As part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the tourism economy and competitiveness of the Western Balkans region, the Adventure Tourism Association in Bosnia and Herzegovina (ATA BiH) and the Western Balkans Geotourism Stewardship Council (WBGSC) decided to focus on encouraging sustainable adventure tourism in the region.
Adventure travel entrepreneurs based in this region offer trips throughout Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia and hope to attract Western European and North American travelers.
To improve the competitive position of the Western Balkan destinations and companies, ATA BiH and WBGSC determined that training in product development and marketing tactics was needed. Additionally, information on risk and safety management best practices was desired.
In June 2013, ATA BiH and WBGSC, supported by USAID, requested a program of training from Adventure Travel Trade Association’s AdventureEDU team. A group of companies selected from the region were invited to a two-day training event in an effort to stimulate cross-border product development and marketing collaboration.
The companies varied in experience and priorities thus presented the AdventureEDU team with the challenge of creating a program that would address different skill levels while bringing the core elements of product development, marketing, risk management awareness and market readiness which were desired by ATA BiH and WBGSC.
A diagnostic survey of the participants was conducted to understand participants’ existing skills and interests. The survey was translated into local languages to encourage all participants to respond. The survey findings provided useful information to adapt the seminar content to the specific needs as well as provide insight into the state of the local market. The results from the survey can be further used by ATA BiH and WBGSC to inform and support future regional development strategies and actions.
Using the results of the survey in combination with information gathered from expert sources in the region, in September 2013 the AdventureEDU team developed a two-day seminar tailored to the diverse needs of the Western Balkans audience. Emphasis was placed on interactivity and group discussions for each topic covered.
The seminar topics and discussions included:
Adventure Tourism Market Trends
Adventure Tourism Product Development
Adventure Tourism Marketing
As a result of the two-day training participants gained awareness of:
“I liked the interactive part of the training where all participants had to think alone or in groups about ideas and possible problems in their profession and present that and discuss with the group.”
“The region needs more of these trainings.”
“As a member of ATTA since 2011 we have had a direct experience of the support, knowledge exchange and energy available through ATTA for the adventure travel operators. We saw the AdventureEDU program being the ideal educational framework for our members. The diagnostic survey and the close cooperation with the AdventureEDU team allowed the training modules to be tailored to best respond to the needs of the operators in the region. A special strength of the AdventureEDU approach is the fact that the trainers are the “doers” who bring to the front the solid firsthand experience. This brings down all barriers and Chris, Russell and Jack have managed to open up the audience and work with them on their direct issues while at the same time placing new ideas, expanding concepts and providing paths to seem solutions available to small operators. Finally, the first AdventureEDU session in the Western Balkans region was also an opportunity to continue our cooperation with WBGSC and further opportunities for growth and strengthening of the network of the operators that pursue sustainable tourism in our region. We are very happy to see that the benefit of the approach that together we have been building for some time now has been recognized further and that already at this training session we have opened discussions on the next regional AdventureEDU sessions and further expansion of the cooperation within the region and with ATTA.”
“Such educational exercises are great opportunity for networking and further establishing partnerships as they attract participants with similar interests and goals who, otherwise, might never meet. Combining the ATTA concept along with the geotourism principles is what will help Western Balkans not only respond to the current market trends but also demonstrate quality and responsible behavior when practicing tourism. WBGSC looks forward to further partnership opportunities with ATTA. The region is ready to accept the proposed challenge to become ‘The Google of the Balkans!’”