Two-way Tourism in Eastern Europe

Ann Hills takes a look at the development of tourism in former Communist countries.

As new, off-the-beaten-track opportunities for travel open up in the former Communist countries of Europe, a meeting of minds has to be engineered between travellers wanting to sample aspects of local heritage – an introduction to a closed monastery, or a walk to a hill-top chapel – and the local residents who hope to benefit from small-scale tourism (without being swamped by it). This is the objective at the heart of a pioneering project drawing on experience in Slovenia and Bulgaria – the results of which will be presented at an international workshop on heritage trails this spring.

The gathering at Otocec in Slovenia in early April, marks the culmination of a £200,000 project funded with European Union money and developed over the past eighteen months by Ecotourism, a small, private company that specialises in promoting viable commercial tourism and conservation projects that prioritise local needs and input. Duncan Fisher is its co-ordinator.

The workshop, bylined as a 'sustainable approach to the development of rural tourism in central and Eastern Europe' will draw together the project's practical achievements to date. Among these are two new brochures designed as an introduction to the area for independent travellers and tour operators and which highlight local attractions in two regions. Europe's Sleeping Beauty introduces the heritage trails through Dolenjska and Bela Krajina in Slovenia. Bulgaria, Just Unique introduces the Dobrudza Heritage Trail on the Black Sea coast.

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