Trebinje’s claim to fame used to be that it was the most southern and sleepy town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was until it was discovered by local and international travelers visiting the nearby UNESCO sites of Dubrovnik , Mostar, Kotor or the pilgrimage magnet of Medjugorje. Today it has become one of the region’s stand bearers for responsible tourism practices and working more closely with local food producers to change the supply-and-demand narrative.
For those who don’t know, this part of Herzegovina (generally speaking, the southern half of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is known for its excellent wines, ancient orthodox heritage, and natural Karst and limestone caves and peaks. This combination makes Trebinje unique. Just 30 kilometers from the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik, it transports you to a different world — one of peace, appreciation for slow living, and making visitors feel like locals … even though they might be there for the first time.
But, Trebinje was not without its struggles. As it became more popular with visitors, it was obvious that local producers were not able to reach travelers as well as they should. In 2017, Trebinje municipality decided to change that by initiating a long term effort to engage with the producers and thus begin its journey towards sustainability.
Half a decade later — through increasing capacity and skills in manufacturing, standardization, certification, business digitalization, marketing, and branding — a local organic store called Hercegovačka kuća (Herzeg’s House) now offers over 1,000 different regional products, including honey, wine, cheese, liqueurs, natural juices, teas, and natural cosmetics, all sold directly to tourists and local buyers. This effort has increased jobs and the number of registered agricultural farms from 350 to 700 and, importantly, it helps retain local young people in the agricultural and tourism sector.
While facing the challenges of initiating and managing the destination sustainably, Trebinje leadership recognized the value in sharing what they have learned. Undergoing a rigorous review of its management, innovation, transferability, effectiveness, and sustainability pillars, (economic, social and environmental) Trebinje received Green Destinations Top 100 status. Further still, at ITB, an international tourism trade show in Berlin, in March 2022, Green Destinations awarded Trebinje as the first 2022 Top100 destinations in the category of Localizing and Decarbonizing the Destination Supply Chain.
Trebinje is now looking to continue their sustainability efforts in 2023. This time the town is aiming to address all 30 core Green Destination sustainability criteria. These actions will guarantee Trebinje’s evolution toward sustainable-tourism champion.