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Designing a To-Do List for Tourism in the Western Balkans

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kirsi Hyvaerinen of National Tourism Organisation of Montenegro and features the ATTA’s Chris Doyle, Executive Director of Europe.

Autochthonic grape Vranac

Filip Stojanovic, the lead person behind the RCI conference

ATTA’s Chris Doyle

“Designing a To-Do List for Tourism in the Western Balkans” was the motto of a two-day event at Sipcanik winery (Plantaze) near Podgorica, organized by Regional Competitiveness Initiative Project (RCI/ USAID). The overall goal was to engage tourism stakeholders from the Western Balkans region in generating ideas and initiating commitments for future activities to continue growing and promoting the Western Balkans region as a growing and competitive destination. The opening evening of the meeting presented an exhibition with photos from the Western Balkans with visual highlights of the region.

Over 50 participants from Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia were present in the meeting, representing the private sector, NGOs, world-wide known organizations such as the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), NTO and governmental representatives, consultancies and donor organisations.

The Executive Director Europe of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Chris Doyle, shared trends, facts and figures on Adventure Travel and its ever growing role as a cornerstone of sustainable tourism and in addressing transformation and Millenium development goals – growing faster than traditional mass tourism (16% vs. 4%) and leaving 67% of the income in the destination.

He underlined the words of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, Mr. Taleb Rifai, at the 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit in Lucerne: ” Adventure tourism is what tourism should be today and definitely what tourism will be tomorrow,” referring to inevitable shifts in the leisure tourism market toward more experience-based, responsible and lower-impact – environmentally and culturally – travel.

The invitation to new memberships and this year´s Adventure Travel World Summit, which will take place in Namibia, October 26-31, were extended to all delegates and their Tourism Authorities.

“Inspired and impressed by the energy, cultural and natural gifts and the work done in this region already,”  said Mr. Doyle, “My recommendation is to host a Balkans Adventure Travel Summit soon. It can be a strong strategic move in the global competition and help this region to its next stages of cooperation and recovery. Such an event can be a catalyst event of businesses, governments and communities in getting together and speaking with one voice to tell the world, ´Our dream destination is open for business.´”

Supportive innovations and new cooperation opportunities were presented. As the most visible example so far, the Western Balkans Geotourism Mapguide, powered by National Geographic continues to collect places most respected and recommended by locals”.

In the afternoon working session, an inventory of further specific actionable ideas were created, to continue strengthening of the Western Balkans destination and its promotion in high-potential markets, such as:

  • “Sounds of the Balkans” – a social media based best video competition of music events
  • “Travel and Tourism Hackathon” – a mobile app creation meeting, which are growingly popular in the IT world
  • Promoting Health Tourism of the region
  • Creating more cross border experiences with the National Parks, and many more.

The participants commit to continue the joint cooperation through the established LinkedIn group and to identify possible funding and investment for the listed prioritized activities. Results, pictures and participant lists of the event will be available via the coordinators here.

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