By Maja Tuljković -Sarajevo
A two-day training took place, which ended yesterday, in a health spa and hotel in Sarajevo called ‘planning the development of new products and marketing offers to health spa tourism for cross-border areas of Serbia-B&H in accordance with EU experiences’.
This training, organized by the Local Democracy Foundation and the Sarjaevo Regional Development Agency (SERDA) was part of a larger project that involves cross-border cooperation between Serbia and B&H in the development of health tourism.
It is aimed at the overall development of health tourism in the Western Balkans and gathered participants from B&H and Serbia. Participation was higher than expected. 24 participants were expected to attend the training, and there were 36 in total. 18 participants arrived from Serbia, which included representatives of tour operators, NGO’s, and people involved in the marketing of spas and wellness centers.
While health tourism has great potential for growth in the Western Balkans, one of the key problems in its promotion in international markets is the lack of tourism infrastructure in these areas, poor marketing and management strategies, as well as lack of connectivity between regional tourism operators. Thus, these deficiencies put a severe strain on the ability of tourism operators in the region to collaborate together in order to provide a wider range of services in health tourism.
‘’The aim of this project is to strengthen regional cooperation and sustainable economic development of the cross-border regions of B&H and Serbia through establishing joint integrated tourism offers in health tourism. The realization of this project through the development and placement of new joint products in health tourism would improve the offer in the cross-border areas by expanding the range of tourism products that promote a healthy lifestyle and responsibility for health’’, said Amra Hadžić, Project Manager of the Local Democracy Foundation.
Thus, health tourism is a good chance for the development of tourism in the regions of Western Serbia, Podrinja and the Sarajevo region. However, the natural beauty and accommodation capacity are not enough for a serious development of tourism, and especially not health tourism.
With a marketing plan, a specific market will be defined, which would expect clients from the Arab market all the way to countries in Western Europe. However, it is important to enable local investors a chance to develop, to allow for contacts and meetings, and through a joint approach and with the help of donors to create new jobs. This would be development of businesses at the micro level, such as hostels and other facilities in the health tourism sector.
The Sarajevo region, which numbers around 700.000 inhabitants, has potential, but are not currently being used to its capability. The problem has to be solved by including the relevant ministries, as well as joint cooperation of all countries in the former Yugoslavia.
This project includes three thermal spas in B&H (Reumal Fojnica, Aquaterm Olovo i Terme Ilidža) and three mountain spas in Serbia (Čigota on Zlatibor, Zlatar and Pribojska spa).
The vision of the EU, since it is involved in this project, is to connect people in cross-border areas, and with the subsequent development of the health sector, to increase the number of tourists from the region and to open the region to the world. The project will last until August 2014.