MARIJA LABOVIĆ, Director of the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia: Growing Interest in Serbia and Belgrade Year-on-Year

Serbia’s comparative advantage in tourism lies in the diversity of tourist products, the country’s availability or proximity to both traditional and new tourist markets, a rich cultural and historical heritage, and preserved nature

Director of the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia, Marija Labović about Serbia’s appeal as a tourist destination.

“Serbia has positioned itself as a city break destination, with Belgrade, Novi Sad and Niš taking the lead, as well as a country of events, primarily musical ones like EXIT, Guča, Beer Fest, Nishville etc. Mountains are equally appealing in summer and winter due to a higher demand for an active vacation in nature”, Ms. Labović says and adds:

“Our national airline company, Air Serbia contributed to Serbia’s better positioning as a tourist destination thanks to its direct flights, like the ones to New York and Beijing, and good connecting flights. The fact that Serbia is located in the centre of the Balkan region is also an advantage, while our capital city, Belgrade is approximately 400km from all major regional towns, and, as such, could be considered the regional hub. Considering the potential that Serbia has in developing health tourism, we are working on our country becoming recognized as such destination too in the following period, primarily in terms of dental servicesand aesthetic surgery, in addition to promoting our spas not only as spas and wellness centres, but alsoas health tourism locations”.

How much did the construction of new hotels improve the accommodation offer both in Belgrade and Serbia?

 — Foreign tourists are becoming increasingly interested in Serbia year-on-year which is why it makes sense to invest in hotel business here. The arrival of global and regional hotel brands, and the change in the structure and category of accommodation facilities in the last few years with a boost in construction of 4* and 5* hotels, contributed to a notable growth of overnight stays in Serbia and Belgrade, especially those by foreign tourists. In the past few years, construction, rehabilitation, and adaptation of a number of hotels owned by domicile, Serbian companies has picked up, as these companies are also complying with the international business standards. However, in order for these hotels to be able to catch up to global trends in tourist demand, and thus record better results, they have to continuously improve their quality standards, competitiveness, hotel management and promotions / reservations. Hotels in Serbia are developing, and are using new communication and promotional tools that are based on e-marketing technology for communication with consumers, and, in this way, are significantly increasing efficiency of their marketing activities which, in the end, result in bigger tourist revenue, both in a specific destination and the country on a whole.

How appealing in Serbia in terms of business trips and conference tourism?

— In the last 10 years, the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia (through its Convention Bureau ofSerbia) has been working hard on promoting Serbia in the international conference tourism segment. Today, with 66 international conferences held, which is four times more compared to a decade ago, Serbia is one of the top 50 conference destinations in the world. According to the data collated by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA),Serbia has been the fastest congress destination in the world in the past five years. We jumped from the 73rd place in 2007 to top 50 destinations in the world in the space of five years. In the last ten years, Serbia, and especially Belgrade, has been characterized by a complete transformation of hotel products which entails a bigger presence of international hotel chains, better service quality, and a bigger number of available rooms. The issue of Serbia’s availability is no longer an issue. Today, Serbia is considered one of the most available destinations, and owing to the development of our national airline company, the situation has improved drastically. In terms of hotels in Serbia, they offer the quality of service that is either at the same level or higher than other destinations, and clients do recognize that.

Tourists from which countries are coming more to Serbia?

— According to the data from the State Statistical Office collated in the period from January to October 2017, a total of 1,292,515 foreign tourists came to Serbia which is an18% hike compared to the same period last year, when the increase was 17%. In terms of foreign countries, and measured by the number of overnight stays, the number of Israeli tourists has gone up the most (+314%), followed by the Chinese tourists (+115%), the Islandic tourists (+44%), and the tourists from Poland and Canada (+30% each). If we consider the absolute number of overnight stays in the first 10 months of this year, thetourists from Bosnia and Herzegovina top the list, followed by the tourists from Montenegro, Turkey, Russia and Germany.

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