1. Introduction and general information 2. Climate 3. Historical development 4. Type and number of tourists visiting Serbia 5. Tourism potential 6. Tourism and seasonality 7. Economic crisis and impact of tourism on economy 8. Sustainable tourism 9. Accommodation facilities 10. Transportation 11. Safety and security 12. Major events and attractions 13. Conclusion
Serbia is located at the crossroads of central and southeast Europe and borders with the countries of Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania through Kosovo. The total area of Serbia is 88,361 km2. The capital of Serbia is Belgrade with the population of 1.6 million people. The population of the whole Serbia totals to 9.5 million residents with the official language Serbian, and main religion as Christian Orthodox. There is presence of other religions such as Islamic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and other. The main currency is Dinar (“On the spot”, n.d.).
The climate of Serbia is continental and has very slow transitions in terms of temperature between the seasons over the year (“Position, relief and climate”, n.d.). Because of the continental climate Serbia roughly receives 896 mm of rain per year throughout the country. The amount of sunshine in the country equals from 1500 – 2200 hours per year. With hot summers and relatively cold winters Serbia manages to have an average annual temperature of 10.9 °C for areas which are 300 m above sea level and 10 °C in the range from 300 to 500 m. In the mountain regions which spread from 1000 m and above the temperatures can easily drop below zero. The coldest month over the year is January with an average temperature of 6 °C throughout the country. January also has the greatest amount of days which are covered in snow, around 30 to 40% of the annual snow fall occur during that period of time. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Serbia happened in 1985 in the town called Pešter Plateau and equaled to -39.5 °C. The hottest month over the year is July which has an average temperature between 11 and 22 °C all over the country. The warmest temperature ever, was recorded in Smederevska Palanka in the year 2007 and it reached 44.9 °C (“Facts”, 2011).
Source (Serbia Climate Graph 2008 – 2011)
Since Serbia changed its government and membership, by being a part of Yugoslavia, later on Serbia and Montenegro and eventually Serbia, it is quite difficult to point out how tourism developed and where. Being a member of Yugoslavia since 1929 which later on broke down in to smaller countries in the year of 1991, Serbia had many destinations to offer. From the Adriatic sea and its sea side, which was shared between the Croatia – biggest part, Montenegro, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the beautiful rural areas which all of
the countries were rich in (“What is former Yugoslavia”, n.d.; “Find out about the history of Serbia”, n.d.).
Source (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) There is certain evidence to be found when it comes to exploiting and converting rural areas into Spa and Wellness centers. Especially after the Second World War after 1960’s spa tourism in Serbia started developing at the fast rate. During that time almost 60% of the spa lodging capacity was constructed. Furthermore those existing hotels were taken under reconstruction and modernization as an investment in the 1980’s (Armenski, Blesic,Dragin, Djeri, n.d.).
In the year of 1980’s Serbia was considered to be one of the leading tourist destinations in Balkan with almost 12 million overnight stays from which around 1.5 million were foreign visitors per year. Serbia’s capital Belgrade during that time was accommodating nearly 2.2 million overnight guests per year. With the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and all the side-effects, such as sanctions, economic isolation and the scars which were deeply carved by the act of war that occurred during that time with Serbia’s neighboring countries, it is only expected to see a major decline in the number of tourist arrivals in Serbia. After some radical changes have been made within the country in the sense of political stability and better government organization, Serbia started to experience an increase in the number of visitors coming and staying in the country (“SIEPA”, n.d.).
Source (Economy of Tourism, by Dr. Bojan Zecevic) Tourism industry in Serbia has a GDP that varies from 2-3%. Serbia’s tourism makes profit mostly on domestic tourism which is made by the residents of the country and equals to 80%
of the total arrivals and 87% of the total number of overnight stays. The effects of the changes which Serbia overtook after recovering from the war started to take shape from the year of 2000 and forward, because Serbia managed to double its GDP in three years period from $844 to $2,813 in 2004. In addition Serbia managed to retake some of its former glory by attracting up to 400,000 foreign visitors in the year of 2004 which is a 90% increase from the year of 2000. Therefore this shows a firm evidence of government’s effort to attract visitors.
Source: Statistical Office of Serbia
Statistics show that throughout history the country of Serbia has been visited in much greater numbers by its residents in forms of domestic tourism than rather by the international tourists. International tourist do visit Serbia to some extent, but compering to the numbers that domestic tourism generates, which are sometimes even up to four times bigger, the contribution in revenue cannot be compered between these two tourist categories (“Statistical Office of Serbia”, 2011).
Source (Statistical Office of Serbia, 2010) Evidence shows that when it comes to inbound tourism, the types of tourist visiting Serbia in greater numbers than others are actually people coming from the countries that were once a
part of ex-Yugoslavia. Other than that from the information given it can be said that countries such as Italy, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Austria contribute more than others in the number of tourist visits per year (“Statistical Office of Serbia”, 2010).
Serbia, even though it lost its exit to the sea, has a lot of potential in even further developing its tourism towards the rural areas which include spas and wellness centers, mountains that offer ski resorts and other attractions, such as hiking nature exploring etc., during the different seasons of the year. Spa tourism is considered to be the biggest treasure of Serbia nowadays. Having in mind that Serbia has around 500 spring and mineral sources and only 40 of them are being used to accommodate and attract visitors, we can conclude that spas in Serbia can be further developed. Only six of the forty spa centers are available to foreign tourists because the quality level of isn’t high enough to retain them for further visits (Spa Tourism in Serbia, 2010).
Another branch of tourism where Serbia has a lot of potential is hunting and fishing. Serbia’s climate gives excellent conditions for a variety of animals throughout the country. In addition Serbia has 323 easily accessed hunting grounds equaling to 8,828,588 ha and 35 fishing centers, which if invested in and promoted appropriately can attract and retain considerable amounts of foreign tourist searching for the thrill of hunt (SEIPA, n.d.). City tourism in Serbia also has a lot of potential to further develop. The major cities in the country, sorting them by size, are Belgrade (1.6 million inhabitants), Novi Sad (300,000), Niš (250,000), Kragujevac (177,000) and Leskovac (156,000). All of these cities are rich in history and can offer to the tourist tremendous amounts of different kinds of entertainment. With the right investments and expenditure in infrastructure can boost up tourism in Serbia to a considerable level (SEIPA, n.d.).
Tourism and Seasonality
Seasonality has a lot of positive and negative impacts on the country or destination because it causes fluctuation in tourist visits. Therefore some destinations during some period of time have more tourists than they can accommodate. It can lead to destruction of the environment in which the destination is situated and on which the residents of the destination depend on. There are a lot of factors influencing seasonality like weather conditions, climate, daylight, price, fashion trends and of course the soul nature of the destination (Page S. J. Connell J., 2009). The only period of time during the year when Serbia feels impacts of seasonality is during the summer period which starts from the 21st of June and lasts until the 21st of September and also during the winter period which starts from 21st of December and lasts until the 21st of March (“Visit Serbia Balkans countries,”n.d.).
During summer periods, because the weather is very good, a lot of festivals and events are being organized such as EXIT festival, which is very famous and extremely crowded, the fair of trumpeters in Guca which geathers people from different nationalities to compete in the art of music, the Beer fest of Belgrade which is pretty similar to the October Fest in Germany and many others. Serbia in summer time is also eligible for camping and hiking experiences, sailing through the river of Danube and many more activities (“When to visit Serbia, n.d.”). In the winter time the whole Serbia, as well as many other countries, celebrates the New Year which is most commonly organized by each city within the country and offers a lot of fun for the residents and all the other tourists and visitors that choose Serbia as a destination for that event. Another interesting event that is organized in the winter time is the celebration of the New Year’s Eves which by Julian calendar is on the 13th of January and exists like that only in Serbia. Furthermore winter, as any other country that has mountains, offers a variety of sports such as skiing, ice skating on the frozen lakes and a lot more on locations such as Kopaonik, Tara, Zlatibor, Divcibare etc. (“When to visit Serbia, n.d.”).
Economic crisis and impact of tourism on economy
Economic crises has impacted and shaped the way of life for many all around the world. The extent to which the economic crises had been felt in Serbian tourism industry can be proven by a number of country reports stating that people during that time avoided traveling in order to minimize their expenses and therefore reduce consumption (Mladenovic, Zlatkovic, 2010). In the early year of 2009 the crisis had such influence that the banks as a reaction reduced the lending amounts and increased the margin and premiums on risks. With this poor conditions for taking a loan there were hardly any investments.
In addition a lot of people lost their jobs and therefore a financial crisis also became an unemployment crisis as well. With little income within the family, people didn’t spent enough money on such things as travel and leisure (Cerovic, Petrovic, Batic, n.d). In the month of March 2009 the number of tourist’s arrivals visiting Serbia has dropped down by 7% comparing the state in which it was in the year of 2008; however predictions say that by the end of the year of 2009 due to the University Olympics it will again recover to its former state (Trbovic, n.d.). Furthermore business in meeting and events industry went down in February 2009 by 6% after a drop of 5% in December of 2008 and continued dropping by additional 5% in April of 2009 (Trbovic, n.d.). From which it can be concluded that the economic crises really made people more aware and cautious in terms of where they spend and how they save their money which made a huge impact on the tourism industry.
In the study of Eber (as cited in Butler, 1999), the meaning of sustainable tourism can be defined as “tourism and associated infrastructures that: both now and in the future operate within natural capacities for the regeneration and future productivity of natural resources; recognize the contribution that people and communities, customs and lifestyles, make to the tourism experience; accept that these people must have an equitable share in the economic benefits of local people and communities in the host areas.”
Generally, nowadays tourism and travelling is moderately common, which also has negative and positive impacts on a destination. A well-structured and developed tourism policy is determined to be essential for Serbia in order to maintain the environment and minimize the damages that is made because of tourism (United Nations, 2002).
The country has the benefit to be surrounded by both natural and artificial regions. Therefore there is a lot of potential for the development of sustainable tourism. In an overall, the nature is in a good condition and well preserved with a mild temperature and fresh air. A huge amount of various flower types as well as clean and uncontaminated rivers can also be found in the country (Rural Tourism International, n.d; United Nations, 2002).
Even though many might have the perception that tourism is not very typical for Serbia, various types such as mountain, spa and village tourism has been taking place in the country since a long time ago. In a matter of fact, the maturity of rural tourism is dated back to over 30 years ago. The tourism was mostly domestic and the purpose of travel was to get away from the urban areas (Rural Tourism International, n.d; United Nations, 2002). Approximately during the late eighties an amount of nearby 50 villages including a number 800 houses containing 3,000 beds were providers of Serbia’s rural tourism. However, it has been recorded that in year 2000, this type of tourism faced a decline. The number of villages
was reduced to 41 and houses to 154 with 699 beds in total. In 2003 the tourism improved somewhat and resulted in 412 lodgings allocated in 55 villages offering 1,694 beds. The categories of the accommodations available are bed & breakfast, full board and self-catering houses (Rural Tourism International, n.d).
Today, the government is in charge of the lodgings regulations in terms of rural tourism. The specific division that is involved is named “the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Services in the Government of Serbia”. A rating system with four levels has been set for the accommodations. Furthermore, a large quantity of activities is proposed for the rural tourists. According to Rural Tourism International (n.d) some of them are “walking, sport activities, excursions to the nearby caves, springs and waterfalls, hunting and fishing, horseback riding, mountaineering, picking forest products and medical herbs and many other recreational and entertaining activities”. Visitors also have the possibility to experience the farmer’s life in the area by staying with them over the day and participating in their daily routines. It is significant to mention that the strongest type of rural tourism in Serbia’s less wealthy regions is farm tourism.
Regarding the progress and improvement of this kind of tourism there are three elements play the major roles. Firstly, the amount of profit that a household makes from the farming. Secondly, the availability of tourism supplies and thirdly, having access to outgoing tourism areas. Unfortunately there are currently to additional support available for farmers. Nevertheless, this situation is projected to change soon. As already mentioned above, the feeder market of this type of tourism is predominantly covered with domestic travellers. Yet there is a very small fraction of international tourism that come from the republics of former SFRY (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia) (Rural Tourism International, n.d).
Since the destination consists of different type of regions, it is estimated to have great capability to respond to numerous demands that sustainable tourists might require. A wide range of programs can be provided to tourists while considering the sustainable and ecofriendly issues. Regarding the tourism programs and plans, carefully outlining the key destination is important. Thereafter all crucial techniques and actions must be implemented for preventing any destruction of the nature as well as the society. While promoting the destination for eco-tourism and sustainability, it is critical to not forget that all potential tourists must be informed about the regulation concerning the subject. As the tourists are being informed beforehand it is more likely that they respect and follow the rules and requests.
Currently, Serbia is attempting to create and develop many strategies for its sustainable tourism. One main objective is to preserve the cultural and traditional heritage of the country. Another aim is to inform and teach tourists about the environment and their responsibility towards it and enrich their knowledge about ecological issues in the destination. The infrastructure and superstructure are also determined to be in need of progress and renovation. Moreover, sustainability must be considered at all times when looking at the financial benefits that tourism brings along to the destination. In other words, generating money should not be the only goal. All sectors that are involved with tourism and its activities should cooperate together through correct communication and planning (United Nations, 2002).
Accommodation throughout Serbia has changed for the better during the past few years. The quality and the level of standards that are offered to different types of clients which are using this facilities for business, medical or leisure purposes has improved greatly. Furthermore during the years there is a considerable amount of private sectors for tourist accommodation that has been developed for a soul purpose of personalized service and increasing the general experience of stay (“SIEPA”, n.d.). At the end of the year of 2004 the number of registered beds in Serbia totaled to 85,867 beds which were distributed throughout 695 business facilities that had 36,163 rooms. The total number of beds during the past decade has reduced by 5.5 thousands compering to the year of 1995 in which most of them were built and that is because of constant growth of the private sector (“Statistical Office of Serbia”, 2010).
The greatest number of hotels in Serbia have the ranking 2 stars and 3 stars hotels, even thou Serbia is missing in significant number of 5 star hotels and that the only representatives of such kind are the Hyatt Regency, Intercontinental and Best Western, there is evidence that the majority of tourists coming to Belgrade where these hotels are situated, have only interest in inexpensive hotels such as hostels (“SIEPA”, n.d.).
Good infrastructure has an important role in tourism development. Serbia, with its geographical position which placed her in the heart of Europe, can be reached by any choice of transport desired, air, water or land (“SIEPA”, n.d.). Serbia is reachable by air from one of the two airports available. One is situated 20 km from the city of Belgrade and it is called Nikola Tesla Airport which provides service to 17 airline companies. The other airport is Nis International Airport. From both airports flights towards almost any destinations on the world are possible (“Modern infrastructure,” n.d., “SIEPA”, n.d.). Serbia’s road infrastructure has also significantly improved. Any kind of shipment will reach even the most remote location in Europe with 72 hours upon departure.
In addition Serbia’s road network equals to 40,845 km, with 5,525 km of state roads of the 1st category, 11,540 km of state roads of the 2nd category, and 23,780 km of local roads. The government has also stated out a plan for even further improvement of the roads in which they state that by the end of 2012 they plan to build six major highways (“Modern infrastructure,” n.d.). Railway network in Serbia equals to 3,809 km, the main lines are designed for maximum weights up to 1200t with the maximum speed reaching 120 km/h with the exception on the relation Belgrade – Bar which is from 80 – 100 km/h (“Modern infrastructure,” n.d.).
Water transport has great potential, because it is very cheap and can be conducted on the three rivers which equal to 959 km. The biggest international river going through the country is Danube which is 588 km long as extremely reliable and can be used all year long. It also has 12 ports situated in cities of Belgrade, Apatin, Backa Palanka, Kovin, Bogojevo, Pancevo, Novi Sad, Prahovo, Sabac, Sremska Mitrovica, Smederevo and Senta which makes the transport throughout the country even easier (“Modern infrastructure,” n.d.).
Safety and security
Demonstrations in Serbia are frequent, even thou they may start peacefully it is very easy for them to become violent. During demonstrations there is a large presence of police. Tourists visiting Serbia during that time should keep away from demonstrations (“Serbia country specific information”, n.d.). Sport games can also turn violent, there has been recorded evidence in such occasions where soccer hooligans and small criminals have attacked tourist especially from the Western countries. What is recommended is that, if you visit such sport event, be careful (“Serbia country specific information”, n.d.). Another useful information regarding tourist travelling close to the Kosovo border is that they should enroll with the U.S. Embassy which will provide them with security escorts and further information (“Serbia country specific information”, n.d.).
Major events and attractions
In Serbia throughout the year there are a lot of events and festivals organized to attract tourist from all over the world and give a content to the residents of the country. Some of the major events that are organized year after year are EXIT festival which is organized on the
Petrovaradin’s Fortress in the city of Novi Sad and it is held every year from 7 – 10 of July. It is a music festival and it features performers that come from all over the world (“„EXIT“ music festival”, 2011). Another big event is Guca Festival which represents a gathering of music artist that compete against each other in the art of playing trumpet. This festival also represents the authenticity of the Serbian people and it is held every year form 8 – 14 of August (“Guca music festival”, 2011). Belgrade Beer Fest is one of the biggest music festival held in the whole Europe. During this 5 day period near to 1,000,000 people come to experience different types of foreign and domestic beers and enjoy the music which is performed by a variety of artists. It is organized every year from 17 -21 of August (“Belgrade beer fest”, 2011).
Some of the most famous attractions that one should see when visiting Serbia are The Devil’s Town which a worldwide phenomenon consisted of stones that were shaped through time into very strange forms that leave scientist puzzled even to this day. The location of this place is 89 km south-west from Nis or 27 km south-east from Kursumlija (“Devil’s town”, n.d.). Serbia is also very rich in natural parks; some of them such as Djerdap is one the oldest geological places in all of Europe with an enormous amount historical monument dating from the Romans. Other are National park of Kopaonik, National park of Fruska Gora and many others which are a worthy sight to see (“National parks of Serbia”, n.d.).
There is strong evidence that the government of Serbia has recognized their potential in tourism development towards rural tourism. As discussed above it is clear that the same government is using all accessible resources to further promote and develop rural tourism in
forms of reconstruction and modernization as well as building a better infrastructure for the areas of the destination, as an only option in restoring the countries tourism to the previous state. Even thou the process of development have been significantly slowed down by the economic crisis there is evidence that the country is slowly recovering and will continue with its former plans.
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