Serbia can and must become a globally recognisable tourist destination. We are awaited by the rebranding of Serbia as a tourist destination, and in doing so we will utilise the experience of the pandemic, which taught us that we have a lot that is attractive and authentic to offer both our own citizens and international tourists
The year behind us was probably the most difficult ever for international tourism, with a 74% reduction in international arrivals compared to the same period of the previous year, while across Europe that decline amounted to 70%. Here in Serbia, despite data from January and February 2020 indicating that it could have been the best year for Serbian tourism, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 50.7% decline in total tourist numbers.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia is exerting exceptional efforts to compensate for the losses of the tourism and hospitality industry, and first and foremost to preserve employment in these sectors. Alongside general packages of assistance measures intended for the economy as a whole, the Government has also adopted separate sector-specific measures during 2020 and 2021, which encompassed additional payments of 100% of the minimum wage for employees in tourism and hospitality, subsidies to support the work of the hotel industry, subsidising part of costs by securing travel guarantees for tourist agencies organising travel. We also shouldn’t forget the favourable liquidity loans of the Development Fund of the Republic of Serbia that are intended specifically for the tourism, hospitality and transport sectors, vouchers for holidays in Serbia, but also the Decree on Offers of Alternative Travel, which at the time of its adoption meant the possibility of many tourist agencies and travel organisers surviving. With an awareness of the seriousness of the situation and the problems confronting the tourism and hospitality industry, the Ministry will continue striving, in cooperation with other departments, to undertake additional activities and measures aimed at overcoming what is, without a shadow of a doubt, a major crisis and huge losses in the tourism and hospitality sector. The 2020 tourist year was “carried” by domestic tourists.
In cooperation with the private sector and HORES, we will continue promoting the “Clean & Safe” label in accordance with the recommendations of the World Tourism and Travel Council, in order to send the international market a clear signal that Serbia is a safe and secure destination
Our tourism and hospitality workers have long been aware that they shouldn’t differentiate between domestic and foreign guests, because there can be no development of a tourist destination without the development of domestic tourism. This period saw the affirming of destinations that were previously researched insufficiently, from mountains, ethno villages, salaš farmsteads and lakes, especially in Eastern and Southern Serbia, but also in Šumadija and Vojvodina.
A successful immunisation process gives us the right to consider and expect better tourist results in 2021. Of course, the success of implementing immunisation in our most important source markets is also important, and this year those markets are primarily the countries of the region. It will be crucial to establish predefined protocols and criteria for crossing borders.
This time should be utilised for us to work, in cooperation with the private sector and academic circles, on analysing the needs and required investments in personnel, in order for us to be ready for the expected changes to the international tourism market in the post-COVID period. We must make significant advances in the management of destinations, at the national, regional and local levels, but also improve our promotion in line with the latest trends. We are also awaited by the rebranding of Serbia as a tourist destination which – as the experience of this epidemic has just taught us – has a lot that is both attractive and authentic to offer, primarily to our citizens, but also to international tourists.