Urška Planinšek on Pioneering Sustainable, Rural Wellness Tourism at Urška Organic Farm in Slovenia

Published 16/05/2019
Urška Topolšek Planinšek

Urska family, Slovenia

Slovenia’s first organic farm certified as a responsible accommodation provider: Urška Tourist Farm is a special place and project. In this interview, Urška Topolšek Planinšek takes us on a tour around the farm and family business.

Urška, as a small, family-run rural accommodation business, what does responsible tourism mean for you?

Responsible tourism means a responsibility towards the environment and a concern for the future. I wish that my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would live the same way as we do now … that we could still drink tap water, grow our vegetables in the fields.

Can you share the story of Urška Tourist Farm: when and how did it all start? And how has the business evolved since then?

My parents started a tourist farm in 1991 with the desire to make their small farm financially sustainable. We started with four rooms, today we have seven … we never wanted our farm to have a lot of accommodation. We always wanted to have a small social responsibility – boutique tourism.

In 2011, we obtained the first EU-certified Marjetica certificate and thus became the first tourist farm in Slovenia with any sustainability certification.

Since then, our desire has been even stronger to be sustainable and accountable. Today we have several certificates: Green Key, Code of Ethics in Tourism, Green Accommodation, Organic Farming…

Countryside wellness is one of the experiences you offer with the spa and open-air pool. In your experience, how have the demands of visitors changed? And how are you adapting to those, and other trends?

It is very important that you always go with time and are a step ahead of others. We focus on rural wellness since 12 years. At that time we were the first, and we were the first in Slovenia in the countryside to create an infinity pool with a wonderful view of meadows and hills, where you can observe cows when they graze in the summer.

Even with the additional offer now available across the country, demand is increasing. But we still remain faithful to our philosophy. We accept a maximum of 20 people, and provide them with 80% of our own organic food.

Rural wellness tourism at Urska organic farm in Slovenia

On Booking.com you have earned yourself an impressive review score of 9.7 out of 10. What is your secret to success? Why are guests so happy with you?

The key is to love and enjoy your work. If you are doing it with pleasure and passion, the guests feel it.

Which aspects do you find the most difficult to manage, in terms of sustainability?

Plastic packaging of items our guests bring with them, especially water bottles. This year at our farm we introduced bottles in the rooms, with the inscription on the bottle: thanks for drinking tap water. People on vacation buy a lot of water, juices, shampoos, creams … all in plastic containers. From an environmental sustainability point of view, this is the biggest problem at the moment.

How do you communicate your sustainability initiatives to your guests?

Nothing is left to chance. We bring each guest into the room and explain them our concept of sustainability: from towels, to opening and closing windows, using swimming pool and Jacuzzi, turning off lights…

Urska organic farm - rural tourism in Slovenia

Your advice to other rural tourism accommodation providers, how to approach sustainability? 

Just without fear. It’s all very easy: look around you how beautiful the country is that you live in. Surely you want your descendants to also be able to live in such a good and healthy environment. If that’s your wish, start today and don’t wait for tomorrow 🙂

Anything else you’d like to mention?

It is also important to cooperate with other providers. For example, we eat from plates made by Slovenian potters, our beds are made by a local carpenter, the half-sneakers you will wear in the room are made by our mother Vida …. all local.

Thank you, Urška

More about Urška Organic Farm here or on Facebook and Instagram.

Compare reviews and rates on Booking.com.

Our interview with Urška is part of a special series of Slovenian sustainable tourism changemakers, supported by the Slovenian Tourist Board.

Curious to learn more about Slovenian sustainable tourism leaders and change-makers? Overview of all interviews here.