Voluntourism is a way to get to know the new country better and play an important role in the local community.

The First Croatian Conference on Voluntourism Held in Dubrovnik

Activities Thursday, 15 June 2017 00:00

The first Croatian conference on voluntourism within the "Open up a borders for adventure and new travel opportunities" project which is coordinated by the Association "MI" – Split and ADP Zid - Podgorica, in partnership with BONSAI Association, the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) and the Municipality of Herceg Novi, was held in Dubrovnik on Friday, June 2nd 2017.

Voluntourism combines the best intentions of civil sector efforts with the thrill and adventure of traveling to have a stimulating vacation, one that serves public interest, society and community. Voluntourism offers, as the term suggests, travel for rest paired with volunteering at the destination.

The conference presented voluntourism innovations, best practices as well as examples and ideas that have resulted from the project's activities.

Mr. Miho Katičić, from the City of Dubrovnik, opened the conference with a warm welcome note, using the opportunity to point out the city's support for civil sector development and praising the idea of bringing together the best of the civil and tourism sectors. The directors of the Association “MI” - Split and ADP-Zid, Nives Ivelja and Sanda Rakočević, both drew from their experience of working on the project in their opening remarks, highlighting activities still ahead.

Other introductory participants included experts from the field of tourism and the civil sector, as follows: Lidija Pavić Rogošić (member of the European Economic and Social Committee, the Association ODRAZ) focused on the role of non-profit organisations in developing sustainable tourism; Konstantinos Tomazos, an expert in the field of voluntourism who touched upon the controversies and uncertainties linked to this form of tourism; and Irena Ateljević from the Institute of Tourism in Zagreb presented the topic 'New Tourism Models: the Experience of the Tourist'.

Participating in the panel „Destination Development and the Importance of Inter-sector Cooperation in the Cross-border Area“ were experts from the field of destination management, tourism product development, volunteering and social entrepreneurship who had already headlined a series of training sessions both in Dubrovnik and in Montenegro, acting as consultants in the development of pilot volunteer products. Romana Lekić from the The Edward Bernays College of Communication Management referenced the project's activities in which she personally took part on the topic of Perspectives for Tourism Areas.

Tea Golja from the University of Juraj Dobrila in Pula, who also lead modular training sessions on destination management and product development, also referenced the project's activities through the topic of Destination Management Basics for Volunteering in Tourism. Nikoleta Poljak, an expert in the field of volunteer program development and social entrepreneurship, presented on the role and significance of the civil sector and non-profit organizations as volunteering coordinators for the implementation of voluntourism projects. Contributing to the discussion was also Mihaela Turniški, the UHPA project partner representative, with a special presentation aimed at acquainting the participants with the concept of voluntourism and the latest tourism trends globally.

During the last part of the conference best practice examples of combining volunteering and tourism by including tourists in activities during their stay at the destination were presented. Panelists Dinko Pešić (Eco Center Zlatna Greda), Tena Romani (Marina Kaštela), Anja Marković (Bonsai Association), Sanda Rakočević (ADP Zid) and Marko Đelević (Caritas Barska Archdiocese) presented their own experiences involving tourists in regular community activities of their organizations emphasizing the benefits of these activities and the work done by volunteer tourists.

>One of the objectives of the project is to develop at least two pilot voluntourism products/activities in the cross-border area. Having held training sessions in Februrary and April earlier this year, the involved experts from Croatia and Montenegro have continued to provide support to organizations with the capacities and ideas to develop voluntourism projects. Three such examples were presented at the conference: Frano Vlašić (Luški puti jdoo) and Leo Žanetić (Otočki sabor) presented their idea of including tourists in volunteering efforts on the island of Korcula during the upcoming summer season, while Julija Milanović from the Animal Welfare Association in Cetinje and Željko Starčević from the Orjen Protection Agency in Herceg Novi presented ideas for voluntourism projects in Montenegro.

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