Minister Pozder: Tourism is our economic opportunity and we must seize it

Last year, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina achieved record tourism results, the number of arrivals compared to the previous year was higher by 22.67 percent, and the number of overnight stays by 17.74 percent. The record 2019 was also surpassed, and the growth continued this year as well.

Nasiha Pozder, the federal minister of environment and tourism, said in an interview with Fena that we can be satisfied with the 2023 tourist season, assessing that tourism is our economic opportunity that we must seize.

“If we compare last year with 2022, the number of tourist arrivals is higher by 22.67 percent, and the number of overnight stays by 17.74 percent. We also managed to reach the season that was before the corona, 2019, and the arrival of tourists in 2023 is higher by 1.24 percent, and the number of overnight stays by 5.68 percent, compared to that season. These are encouraging numbers, but we want much more ,” said the minister.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Statistics, the total number of tourists in FBiH in 2023 was 3,757,151, with 1,242,212 arrivals and 2,514,939 overnight stays. 

Record revenues

Regarding the realized income from tourism, the minister says that, unfortunately, the Federal Bureau of Statistics does not have such data, but considering the indicators of an increase in the number of tourists in 2023 compared to the previous and pre-pandemic years, the realized income from tourism are certainly bigger.

Therefore, he believes that the establishment of a system that will have all the indicators related to tourism is very important, because it would be possible to monitor, in the best way, everything that is being done well and what is not, what are the trends and what kind of programs and projects should be planned.

“I believe that we will have better and better results and higher incomes, but also better and better system support for tourism as one of the fastest growing branches of our economy ,” emphasizes Pozder.

The growth trend continued this year as well

When it comes to expectations for this year, he notes that even in the first two months of this year, we are seeing an increase in the number of tourists.

“In January, we had over 63,000 tourists, which is 2.1 percent more than the previous year. For February 2024, the figures are even better – as many as 9.3 percent more tourists than last year, and 1.7 percent more overnight stays for the same month. Those numbers show that the trend of increasing the number of tourists will continue this year,”  says the minister. 

In her opinion, the challenges are numerous, but the trends are in our favor, as well as the opportunities that are triggered by the opening of negotiations with the EU.

“Tourist workers believe that one of the important challenges is how to keep tourists for a stay longer than two days. The challenge is infrastructure – but we expect big improvements there, given that the Canton of Sarajevo secured new airlines through subsidies, as well as the support provided by the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for all three of our airports. The establishment of flights with new destinations will, no doubt, increase the number of passengers, which will strengthen the tourism sector. As a minister, I lobbied and worked to make this story happen, and I am sure that not only the citizens and tourism workers in Sarajevo will benefit from this, but everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina”,  says Pozder.

The challenge, he adds, is to offer a “complete package” for tourists at destinations. Likewise, he is of the opinion that much better results can be achieved with better promotion and branding, which will be worked on more significantly in 2024.

The lack of labor has particularly affected tourism, which the federal minister discussed with representatives of hoteliers a few days ago.

“The labor shortage is evident in all branches of the economy, including tourism. Trained workforce is one of the challenges, in addition to the ones I mentioned earlier, about which I spoke with the representatives of hoteliers these days, and we will have to find better solutions there as well. Of course, it is a multi-sector challenge, but I believe that together we can find acceptable and sustainable solutions”,  she says.

Green tourism, innovation and branding  

Speaking about plans and future projects, she said that they are currently working on broad consultations with people from institutions, from businesses that deal with tourism, from the NGO sector, with people who know the needs on the ground and live tourism, as well as with international partners who recognize trends. , and in order to better prepare the programs and the public invitation of the Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

“We especially have in mind ‘green tourism’, the branding of our tourism and sustainable solutions that are also good for our environment. We want to bring innovations and, in accordance with the Tourism Development Strategy of the Federation of BiH 2022 – 2027, which was adopted in October last year, fulfill the priorities and measures that have been foreseen. We will certainly carry out activities on the development of tourist products, destination marketing, human resources, as well as on the improvement of the stimulating environment for the development of sustainable tourism”,  asserted the federal minister.

 In addition to all of the above, investments in tourism are also increasing. The budget for tourism has been increased compared to previous years, so that in 2024, the Budget of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina allocated 4 million KM for the development of tourism, which is twice the amount compared to last year.  

“This is still far from sufficient funds and needs that are on the ground, but we believe that with the good implementation of programs and projects in 2024, we will secure a position where the budget increases year after year. When we add the opportunities that will open up to us from EU funds and the Growth Plan, which foresees significant funds for the Western Balkans, we will have an opportunity that must be seized”,  Pozder assesses.

When we manage to manage tourism in a modern way, the limits of our success will be incomparable with the existing ones, the federal minister of environment and tourism said at the end.

Last year, according to the available data, Sarajevo Canton and Ilidža Municipality achieved the highest number of tourist arrivals and overnight stays in the FBiH area, which almost tripled tourist numbers compared to 2021.

At the same time, the lowest number of arrivals was recorded by the Bosnian-Podrinjska Canton and the Municipality of Busovača.

The World Travel and Tourism Council forecasts that the tourism industry could exceed records in 2024 and contribute more than 11 trillion US dollars to the global GDP, assessing that tourism in the world is now prospering after the pandemic, and it is expected that 142 out of 185 analyzed countries to surpass previous national records.