Adventure tourism has been on the rise in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with the country's diverse and challenging terrain offering a range of outdoor activities such as kayaking, rafting, hiking, and rock climbing. There are a number of beautiful rivers throughout the country that serve as excellent locations for travelers to enjoy rafting, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. In addition to the natural beauty of the country, its cultural heritage is also gaining global recognition, making it an attractive destination for adventure-seeking travelers.
In recent years, BiH has had more of its intangible heritage spotlighted by UNESCO, including Konjic woodcarving and Zmijanje embroidery. The country also had its first village, Krupa na Vrbasu, accepted into the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Best Tourism Villages Upgrade Programme. BiH’s first educational initiatives were certified under the UNWTO TEDQUAL program, and the Herzegovina Wine Route was included in Iter Vitis, a Council of Europe cultural route honoring wine regions and the history of wine production that has shaped civilizations.
Amid all this growth, to help develop and promote responsible tourism in the country, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) is working with the USAID Sustainable Tourism Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina Project, or USAID Turizam, a project that focuses on facilitating tourism-driven economic growth and social harmony within BiH. These collaborative efforts have included standardized training for adventure travel guides, increased industry networking to accommodate the rising demand for adventure tourism in the country, and a financial initiative for rural and small-town economies to receive support for developing tourism.
Several projects, such as the development of novel experiences in different parts of the country and a series of familiarization tours for international media and tour operators, have already begun. Of highest priority is the availability of well-trained adventure travel guides and increased industry networking to accommodate the rising demand for such trips. Last year, Turizam began providing educational resources for the businesses they work with and translated the ATTA’s Adventure Travel Guide Standards into Bosnian, which makes it available to most Western Balkans countries. Turizam has also worked to make the standards available to their business partners and guides. This year, the ongoing partnership between ATTA and USAID BiH includes access to ATTA’s OnlineEDU courses and ATTA membership for 40 participants.
“There is great collaboration that we see in the entire Western Balkans, and ATTA has been present in the region for a decade,” said Gergana Nikolova, ATTA Regional Director of Europe and Central Asia. “We began with an in-person training in BiH in 2013, followed by AdventureWeek in 2014 in Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia in 2014, and then held AdventureNEXT Balkans in 2016 with participation from all 12 Southeastern European destinations.”
In response to the need for increased networking opportunities, USAID Turizam recently hosted the ReShape Adventure event in Vlasic on 25 April 2023 to address emerging trends in adventure tourism. ATTA was represented at the conference by Mira Poling Anselmi, VP of Community, who presented the most up-to-date information on industry trends and statistics and urged the audience to forge new business connections to take advantage of the expanding adventure travel sector. Anselmi also amplified the message that has been sent to operators for some time now: travelers are increasingly concerned about their environmental impact.
“It’s been really exciting for us to work with an emerging adventure destination like BiH,” said Anselmi. “The natural and cultural assets are all there, and they are being very thoughtful and strategic about how they develop their adventure market, utilizing all the tools ATTA offers, so that they can avoid some of the common pitfalls and build in a way that will be sustainable for a long time to come.”
As more and more eyes turn towards BiH for its cultural experiences and beautiful landscapes, the country will have to carefully manage a growing influx of travelers. With a continued partnership between ATTA and Turizam, efforts to implement sustainable practices will better equip the destination for the rising demand for adventure travel moving forward.
With the aim of positioning Bosnia and Herzegovina as a competitive destination on the global market, USAID’s Developing Sustainable Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Turizam) project is working on advancing human capital in the tourism sector, improving access to finance for tourism businesses, developing innovative tourist products, harmonizing policies and regulations and revolutionizing destination branding and promotion.
Through a broad-based approach to sustainable tourism development, USAID Turizam will contribute to economic growth and social harmony in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For more information, visit https://turizambih.ba/.