The area of the Nature Park and the tourist region „Stara planina“ extends to 1542 km2, alongside of Stara planina massif and sub-mountain surrounding, in northwest-southeast direction, ranging over parts of the municipalities of Dimitrovgrad, Pirot and Knjazevac and the city of Zajecar, in border zone with the Republic of Bulgaria, long around 100 km and wide about 4 km in the north, to 30 km, in the south.
Generally, sparsely populated, this area of remarkable natural values and tourist potential gravitates to the road route of corridor 10 and its branch Niš – Dimitrovgrad – Sofia (E-75 and E-80), to the railway route of corridor 10 – Belgrade – Niš – Sofia and the Niš airport. Together with accession of Bulgaria into the EU and by decision of Serbian Government on significant investments in road and tourist infrastructure, in last few years has dynamically improved an accessibility and investment attractiveness.
According to the potentials and limitations of development, the Spatial Plan of this area defines tourism, agriculture and entrepreneurship as strategic priorities of economic development („Official Gazette of RS“ 115/2008). High ecological sensitivity and present demographic and structural limitations of the area emphasize the significance of sustainable development of these activities, which ensures their mutual support in realization of integral regional development.
The sustainable tourism establishes a balance of ecological, economic and social component of tourist development in realization of the environment protection, the growth of employment and poverty reduction and it is of utmost importance for protected areas. Stara planina was declared for the nature park in 1997 and was on the preliminary list of the UNESCO biosphere reserve (MAB). The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas includes, among the basic principles of tourism development in these areas, the following key issue – „increase of benefits from tourism to the local economy, by: promoting the purchase of local products (food, crafts, local services) by visitors and local tourism businesses, and encouraging the employment of local people in tourism“ (www.european-charter.org).
In accordance to the Master Plan of „Stara planina“ tourist destination, the development of tourism bases on creation of ski mega resort at the mountain, but also on creation of complete tourist values chain of wider space of Stara planina destination, including the tourism based on nature, culture and rural tourism (MERR, 2007: 73).
Autori: Vesna Popović, Marija Nikolić, Branko Katić