Medjimurje Sustainable Tourism Proves Itself, Tourists Willing to Pay More

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, as many as twenty years of dedicated and hard work at the level of the entire destination was needed for Medjimurje sustainable tourism to reach a level of sustainability that many are only just beginning to think about.

Confirmation that they’re on the right track came back at the beginning of March at the ITB Berlin tourism fair, where beautiful Medjimurje County was declared a Green Destinations region and was awarded the silver Green Destination label. This made it the first region in all of Croatia and the fourth in the world to receive this certification.

”Green Destination” is a globally recognised non-profit organisation that cooperates with 200 destinations across more than 80 countries of the world, and develops sustainable and responsible tourism in accordance with the principles of the United Nations (UN) and the goals of the Global Council for Sustainable Tourism.

Rudi Grula, the director of Medjimurje County’s tourist board, and Nusa Korotaj, the director of the very well known Terme Sveti Martin, which generates an impressive 80 percent of tourist traffic in Medjimurje, spoke about how sustainability has become a lifestyle for the people of Medjimurje at the Place2Go tourist fair.

“The fact that sustainability has become imperative is also showcased by the new policy of the TUI group, which will no longer enter into contracts with hotels that don’t have a sustainability certificate. In Medjimurje County, tourism makes up only 2% of the local economy and we see tourism as an activity that will improve the lives of the local population as well. That’s why we can freely choose guests who are ready to pay 20% more for all of the services that are carried out in a sustainable way here,” explained Grula. In the survey that preceded the certification process for Green Destination, as many as 80% of respondents, out of 60% of the total number of stakeholders in the county’s tourism who responded to the survey, were in favour of introducing sustainable solutions.

The next step will be the introduction of the Good Travel brand, and a new analysis of the satisfaction level of locals is underway, which is being done for them by the Tourism Institute. The local tourist board frequently realises many projects with Terme Sveti Martin, which is the largest tourist entity in the entire county and also operates in a sustainable manner. For example, as Nusa Korotaj revealed, they have signed contracts with 25 OPGs (family farms) that supply Sveti Martin with local products, grown within a radius of 15 kilometres.

As many as 80% of employees working at Terme Sveti Martin are locals, and since many of them work the land, with the project ”Work, earn extra”, the company offered them to open their own OPGs and be priority suppliers, so that a waiter can also brag to his guests that they’re eating zucchini that he grew himself.

Local products are more expensive than those we can purchase in retail chains, that’s true, but this way we have foods we know the origin of and we know exactly who grew them, with extremely short supply chains. In addition, we support the surrounding restaurateurs, so we send our guests to eat at their restaurants, we also have packages in which guests can exchange dinner at our hotel for a local restaurant. In order to appreciate these locally grown foods even more, we introduced a programme to reduce food waste, after we determined that we were throwing 200 kilograms of food into the compost every single day. In order to reduce this, we reduced the number of plates at breakfast and reduced food waste by 40% on the first day,” said Korotaj.

The road to sustainability is often paved with a lot of small steps, and the next one is to convince restaurateurs to stop serving biscuits wrapped in cellophane with their coffee, but rather to serve biscuits in bulk. At the same time, through promotion, they also educate the guests, who not only appreciate these solutions, but also look for them themselves. In fact, research by the Expedia portal showed that this year as many as 65% of travellers will look for some form of sustainable service in tourism, while companies will invest significantly more in marketing through which they show what they are doing to contribute to sustainable development.

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