Sustainable Tourism – Slovenia leads the way
When it comes to sustainable tourism, Slovenia is a step ahead of the rest. In 2016 Slovenia was crowned world’s most sustainable country by National Geographic’s World Legacy Award, and in the same year the capital Ljubljana was declared European Green Capital. The Green Destinations Organisation in the Netherlands also recognised Slovenia’s environmental work and honoured it with their title “A Green Destination”.
The green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism (GSST)
All this hasn’t come from Slovenia simply trying to be a little green; it is the result of a concerted effort by the government and tourist board. In 2009 a strategic initiative was launched with the sole aim of promoting sustainable tourism within Slovenia. The initiative followed strict guidelines. In 2014 it was renamed “The green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism” and is now a national certification programme with sustainable tourism at its very heart.
The scheme is not only aimed at promoting sustainable tourism, but also provides a quality standard that all participating destinations, service providers and operators must adhere to should they wish to achieve the status of “Slovenia Green”. The “Slovenia Green” label is subsequently used to promote all green destinations and service providers who are certified and follow this quality standard. All the objectives of the scheme follow the rules of sustainable development and show care for the area they operate in. Currently 48 destinations are certified under this program.
Ljubljana’s Gold status
The Slovene capital, Ljubljana, has been a pioneer of sustainable tourism from the very start. In 2007 a huge project designed to transform the entire city centre into a pedestrianised zone was started. It began with the banning of all vehicles from the central square. Slowly, over the years, the pedestrianised zone spread and by 2014 over 30 streets and squares had been pedestrianised. In 2016 it had expanded even further. The banks of the Ljubljanica river from Dragon Bridge to Saint James Bridge are completely free of public traffic (access is only allowed with a special permit for deliveries etc), and you can stroll along the riverbank amid shady willow trees, outdoor bars, cafes and large walking spaces, and sit peacefully beside the river. Many of the old bridges have been renovated or moved to make the public areas more spacious and open.
And it’s not only along the riverbank. The outer lying squares like Kongresni Trg, have also been cut off from traffic. The main street, Slovenska Cesta, has been closed to all but public buses. The roadside pavements have been widened to allow outdoor seating for many cafes and bars, and also public benches to relax on. Additional trees and greenery have been planted in all public spaces to make them a more enjoyable place to hang out.
Ljubljana’s pedestrianised areas have now increased by a whopping 620%. All this work has helped make the city a more spacious, open, enjoyable and vibrant place, where you can walk freely and enjoy nature in the centre of a European capital.
As part of its march towards sustainable tourism, many regions are introducing more environmentally friendly forms of transport. 132 out of the 280 buses of the Ljubljana Public Transport now run on CNG (methane).
In Ljubljana centre, all major destinations can be accessed by using the city’s electric minibus, known as the “kavalir”. There are 3 open vehicles for the spring/summer, and 3 covered for the autumn/winter. This totally green form of transport is free of charge and you can stop it anywhere along the street, or call to be picked up. The service runs all year from 8 till 8 daily.
Bicikelj is a public bike share scheme where, once you have joined, you can pick up a bike from one of the many self-service terminals across the city and drop it off at any other. Bike hire is free for the first hour, making it a great way for locals and visitors alike to get from one destination to another and minimise their carbon footprint at the same time.
Green as far as you can see
That Slovenia is a leader in sustainable tourism it also helps the fact that it is one of the European countries with the most forests and waters. Almost every Slovenian loves to put on their hiking boots and enjoy the time outside in the embrace of the mountains, trees, rivers – in the nature. We preserve all this natural wealth with love. More than 1/3 of Slovenia lies in the EU network of special protected sites – Natura 2000, and there are 10,000 km of well-marked hiking trails. All this one can find on just 20,273 km2, that’s how big Slovenia is.
Sustainable tourism at its heart
Slovenia really does have sustainable tourism at its heart. But this isn’t just a clever way to promote Slovenia as a great tourism destination; it comes from the people’s love of our country, the environment we live in and a strong desire to keep its beautiful nature intact.