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.


Bjork P., (2000), Ecotourism from a Conceptual Perspective, an Extended Definition of a Unique Tourism Form, International Journal of Tourism Research 2, 189-202.

Buteau – Duitschaever, C. Windekind, McCutcheon, B., Eagles F.J. Paul, Havitz, M.E., Glover D., Troy, (2010), Park visitors perceptions of governance: a comparison between Ontario and British Columbia provincial parks management models, Emerald.

Cole, N. David, Daniel, C. Terry, (2003), The science of visitor management in parks and protected areas: from verbal reports to simulation models“ , Journal for Nature Conservation.

Dharmaratne, S. Gerard, Yee Sang, F., Walling, J. Leslie (2000), Tourism Potentials for financing protected areas, Annals of tourism research, Elsevier, Vol. 27, No.3, pp. 590-610.

Drumm, A., Moore, A., (2005) , Ecotourism Development – A Manual for Conservation Planners and Managers, Volume 1: An Introduction to Ecotourism Planning, Second Edition, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia, USA

Državni zavod za zaštitu prirode, Retrieved from: http://, (May 7th, 2013).

Dudley, N.,(2008), Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

Eagles,F.J. Paul, McCool, F. Stephen, (2000), Tourism and National Parks and Protected Areas – Planing and Management, CABI Publishing, Wallingfor Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK.

Eagles, F.J. Paul, McCool, F. Stephen, Haynes, D. Christopher, (2002), Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas – Guidelines for Planing and Management“, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Tourism Organization.

Epler Wood, M., (2002), Ecotourism: Principles, practices and policies for sustainability“, United Nations Environment Programe.

Fennell, A., David, (1999), Ecotourism an Introduction, Routledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE.

Geić, S., (2011), Menadžment selektivnih oblika turizma“, Sveučilište u Splitu.

Hrvatski Sabor, „Strategija i akcijski plan zaštite biološke i krajobrazne raznolikosti Republike Hrvatske“, 2008., retrieved from:, (May 8th, 2013).

Institut za turizam, (2006), TOMAS NACIONALNI PARKOVI I PARKOVI PRIRODE 2006. – Stavovi i potrošnja posjetitelja nacionalnih parkova i parkova prirode u Hrvatskoj 2006“, 2006., Retrieved from:, (November 10th, 2012).

IUCN (1994), Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Mayer, M., Muller, M., Woltering, M., Arnegger, J., Job, H.,(2010), The economic impact of tourism in six German naional parks“, Elsevier.

Ministarstvo kulture Republike Hrvatske, (2007), Nacionalni park Paklenica – plan upravljanja“, Retrieved from:, (January , 15th, 2013).

Ministarstvo kulture Republike Hrvatske, „Nacionalni park Plitvička jezera – plan upravljanja“, (2007)., Retrieved from:, (January , 15th, 2013)

Ministarstvo kulture Republike Hrvatske, (2007), Nacionalni park Sjeverni Velebit – plan upravljanja, Retrieved from:, (January , 15th, 2013).

Ministarstvo kulture Republike Hrvatske, (2006), Park prirode Velebit – plan upravljanja“, 2006., Retrieved from:, (January, 15th, 2013)

Obenaus, S., (2005), Ecotourism Sustainable tourism in National Parks and Protected Areas“, Retrieved from:, (December 10th, 2012).

Page, S. J. (2011), Tourism Management- Managing for Change, Butterworth and Heinemann, Oxford.

Petrić, L. (2008), How to develop tourism sustainably in the coastal protected areas? The case of Biokovo Park of Nature, Croatia, Acta Turistica Nova, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 5-24.

Petrić, L. (2011), Upravljanje turističkom destinacijom-načela i praksa, Ekonomski fakultet Split.

Petrić, L., Mikulić, D., (2012), Protected areas and tourism development on Croatian island, coexistence or divergence, Book of proceedings of the 2nd international scientific conference Island Sustainability II, WIT Press Southampton, pp. 29- 41.

Sanjay, K., (2000), Tourism in Protected Areas – The Nepalese Himalaya“, Annals of tourism research, Elsevier, Vol. 27, No.3, pp. 661-681.

Spurgeon, J., Gallagher, D., Wright, R.,(2010), The World Bank – Valuation of Tourism Benefits for Croatia’s Protected Areas“, World Bank, Retrieved from:,, (January, 11th, 2013).

Weaver, D., (2006), Sustainable Tourism, Elsevier Butterworth and Heinemann, Oxford.

Law on Environmental Protection (Zakon o zaštiti okoliša), Offical Gazette 110/07, 43-54, Retrieved from:, (December, 12, 2012; June, 26, 2013)

Law on Nature Protection (Zakon o zaštiti prirode), Official Gazette 70/05, 139/08, 57/11, 80/2013 Retrieved from:, (December, 12, 2012; June, 26, 2013)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s