For 2019, organisers of the European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) chose “Well-being Tourism” as the main theme. And the winner of the European Commission project that focuses on awarding destinations focusing on the development of sustainable tourism is Podčetrtek, making the hidden Slovenian paradise the eighth holder of the EDEN title. Dolenjska, another area in eastern Slovenia, was the runner-up.
Known for its thermal waters, Podčetrtek is at the very heart of the region by the Sotla River. The destination is a fine example of a successful and efficient collaboration with two other municipalities. In a statement, the mayor of Podčetrtek, Peter Misja, the mayor of Bistrica ob Sotli, Franjo Debelak, and the mayor of Kozje, Milenca Krajnc, said: “We have developed a destination that offers tourists an active and healthy stay, which brings personal satisfaction and inner peace. Our range is based on nature and culture, encompassing locally produced goods and services. It is excellent, professional, traditional, and has a touch of homeliness, which allows for good symbiosis between the local population and tourists.”
Podčetrtek impressed the expert EDEN panel “by putting together a range of tourist products and services based on the authentic, high-quality and local services of three municipalities, innovatively packaged into a wellness experience,” the Slovenian Tourist Board Director, Maja Pak, said. He also said EDEN destinations are particularly recognised for their “sustainable development efforts by highlighting smaller but no less beautiful places, thus contributing to flow diversification and communicating authentic and unique five-star experiences in our country.”
While explaining the panel’s decision, its chairperson, Professor Janez Bogataj, explained Podčetrtek is a characteristic example of the so-called microscale tourism industry, which is strongly connected to Terme Olimia. Plus, the municipality of Kozje is related to the biosphere area and the Kozjansko Apple Festival. Bogataj added Podčetrtek also offers “some traditional products and locations, such as the Amon homestead, the deer farm, the chocolate shop, pharmacy and monastery in Olimje.”
EDEN, a project of the European Commission, is the biggest European platform for the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism. Since 2007, EDEN has connected places and areas that develop environmentally culturally and socially sustainable tourism. Every two years, it awards and promotes smaller and less recognisable destinations that are known for their rich, local and authentic offerings.
For this year, EDEN defined wellness tourism as the kind of tourism that includes activities that contribute to the physical, mental and cognitive health of visitors. This consequently incorporated health and wellness programmes performed by various establishments.