News and Success Stories

Active tourism cultivates local development and nature protection in Mariovo

Active tourism is one of the key ways to foster economic development and protect the nature of the local treasures of North Macedonia. Activities such as hiking, biking, trekking and canyoning are beyond an adventure for travelers – they are an opportunity for sustainable development of one whole region. And this is becoming the reality for the heart of Pelagonija region – Mariovo.

Active tourism is a responsible way of travelling to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. As a landlocked and mountainous country North Macedonia, like Switzerland, is filled with local breathtaking treasures that have an enormous potential for developing adventures for travelers from all over the world – and stands to benefit from a tourism system that fosters nurturing of the environment and providing opportunities for the locals

Building a thriving active tourism offer in one region is not possible alone. When providers come together, they complement each other on building an interesting offer. Moreover, they forge partnerships with the local population to provide authentic experiences. Together they contribute and benefit at the same time from a sustainable growth.

Combined outdoor activities with environmental and cultural conservation is the becoming the reality for Mariovo in North Macedonia. Starting from the breathtaking Zovic Bridge, through the rivers and surrounding mountains, to the local restaurants and accommodations, Mariovo is a destination where active tourism can thrive. Companies “Off Road Macedonia”, “Mountain Solution”, and “Touring Macedonia” supported by the Swiss Increasing Market Employability (IME) Programme have created new opportunities in the region and inspire local development.

“During the summer months Mariovo comes alive – the nature is in full bloom and it is beautiful. People come back to their ancestral homes and open the windows of the unique surrounding villages. And that is the essence that is welcoming to tourists. Being able to go on an adventure, and through the quest to see what you haven’t seen before, and to feel like in a fairy-tale. And the fairy tales born in Mariovo are a perfect place to start building the tourism offer” – says Jove Pargovski from Off Road Macedonia.

Self-guided inclusive adventures

Off Road Macedonia expanded their self-guided tours offer with the support of the IME Programme and are now available for free in English, German, French and Macedonian sign language. And through their Rural Adventure network they promote and stimulate local and regional accommodation venues and tour operators in the area. The audio tours now give domestic and international tourists the most important stories from the Pelagonija region, such as those of “Kalesh Angja and the Peshta Fortress” or “Itar Pejo”, while they trek through the beautiful and untouched nature.

Rural Adventure_Mariovo

Hiking down a canyon, through the water, and taking in the beauty of Zovic bridge – the first canyoning tour in Mariovo

Building on the active tourism offer in the region, Mountain Solution started a journey to bring thrill-seekers through the canyon of the river Gradeshka in the village of Mariovo. The experience includes going down a river, down a stream, followed by jumping off a cliff, sliding on smooth rocks popularly known in the world as canyoning. With the IME Programme they were able to make the tour safe for everyone and provide top notch equipment for all travelers. Additionally, IME supported the company in promoting the tour.


Adventures throughout the whole region

And Touring Macedonia, created guided biking and hiking tours across the Pelagonija region.  Now, engaging activities, stories, and nature in Mariovo are stimulating economic growth for accommodation venues and local restaurants. With the support of IME Programme they were able to attend B2B fairs, promote the region internationally, and bring tourists looking for adventures in the Pelagonija region.

Together for nature protection and local development

Active tourism in its core achieves three pillars of sustainability. Conservation of nature – long-term economic incentives that encourage the protection of nature and cultural heritage. Strong communities – empowering and enriching local communities, by providing employment, education, and economic development through tourism. And education – active tourism offers greater opportunities, when compared to regular tourism, for visitors to learn about local cultures, heritage, flora and fauna.

In Mariovo the active tourism offer supported by the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Programme led to sales increase in the value chain, particularly in accommodation and traditional food providers. All three companies started developing a network that will strengthen private businesses, improve local capacities, and evoke a sustainable management of the natural resources with the end goal of not being just a breathtaking adventure, but also providing for a decent life of the local population.

“For small business owners in rural places like Mariovo being authentic and creative is the key to our survival. Working together with tourism operators is crucial if we want to offer a good time to tourists and grow. Offering adventures on its own is not enough – tourists want to experience the culture through its locals, the food, the songs, the traditional wear. Moreover, together we inspire each other to preserve and protect our nature because we live off it. If we keep this linear growth of collaboration and dedication – I believe that Mariovo will be a top destination for active tourism in North Macedonia” – adds one restaurant owner.

The power of active tourism is not only for tourism operators– it has the potential to expand and foster new businesses and invest in new venues, which will in turn create employment opportunities for the local population. Beyond this it will foster and nurture the love for nature – as the local treasures and beautiful nature are the attractions that bring tourists.