Zagreb County Tourist Board

Zagreb County has confidently initiated the certification process following the Green Destinations model

The Zagreb County Tourist Board recently held an expert meeting to present the new strategic direction of the destination. The focus was on preparing for certification according to the Green Destinations model. This is an extensive project and process by the renowned international organisation Green Destinations. Due to the size and complexity of the destination and the certification process, we anticipate receiving the results in the first half of 2024. 

Nowadays, sustainability and sustainable tourism development are not just empty promises but have become a crucial aspect of every destination's strategy and operations. The issue is not whether we should alter our tourism services but how fast we can make the change happen. Zagreb County has embarked on the certification process to establish itself as a sustainable and eco-friendly destination officially. 

Our team has completed the initial phase of preparing for the certification process and is now actively engaged in the process itself. Our approach involves involving all relevant stakeholders in developing sustainable tourism for our destination. In the first phase, we assessed the readiness of stakeholders for the certification process and sustainable business practices. We then provided stakeholder education and prepared the necessary documentation. We understand that there is still much work to be done. Our ultimate goal is to achieve recognition as the largest certified region for sustainable tourism in Croatia by the renowned international organisation Green Destinations by next year. We aim to involve all stakeholders and set a high standard for sustainable tourism development, a role we have been leading for the past four years, as stated by Ivana Alilović, director of the Zagreb County Tourist Board.

Green Destinations is a global non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands striving to enhance tourist destinations' sustainable development, promote tourism, and gain international recognition. Its approach aligns with the principles of the United Nations and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) goals, promoting sustainable and responsible tourism. The organisation has earned high-quality recognition from partners and travellers globally and collaborates with over 400 destinations in more than 90 countries to advance sustainable development models for tourism. By strengthening the competitiveness of destinations, Green Destinations aims to further its mission. 

Sustainable tourism development aims to establish a positive and mutually advantageous relationship between tourists, local communities, and the regions where tourism occurs. Green Destinations strives to promote sustainable management practices that preserve cultural assets, take care of the environment, ensure economic sustainability, and, most importantly, benefit the local population by improving their satisfaction with tourism development in the area. This transformation towards sustainable management of tourist destinations takes time and involves all stakeholders in tourism development. According to Assoc. Ph.D. Katarina Miličević, Director of Tourism Lab - the exclusive representative of Green Destinations in Croatia, this process is crucial for the long-term success of tourism in the destination.

Recognising that our society can become more sustainable in the long run is essential. Combating climate change must involve all sectors, including the energy industry and the tourism economy. Changes should be implemented across all sectors and levels, ideally synchronised. Communication is crucial to promoting ideas and changing consciousness. However, we also need ambitious projects and goals and practical work in the field. This issue affects everyone, especially in Croatia, where tourism is a significant industry. Failing to adapt to change could lead to negative feedback from our guests. Ivana Belić, head of strategic communications at the Regional Energy and Climate Agency of Northwest Croatia, moderated the meeting.

The research conducted on tourism development stakeholders in Zagreb County revealed positive perceptions towards applying sustainable development certificates, such as Green Destinations, as shown by over 70% of respondents. They believe that certification leads to better recognition of the destination, improved cooperation among stakeholders, and attraction of guests with higher paying power. Additionally, 63% of respondents expressed their willingness to participate in the implementation of the sustainable tourism development certificate for their businesses. Tourism Lab presented these results as the exclusive representative of Green Destinations in Croatia. Implementing sustainable tourism certification requires the involvement of all stakeholders and significant effort to educate and raise awareness among the local population. The Zagreb County Tourist Board aims to meet the criteria for obtaining the Green Destinations certificate next year, recognising that certification is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and work. This tool provides evaluation and improvement for sustainable destination management, contributing to a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry. Director Alilović emphasised the importance of applying these principles and cooperation to achieve these goals.

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