Ljubljana – Slovenia, which has initiated the declaration of World Bee Day, is a pioneer in honeybee tourism or apitourism. It is also considered the cradle of apitherapy – a form of therapy that uses honey bee products and aromas from the beehive to help cure respiratory and other diseases.
Apitourism is a growing worldwide culture for bee-seeking travelers and is becoming a niche travel trend. Slovenia started actively developing it after hosting the world beekeeping congress Apimondia in 2003.
The congress brought to Slovenia more than 3,000 beekeepers from all continents and when they returned home, they spread the word about the hospitality of Slovenian beekeepers and the beauty of the land; beekeepers from across Europe continue to visit the country every year, beekeeping expert Franc Šivic says in the monograph No Bees No Life.
With a strong underlying culture that encourages respect for nature and raises awareness of environmental issues, apitourism is also in line with Slovenia’s strategy of sustainable tourism and its slogan “Green. Active. Healthy.” “Honeybee tourism is undoubtedly a tourism product that represents Slovenia in the most authentic way as a country of extraordinary natural advantages,” the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) told the STA. Apitourism is mainly promoted by the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association and the Aritours travel agency. They are the only ones in the world certifying apitourism providers, of which there are currently 35 in the country.
An “Apitour” in Slovenia includes honey trails, tasting of honey products and honey-based culinary treats, and attendance at workshops and beekeeping classes. Visitors can also tour Slovenia’s unique bee houses, which are distinguished by colorful hive fronts. This summer, cycling honey tours with electric bicycles will be organized by the Sava Hotels Bled, which will include a stop at the Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica. Those in for a less physically demanding tour will be able to opt for hop-on-hop-off bus tours.
An important service provided as part of apitourism is apitherapy, which uses honey bee products including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom for medical purposes. Visitors are invited to enter a bee house and listen to the relaxing buzzing of the bees while inhaling the aromas from the beehive. Some apitourism providers and spas also offer honey-based massages, honey and milk baths and beeswax thermotherapy.
The Terme Portorož spa at the coast, for example, uses honey in its saunas and offers a honey peeling, while Terme Paradiso in the south-east will open Slovenia’s first Honey Paradise Glamping Resort this autumn. Sava Hotels & Resorts will offer special honey-based experiences this weekend to mark the first World Bee Day. Several other spas plan to build on Slovenia’s primacy in beekeeping in the future. International experts meet to discuss new findings in apitherapy every two years at a congress of the Slovenian Apitherapeutic Association. The fourth congress was held in Piran last May.
Slovenia also boasts the “father of apitherapy”. Filip Terč (1844-1017), a doctor from Maribor, earned the title with his articles in the Austrian medical journals about the use of bee venom for the treatment of rheumatism. His birthday, 30 March, was declared World Apitherapy Day by the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, Apimondia.
The first company to start developing honeybee-based products in Slovenia was Ljubljana’s Medex, which in 1966 opened a lab dubbed Apicentre to develop new products based on honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom in what was one of the first such laboratories in Europe.
Medex also organized the first international apitherapy congress under the auspices of Apimonida in 1978.