SUD SIT: New cross border itineraries will crown South Adriatic coast as Mediterranean hot spot for active holiday
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The joint goal of Croatian and Montenegrin travel agencies is to reach new markets, establish long-term business cooperation with major tour operators and constantly work on the enhancement of services through specialization in adventure tourism, ISO 9001, Travelife and other quality standards
Sheltered behind the summer shade of tourism giant Dubrovnik, mornings in the Konavle countryside are most tranquil. I was drinking coffee in a small Mediterranean garden just in front of a seventeenth-century stone house. The cup was a gift from Agrotourism Konavle, the local association of ecotourism concerns, and the coffee was a kind welcome from the owners, the Bokarica family.
My business trip imposed work over breakfast, of course. Nevertheless, it was the best office I have ever had! The cell phone had a signal, and there was free Wi-Fi in nearly every home. It was the perfect setting for a quick run through my e-mails and to-do list.
Wine and gastronomy
The rest of the day was far more interesting, and I used the time to familiarise myself with the local tourism offerings: There were opportunities to sprint past vineyards in a Renault 4, go horseback riding along the Konavle cliffs, sample local foods and wines, and much more. Igor Auferber, an aficionado of Croatian regional dishes and the director of the Tureta Travel agency (whose slogan is a favourite: "A tasty way to enjoy Croatia"), was my conversation companion.
"Across the Mediterranean," Igor explained, "people make different versions of what we call rožata - egg pudding/custard, or flan. Here in Croatia locals prepare it with rose oil which gives it very special flavour. These secrets are included in our gastronomy tours as well as our cooking classes." I certainly enjoy the rožata, but narancini, candied orange or lemon peels, is my all-time favourite Konavle sweet treat. It's simple, tasteful and refreshing ... all at the same time!
New bike routes
The gastronomy and wine infrastructure of Konavle gives that additional value to the visit, whether you visit in order to hike the nearby Mt. Sniježnica, explore the bounty of nature or visit the Sokol Grad fortress. My choice for the next visit will be definitely be a bicycle trip. By the time I'm ready for my return, 100 kilometers of bike paths will have been cleaned, marked and GPS tracked. With a detailed map of the area, a bicycle will be the perfect means to explore. Moreover, the local specialties will provide the ideal excuse to stop along the way.
Sustainability is essential
Numerous local, family-owned businesses and travel agencies provide accommodations, tours, guidance and essential information. All are involved in the drive for sustainable development. Katarina Mujo, one of the heads of the family business Kameni Dvori, explained it simply: "Our way of life for centuries was sustainable: living on the land and for the land, using only natural materials and products. So, now we've embraced new practices and incorporated them in professional life and business management, as suggested by the Travelife system. We want to be distinguished by, and recognised for our organic and homemade products as well as our dedication to sustainability."
Travelife training is only one of the education segments within the SUD SIT project of the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies and Municipality of Tivat, being provided for local SMEs. The main focus is to ensure the sustainable development of new special-interest cross-border tourism products. Accordingly, my next stop will be Tivat, Montengro.
The Croatia-Montenegro partnership
Tivat, in tourism circles, is best known for the Porto Montenegro, an elite marina that was once a Yugoslavian grand military port. Now, however, the lone remnant of the Socialist period is the submarine "Hero," which is displayed in the yard of a local museum. However, given the exceptional beauty of Boka Bay and the area's rich cultural heritage, it would be a sin not to offer additional content to tourists. There's more to life than upscale restaurants and designer boutiques.
The idea behind the Croatian-Montenegrin partnership is to develop tours, programmes and tourist recommendations that finally convey an enthusiasm for cross-border travel, so that people will be eager to check one more country off their travel lists. It's only 100 kilometers from Dubrovnik to Tivat, so the two regions share similar customs. Night fishing, crafts and cultural events can easily be transformed into tour packages. My tip would be hiking tours in smaller groups, as the views from the southernmost cliff in Europe, overlooking Boka Bay, Montenegro and the endless open sea, out from Croatia, are stunning! Sharing lunch, drinking fresh spring water and searching the sky for a glimpse of a hawk are most memorable moments. Guides who've grown up with the mountains and sea are usually full of information on local life. They can also describe the many uses of the plants found along the way.
It’s all about dedication
Said Mirela Švaić, of Gulliver Travel, upon the conclusion of sightseeing, "The cross-border area has an interesting tourism offering. We work very hard to design and deliver unforgettable tours, so we’re happy to have one central place--the "Discover cross-border routes and itineraries" website--where all special-interest programmes can be presented with brief info, contacts, high-quality video clips and photos. It’s open for B2B and B2C communication."
Driving back to Dubrovnik and watching the sun set over the islands of Elaphiti made me think that I couldn't wait to return . . . as a tourist! (Olja Ljubišić)