Time to Google Vlasina
For a long time, Municipality of Surdulica and the region of Vlasina Lake have been considered one of the poorest regions in Serbia with very weak development of tourism industry and the destination itself although its natural resource potential have always been very rich. There were no soft infrastructure around Vlasina Lake and no tourism information about it. Naturally, perceptions of potential visitors about the destination were very weak.
UNDP encouraged local communities around Vlasina Lake to recognize ecotourism as the way forward in local economic development and to use potential of the destination to make added value for their families and community. Simultaneously, UNDP supported local authorities to recognize ecotourism as one of developmental priorities. With UNDP’s support, hiking and biking trails were marked and soft infrastructure such as seasonal market, rest stops and bird watching platform were constructed and installed.
“I gained new skills and knowledge which will help me to improve the business as well as to understand the big picture of ecotourism development in the protected area of Vlasina Lake”, said Lidija Arsic, Vlasina Gardens household.
In the last three years destination Vlasina is experiencing 15% year-on-year growth in tourism arrivals and overnight stays. The Tourism Organization of Surdulica has also recorded significant increase of international arrivals, mainly from Bulgaria.
“UNDP’s “Vlasina Lake Ecotourism Promotion and Environment Protection” project helped us understand how to treasure jewel we have for the generations to come, how to promote it to travelers and create an experience which will attract tourists to come again and stay longer”, said Dragan Micic, Assistant Mayor of Surdulica.
The Vlasina Lake case demonstrates that concept of the “golden triangle” delivers results. Cooperation between private sector, local authorities and international organization is bringing the benefits to Vlasina. UNDP plans to replicate and scale up the initiative in other protected areas in Serbia. The idea is to encourage private sector to use their Corporate Social Responsibility strategies and support the local communities to recognize ecotourism as the way forward in local economic development.