Governments are making investments in the tourism industry, with many seeing immediate results.
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 30/07/14
Tourists visit Skopje. Macedonia received 110 million euros in tourism revenues last year. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]
Southeast Europe is connected by historical and traditional ties. But today, tourism is one of the tightest bonds between them that could boost the economic recovery of each of the Balkan countries, according to economists.
Tourism is a great source of revenue and each country strives to attract as many guests as possible. During the summer season the most attractive destinations for Serbian tourists are the Greek, Montenegrin and Turkish coasts, while Belgrade is known as a city of good entertainment, with its nightlife reeling in numerous guests from the former Yugoslav republics.
According to Serbian Minister of Tourism Rasim Ljajic, last year Serbia earned $1 billion from tourism. He added that Serbia does not invest enough money in the development of its tourism potential.
"We must invest in infrastructure, primarily roads, because bad roads are what make tourists bypass Serbia," Ljajic told SETimes, saying Serbia would earn more from tourism if it invested more.
Tourism remains one of the most promising branches in the economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). According to the tourism industry, revenue from tourism in BiH amounted to 500,000 euros during the last year.
"It is certain that the income from tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the previous period significantly affected the overall economy of the country. Also, it should be noted that a large part of the income from tourism is not displayed through legitimate financial payment flows and therefore it is difficult to talk about the real effects of tourism on the economic life of the country," Asja Hadziefendic-Mesic, a spokesman for the Tourism Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told SETimes.
"Bosnia and Herzegovina has a great potential for the development of the newest forms of tourism, which include enjoying the unspoiled nature. Some of them are rural tourism, adventure on the water, mountain and agro-tourism. Also, we have great qualities for the development of pilgrimage tourism, given the diversity of religions, customs and history," said Marija Knezevic, of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management in Banja Luka.
The subsidies which the Macedonian government in the past couple of years gives in tourism, as well as the advertising campaigns for promotion of the country as a tourist destination, provided the expected results. Last year the number of tourists increased by 47,000 visitors and tourism revenue topped 110 million euros.
Aleksandar Dimovski, an owner of a shop for souvenirs in the Old Bazaar in Skopje, said that he decided to open this shop due to the increase in the number of tourists.
"I design ceramic souvenirs. My girlfriend and I were unemployed. But after we were informed about the benefits we would have as craftsmen, we decided to open a shop. The number of foreign visitors grows every year, so now we have four employees and we earn well," Dimovski said. "In Skopje every day we can notice a group of tourists which uses the services of the tourist guides and they become familiar with the history of the city, but also of the country."
In the first six months of 2014, Croatia received 4 million visitors and 16.1 million overnight stays. Compared to the first six months of 2013, that was an increase of 6.6 percent in arrivals and 4.8 percent in overnight visits.
"Tourists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia and Croatia are familiar with and are very numerous in the summer months, and we want them to approach a number of other options that Croatia offers throughout the year," Eva De Zan, spokesperson of the Ministry of Tourism, told SETimes. "Short distance and easy accessibility by car are some of the advantages we provide our neighboring and European countries, and we are about to create additional forms of supply such as health tourism, adrenalin, golf, bike tourism and year-round tourism in our country."
Correspondents Bedrana Kaletovic from Tuzla, Drazen Remikovic in Podgorica, Kruno Kartus in Osijek, and Marina Stojanovska in Skopje contributed to this report.
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