27 September has been celebrated as the World Tourism Day since 1979. This year the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), which gave the initiative for this day, draws attention to the importance of sustainable tourism as a tool for development. The importance of tourism in Slovenia cannot be neglected; ever since Slovenia won independence tourism has proven to be an important and promising industry.
Responsibility and respect are the two words that best describe sustainable development. Respectful and responsible behaviour towards natural and cultural assets and a responsible attitude towards residents and visitors distinguish Slovenia as a country focused on sustainable tourism. This is also our competitive advantage, which reflects in Slovenia being an increasingly popular destination. The Ministry of Economic Development and Technology is aware of that, so it prepared the strategy of sustainable development of Slovenian tourism, which will spearhead the development of tourism by 2021.
The number of overnight stays is growing. Results for 2017 indicate a new record year, since in the first six months (before the high season) of 2017 tourists generated almost 5 million overnight stays. The number of arrivals is also growing. In 2016 Slovenia was visited by over 3 million foreign tourists wich is 42% more than in 2010.
A similar situation was recognised by the UNWTO. The World Tourism Barometer shows that in the first half of 2017 tourists generated 598 million international tourist arrivals worldwide, which is 6% more than in the first half of 2016. The highest growth was recorded in the Mediterranean: North Africa (by 16%), Southern and Mediterranean Europe (by 12%) and the Middle East (by 9%).
Tourists are also aware of the importance of sustainable tourism as they seek green, active and healthy supply offered by tourism providers in Slovenia. With this and the idea of sustainable tourism in mind we must mention the positive response of providers of overnight stays and services regarding sustainable tourism development in Slovenia.
In recent years Slovenia has been striving for sustainable tourism supply supporting the preservation and protection of natural and cultural assets and heritage. This trend is followed by the European Union, which awards the EU Ecolabel to accommodation establishments dedicated to sustainable tourism. By 2016 the EU Ecolabel was awarded to three accommodation establishments in Slovenia.
In a similar way the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) is promoting awareness about the importance of sustainable tourism. The STO awards the Slovenia Green award to tourist destinations and providers of sustainable tourism activities in Slovenia. By June 2017, 13 accommodation establishments, 22 destinations, three parks and two tourist agencies were awarded. In total, according to STO data, there are more than 250 specialised tourist accommodations taking care of sustainable tourism development in Slovenia.