Cheers to Nature! How a Local Alliance Pulled the Force for Destination Management and Promotion
In the heart of North Macedonia, Demir Kapija has it all – from rock climbing, kayaking, gastronomy, and excellent local wine to ideal weather conditions for paragliding and hiking close and proximity to the E-75 highway. All that was lacking to tap its touristic potential was a more coordinated promotional approach to attract more local and foreign tourists.
A major focus for the Swiss Increasing Market Employability Program is to improve the products within specific destinations and help promote the adventure tourism destinations. This includes strengthening the linkages between all stakeholders in Demir Kapija and diversifying existing offers so that it attracts both foreign and domestic tourists. To achieve this, IME supported an alliance of local stakeholders who have come together to improve the local tourism infrastructure and promotion.
Led by Popova Kula Winery, the local alliance comprised of the municipality, the local Wine Museum, local sport clubs, restaurants, and accommodation facilities. Over several months, these local partners collaborated to design a tourism logo for Demir Kapija, developed and placed signage infrastructure with info boards, prepared to distribute tourist maps, and improved the local attractions. They also developed the destination’s official website visitdemirkapija.mk bearing their new slogan – “Cheers to Nature”!
The logo and other promotional materials are now used by all partners involved in this activity, while the new tourism signage aims to attract more local and foreign tourists to this appealing destination.
“Right after the signs were installed, we started receiving positive reactions by visitors for the improved signalization to the local attractions. Unlike earlier, when it would take a lot of effort and time for us, the locals, to explain or even lead the visitors to the unmarked locations around town, now it is much easier. The tourists can easily find their way around thanks to the new signage, they can explore independently.” – Jordan Trajkov, executive director of Popova Kula winery says.
Around 8.000 maps have been printed and are to be distributed on border crossings and pay tolls along the E-75 highway with the aim to attract as many visitors travelling through this section of the Balkans. Alliance members future plans are to maintain and upgrade the website, print and distribute more maps, and expand their partnership group with new local stakeholders.
Although not a formal Destination Management Organization (DMO), Demir Kapija’s Alliance plays a crucial role in leading and coordinating activities under a coherent strategy in pursuit of this common goal. Such alliances can also lead to a more formalized form of destination management. DMOs can help to avoid overlapping functions and duplication of effort with regards to promotion, visitor services, training, business support and identify any management gaps that are not being addressed – ultimately being the assurance of the competitiveness and sustainability of the tourism destination.