Strong cooperation between Una National Park and local communities to drive economic development
BIHAĆ – The Una Tourism Cluster launched its operations during a ceremony hosted by WWF at Bihać City Hall. The Cluster is the result of three years of ongoing collaboration between local communities, entrepreneaurs and small businesses, sports associations, and other stakeholders from the Bihać area.
The Cluster is designed to help local businesses and entrepreneaurs to take advantage of economic opportunities from increasing toursim to Una National Park. The Cluster is being supported under WWF's program Protected areas for nature and people – Una field project, which is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
Since Una was designated a National Park in 2008, the number of tourist visiting the area has grown exponentially. In the last year alone more than 50,000 tourists visited the area, and that number is continuing to grow. Local communities are increasingly providing goods and services for tourists, and there is a great opportunity to further develop the local economy through the development and promotion of high quality and diverse tourism offers. "The Cluster, together with the management of Una National Park, will take a strategic approach to develop sustainable tourism in the area.
The Cluster will focus on improving the quality of services and strengthening competitiveness within the tourism sector, while also collaborating to raise awareness of Una as a world-class destination" – Zrinka Delić, WWF's Una field project coordinator. In partnership with the Cluster, in the next year WWF will lead a series of workshops to provide Bihać area entrepreneurs and small business owners with tools and skills to become more competitive. Through a small support fund, WWF will also lower the financial risk of starting or expanding a tourism-related business. In addition, WWF and the Cluster are partnering to raise the profile of the Bihać area as a world-class tourism destination at a variety of regional and national tourism events and trade fairs.
During the event at Bihać City Hall the Ambassador of Sweden to Bosnia and Herzegoniva Mr. Anders Hagelberg expressed his support for the Cluster – “Sweden is firmly dedicated to support projects that protect the environment, and by so, contributing to sustainable development. I am pleased that the Swedish government is supporting this important initiative, helping to create model where the Una National Park is a driver of economic development whilst keeping nature and ecosystems protected. This is an excellent example of what is possible when community members collaborate with the managers of natural resources.”
"The establishment of the Una Tourism Cluster represents another step forward for the Bihać area as an attractive tourist destination. The collaboration between the management of Una National Park and the Cluster will not only help promote area tourism, but will also strengthening the sustainable development of the tourism sector while helping protect our environment“ – stated Amarildo Mulić the Director of Una National Park. The overall goal of WWF's work in the Bihać area is to revitalize the economy by encouraging entrepreneurs to start or grow businesses in the tourism sector.
The Una field project will also show local communities, policy makers, and natural resource managers that the focus of environmental management is not only and solely for the protection of natural and cultural values, but can also be a catalyst for sustainable economic development. Over time this economic revitalization could reduce outmigration of youth from the area, and vastly increase the flow of socio- economic benefits to local communities.