By increasing the budget of the Vojvodinian Secretariat for Economy and Tourism in the new fiscal year under the new convocation, more opportunities have been created for implementing better support measures for businesses.
We have talked with the Provincial Secretary for Economy, Dr Nenad Ivanišević, about the activities that the Vojvodinian Secretariat for Economy and Tourism carried out last year and the implementation of measures under the new convocation of the Vojvodinian government.
“Given that 2021 was a pandemic year and considering the relevant prevention measures, most of the economic indicators, especially in tourism, were conditioned by the current situation, with a significant decline in the number of overnight stays of foreign tourists, which, usually, generate significant financial revenues. On the other hand, the Secretariat tried to promote domestic travel destinations as much as possible, as did the other relevant institutions and organizations, so that tourism still generated income from domestic tourists, through internal migration tourism,”, said Dr Ivanišević.
Significant funds were allocated to the aforementioned economic branches in the form of subsidies, but also refunds. Which sectors will receive the biggest investments?
That’s right! Before the budget review in September 2021, the Secretariat provided additional support to the tourism sector by subsidizing the costs of machinery and equipment, but also upgrading and constructing tourist superstructure and the organization of events in Vojvodina, with about 150 million dinars. Plus, we allocated the additional 20 million dinars to female entrepreneurship and co-financed the programme of development and activities of local socio-economic councils with a total of 2.5 million dinars, as well as the activities and establishment of local tourist boards with 5 million dinars.
How did the Secretariat influence the overall economic structure in Vojvodina through its own measures aimed at supporting the SME sector?
By careful analysis of the SME sector, we concluded that this segment is becoming increasingly important in the overall economy, i.e. in regard to its share in the economic structure, as well as that it has a growing impact on gross value added and turnover and, very importantly, is strongly export-oriented. With regard to employment in the tourism sector, as well as in the economy and entrepreneurship sector, the Provincial Secretariat is trying to influence this phenomenon by creating special terms and conditions in competitions. For instance, one of the prerequisites for their participation in competitions is that they are not allowed to lay off their permanent employees for six months, so we can save as many jobs as possible.
Last year, you were especially focused on preserving traditions and cultural landmarks also thanks to launching a public competition for old arts and crafts.
The competition for old arts and crafts, which was launched in July and which is extremely important for the preservation of history, tradition and cultural features in Vojvodina, is another form of financial assistance to small business owners and micro and small enterprises intended for the purchase of equipment or raw materials. In this way, the Provincial Secretariat awarded five million dinars worth of grants in order to improve and preserve the production process, in a way that does not endanger the traditional technology used in old arts and crafts or home-made production. The goal of allocating funds for this purpose is to increase competitiveness and thus improve entrepreneurship and the economic climate in Vojvodina.
“Various analyses and our internal research have shown that the citizens of Vojvodina, as well as the rest of the Republic of Serbia, are slowly becoming aware of Vojvodina’s tourist potential”
Old crafts, as well as handicrafts and works of art, are another generator and driving force behind tourism, attracting a large number of domestic and foreign tourists who are prepared to spend more than they planned at a certain event.
You also had important cooperation with social partners in the public sector. What is the extent of this cooperation?
We have successfully established a network of social partners with whom we pool resources and capacities, with the aim of defining and creating an infrastructure based on the given guidelines conditioned by the market policy. With this approach, I believe that we will significantly contribute to the development and regional uniformity, boost the economy by supporting and encouraging small business owners to participate in public competitions, while actively reducing negative population trends related to demographic structure. In this regard, the Secretariat subsidizes the costs of loan application processing fees and interest rates related to the competitions launched of the Development Fund of Vojvodina for long-term loans for the development of tourism and especially rural tourism. The Secretariat also allocated 10 million dinars to co-finance the users of the Fund’s credits that are allocated to support the development of tourism which are used for upgrading the equipment in tourist facilities, creating conditions for increasing quality and expanding the tourist offer, boosting competitiveness and increasing employment.
Many issues have been opened and challenges created which we have to overcome by providing an adequate institutional response through our support measures aimed at guiding the economy into a new direction that can help with its recovery.
What does the relaunch of the Best of Vojvodina product quality label bring?
The re-launched quality label, which bears the already recognizable name “The Best of Vojvodina”, speaks about the quality of the product, where and how it was created, and thus promotes a certain area in the best possible way. So far, this quality signed has been mainly assigned to food, industrial and craft products, while the new concept has extended this label to include tourist services and destinations. The label is used to mark natural, agricultural, craft, industrial and domestic products, and the fact that it was awarded to a particular product or for the quality of tourism service, thus confirming that the product or service has now become a member of ‘the club’ of the highest quality products and services. However, much more should be done regarding the greater use and practical value of the product that bears this label.
“Untapped potentials are found primarily in religious, cultural, rural, wine, but also hunting and cyclo tourism”
Under the auspices of this project, we have been recognizing and awarding the best product, service and business since 2004, when the label was established. All awarded products meet European product quality standards – they have a HACCP certificate and ISO standard. With this project, we will certainly move the line of establishing product quality, focusing on the domestic economy and production, as well as on the service activities of Vojvodina-based businesses.
According to the latest batch of received applications, the largest number of applications refers to the organization of events, which is one of the indicators that life is returning to normal, while, of course, we carefully monitor the spread of the coronavirus, as well as the immunization in the territory Serbia and AP Vojvodina.
While we are on the topic of event organization, which important trade fairs did the Secretariat take part in last year?
The Secretariat opened “the season” by organizing an online Entrepreneurship Fair at the Novi Sad Fair. We also participated in the 88th Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad, where we promoted a campaign called “Vojvodina Lunch – Irresistible Tastes of the Plains” with the Vojvodina Tourist Board. The idea was to present the advantages of this endeavour to the catering facilities that had been assigned ‘The Best of Vojvodina’ quality label through ‘The Best of Vojvodina’ campaign and the ‘Vojvodina Lunch’ campaign, while promoting serving the traditional Vojvodina lunch, for example, at noon on Sundays.
Will you continue to invest in untapped capacities that certainly exist on the territory of AP Vojvodina?
Various analyses and our internal research have shown that the citizens of Vojvodina, as well as the rest of the Republic of Serbia, are slowly becoming aware of Vojvodina’s tourist potential. Therefore, together with the Vojvodina Tourist Board, we are trying to combine and invest funds in digital marketing, i.e. the promotion of local tourist boards, and thus increase the visibility of their tourist offer. The idea is to establish local tourist boards in local self-government units where they do not exist as yet, as well as to boost the capacity of existing local tourist boards.
We should include as many wineries, national restaurants, farms, religious and cultural heritage, the benefits of Fruška Gora, the City of Novi Sad with Petrovaradin Fortress, all the features of Sremski Karlovci, the town of Vršac with its Vršac Hills, nearby Bela Crkva lakes and Deliblato Sands, Danube, Tisza, Sava and the network of internal canals, which make the lifeblood of Vojvodina. Untapped potentials are found primarily in religious, cultural, rural, wine, but also hunting and cyclo tourism. Religious tourism is a great capacity that Vojvodina has at its disposal, bearing in mind that all major religions are represented in Vojvodina. Furthermore, Sremski Karlovci is certainly a special gem of Vojvodina’s tourist offer. Hunting tourism in Vojvodina has been doing well for years, but the public is not sufficiently aware of it.
What’s the next step in the implementation of the Green Trail project which is funded together by the Vojvodinian and Serbian governments?
I recently signed a contract worth 21,600,000 dinars, which the Ministry allocated to the Provincial Government, more precisely to the Provincial Secretariat for Economy. This money is intended for the preparation of a project, namely drafting technical documentation regarding the project implementation procedure and implementation of project activities on the corridor of the former Petrovaradin-Beočin railway. This trail, 17.5 kilometres long, is planned to become a special-purpose area, more precisely a tourist route known as a “green trail”. In order to achieve this, there is enough interest to turn the railway section into a “green trail” for pedestrians and cyclists. This endeavour is the result of the joint work of the Provincial Government and the Government of the Republic of Serbia, as well as a result of a joint concept implemented by the Head of the Provincial Government, Igor Mirović, and Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Tomislav Momirović.