Why cyclists and hikers are the tourists I want see in my country
I have been involved in the world of tourism for about a decade, I have participated in the planning, promotion, and working on guided tours on the field; first with motorcycles throughout (mainly south-eastern) Europe, later in cycling and hiking trips in Slovenia and the surrounding countries. I didn’t study in this field, nor do I consider myself a specialist in the industry, but I have eyes and in the following lines I will write down my observations and thoughts regarding what kind of tourism I would like to see develop around where I live and work.
First, let’s turn the tables: tourism that I don’t want. Have you already been to Venice, Florence – or say Dubrovnik during the high season? Crowds, loud guides with flags, hordes of mostly bored homo sapiens with smart cameras in their hands, at least one gigantic cruise ship on the other side of Lapad, bored taxi drivers, loaded buses, beer for eight euros (heh, probably more after Covid). The beautiful city is suffocating in tourism. The experience is far from what a traveler should get from a trip and what a local should (could?) get from a traveler. Okay, the owners of the apartments count their money in the fall, but all this mass walking and driving and sailing across the city is killing it.
Could it be different, better? It can. And everyone involved, tourists and tourism providers, should strive for this. Utopia? Maybe.
By bike or on foot (yes, even with a motorcycle or even an off-road car or motorhome, but since we are on Slovenia GREEN, we will leave those aside) we can visit places that are not accessible by cruise ships and double-decker buses. We may not find the Eiffel Tower there, but we will find beautiful nature, which always gives the traveler – the seeker the right answer, and authentic locals who know how to prepare ‘žganci’ and fragrant black coffee. This year, somewhere in the west of Serbia, about an hour’s drive from the first serious civilization, we met a couple in their 50s. Their five daughters moved to from Novi Pazar to Paris (no joke), but the two of them still live on a small farm with a heavenly view. If they would arrange a simple room with a bathroom and, in addition to the coffee and ‘rakija’ we received, offered the traveler some stew, the travelers would gladly reward it. And maybe one of the daughters would come back and take care of the house, the animals – and the tourists. The asphalt road, which the local government has been promising for a long time, would no longer be so necessary.
Similar stories were a constant in the Balkans: even in Albania, for example, young people in the Valbona valley are happy about the development of tourism. Before, the valley was cut off from the world in winter, and young people moved away. They are coming back in the recent years. Another positive example from local area is the Julijan hiking trail. There was almost no accommodation capacity in Baška Grapa. Today there are quite a few of them – I would say that mainly because of the hikers on Juliana. With this, not only the landlord gets work, but also the local plumber, carpenter, farmer, small local shop.
Locals themselves say that hikers are good guests. It’s true that some would prefer to walk to bed with dirty hiking shoes (they say that’s why tiles are better to choose than laminate), but they arrive late in the afternoon, happily eat everything that smells like food, and leave early in the morning. It’s the same with cyclists. Both seek out remote, uninhabited places. The essence of their trip is peace, nature, solitude, as well as socializing with the locals and tasting their simple, local food – and not waiting in line to see an expensive tourist attraction. And the best: at the same time, due to their way of moving, they do not fill up roads, parking lots and do not pollute the air.
Okay, the problem is the wild toilets on the way, and the raking of plums and wild camping, but there is no ideal solution. But we can approach it.