Ivo Mujo: Traditional Gastronomy, Wine Tasting, and Activities at Rural Estates - The Charms of Konavle Enhancing Dubrovnik's Incentive Offer

Photo credit: Agroturizam Konavle

Ivo Mujo: Traditional Gastronomy, Wine Tasting, and Activities at Rural Estates - The Charms of Konavle Enhancing Dubrovnik's Incentive Offer
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In the southernmost part of Croatia, in the hinterland of Dubrovnik, lies a region rich in beautiful landscapes, historical heritage, unique architecture, and a harmonious way of life - Konavle. As a rural tourism destination, just 20 minutes away from Dubrovnik, Konavle is the perfect choice for various incentive activities or group excursions as an additional social program for conferences or congresses in Dubrovnik. Playing a significant role in developing the tourist offer of this picturesque region is the association Agrotourism Konavle. Therefore, we spoke with the president of the association, Ivo Mujo, about what Konavle as a destination offers to tourists and business groups and what are the further plans for the destination's development.


• How and with what purpose was the association Agrotourism Konavle founded, and what are its most significant projects?

The Agrotourism Konavle association was formally established in 2010, but the group of people gathered around the association began implementing joint projects for the development of rural tourism even before 2008. Many years have passed since then. It was a time when we, as young and educated individuals, started thinking about social responsibility and contributing to the development of the community we live in. We wanted to initiate a new concept of economic development that would be attractive to young people to encourage them to stay in rural areas. It was not easy, but it seems that we have been successful. Agrotourism Konavle has been implementing numerous projects with that aim and they have become traditional events and activities, such as "Mirisi Božića" (Scents of Christmas), "Proljeće u Konavlima" (Spring in Konavle), "Trganje," (traditional wine production) "Gusti od kobasica," (Flavours of Sausages) and others. An important activity of the association is providing continuous education and educational trips for members and the local population. This elevates our level of knowledge, generates new ideas, involves new entrepreneurs, and helps us develop.


Dubrovnik and Konavle perfectly complement each other with their tourist offers

• Konavle is positioned as a destination of excellence in rural tourism, representing the rural side of Dubrovnik. What are Konavle's greatest assets in this branch of tourism?

Dubrovnik is a strong tourist center that attracts more and more visitors, and it is certainly a great advantage for us that Konavle is the hinterland of Dubrovnik. I think you will agree with me when I say that Dubrovnik also benefits from the fact that Konavle, with its increasingly rich rural tourism offer, has enriched Dubrovnik's tourist offer. An increasing number of visitors staying in Dubrovnik for several days, after exploring the city walls and other attractions, choose to enrich their experience with the rural tourism offerings in Konavle. Traditional gastronomy, wine tasting, various activities at rural estates, such as cooking schools, horseback riding, hiking, cycling tours through Konavle, safaris, and the possibility of organizing various team-building activities, are some of our assets.


• Rural tourism is an opportunity to extend the tourist season - how many visitors come to Konavle during the peak season and how many outside the main season?

The association does not have data on the number of visitors staying or visiting Konavle, but we can observe trends, which suggest that the pre- and post-season are significant for the Dubrovnik destination, of which we are an integral part. The tourist traffic in rural Konavle during this period is considerable. Some businesses in the area experience higher traffic than during the peak season when accommodations in rural tourism and holiday homes are more occupied. During the off-peak period, we strive to attract as many tourists as possible to our activities and events. Despite the significant number of domestic visitors, we need much stronger support from the system to increase the number of foreign tourists.


The traditional way of life, cooking schools, and outdoor activities - the most common choice for incentive programs

• This time is also the season for business tourism, and Konavle is a frequent choice for excursions for participants of professional events in Dubrovnik, as well as incentive programs that introduce international visitors to the authentic Konavle way of life. Can you give us an example of a program for group visits to a Konavle estate?

Tourist agencies create diverse programs depending on the client’s interests and in cooperation with Konavle Agrotourism estates. In Konavle, visitors can experience presentations of traditional ways of life, including silk production, the role of mills for grain and oil, or traditional living. In gastronomy, besides the presentation of traditional cuisine and excellent wines, cooking schools are becoming increasingly popular among visitors. Active leisure in the rural area is on the rise, including bicycle tours, panoramic safaris through Konavle, hiking, and horseback riding. The autumn grape harvest program is also an interesting incentive for groups. As these groups are usually larger and the Agrotourism capacities are relatively small, agencies often combine several Agrotourism estates and programs, which further enhances collaboration among all stakeholders.


• Among the Association's projects are cooperation with the Dubrovnik Winter Festival and organizing events like " Scents of Christmas " in Konavle, "Wine Days," etc. How much do these events contribute to the development and sustainability of the local community?

Agrotourism Konavle is an association of citizens, a group of enthusiasts gathered around a common idea that continuously and persistently implements numerous projects. Support and cooperation are crucial for us to work and grow continuously. We are grateful for every instance of collaboration. We are focused on the Konavle region and projects that are not conducted for commercial purposes; instead, we want to enrich the area we live in through rural tourism. Our tourists do not distinguish between Dubrovnik, Župa, and Konavle, and we believe that we should all collaborate as a single destination. "Scents of Christmas" is an additional feature of the Dubrovnik Winter Festival, but on the other hand, the New Year's celebration in Dubrovnik adds extra content for guests staying in Konavle's holiday homes during the "Scents of Christmas" period.


New project - Konavle Eco Park for picnics and outdoor workshops and events

• The latest project is the Konavle Eco Park - a recreational area designed for the local population and visitors, aiming to become a central place for public events, workshops, etc. Where is the park located, and what are the plans for its development?

The Konavle Eco Park is a project in progress. We have developed the idea, received full support from the local authorities, defined the area on the middle course of the Ljuta River, and involved experts to create guidelines for further implementation. This year, Agrotourism cleared more than one hectare of forested land and has already started promoting the area. Judging by the public reactions, we believe that we have hit the mark, as there is a lack of such public recreational spaces in the area. It will be a picnic park and a venue for outdoor educational workshops and events. Experts from the Faculty of Agriculture have conducted zoning of the area and prepared a plan of use, supporting us so far, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Municipality of Konavle, the Konavle Tourist Board and Croatian Water. We have also submitted the project to several other tenders. In the Eco Park, we need to create several separate spaces to accommodate multiple groups simultaneously, including shelters, sanitary facilities, playgrounds, a bird observatory, as well as numerous informational content, all while respecting biodiversity and using new technologies.


• Will the Konavle Eco Park have any conference facilities for holding business events?

We plan to develop the project in multiple phases. First, we need to complete the entire project documentation and secure funding for equipment installation and operational establishment. There is much to do. Commercial rentals are not part of the plan in this phase.


• How much support do you receive from the state and local authorities, such as the Dubrovnik-Neretva County Tourist Board, in the development and implementation of your projects? Does the local community support them, and to what extent?

The association manages to secure funds for the annual program and regular operations with the support of both the public and private sectors. The participation of numerous locals from Konavle, whether as members or supporters, is especially important to us. The tourism board system has financial resources and its program, supporting projects such as “Spring in Konavle”, "Wine Days," and "Scents of Christmas”, and we are always open to further collaboration.

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