'Experience serbia' targets uae
Marija Labovic, CEO of Serbia's National Tourism Organization, tells TTN, “Our new slogan – Experience Serbia – had its premiere at Expo 2020 Dubai, not just because this market is so important for us but also because of this huge international event. We are rebranding ourselves because now we are more focused into experiences.”
SPIKE FROM THE UAE
As Serbia plans to maintain its position as one of the fastest-growing leisure and business travel destinations in Eastern Europe, it looks to increase visitation from the UAE. “We saw a spike in interest from tourists coming from the UAE, especially in 2021. We are still not on the digits that we had pre-pandemic in 2019, which was a record year for tourism in Serbia. We had over 10 million overnight stays, out of which four and a half million were made by international travellers. In 2021 we are 30 per cent behind our figures in 2019.
From now until 2025, five hotel brands will open in Serbia, namely St. Regis, Westin, Autograph Collection, W Hotels and Vida
Daily direct flights, combined with visa-free entry make Serbia an easy choice for travellers in the UAE. Indian citizens, one of the top five feeder markets for Serbia, also don’t require visas and this has also contributed to the rise of Indian expats travelling from the UAE to Serbia, Labovic tells us.
"We consider the UAE to be one of our top markets due to its excellent airline accessibility and the fact that UAE citizens do not require a visa to enter Serbia.”
The rest of the Gulf countries are a bit behind in numbers for lack of frequent and direct connectivity, combined with the need for visas.
“Most international travellers come to Serbia for the cultural and historical heritage, but also for its beautiful nature and gastronomy. Our cities are also very interesting for international travellers, especially our capital city of Belgrade and most international travellers who come to Serbia come through Belgrade because its our main gateway city.”
SERBIA OPEN OFFICE
Mokra Gora, a village in southwestern Serbia has recently been recognised as one of 44 most beautiful tourist villages in the world by the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization.
“We are very proud of this beautiful village, the only one on the Balkan peninsula to be recognised in this manner by UNWTO. This is also important for us because during the pandemic, travellers have been searching for a vacation in nature, eating quality food, experiencing traditions and authentic handcrafts.
“In line with this desire of people searching for respite in rural environments, to spend their holidays there, we even introduced a new tourism product, which we call Serbia Open Office. This is not only for digital nomads, but for all those who are working from home. We are inviting them to work from Serbia and in their free time, join in our beautiful nature, our cultural and historical sites, in our gastronomy. This is something also something new that we introduced last year.”
THE OPEN BALKAN
The Open Balkan is an economic and political zone of three member states in the Balkans, including Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, constituting a population of almost 12 million. The initiative was finalised in November 2019, right before the pandemic.
“The Open Balkan initiative, formerly known as mini-Schengen, is expected to bring about free movement of people and goods within the region and it is also important for us as a tourism destination. Serbia is positioned in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, so from our capital city in Belgrade, the other capital cities are approximately 400 kilometres away. So somebody who comes to Belgrade with this Open Balkan initiative, can easily move and visit the other cities in the region. We have very similar visa policies for the long haul markets and the connectivity is also very good between the three of us, making Albania and North Macedonia easily accessible from Serbia.
“Even though they're not in the Open Balkan, we are also close to the capital cities of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Montenegro.”
Serbia's tourism product was showcased by the National Tourism Organization, which included short holidays in Serbian towns, active vacations in the wilderness, natural beauty and events held in the country.
The presentations also focused on the country's cultural and gastronomic offerings, making it an ideal destination for family travel and its capabilities to be a leading meetings and events destination.In the last ten years, all international hotel chains have made inroads into the country. From now until 2025, five additional brands are on their way to open in Serbia, namely St. Regis, Westin, Autograph Collection, W Hotels and Vida. “Some of these new hotels will open on the Belgrade Waterfront project, which is a huge investment from the UAE and it's already a new tourism site as well because it's in the centre of the city. It has a beautiful national park, restaurants, the biggest shopping mall in Serbia, all on a beautiful piece of the riverbank of Sava river. The area is perfect for walking or cycling as well and it’s also the most happening place for going out in the evenings, for the nightlife.”