Comment By Zoran Panović

Year Of Turmoil

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Branimir Jovanović, Economist At The Vienna Institute For International Economic Studies

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Dr Duško Lopandić Ph.D., Vice President Of The European Movement In Serbia

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Vukan Marković, University Of Belgrade, Institute For Philosophy And Social Theory; Cambridge University Ph.D. Student

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Tatjana Matić, Ministry Of Trade, Tourism & Telecommunications

We’re Achieving Excellent Results

During the course of last year and this, we achieved excellent results in the area of tourism, with contributions to these enviable results provided by the development of road structure, tourist economy support measures implemented by our state and the re-opening of the countries of the region and Europe

As was the case in tourist regions worldwide, the health crisis caused by the pandemic also halted the trend of growing tourist activities in Serbia. However, this meant domestic tourist destinations became an appealing alternative to holidaying abroad and the number of tourist arrivals and overnight stays began to be dominated by domestic tourism.

According to data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, over the course of 2020, the total number of tourist arrivals in Serbia fell by 50.7% compared to 2019. However, tourism trends had already started stabilising in 2021, mostly as a result of the intervention measures implemented by our state in support of the tourism economy, and the re-opening of the countries of the region and Europe. Apart from promotions for domestic tourists, we also focused on international markets, such as those of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Spain, France, Italy, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and others, with those efforts still yielding excellent results today.

The total number of tourist arrivals over the course of 2021 was up 42.4%, with the turnover of domestic tourists increasing by 25.2% and foreign tourist traffic up 95.5% compared to 2020, which means that interest in Serbian destinations has increased among both locals and foreigners.

We are also achieving excellent results this year. According to data of the eTurista [eTourist] portal – the central information system in the fields of hospitality and tourism in the Republic of Serbia – the country had more than 1,630,000 tourist arrivals during the first five months of this year, with more than five million overnight stays. This means that we can expect even better results by the end of this year and during next year, thanks to investments in infrastructure, particularly road infrastructure, as well as the allocating of vouchers for Serbian holidays. Vouchers have proven to be an excellent solution for the recovery of our tourism, as they contribute to increasing traffic among domestic tourists in the country, boosting the utilising of the existing tourist offer and affirming new destinations. A no less important factor is that this method of promoting domestic tourism also serves to help reduce foreign currency outflows.

Vouchers have proven to be an excellent solution for the recovery of our tourism, as they contribute to increasing traffic among domestic tourists in the country, affirming new destinations and reducing foreign currency outflows

We are nonetheless still facing some challenges, primarily related to labour shortages. Low wages and a shortfall of workers in the hospitality industry are becoming chronic problems. According to the estimates of HORES – the Business Association of the Hotel and Restaurant Industry of Serbia – this sector has a shortfall of around 15,000 workers, with some 6,300 of them having quit their jobs over the last few years. The majority of hospitality sector workers accept job offers from abroad. That’s why, in Serbia, students, foreign workers and job applicants with no experience in the sector are hired to work in positions that lack competent personnel. A possible solution could be found in providing benefits like tax breaks and exemptions from income tax contributions. It is my sincere hope that the Open Balkan initiative will contribute to increased labour mobility in the Western Balkan region and speeding up the resolving of this problem.