The world's first Green Destinations Regional Training Event was held at Terme Sveti Martin in Međimurje. The event brought together leading experts in sustainable tourism and critical stakeholders in the tourism economy. Over three days, participants were introduced to trends and practical ways of sustainable management of tourist destinations, protected areas, and tourism companies.
The keynote lectures were delivered by two seasoned experts in sustainable tourism and destination management, Kirsi Hyvaerinen and Dr Mirela Sučić Čevra. They spoke about managing sustainable destinations, the importance of stakeholder involvement, and the latest sustainability practices globally. As an excellent branding example in sustainability among globally recognised destinations, Dr Sučić Čevra highlighted the "Swisstainable" project, backed by one of the leading global destination management companies, Kuoni Tumlare.
„We witnessed deep commitment from across the country to engaging sustainable tourism development in Croatia. The Green Destinations team was impressed with the drive and passion of the tourism board to work on such a crucial endeavour“, said Hugo de Jong, Co-Founder and Head of Destination Certification at Green Destinations.
Participants from the whole Balkan region
Training attendees were introduced to the core criteria of the Green Destinations certification program through interactive workshops. In addition to the inspiring lectures, three insightful panel discussions were held in Međimurje, Green Destinations Silver Awardee, gathering tourism experts, stakeholders, and entrepreneurs at all levels from as many as seven countries. The "Destination management: new challenges, new needs" panel brought together key Croatian tourism stakeholders, highlighting the importance of synergy among all players at national, regional, and local levels in achieving sustainability in their community.
On the second day, best sustainability practices for destinations, protected areas, and tourism companies were presented during two-panel discussions. The panellists demonstrated that many are on the path to sustainability and that reducing visitor numbers in popular destinations may mean more revenue.
Dr. Katarina Miličević emphasised that this educational event was an exceptional opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge among experts. "A blend of theoretical knowledge and practical application is the only correct way to improve sustainability at all levels," said Dr Miličević, director of a consulting company in tourism Tourism Lab and a professor at the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Economics.
Integrating sustainability means integrating the local community
Considering that experience is one of the critical elements of tourism, the event's participants explored the cultural and natural heritage of Međimurje, visiting Mlin na Muri, the Mađerkin Breg viewpoint, and the "Med dvemi vodami" Visitor Center. Besides insights into sustainable tourism practices on the ground, these examples underscored the importance of integrating local communities into tourism initiatives and creating sustainable destinations.
“We are proud that our Međimurje hosted such an important event. Our region has been investing in sustainability for years. It's the only right direction for tourism development, and we hope to inspire other destinations to follow our example, making our country more competitive in the market. We are certainly leading the way toward sustainability in the region,” said Rudi Grula, Director of the Međimurje County Tourist Board.
The Green Destinations Regional Training Event in Međimurje was supported by representatives from relevant institutions and organisations from Croatia, including the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, Croatian National Tourist Board, Europe Direct Čakovec, as well as directors of numerous tourist boards and stakeholders of tourist destinations from the region. The event was organised by Tourism Lab in collaboration with the non-profit organisation Green Destinations and hosted by the Međimurje County Tourist Board.