In Serbia, new travel motivations to increase tourism flows

Tourism in Serbia is a sector that, even though it hasn’t showed a relevant effect on the economy of the Country so far, has several development opportunities. In fact, as reported by the World Travel & Tourism Council in the report “Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2017”, in 2016 the direct contribution of tourism represented 2,3% of GDP, namely 787mln euros (RSD 97.3bn), even if it is expected to grow up 2,9% to in 2027. The total contribution, including indirect and induced ones, was 2.27bn euros (RSD 280.6bn), namely 6,7% of GDP, and it is foreseen to grow up to 7,9%.

In Serbia, the tourism sector is oriented towards the leisure segment. As underlined in the WTTC’s report, 85,8% of Travel & Tourism direct contribution is represented by leisure travel expense. It is interesting to highlight that 67,5% of direct contribution is represented by the international tourists’ expense, and the destination aims to foster this segment. Notwithstanding, as it is reported in the World Economic Forum’s “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017”, this Country is not able to count on policies which guarantee its internationalisation. In fact, Serbia is 95th out of 136 analysed Countries for tourism competitiveness and, as a tourism destination, shows some weak points on “International Openness” (106th) and in particular regarding Government policies and expenditure in Travel & Tourism (respectively, 110th and 131st). Moreover, the Country has not defined yet successful destination branding policies (127th). On the other hand, Serbia has an effective potential in hotels price competitiveness (17th), an organised rail network (21st) and a sufficient environmental sustainability level (61st).

At the present day, the Serbian Government has not renewed a tourism development strategy yet. The most recent strategic document dates back to 2006 and was called “Tourism Strategy of the Republic of Serbia” and aimed at the “Support to Implementation of the National Strategy for Tourism 2010-2012”. Notwithstanding, the Country is putting efforts in planning an attractive tourism offer, addressed to young people and sport lovers. Thanks to the cycling path along the Danube, Serbia is on European Cyclists’ Federation‘s international route called Eurovelo 6. New tourism products linked to mountain and hill sports are being developed, such as trekking and rafting, thanks to more than 300 specialised guides in these sectors and 150 dedicated associations.

According to the Serbian National Tourism Board, last year the Country welcomed more than 1.2 million tourists, a record to this nation, which grew by 13% yoy. The most interesting origin markets were China (+29%), USA (+16%), Canada (+9%), Italy (+7%) and Russia (+6%). A further growth of tourism flows from Italy is expected starting from June, when Air Serbia will introduce a the route Venice-Belgrade.

Several festivals are planned in the whole Country during the summer season, aiming to attract more tourists, both domestic and international. Among the successful festival, in July there is the Exit Festival of contemporary music and the International Film Festival. The following month, the Nišville jazz festival and the Guça Festival.

Last November, the Ministry of Health announced a contest for the health sector professionals, aiming to promote Serbia as a medical tourism destination. As in other Countries, this sector represents an economic potential which has not been exploited yet in Serbia, which will be promoted as a medical tourism destination in the next international tourism trade shows. Recently, the Government showed its willingness to attract more Chinese tourists, also projecting direct flights from and to the Country, especially after the mutual exemption from visa, in force since January, an initiative which has been followed by several Countries in order to enhance their appeal towards non-EU tourists.
In order to foster its competitiveness, cooperation agreements are planned with Montenegro and Hungary to be promoted as an integrated destination to Chinese tour operators.

At Twissen we observed that the Serbian Government is prioritising tourism in its development policies, investing on different segments through promoting new travel motivations.
Moreover, according to Ctrip, Chinese colossus of the Travel & Tourism industry, Chinese tourists spend an average of 3.000 euros per holiday while in Serbia. As we could notice, Serbian Travel & Tourism operators are organising to welcome a growing number of this segment of tourists.