Free publicity helps to promote Bosnia-Herzegovina's tourism more than paid ads
During the review period, travel and tourism was among the best performing sectors of economy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Recession affected the performance of domestic tourism flows, but inbound travel continued to pick up pace throughout the review period. Internally, during the last several years of the review period, an effort was made to invest in the promotion of Bosnia-Herzegovina tourism, with advertisements airing globally on channels like CNN. However, independent internet-based travel specialists, such as tripadvisor.com and lonelyplanet.com did more by enabling travellers to share their experiences, thus placing Bosnia-Herzegovina on the world travel map, as an interesting destination for travellers intrigued by a mix of adventure and culture, eastern and western influences, and traditional and modern lifestyles.
Transportation infrastructure holds back the industry from achieving full potential
The performance of travel and tourism in Bosnia-Herzegovina during 2013 was better than the average in terms of growth recorded during the review period. The strong performance was driven by growth of international arrivals to destinations like Sarajevo, Mostar and Medjugorje. Positive word-of-mouth is the main reason for soaring growth of these destinations. Still, poor transportation infrastructure seemed to hold back Bosnia-Herzegovina from realising its full potential. Capital projects in improving highway infrastructure in Bosnia-Herzegovina are underway, but the general impression is that it is taking too long and causing considerable loss in number of potential visitors.
Ineffective support system for tourism
There is no single national tourism strategy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The country has a very complex and sensitive internal structure. It consists of two highly independent entities (Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (FBIH) and Republika Srpska (RS)) and one district city (Brcko). FBiH consists of 10 cantons which are further broken down into municipalities, while RS consists of municipalities only, with no middle level government. There is no single authority for tourism on a state level. Both FBiH and RS have their own respective authorities. Hence, FBiH and RS have their own independent tourism development strategies. This is far from an optimal solution and a major hurdle in organising state support to tourism in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
As of December 15 2010, Bosnia-Herzegovina was placed on “The white Schengen list”, meaning that Bosnia-Herzegovina citizens with biometric passports are able to travel to Schengen countries without visas. This has had a positive effect on outbound tourism in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but a weak economy discouraged many Bosnia-Herzegovina citizens from travelling during the second half of the review period. Suspension of the visa regime for Bosnia-Herzegovina citizens was one of the largest concessions the EU made to Bosnia-Herzegovina in supporting its reforms on the way to EU membership. However, key political subjects in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been unable to reach an agreement on several key areas of interest for EU, such as minority rights, thus causing the EU to suspend Bosnia-Herzegovina from having access to developmental funds aimed at supporting reforms and preparing its economy for EU membership. Bosnia-Herzegovina is thus losing considerable funds which could help alleviate bottlenecks holding its tourism back from realising its full potential.
More growth to come
Considering positive trends started during the review period it is likely that Bosnia-Herzegovina will rank among the fastest growing travel destinations in Europe over the forecast period. These trends include: free publicity on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and other respected sources of travel reviews, growing popularity among backpackers and a booming hostel segment in Bosnia-Herzegovina, improvements in transportation infrastructure, cross-border cooperation with subjects from well-developed tourist destinations such as the Croatian coast, Montenegrin coast, Tara River, Mokra Gora, and Plitvice lakes.
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