Sustainable or regenerative tourism - let's not be fooled again

As the first serious waves of guests arrive in Croatia, especially on the Adriatic coast, it is time to start asking the right questions. The more far-reaching one. Because if you don't now ...

As the first serious waves of guests arrive in Croatia, especially on the Adriatic coast, it is time to start asking the right questions. The more far-reaching one.

Because if we don’t get involved now, and I’m clearly afraid we have the energy and breath to do so, we’ll end up at a typical campaign pace. According to the usual scenario - admiration for the increase in traffic in the coming weeks, "lucid" questions from TV crews to tourists such as: "Have you been waiting long?" or "Do you like Croatia?". Then, in the third week of August, we will start breathing on our gills, as we have lost our work rhythm and working condition in 2020, and can hardly wait for the start of school in other countries in September for foreigners to return to their countries.

Then there will be a lull, the use of vacations, then fairs and annual events until the end of March 2022. And while you slap your palm - the tourist season passes and with it the tourist year. And a new one came.

For longer-term and more meaningful solutions - never enough time. Like in our football after all. We solve everything in the same way as in the campaign - in the last game.

The story of sustainable tourism - not one game. It is a permanent tourist league that is played non-stop.

Are we ready for that in our “campaign” mentality, the question is now?

No, entirely except for as always honorable exceptions.

The right view of the sustainability of tourism as a management business category is much more complex and interactive than we think.

I will use a newer model of a non-profit association as a guide ”Global Sustainable Tourism Council”(GSTC), formed from the original organizationPartnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria”In 2007 as a coalition of 32 partners, led by Rainforest Alliance, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) and United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 

GSTC, therefore, has been operating since 2010 as a promoter of knowledge and understanding of international sustainable tourism practices and the application of universal tourism principles, accreditations, products and services. 

This rather abbreviated approach of an ambitious initiative helped me to wonder what we have been waiting for for a full 15 years? Especially we in Croatia, who know how to say that our domestic tourism before 2020 was at the level of about 1% of total world tourism. 

We were fine, too good. Everything went smoothly. And he strikes "prika" as long as the horses last.

Covid-19 shook us, grounded us, and ultimately reason. No skipping games. As my acquaintance Gerd Leohnard, one of the world’s top 10 futurologists, stated, people only change when they feel pain or love. Pain as a result of loss is the most common agent of change.

Given the noticeable fragility of tourism so far, we have suffered a lot. Too much.

GSCT criteria 

Let's start with the structure of the GSCT criteria.

It consists of 4 parts or sections in alphabetical order: Section A - Sustainable management (Sustainable management), Section B - Socio-economic sustainability ( Socio - economic sustainability - pay attention to the attribute “social”), Section C - Cultural sustainability (Cultural sustainability) and Section D - Ambient sustainability (Environmental sustainability).

Behind these seemingly stiff and usual dry titles, there are many theses, concrete directions and performance activities that we often find difficult to agree to because we do not have patience and time and we are always in a hurry somewhere,

But above all it is about developing an intensive and intertwined dialogue between all destination stakeholders, about which nota bene should keep and appropriate correspondence within the destination itself with all available communication tools. And to keep it as evidence and appropriate notes on what we most often fall for. "And my uncle, who will write all this, we will agree in a cafe or tavern with a feta of prosciutto and cheese and a lump of wine."

Code responsible management it is required with a destination management strategy and action plan and a single body in charge of integrated implementation - monitoring and reporting, strong engagement of domestic destination stakeholders - especially local residents with their systematic information and education, monitoring of their activities and, more importantly, response to certain phenomena and activities. Special emphasis is placed on managing the pressure on the destination and the resulting changes to create and maintain a balance between the impact of the volume of guest arrivals, local community and economy, cultural heritage and natural resources with adequate management of potential risks and crises. And when it comes to crises, I'm just interested in how many crisis management and communication models are really developed in our individual destinations. 

In the field socio - economic sustainability criteria for the economic contribution of tourism in the number of directly and indirectly generated jobs, personal development and human resources careers should be developed, measured and monitored, with emphasis on the local population, women, minorities and people with disabilities while preventing discrimination and exploitation. Thus, a clear and targeted development of social tolerance in the broadest sense of the word, to which, given the general social consciousness, especially in some of our smaller communities, we can easily fall. This area includes more meaningful security management (read: more intensive protection against crime, but also political terrorism) and encouraging domestic production and trade in products that reflect the domestic environment and culture such as food and drink, which, thank God, is partly started and realized.

Cultural sustainability seeks the protection of cultural artifacts with funding mechanisms by sharing the income generated from guests, the development of so-called. intangible attractions such as events of all kinds based on authentic interpretations of local customs. A special focus is on the regulation of tours of cultural heritage sites and their interpretation based on objective and relevant research with adequate training and permanent supplementation of the knowledge of tourist guides.

Ambient sustainability or environmental sustainability asks and constantly seeks concrete measures to protect sensitive natural micro-units, plant and animal species and to visit guests in these areas, water and energy resources management, wastewater discharge and waste management (sore point of many of our micro destinations), CO2 emissions, reducing harmful effects destination local traffic, but also light and noise pollution, which is a disease not only of Croatia but of the entire present-day Mediterranean. 

Lots of work, but real work, right?

Hope dies last 

What do these criteria just show and prove? That we must no longer afford the luxury of deceiving ourselves and thus deceiving ourselves and others. Meaningful and modern destination management increasingly resembles a complex headquarters operation, and less and less like a series of local fishing festivals and music parties with local stars and celebrities. Therefore, in addition to "sustainable tourism", we would use in our future strategic and operational documents the term - regenerative tourism

World Travel & Tourism Council defining the terms “sustainable tourism” and “regenerative tourism” in an interesting way. The floor "sustainability" implies our efforts to tourist the resources we enjoy today will be available to future generations, and the term ''regenerativeness'' includes processes and activities that we now carry out meaningfully, targeted and proactively, and which feed back the eco destination system from which we benefit.

Understandably? Nominally, yes. Conductive? Very difficult for now.

Because, the question of all questions is whether we have the strength to effectively implement it in front of reckless youth and new generation entrepreneurs, who "tour" their motorcycles and furious vehicles in front of cafes and luxury hotels or real estate interest groups, who relentlessly peel the coast without permission. , plateaus and, of course, multi-storey buildings on the seashore - relentlessly swallowing the space in front of them and thus ultimately diminishing the value of what they have invested in.

So let’s not wait for the end of the season no matter when it ends. Let's start working on these and other issues at the level of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the interdepartmental Government of the Republic of Croatia and the offices of tourist boards of all levels today for tomorrow. On that path, let's educate better mainstream and local media to dedicate themselves to the right topics, that is, to take the role of an indicator instead of the role of the counter of how sustainable we are based on clear rules of the game, and not just "paper".

Am I an optimist or a pessimist? Hope dies last. 

Author: Edvin Jurin / Photo: Jonathan Chng / Illustration HrTurizam

Read the author's columns and loud reflections so far HERE, and be sure to listen to the podcast Homo Turisticus where Edvin Jurin spoke on an important topic: Managing a tourist destination as a brand

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