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Via Alpina as the platform for hiking tourism development in Idrija region

 On December 13th, Idrija Heritage Center organised a workshop »New approaches for tourist development along Via Alpina trail«. The activity was initiated by the CIPRA International and with financial support by the German federal ministry of environment, nature protection, construction and nuclear safety .

 The workshop was the first in the series of Alpine-wide rethinking of hiking trail Via Alpina. Via Alpina trail was created in 2000, when a group of public and private organisations from all Alpine countries established five long-distance trails across Alpine regions of all Alpine countires. Two of these run through Slovenia – red and purple trail. Red trails from Trieste to Monacco is also the longest and most known train, crossing also the municipality of Idrija.

After the transfer of international secretariat to non-govenrmental organisation CIPRA International in 2014, a rethinking of how to popularise, connect with the locals and improve hiking infrastructure and hiking offer was initiated. Workshop in Idrija offered some insights.

Local tourism businesses, representatives of hiking and tourist associations, municipality and local communities, Idrija Heritage Center, business interest association for hiking and biking and CIPRA International debated and brainstormed on the possibilities of creating additional tourist offer for hiker on the trail.

This is needed for two reasons – the need to maintain and finance the maintenance of the trail and changed expectations of hikers. Studies show that hikers increasingly expect additional offer on the trail, search for new experiences and combine walking with culinary experiences. Hiking is less and less focused on walking and increasingly on experiences while walking. Thus it is combined with gastronomy, guided tours, specialised tourist visits, luggage transports and optional transfers. Moreover, parents with children buggies, people with disabilities and dog-owners are hiking more and more. And destinations need to adapt to these trends.

In Idrija, three proposals for variant trails were proposed, taking hikers past panorama views of UNESCO Idrija, dinosaur foodprints, Rapallo border fortifications, field and forest railway remains, natural swimming areas and geological phenomena of UNESCO Global Geopark Idrija. A proposal for hiking tourist package was created, combining hiking, gastronomy, foot massages, visits of UNESCO heritage and enjoying the sunrises and sunsets in UNESCO Global Geopark Idrija.

In the coming weeks, Idrija Heritage Center in partnership with local tourist business will develop the tourist package, while the proposals for the (increasingly digital) future of the Via Alpina trail were submitted to CIPRA Internation. 

Matevž Straus, workshop facilitator