November 13, 2023 – The Plitvice Lakes National Park has been awarded the prestigious Green Destinations award for sustainability. In addition to confirming that sustainable practices are adopted, this means that the green destination Plitvice Lakes will be promoted for environmentally conscious tourists worldwide.
Eco-conscious tourists recognize and choose destinations that implement sustainable practices, writes Poslovni. In Croatia, those include the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Međimurje County, and the town of Mali Lošinj. This means that their existing responsible practices were well evaluated, but also that they received a tool for further two-year monitoring and improvement when they are audited.
The Green Destination certificate is a confirmation that a lot has been done in terms of sustainable activities in Plitvice Lakes, which is an incentive for the park management to improve and create new sustainable practices, said Tomislav Kovačević, director of Plitvice Lakes National Park.
He adds that Green Destinations provides guidelines for improvements in the context of sustainability, improving communication about sustainability with employees and the local population.
In the next two years of the reevaluation of the certificate, a sustainability coordinator will be appointed, work will be done on monitoring visitors, reducing the emission of harmful gases, especially in transport, and generally switching from fossil fuels to energy from renewable sources, says Kovačević.
“The novelty will be the inclusion of local residents in the goals of environmental protection and sustainable and indigenous tourism, as well as work on feedback from tourists, i.e. monitoring visitor satisfaction with the sustainability of the destination,” said Kovačević and added that it is important to work on the authenticity of the experience in the destination through ” strengthening of local culture and tradition and implementation in real life”.
There are prescribed steps for all of this, because the process that destinations go through includes 84 criteria covering four dimensions of sustainable development: social, environmental, economic and cultural.
Green Destinations is a global non-profit organization based in the Netherlands, which operates in more than 90 countries where it cooperates with more than 500 destinations and promotes the recognition of “green” destinations.
UNESCO objections Fixed
Several years ago, the current visitor management plan reduced the pressure on the Plitvice Lakes National Park and removed the objections of UNESCO, on whose World Heritage List it has been since 1979. It is the biologically and geomorphologically richest area in Croatia, and its preservation represents the public interest of the country and the world. It should be permanently protected from excessive tourist exploitation and overdevelopment, and these are the risks that UNESCO pointed out to Croatia in 2016.
Kovačević says that the earlier placing of the park under UNESCO’s monitoring warned of overcrowding in the visitor zone, inadequate solutions for waste water, etc.
“We eliminated those problems, created a visitor management plan, and installed a wastewater treatment plant, and now other steps are being taken to develop sustainable tourism. Through Green Destinations, they received guidelines on how to improve certain segments of sustainable development. We will incorporate all these activities into our daily operations”, says Kovačević.
He announces that, among other things, the most sensitive problem – the number of visitors in July and August – will need to be solved, but that the visitor management plan has proven to be a successful tool, so that will follow.
The average daily number of visitors this summer was ten thousand.
“We try to give all of them the necessary information about the destination and behavior in the park,” says Kovačević.
Plitvička Lakes permanently cooperates with local and foreign protected areas in its regular activities. Thus, the experiences and techniques of the Plitvice Lakes National Park are used in the protection of travertine barriers on the Ruidera lakes in Spain, damaged due to hydropower works, and through Green Destination the cooperation system will expand.
Green Destinations also conducts activities on climate change, public and private sector cooperation on sustainability, national and regional perspectives, destination management, practical sustainability solutions for companies in tourism, ways of communicating sustainable practices, planning sustainable events, digital transformation in tourism. A special team is working on the implementation of all this in Plitvice.