Serbia’s tourism sector has recovered in 2021

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From the sector point of view, it is quite certain that the tourism sector has suffered the most since the beginning of the corona virus pandemic. Tourism entered 2021 with a drop of 60 percent, and the recovery during the last year was conditioned by various factors.
Thus, at the beginning of the year, it was uncertain whether Serbian tourists would be able to travel to Greece, a country that is one of our favorite summer tourist destinations, and much depended on European Union regulations. In the end, it all came down to a mandatory PCR test.
In the same period, tourist workers found themselves in an unenviable position on the domestic field, so out of 4,150 of them, as many as were registered to work in agencies, about 1,800 applied to the labor office. January did not pamper the airlines either, so 70 percent fewer passengers were recorded at the Belgrade airport.
In the following months, the opening of borders for vaccinated passengers slightly “recovered” the tourism sector. However, as the director of the National Association of Tourist Agencies of Serbia (YUTA), Aleksandar Senicic, states for Biznis.rs, that is not even close to the levels from previous years.
As our interlocutor points out, the part of hoteliers and caterers who sell services or products did not feel the crisis to that extent because, above all, a large number of vouchers were printed.
“We had subsidies from the state for our stay in Serbia, and that is one hit as far as state bodies are concerned. These vouchers have contributed to a greater stay of people in Serbia,” says Aleksandar Seničić.
According to him, the return of foreign tourists to Serbia was recorded, especially from the surrounding countries, but also from Turkey, Israel, Russia. As he says, the number of foreign visitors increased compared to 2020, when they were almost non-existent.
“When we talk about the rest of the tourism industry and, say, travel agencies, carriers, airlines or bus carriers, the season was better than 2020, but it is still below any level that can be compared to 2019. So, when we talk about travel agencies, the turnover they have achieved this year is a maximum of 40 to 50 percent compared to what was done in 2019. By that, I mean most of the large agencies,” says Seničić, adding that smaller agencies have not reached 30 percent of revenue which they had in 2019.
As he further states, if we take into account that the revenues in 2020 were from five to seven percent compared to 2019, it is clear that the crisis is still going on and that it will be very difficult to survive all that, considering that travel agencies , unlike carriers and hoteliers, did not receive any kind of grant.
“The good news for the agencies, which may not be so good for passengers, is that we have managed to extend the deadline for refunds for those arrangements that were not realized last year and that the deadline has now been moved to the end of 2022, or the beginning 2023,” says the director of YUTA.
Senicic explains that the agencies are not able to return the money at this moment because significant amounts of money have been seized abroad, and notes that the recommendation to passengers is to use replacement travel during 2022.
As he says, a lot was expected from the holiday season and holidays. However, now a large number of airlines are being canceled, and restrictive measures are being introduced in all European countries and cities.
“From a situation that was not so tragic – we had about 20-30 percent of the expected turnover compared to 2019 in the same period – we came to the fact that the maximum is 10-12 percent of what agencies are expected to do in this period,” states Senicic and adds that there is great uncertainty whether in the end that percentage will be exactly the one expected.
Although on the one hand, the situation in tourism does not seem optimistic at all, on the other hand, hoteliers these days report that capacities on mountains like Zlatibor and Kopaonik are already 80 to 90 percent full, and many tourists are happy that some of the neighboring countries, like Hungary, can enter without a certificate, Biznis reports.