By increasing the Provincial Secretariat for Economy and Tourism’s budget in the new fiscal year and the new convocation, more opportunities have been created to improve measures to support the economy.
In the new convocation, and thanks to the budget increase of over 60 percent, the Provincial Secretariat for Economy and Tourism has allocated significant funds intended for projects from underdeveloped municipalities aimed at developing entrepreneurship, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the main driving forces behind the development of individuals and communities alike.
The Secretariat for Economy’s focus is certainly on the SME sector. How did the Secretariat influence the overall economic structure in Vojvodina?
Thanks to the decision to increase the 2021 budget, the Provincial Secretariat has managed to allocate over 300 million dinars in the first half of this year as direct assistance to the SME sector, tourism-related companies and companies that operate in other economic branches. 120 million dinars were set aside for boosting tourist capacities, and the rest of the funds were spent on the purchase of new equipment and machinery, as well as for subsidies for the purchase of raw materials. I have to point out that the Secretariat received about 2,500 applications for these funds, which shows that micro and small companies have managed to continue to improve their business and business processes.
In the current year, the Secretariat for Economy has allocated employment funds in the amount of 42 million dinars, and we expect to see 200 new jobs created.
“Untapped potential mainly relates to religious, cultural, rural, wine, hunting and cyclo tourism”
Concerning employment in the tourism sector, as well as in the business and entrepreneurship sector, the Provincial Secretariat has created special terms and conditions for companies to take part in competitions, with one of them being companies not allowed to lay off workers for six months, to preserve as many jobs as possible.
What are the Secretariat’s plans for the coming period?
We have launched an arts & crafts competition, which is extremely important for the preservation of history, tradition and cultural idiosyncrasies in Vojvodina. We also assist small business owners, as well as micro and small companies, namely, the Provincial Secretariat allocates grants to improve and preserve the production process, in a way that does not jeopardize the traditional technology used in old arts and crafts and home-made products. The goal of allocating funds for this purpose is to increase competitiveness and thus improve entrepreneurship and the economic climate in Vojvodina.
Furthermore, in the last quarter of this year, we are planning to launch a competition for women’s entrepreneurship, but also organize events, given that they are the driving force behind tourism. As a result, we should attract a large number of domestic and foreign tourists who want to spend more than they initially planned at these events.
The Secretariat has been also cooperating with social partners in the public sector. To what extent and volume does this cooperation take place?
We have successfully formed a network of social partners with whom we pool resources and capacities, intending to define and create 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, strengthen the economy and support and encourage businesses to participate in public competitions, while actively reducing the negative population trends related to the demographic structure.
The Provincial Secretariat subsidizes the fee for processing the loan application and interest rates related to the competitions launched by the Development Fund of Vojvodina for long-term loans for the development of general and rural tourism. The Secretariat also co-finances the beneficiaries of the Fund’s loans which are allocated to support the development of tourism by improving the equipping of tourist facilities, creating prerequisites for increasing the quality and expanding the offer in the provision of tourist services, raising the level of competitiveness and increasing employment, in the total amount of 10 million dinars.
What does the re-launch of the Best of Vojvodina product quality label entail?
At the initiative of the Provincial Secretariat for Economy and Tourism, the Best of Vojvodina quality label was re-launched, which shows the quality of products, where and how they were produced and promotes a certain area in Vojvodina in the best possible way. With this new concept, the label now covers tourist services and travel destinations. The sign is used to mark natural, agricultural, craft, industrial and domestic products. The fact that it was awarded to a particular product or service in tourism, confirms it belongs to the group of the top quality products and services, which have undergone very strict quality control. With this project, we will certainly elevate the limits of product quality, while focusing on the domestic economy and production, as well as on the services provided by businesses in Vojvodina.
However, a lot more should be done relating to better use and practical value of the product that carries the Best of Vojvodina label, while the expansion of the scope to tourism services will encourage tourist workers to raise the quality of their services to a higher level, in order to meet the prescribed criteria.
The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina certainly has untapped capacities. What do you think they are?
People in Vojvodina, as well as the rest of the Republic of Serbia, do not know what tourist potentials Vojvodina has, so together with the Vojvodina Tourist Board, we have been investing in the promotion of local tourist boards with the view of increasing the visibility of their tourist offer. The idea is to establish local tourist boards in municipalities where they do not exist, as well as to strengthen the existing ones.
This should encompass as many wineries, river inns, farms, religious and cultural heritage, the attractions on the Fruška Gora, the City of Novi Sad with Petrovaradin Fortress, all the features of Sremski Karlovci, the City of Vršac with Vršac Hill, the Bela Crkva lakes and Deliblato Sands, the Danube, Tisza and Sava rivers and the network of internal canals, which make up the lifeblood of Vojvodina.
“In the last quarter of this year, we are planning to launch a competition for women’s entrepreneurship, but also organize events”
The abundant diversity of an environment like Vojvodina greatly affects how art and culture are perceived. It is the artists and creative economy that shape natural resources, and by strategically connecting the two, artists are given the freedom to shape the environment and transform it into business.
Untapped potential mainly relates to religious, cultural, rural, wine, hunting and cyclo tourism. Religious tourism is a great treasure, bearing in mind that all religions are represented in Vojvodina. Sremski Karlovci is a special gem in Vojvodina’s tourist offer. Hunting tourism in Vojvodina has been functioning for years, but the public is not sufficiently aware of it. Vojvodina is located en route of several European bicycle paths. The Novi Sad – Belgrade bicycle path will be built, which is one of the capital projects that was proposed under the auspices of the National Tourism Plan.
Domestic tourism has shown that it can recover quickly in comparison to international travel, which represents a chance for regions such as Vojvodina to recover faster from the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.
You have modernized your approach to launching public competitions and you are keeping pace with modern technologies. What novelties have you introduces?
The Secretariat wants to be more actively involved in the use of the latest digital technologies and have better two-way communication with businesses and citizens. In addition to advertising all information, events and activities through our website and social media, we have also launched a service called ‘A Free Call’, thanks to which, for the first time, people can call and get information about all the details related to the recently closed competitions. So far, the reactions have been very positive.
In April, we presented a mobile application intended for the general public, which contains information about the Secretariat’s all ongoing activities. The application is called “Economy and Tourism APV” and it aims to better and more effectively inform the public about all developments in the work of the Provincial Secretariat and facilitate better interaction with the public. The idea is for the Secretariat to be as transparent and open as possible in the future too.