Sustainable tourism is a new concept that the EU member states, including Croatia, are embracing. It is a shift in the way we see and develop tourism, keeping in mind the positive impact on future generations.
The local economy and communities are critical elements of successful sustainability development in tourism, minimising the negative impact on the economy and environment.
Following an EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), Croatia was recognised as a destination with rich culture and an ideal location that can host a new project which unites cycling and cultural routes to promote sustainability in tourism.
Uniting multiple EU projects
In 1987, the Council of Europe started a ‘Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe’ program to promote cultural heritage and unique European identity.
The program was set up to preserve natural and cultural heritage and promote sustainability and routes off the path to advance cultural diversity across all EU member states.
All cultural routes support European values that are in common to at least three member states. Croatia joined the program in 2016, taking part in 11 cultural routes out of a total of 38 that are certified in the program.
In 2016, the European Cyclists’ Federation started a project called EuroVelo: a network of 17 long-distance cycling routes all over the EU. The project is still ongoing, as routes are actively being constructed and once completed, it will have a length of 90 000 km.
Another project financed by the EU, from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), is MedPaths. It included reconstruction and expansion of walking and cycling routes in Split-Dalmatia county and several regions in Italy, resulting in 36 cycling routes over 480 kilometres.
Sustainable and unique tourist product
Following a EUSAIR workshop organised by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, Croatia introduced a new sustainable and unique tourist experience that will promote a healthy lifestyle, cultural heritage and development of local communities. Using the previously mentioned projects that prepared the infrastructure and promoted cycling as a popular way of exploring regions across Europe, the Ministry prepared routes that promote a new niche: cyclo-tourism. The project includes nine cyclo-cultural routes that have been certified by the Council of Europe and, through various themes, encourage locals and tourists to explore the rich history and beautiful nature in an environmentally friendly way.
Some of the most popular are:
- Routes of the Olive Tree
- Iter Vitis Route (Wine European Cultural Route)
- European Cemeteries Route
- Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route
Find more details about each route here.
The next step towards more sustainable tourism will include a thorough adjustment of infrastructure and raising awareness towards cyclo-tourism as a new branch with great economic potential, especially for smaller communities. Due to an excellent geographic position, Croatia can take part in routes with the highest potential, which opens up more possibilities to access EU funds and use them for further development successfully.