greatest challenge that continues to be faced from time to time is a mindset shift that a guest/tourist is not lost through collaboration and liaising and directing them into another municipality but, on the contrary, all that generates an added value for the destination as a whole.
A brief summary of our key challenges:
The success of the Rogla-Pohorje Tourist Destination through key indicators required a clear vision, the image of a desired green future, measurable objectives, feasible measures, a lot of political will and motivated and highly qualified associates building upon natural and cultural heritage with a unique interpretation—telling stories tailored to visitors—through a synergy of partner relationships.
You can read HERE the complete story of sustainable destination