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How to get an entire country to take the same path towards tourism sustainability

Guiding Principle 2: Respect the publicly available, internationally approved minimum criteria for sustainable tourism practices maintained by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) for both industry and destinations.

Slovenia is a green jewel in central Europe’s crown. It is bursting with biodiversity for such a small country. Over 60% is covered in forests, which is home to over 22,000 species of wildlife and plants including the majestic brown bear. Even the cities are green. Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana was voted Europe’s Greenest City in 2016, Tree City of the World in 2020 and notched the number one spot for European Best Destinations 20 Best Green Capitals in Europe list. Unsurprisingly, the tourism industry in Slovenia also recognises the importance of nature, and part of this success comes down to their Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism (or Slovenia Green), a tool and programme to develop and promote sustainable tourism in the country.

Slovenia Green is based on the global criteria of the Green Destinations Standard, which is recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The scheme is aimed at both tourism providers and destinations within Slovenia. Under the certification process, applicants are audited based on the Slovenia Green criteria. They then must create an action plan and report on it annually. All are re-audited every three years too. Providers can access tools and training to evaluate and improve their practices before receiving green certification, but destinations must have enough certified providers within their region before they are given one of four stamps; gold, platinum, silver or bronze, depending on their fulfillment of the criteria. This creates incentive for destinations to encourage and support their own local suppliers to become certified. Slovenia is also encouraging more hotels this way too, as they are the least represented sector. Only gold and platinum stamps are awarded to destinations with at least one certified hotel within their region.

Slovenia Green is now a global model for how to develop a national tourism industry sustainably. The European Travel Commission drew on the scheme to create a sustainable tourism development framework, a roadmap for European destinations to advance sustainable tourism development regardless of where they are starting on their journey. Which destination will be next to follow Slovenia’s lead?

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