Opportunities in recovery
During the recession tourism was one of the least affected areas of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian economy. With the exception of 2008, arrivals grew throughout the review period. The negative effects of the recession are more clearly visible when observing trends in value terms; specifically the balance of payments. Most importantly, the years of economic downturn were not wasted. Investments in Bosnian and Herzegovinian tourism infrastructure continued pouring in, providing a basis for solid growth once the recession passes. The origin of invested capital was quite versatile: private, state, foreign and mixed. This indicates that investors of different sizes and types see potential in developing tourism infrastructure in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
National tourism strategy
There is no single national tourism strategy in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a very complex and sensitive internal structure. It consists of two highly independent entities, namely the 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 of government. There is no single authority for tourism on a national 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. International authorities and NGOs are increasingly pushing for the greater cooperation and coordination of activities on tourism development projects, as are private investors, which see no point in financing such a complex and inefficient structure.
On 15 December 2010, Bosnia-Herzegovina was placed on the “white” Schengen list, meaning that owners of Bosnian and Herzegovinian passports are able to travel to Schengen countries without visas. 2011 is seeing the first effects of this measure in the form of a strong shift to growth for outbound travel. The EU is right next door and Bosnian and Herzegovinian citizens can now visit without going through the painstaking process of getting a visa approved. This is also likely to have a positive effect on inbound tourism flows, since it improves the image of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the eyes of EU citizens, especially in terms of safety issues, which may have previously deterred them from visiting the country.
A particularly popular niche which appeared and developed strongly in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the review period is ethno-tourism. A number of “ethno-villages” have been built, attracting visitors, offering a first-hand experience of the traditional lifestyles of locals’ ancestors. Their offering includes a mix of architecture, cuisine, culture and religion. The bulk of ethno-tourists are domestic or regional visitors, usually day trippers. Ethno-tourism is affordable and is thus a best fit for the large share of the regional and domestic population that is relatively poor.
Tourists visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as domestic tourists, are increasingly interested in active holidays. A peaceful vacation or a good rest is not something people look for when they visit Bosnia-Herzegovina. Skiing, hiking, mountaineering, rafting and biking are popular activities in the country. Mixing these with culture and history has become a modus operandi for most travel agents selling Bosnia-Herzegovina as a destination. The domestic travel and tourism industry is adapting rapidly, looking to package more activities, while the average stay continues to shorten.
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The Travel and Tourism in Bosnia-Herzegovina market research report includes:
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