Marija Labović, CEO, National Tourism Organisation, Serbia, explains the country’s tourism success story
The landlocked crossroads between central and south-east Europe has recently tapped into its appeal as an international tourist destination. ITB Berlin News spoke to Marija Labović, CEO, National Tourism Organisation, Serbia, and asked her to expand on this impressive growth.
Over the last few years Serbia has become increasingly popular among international tourists. In the period 2013-2018 Serbia saw year on year double-digit growth of international visitor overnights, and in 2019 we recorded a further 10% increase in international tourists, reaching a total of more than 4 million overnights.
For the first time, in 2019 the number of international overnights exceeded the number of domestic overnights. The increasing popularity of Serbia is the result of several important factors: improved connectivity and accessibility, diverse tourism products comprised of city breaks, active holidays, cultural tours, festivals, gastronomy and wine, good value for money and of course increased promotional and marketing efforts.”
What are the trends in terms of tourist arrivals to Serbia?
We are very excited to say that Serbia recorded above average growth of German tourists to Serbia, with +19% compared to last year, and over 200,000 overnights. Thus Germany is now in sixth place of our top ten international markets, after Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Montenegro, Turkey and Russia. It is also interesting to note that both China and Russia markets increased in 2019 by over 50%.
In 2019 we recorded a 10% increase in international tourists, reaching a total of more than 4 million overnights
The most visited destinations by foreign tourists in Serbia are Belgrade, with more than a half of all international overnights, followed by our second city Novi Sad, then it is the all year-round mountain resorts of Zlatibor and Kopaonik, Serbian spas Vrnjacka, Sokobanja, Koviljaca and Palic and the cities of Kragujevac and Subotica.
Which development plans do you have for infrastructure?
The development of our infrastructure is very positive. Both the connection to Serbia from outside, and individual transportation within the country, are improving continuously.
With the construction of the third international airport Morava near Kraljevo, now central Serbia is very easily accessible for tourists in addition to the established good access to northern and southern Serbia.
The expansion of highways throughout the country ensures that tourists can also travel quickly and comfortably within the country. In the future, we look forward to the completion of the railway line between Budapest and Belgrade.
We also see strong developments in the hotel segment, with 21 new-built hotels throughout Serbia in 2019. As the number of tourists increases and travel connections for visitors improve, we expect to see more hotel openings in the future, including new developments increasingly in regions outside our larger cities.
Photo: Marija Labović, CEO, National Tourism Organisation, Serbia
Serbia has become a member of two new European Cultural Routes – Nikola Tesla Ways of the European Route of Industrial Heritage and the cultural cycling Iron Curtain Trail.
In National Park Tara in Western Serbia tourists can have an exceptional nature experience during a bear watching hike. A three-day Danube cruise arrangement leads tourists along beautiful nature and cultural locations as the well-known Djerdap Gorge, historical fortresses and prehistoric sites.
The longest panoramic lift worldwide, the 9km long Zlatibor Gold Gondola Lift, connects Zlatibor mountain with the ski centre Tornik, via Lake Ribnicko. Visitors can expect spectacular views and numerous destinations for nature excursions (opening May 2020).