By Jelena Jovanovic
Belgrade, Jan. O9 2010 (Serbia Today) - 2009 was a very successful year for tourism in Belgrade despite the global economic crisis, said Dejan Veselinov of the Tourist Organization of Belgrade (TOB) in an interview with Serbia Today. More people visited Belgrade than in 2008; new sightseeing programs were added or expanded; Belgrade tourism was attractively promoted; and plans were made for emphasizing the Danube in 2010.
The number of foreign visitors in Belgrade in the first 10 months of 2009 increased over the same period in 2008 by 6% to 300,000; the number of tourist days in Belgrade increased by 16 % to 700,000. Most of the tourists were from former Yugoslav Republics, and then from Italy, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, France and Great Britain. The most visited event last year was the Belgrade Beer Fest, followed by the Belgrade Boat Carnival. Extended celebration of the New Year holidays always draws tens of thousands of uncounted visiting friends and relatives.
Veselinov, head of the Public Relations Department of TOB, discussed a number of completely new programs. Especially popular was ‘Coffee with Princess Ljubica,` reenacting family and social life at Konak Knjeginje Ljubice. The one hour tour, presented on Fridays and Saturdays for 30 people at a time, is hosted by the curator of Belgrade City Museum, dressed as a woman during the reign of Princess Ljubica. The “Brandy Tour,” created in the cooperation with the Rakija Bar chain, tells all about brandy: its origination in Serbia, how it is made, the different varieties of brandy, and the customs associated with drinking brandy.
In 2009 TOB encouraged new or better ways for the tourist to travel about Belgrade. “Lasta” introduced sightseeing buses with an open roof, hop on- hop off feature. “PS Tours” provided 70 minute tours in double deck open roof buses, and Belgrade Transport Company offered sightseeing by tram. Walking tours in downtown Belgrade and the Belgrade Fortress, in old Zemun, in Skadarlija and visits to the Royal Palace complex in Dedinje were introduced or expanded.
TOB planned activities for 2009 with residents of Belgrade in mind as well as tourists. Various programs were offered under the slogan ’Because I Love Belgrade’ so Belgraders would learn more about their native town and thus be better able to present it to visitors.
The Danube River is a major gateway to Belgrade for tourists from Germany, the USA, Scandinavia, and France, with 50,000 arriving by boat in 2009. Nautical tourism is a great opportunity for the tourist industry in all of Serbia, and developing this potential will be a priority for TOB in 2010. Working with partners associated with the Danube, primarily the Port of Belgrade, TOB will help to organize and promote programs relating to Belgrade’s rivers, such as environmental programs, nautical regatta, and bicycle trails.
BOT continued to work cooperatively with USAID last year. An attractive article about Belgrade was placed in the magazine Ulysses distributed on Air Italia flights. Belgrade was specially promoted at the Barcelona Tourism Fair last year to foreign travel organizers and journalists. USAID specialists in the promotion of tourism shared their knowledge and contacts with their counterparts at BOT, and will do so again in 2010.
At the end of the interview Veselinov said the Tourist Organization of Belgrade had realized everything planned for 2009, and was quite satisfied. In 2010 TOB will promote new sightseeing tours, conventions, and international events; will open new tourist information centers; will develop new nautical and environmental tourism opportunities; and will generally improve the tourist infrastructure.