The challenge of sustainable tourism development in Croatian National and Nature parks / Original research paper


Research paper informations:

Authors: Petrić Lidija, Mandić Ante, mag.oec

Title: „Visitor management tools for protected areas focused on sutainable tourism development: the Croatia experience”

Publication name: Environmental Engineering and Management Journal, Lipanj 2014, Vol. 13, No 6, pp. 1483-1495

Editor: Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iasi, Romania


ISSN: 1582-9596, eISSN: 1843-3707


The protected natural areas are becoming increasingly popular vacation destinations with both international and domestic travelers. According to the IUCN definition, protected area is “an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means” (IUCN, 1994). Within broad IUCN definition (1994.) protected areas might have many different purposes. This means that biodiversity protection, though a critically important function of many protected areas is far from the only purpose and is often not the primary purpose of the protected area. Tourism in protected area, as an ever-growing activity produces benefits and costs. These effects interact often in complex ways. With this kept in mind it is obvious that special attention has to be paid to protected areas management in terms of enhancing process of planning and control to avoid possible conflicts over nature protection and tourism development.

This paper is focused on analysis of problems that protected areas are facing related to tourism development, in particular from Croatian protected areas’ point of view (specifically national parks and parks of nature) and is about to give some recommendations concerning possible management strategies, specifically those related to visitor management, whose instruments ought to be implemented in order to keep both the protected areas’ system and tourism development sustainable.

Recommendations for further actions:

Development of tourism in the protected areas is an extremely complex and delicate process. For successful affirmation of all the positive effects of this economic activity it is necessary to take a strategic approach to tourism and physical planning. Such approach has to take into account the current condition of these resources, social, economic and environmental effects that want to be produced, and the principles of sustainability that have to be implemented. Croatia is faced with the challenge of managing abundant natural and anthropogenic resources aiming to improve its attractiveness to tourists.

The survey carried out in Croatian protected areas shows a rising trend in the number of their visitors in the recent years and numerous problems facing them. In national parks and nature parks located on the islands and mountains controlling the number of visitors is an evident problem, which may be also seen as the result of inadequate strategic planning and implementation of guidelines stated in the plans.

The survey confirms the existence of Management plan as the basic strategic document in a number of national parks and nature parks, but unfortunately not in all of them. None of them have developed visitor flow management strategy containing concrete measures/instruments, which is a quite a handicap at the time when the demand for ecotourism is constantly rising. The rise of tourism as an activity that can significantly contribute to the financing of the observed national parks and nature parks will be an additional challenge for their managers. They will have to balance the optimal number of visitors to achieve a maximal positive economic effects and minimal negative environmental and socio-cultural effects.

All this poses the need to design an optimal model to manage the protected areas on the territory of Croatia. Due to the numerous above mentioned problems, there has been a dispute in Croatia (though a very short one) on the possible changes in the mode of management of protected natural areas and the proposed solutions have been between the two opposing options – whether to keep the current model where each protected area has its own management or integrate all the management functions in one body following the USA model. The former option has prevailed, meaning that the model has not changed at all. Since it hasn’t shown to be too successful up till recently, there is an urgent need to make it more efficient especially as the new proposals include a more intensive use of resources for economic purposes primarily in tourism. In that sense there has to be a more efficient cooperation both on a horizontal level between the public institutions in charge of protected natural areas and the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection and on the vertical level between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection and various sectoral institutions (private and public), local population, and civil society associations. Their understanding and desire to contribute to the optimal development effects will be an important factor in developing sustainable tourism.


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