FACT SHEET: Via Dinarica: Rural Incomes and Sustainable Enterprises in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Speeches Shim

USAID Via Dinarica project: Rural Incomes and Sustainable Enterprises in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Beauty abounds along the Via Dinarica trails in the Balkans.
Terra Dinarica

This project supports rural tourism development along the main in-country trails of the beautiful and unique Dinaric Alps that span seven countries in the Balkans.

The tourism sector has shown steady growth in recent years, making it one of the bright spots on the economic radar of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Its development may have a significant, positive impact on poor communities in the country, giving young people an opportunity to stay and make a living. Although hampered by inadequate infrastructure and a shortage of accommodation capacity and tourism services, adventure tourism in particular has been singled out as a sector with great growth potential. With a wealth of natural, cultural and historical heritage, a favorable geographic location, internationally known events, and unique gastronomic offers, BiH has all the pre-determinants to make the Via Dinarica a successful tourism industry story.

USAID Assistance

This project is a follow-up to Via Dinarica: A Platform for Sustainable Tourism Development and Local Economic Growth, a project co-led by USAID and UN Development Program (UNDP) in 2014-2017. As a result of that initial program, BiH was placed on the world tourism map as a nature-based tourism hotspot, helping to erase the negative war-related image of the country. Through that project, USAID assistance:

  • Assessed and GPS-marked more than 2,500 km of Via Dinarica trails.
  • Identified and mapped more than 500 accommodation facilities, services, and points of interest along the main trails, and captured them on Outdoor Active, Europe’s largest platform for online outdoor research.
  • Helped create jobs, increase sales of 69 small businesses, and increase the tourism offers of 100 service providers.
  • Drew global attraction through publications such as National Geographic, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Outside Magazine, Vogue, The Independent, and others, glorifying the Via Dinarica’s beauty and uniqueness. 

While this initial program achieved a lot, more work is needed to ensure Via Dinarica is affirmed as a regional mega-trail, providing economic opportunities for a broad range of tourism service providers and communities in the area.

To capitalize on the positive results of the previous Via Dinarica program, USAID contributed $999,982 to a follow-on project, called Via Dinarica: Rural Incomes and Sustainable Enterprises. This is a three-year project implemented and co-financed by UNDP, with an additional financial contribution from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the Federation of BiH Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

This follow-on project focuses on assisting local communities along the main Via Dinarica in-country trails and contributing to sustainable livelihoods and economic development through integrated rural tourism development. Target beneficiaries in BiH are local governments and communities situated near the main (Blue, Green, and White) Via Dinarica trails. The project will establish the Via Dinarica corridor in BiH as a community-owned and operated rural tourism product that provides sustainable livelihoods for businesses and communities situated along the trails.

Implementation and Expected Results

To achieve this, this program will identify and map value chains along the trails featuring cultural, traditional, natural, and gastronomic products, and integrate them into tourism packages.

  • The project will assist small tourism service providers, including privately owned guesthouse facilities and scout camps, to improve accommodation facilities and bring them in line with energy efficiency and other standards that cater to adventure tourists.
  • The Via Dinarica web platform that was established under the previous activity will be regularly updated with the information on the new tourism offer and locations, with particular attention given to direct project beneficiaries.
  • USAID will organize a regional networking event to initiate cooperation among Via Dinarica stakeholders at the regional level to maximize the quality of service and impact.

Expected results include:

  • Improved accessibility of Via Dinarica trails.
  • Via Dinarica affirmed as a tourism brand.
  • Improved economic opportunities and livelihoods.
  • Diversified and consolidated tourism services that ensure visitors a unique and exhilarating experience.