For the past 7 months, the Travel Foundation has been working on the Split-Dalmatia coast of Croatia to improve the impacts that two new hotel developments have on the local communities of Igrane and Zivogosce, located an hour and half to the South of Split. This programme resulted from intervention recommendations that were made as part of the Socio-economic Impact Assessment study that we commissioned in late 2015.
Our focus has been on facilitating a collaborative approach to the development of tourism by engaging local and national level public and private stakeholders in the programme activities and supporting positive relationship building efforts to ensure effective multi-stakeholder decision making processes.
As a result of our work, we have seen a dramatic positive change in how hotels and local government decision makers relate to each other and communicate. Local restaurants and bars now have updated knowledge and skills that will enable them to create experiences that better meet the expectations of hotel customers and have better opportunities to access Croatia’s new and upcoming source markets. Moreover, local youth who participated in TF facilitated workshops have more knowledge on necessary ‘soft skills’ to increase their employment opportunities within the tourism sector, and entrepreneurship knowledge and skills enabling them to set-up their own business.
To conclude this year’s activities, our local coordinator, Ane Sindik, organised a conference – titled: ‘Working collaboratively for sustainable tourism development’ – to share our successes with over 30 core stakeholders representing local, regional and national tourism sector organisations. During the event, presentations were made on up-to-date tourism sector related information that local and regional actors could benefit from, and discussion were held around ‘hot’ topics such as destination management, employment in the tourism sector and available funding for local tourism development.
This was the first ever conference, in Croatia, to bring together such a diverse representation of tourism sector representatives to a local destination, and to facilitate discussions between local and national level stakeholders about topics that were relevant to all participants. This resulted in a high level of enthusiastic engagement, improved understanding of the difficulties and barriers faced by tourism sector stakeholders working from different perspectives, and networking opportunities that would otherwise never have occurred.
Conference participants included: Igrane and Zivogosce Tourism Boards, Sensimar Makarska and Adriatic Beach hotels, the Municipality of Podgora, two national Travel agents, the Chamber of Commerce, City of Split, National Employment Office, National Development Agency, Split Dalmatia County Government, Croatia Institute of Tourism, Ministry of Economy, Agency for investment and promotion, Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Ministry of Tourism.
Such an interest in a collaborative approach to tourism development is a positive indicator of the potential impacts that TF’s Croatia programme can have. The willingness of local, regional and national level public and private stakeholders to engage in a common vision of a sustainable tourism sector is key to the development policies and practices that can ultimately improve the benefits, and mitigate the negative impacts, of tourism.