A tourism trend that has been noticeably increasing over the last few years in southeast Europe is the growth of foreign tourists who bypass the usual tourist spots for small villages that promise an authentic and eco-friendly holiday. Travelers are more interested in learning how locals live and what they are doing to maintain their communities.
Even with recent economic challenges, ecotourism is booming. Destinations recognize the many advantages of promoting ecotourism. Ecotourism has been found to generate more revenue and economic growth for local communities, not just the capital cities.
Southeast Europe has been recognized for the many ecotourism options available to travelers. The Greek islands, small Serbian villages and Macedonian villages are popular ecotourism stops. Also travelers in search of an eco-holiday have enjoyed traveling to the Kosovo villages of Peja, Decan and Prizren, as well as the hostels in Moldova, located on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains
Ecotourism has supported renovation projects in small communities where money is limited, like in the Serbian village of Vrmdza. A local representative, Nebojsa Strahinjiic, stated, “Last year, people from five European countries visited our village and enjoyed it!” Ecotourism has generated more than 100 million Euros for the Serbian economy, which equates to about 16% of the total revenue from tourism.
The Serbian Economy and Regional Development Minister, Nebojsa Ciric, says that the country views ecotourism as a source of revenue that not only can support the country’s economic growth, but also as a way to increase employment and improves Serbia’s overall image. He also noted that more than 1,000 homes in 70 different municipalities are involved in ecotourism, generating the same profit as a thousand small businesses.
The town of Krusevo is, by far, the most important ecotourism site for Macedonia. The town opens yearly between July and August to host a historic re-enactment evebt, where locals and tourists are encouraged to wear period costumes. The Krusevo project manager, Ranko Petrovic, says that “this event has brought a new vigor and sense of purpose to the entire town”. He also states, “Until several years ago, the price for real estate was extremely low. However, thanks to the development that resulted from ecotourism, real estate prices are now market competitive and sustainable”.
Romania is another beautiful and heavily visited country in southeast Europe. The country offers more than 3,000 hotels that are members of the Association of Ecologic and Cultural Rural Tourism. Maria Stoian, the President of the association, says that additional hotels are joining up, even if they are experiencing financial difficulties typical of small business.