The Bulgarian Black Sea Coast covers the entire eastern border of Bulgaria stretching from Romania in the north to Turkey in the south, along 378 km of coastline. The beaches occupy approximately 130 km of the 378 km long coast. The region is an important center of tourism during the summer season (May-October), drawing millions of foreign and local tourists alike and constituting one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations
Situated next to one of Bulgaria’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites- the city of Nessebar, Sunny Beach is the fastest developing Bulgarian resort. In 2018, the resort welcomed more than 5 million tourists. It is situated between the two largest cities and main seaports on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast – Burgas and Varna. The two cities’ international airports, Burgas Airport and Varna Airport, are the main hubs servicing the resort and the region.
Burgas Airport serves the Southeast of Bulgaria, situated between the city center of Burgas and Sunny Beach Resort. The airport services 75 airlines and provides links to 141 destinations. In 2018, Burgas Airport broke a record as it welcomed 3 million passengers, registering an increase of 10% compared to 2017.
Varna is one of the biggest tourist destinations, a starting point for all resorts in the northern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, an important business centre, and headquarters of the Bulgarian Navy and merchant marine. Varna Airport serves more than 63 airlines and flights to more than 102 destinations and in 2018 welcomed more than 2 million passengers.
Helena Resort, The biggest five-star complex
Helena Resort Hotel complex is situated on a vast area of 55 000 m², artistically situated in the northern green part of Sunny Beach and the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
The complex provides excellent conditions for family holiday and business tourism. An appealing choice during the summer for adventure with friends, business, corporate events or wedding celebrations. On the territory of Helena Resort our guests will enjoy their connection with nature in a relaxing setting of chic and comfort.
The elegant luxury is elevated to a higher level, marked by the freedom of spirit – works and objects of art embedded unobtrusively in the gorgeous architecture and predisposing atmosphere. We have created an art space that brings mood in the spirit of art and past epochs. More than 1,200 paintings and sculptures of famous Bulgarian artists, sights of unique architecture, forming the authentic style of the whole complex, are located on the territory of Helena Resort.
The inaugural Investing in Tourism Sustainability Conference (ITSC) www.investingintourism.com – held from 30 May to 1 June at Bulgaria’s leading Sunny Beach Helena Resort focusing on new investment opportunities in the Country and neighbouring Southeast Europe destinations was jointly organized by the Ministry of Tourism of Bulgaria and London-based ITIC and Invest Tourism.
The Conference hosted by the Minister of Tourism H.E. Nikolina Angelikova under the Advisory Board Co-chairmanship of Dr Taleb Rifai, Former Secretary-General of the UNWTO and members of the conference organizing committee comprising of Mr. Gerald Lawless (Board Member of Dubai Expo2020,Temes Group, Greece and former President and CEO Jumeirah Group), Mr. Ibrahim Ayoub, Group CEO of Daiichi Display Ltd, ITIC Ltd & Invest Tourism Ltd, Skal President London Paul Hoskins and Mr. Phillip Cash, Director of Daiichi Display Ltd was hailed a great success bringing together thought-leaders, keynote speakers and 270 delegates from Bulgaria and Southeast Europe’s tourism and hospitality sectors, international investment institutions, hotels, airlines, project owners and environmental sustainability advisors.
Moderated by BBC broadcaster and journalist Rajan Datar, the ITSC included presentations and panel discussions with the tourism ministers from Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, alongside tourism, aviation, cruise and hospitality experts from the United Kingdom, Europe, China, Canada and the USA.
In addition to key investment opportunities the Conference featured project case studies and insights into global tourism trends, environmental impacts, human resources, education, training and manpower development. Preparing Bulgaria and the Southeast European region for the next phase of visitor expansion.
In her welcoming remarks Bulgaria Minister of Tourism H.E. Nikolina Angelkova stated that “Tourism to the Southeast Europe has grown rapidly in the last five years with over 120 million tourists in 2018 with total tourism receipts of USD 118.8 billion, accounting for around 11.7% of total GDP for the Southeast European countries.
Bulgaria alone attracted over 9.2 million tourists with 2018 total tourism receipts at US$7.6. Moreover, the enormous development potential remaining untapped within Southeast Europe presents great opportunities for new investment with travel and tourism, acting as the prime engine of future economic growth. Also, as a model of development that can promote self-employment among local communities throughout Bulgaria and the Southeast European destinations.”
Other presentations featured HRH Princess Dana Firas, President of the Board of Directors of Jordan’s Petra National Trust and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Dr. Taleb Rifai, Former Secretary-General of UNWTO, Ms. Susanna Saari former Skal International World President, Mr. Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of the Port of London Authority, Mr. James Hogan of Knighthood Capital, Mr. Gerald Lawless WTTC Ambassador and former President/CEO of Dubai’s Jumeirah Group.
Skal Sofia, Bulgaria members were present during Conference plenary, breakout and business-to-business sessions at which delegates learnt many new insights into the value of branding and focused marketing promoted through a good balance of traditional media editorial coverage, social media exposure and advertising.
Delegates and tourism officials alike were encouraged by breakout session speakers to look to the long term with clearly defined goals where a destinations identity, image and perception are involved. While taking into account cultural and heritage considerations and the impacts on people – both national residents and visiting tourists.
Communications, transport connections and the easing of entry regulations in the Region were discussed with officials urged to look to the wider opportunities where travellers, particularly from source markets such as China and North America, are more likely to book multi-destination Southeast Europe trips where, for example, visitor arrivals into one country will then go on to travel through two, three and more countries in the region before departing for home.
Greater regional and marketing co-ordination and cooperation amongst Southeast European countries was one of the major take-aways brought to light by each of the breakout sessions. It also included a well-attended session on the need for human resource education and training programmes headed up by Sk. Susanna Saari.in her capacity of Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Engineering and Business, Turku University of Applied Sciences (TUAS) – Finland.
B2B – Business-to-Business – speed networking on the last day of the Conference lead to numerous project development and investment opportunities being brought together with valuable connections being forged between delegates seeking investment partners and investors looking for new projects.
Throughout the Conference delegates were well entertained and which included a spectacular gala evening and dinner hosted by H.E Minister Angelikova, featuring special cultural performances from Bulgaria’s national dancers, musicians and singers.
The second ITSC – Investing in Tourism Sustainability Conference – is scheduled for May 2020.
Fortunately for the tourism industry, the human impulse to explore and discover is as strong as ever. In 2018, the global travel and tourism industry grew 3.9% to contribute a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy that year. At the same time, the impacts of mass tourism on environments and local economies are complex, and sustainability has become a key concern for industry stakeholders as well as travellers. Imagining the future of global tourism leads us to ask: how can this booming industry remain sustainable?
Today, globally, the tourism trade equals or even surpasses that of traditional industries including oil exports, food products and automobiles, remaining the main income sources for many developing countries. The rate of expansion, and the pressures of finite resources and environments, makes sustainability a critical area of research and development for the industry.
In May, the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism hosted their first Investing in Tourism Sustainability Conference. With a flourishing tourism industry, Bulgaria is an appropriate setting for dialogue about sustainability efforts – since 2015, the country has seen a 31% increase in foreign tourist visits and a 34% increase in revenue from international tourism.
At this year’s conference hosted in Sunny Beach, international experts and thought-leaders came together to discuss the challenges being faced by destinations and companies in light of these growing figures, and discussed their visions for sustainable tourism models. Delegates spanning several relevant industries — including tour operators, airlines, hotel companies and policy-makers — reflected on efforts to nurture sustainability in tourism and travel. These were some of the key takeaways form this year’s conference:
The emergence of the ‘Mindful Traveller’
Increasingly tourists are aware of issues surrounding environmental sustainability; the carbon emissions of their travel, over-tourism of destinations and the use of single life plastics. No longer is worrying about these issues is the sole responsibility of the eco-warrior.
“We are now seeing the emergence of the ‘Mindful Traveller,” explains Susanna Saari, Senior Lecturer, Turku University of Applied Sciences. When planning their next trip away, forward thinking travellers now search for destinations which mirror their beliefs and values.
The pressure is now on the tourism industry to consider their practices, so they don’t lose the business of this emerging group. Rania Al-Mashat, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism, stresses the importance of considering the long-term environmental impacts of international travel, stating “It’s very important to not only think about the current generations benefitting, but also making sure than natural endowments stay over time.”
It’s not solely the responsibility of the traveller to worry about sustainability
Despite there being a clear emergence of the sustainably-driven ‘Mindful Traveller’, Saari argues that it not solely their responsibility to worry about the sustainability of their trip. “Tourists should have the freedom to travel, knowing that the industry is taking action to become more sustainable,” she argues.
Tour operators, hotels and destinations should also consider the burden of sustainability, so tourists can travel with confidence. To earn the trust of today’s travellers, tourism stakeholders need to prove their commitment to environmental and social issues, allowing people to travel with the assurance that their concerns about sustainability are reflected in their economic activity.
Tourists want to live like a local
Another key trend emerging is tourists’ desire to truly immerse themselves in the culture of their travel destination. The past 15 years have seen a decline in package holidays. With the rise in budget airlines and ease of booking accommodation online, tourists have more control to book outside of holidays offered by operators and venture off the ‘beaten path’. Increasingly, travellers want to be fully immersed in local culture.
In recent years there has been a rise of online accommodation booking platforms rooted in the concept of living within the local community. The growth of work-away retreats where people take up positions on farms and villas are a good example of how people are changing their travel habits. This is great news for rural locations, where tourism is not a traditional source of income. Encouraging travellers to these locations can mean a boost in economy in these rural areas.
However, this doesn’t mean that larger hotels should shy away from their responsibility of building relations between travellers and locals. Gerald Lawless, former President of the Jumeriah Group explained how this hotels group offers experiences designed to immerse themselves in local culture. “Our guests are offered the chance to visit local mosques, where they’re given a talk on the similarities between the Muslim faith and their own (often Christianity)”. The parallels are explored, and guests pushed to realise the similarities between their way of life and their hosts.
Sustainable tourism should support local economies
As booking travel and accommodation is becoming easier for the everyday traveller, the infrastructure helping to support this should also be involved in helping sustain and protect local economies.
“One option is that cruise liners give each guest a voucher to use in a local business when they call into port there, encouraging travellers to spend money on shore and in local businesses,” said Mr Rodrigues of The British Council.
“Tourism is a long-term gain. It has to be something that gives back to the country and allows the country to benefit and grow.” Supporting economies locally may be key to helping infrastructure in areas that are impacted by large tourist numbers to develop and strengthen, in turn providing better services for those visiting.
Countries find the need to be more accessible
Tourists today often want to visit more than one country on their trip. Accessibility between places is key to capturing these travellers. This poses a huge challenge to governments; how to make the process of travel easy, whilst ensuring regulations are solid enough to maintain security?
In the Black Sea Region, member states are working together to see how improving the visa processes can make travel between their countries easier for tourists. For example, they are hoping to introduce an online smart form to streamline the process.
Bulgaria’s Minister of Tourism Ms. Nikolina Angelkova stresses the importance of leaders across industries working together towards building sustainable models of tourism growth that maintain the national and local benefits:
“Tourism to me is a sector that promotes understanding, it promotes peace. It creates familiarity between people which is something we need very much. Sustainability is key, and this is just the beginning.”
This article was first published as a commercial feature on bbc.com and was created by BBC StoryWorks, Global News’s commercial content division, on behalf of Ministry of Tourism, Bulgaria.
Southeast Europe (SEE) is emerging as the centre of ‘New Europe’ and the countries of SEE are set to become major tourist destinations with Greece and Turkey leading the way over the past decade having visitation of international tourists exceeding 33 million and 39.5 million respectively in 2018. Other countries of SEE – Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Romania and Serbia together welcomed an additional 44 million international tourists in 2018, representing 64 per cent growth in international inbound tourism over the past 5 years.
The combined population of the SEE countries is around 147 million and the total GDP for the region in 2018 was over 1,300 EUR Billion. While the focus of tourism is often about international travel and visitation, data published by SEE countries indicate that domestic tourism is a significant component of each country’s tourism economy. In Romania for instance, 76 per cent of overnight stays are by locals and this needs to be considered in the context of tourism development projects and infrastructure.
The SEE region is located near the long-established trade routes between Asia and Western Europe and has an ethnic diversity that contributes to its unique cultural development. It is where empires met, fought and combined to create this unique culture leaving their own indelible mark on the local architecture, cuisine, languages, music and traditions. In SEE, one finds UNESCO World Heritage sites and archaeological treasures tracing back to the ancient Greeks, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian Empires. Also, medieval Orthodox monasteries, Renaissance Catholic churches, mosques and minarets standing in close proximity and within the same city walls.
The SEE region offers visitors and locals many different experiences from gastronomy, to natural and cultural heritage, traditions, hospitality, historical sites, impressive coastlines and so much more. The aroma of local food from bazaars testifies to the fusion of East and West, while the region’s eclectic music, dance and cultural festivals celebrate this rich heritage. The UNWTO’s Western Silk Road program recognises this important cultural heritage and guides a unified effort to promote it globally.
The indented coastline of SEE extends some 3,500 kilometres along the warm waters of the Adriatic, Ionian, Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas and touches all the SEE countries except Serbia and North Macedonia. Its spectacular sandy and rocky beaches dotted with historic fortifications are now the sought-after destination for over 80 million tourists who stay in a diverse range of accommodation including local and global branded 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts.
Access to the seas brings large numbers of tourist cruise ships and luxury yachts, and provides for limitless water sports. While the Greek Islands are well known around world, Bulgaria’s Sunny Beach, Montenegro’s Sveti Stefan Beach and Croatia’s Zlatni Rat Beach are among many SEE beaches gaining global prominence.
Rising from the coastal areas, the mountain ranges that dominate SEE and provide tourists with year-round pursuits to experience ecotourism, cultural and heritage tourism, trekking and unparalleled air, land and water-based adventure sports. Cooperation between SEE countries has seen mega trails developed such as Via Dinarica that crosses seven countries and provides access to 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 20 National Parks, 240 mountains, 2,000 kilometres of hiking and biking trails and over 2,200 spectacular waterways.
Snow skiing is one of the main winter activities with over 120 established ski resorts across all the SEE countries and 850 kilometres of ski slopes. Bankso and Borovets ski resorts in Bulgaria are the highest (2,560 metres) and considered the best in SEE providing the excitement and challenge that rival the western European ski slopes.
Medical, health and wellbeing tourism is a developing sector founded on the ‘medical spa’ health, relaxation and rehabilitation centres that have been around for over 150 years in SEE countries. New medical and spa facilities, and wellness resorts have been integrated into many hotel complexes and provide modern medical, dental and optical procedures as well as unique traditional treatments and balneotherapy. As the majority of natural mineral water spas are located in regional areas, tourists can combine their treatments with a reinvigorating ecotourism holiday in picturesque settings.
Experiencing new cuisines complemented by local varietal wines is one of the best ways to become immersed in the cultures of the SEE region. More than 400 autochthonous varieties of wine grapes are grown across the countries of SEE and with their own traditional cuisines, fuel potential for greater development of wine and food tourism in the region. In addition to gastronomy tours in every SEE country, much anticipated food and wine festivals are held every year such as the Balkan Wine Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, RO-Wine International Wine Festival in Bucharest, Romania and Rostiljiјаdа, an authentic grilled meat festival held annually in Leskovac, Serbia.
The SEE countries have growing economies and business tourism is a significant market for the region’s tourism industry. New hotels in capital cities and commercial centres have been developed for global hotel brands and more are under construction to meet demand. Conference and exhibition complexes have developed in major business centres and there are plans for these facilities to be developed in many regional cities to decentralise business tourism and its economic benefits. SEE countries are also promoting their destinations to the Meeting, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) market, encouraging a fusion between business and leisure tourism with the intention of enticing delegates back for an extended holiday in Southeast Europe.
While easily accessible from all points abroad, and boasting all the amenities of the Western world, North Macedonia is still one of Europe’s least discovered tourist destinations: a natural paradise of mountains, lakes and rivers, where life moves to a different rhythm, amidst the sprawling grandeur of rich historical ruins and idyllic villages that have remained practically unchanged for centuries.
The majority of the population of 2.09 million is ethnic Macedonian and Orthodox but there is also a significant Albanian Muslim minority. One can expect a wonderful mix of architectural and ethnic heritage. North Macedonia represents the Balkans in the truest sense, consisting of a fascinating mix of Greek, Albanian, Turkish, and Mediterranean influences. The country, covering an area of 25,700 square kilometres is land locked sharing borders with Serbia and Kosovo to the north, Albania to the west, Bulgaria to the east, and Greece to the south.
North Macedonia, a parliamentary republic, is a member of the UN, WTO and the Council of Europe, and has applied for NATO membership. It has also been a candidate for joining the European Union since 2005 and in 2018, the EU Council set out a path towards opening accession negotiations in June 2019. North Macedonia’s capital and largest city, Skopje with a population of 507,000 is located in the country’s north on the Vardar River. It is emerging as a modern city hosting international trade, cultural and sporting events while being endowed with many historic landmarks, archaeological sites and architectural monuments.
North Macedonia’s economy picked up in 2018 following stagnation in 2017, posting GDP growth of 2.7 per cent supported by consumption and net exports. It is now well positioned, according to the world Bank to seize opportunities created by a new outlook ensuing resolution of the country’s official name. The government’s early market-oriented reforms, openness to trade and prudent macroeconomic management have created an environment of economic stability that has attracted private investment and boosted exports to 5.7 billion EUR (2018), particularly manufacturing. North Macedonia’s exports include foodstuffs, textiles, steel and automotive parts.
The economic outlook for North Macedonia is positive and growth is expected to gradually rise to 3.2 per cent in 2020 aided by resolution of the country’s official name and EU accession negotiations. Large infrastructure projects, in particular roads and the lifting of moratoriums on local governments’ ability to issue building permits will further boost investments. Consumption is expected to be a stable source of growth, sustained by increases in employment, wages and household lending. Net exports, especially those related to FDI are expected to contribute positively to growth (World Bank).
Economic Indicators – 2018
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in North Macedonia
Continuing FDI provides an important catalyst for the development of North Macedonia’s economy. In 2018, FDI inflow reached 658.9 million EUR or 5.8 per cent of GDP, from major economies including Germany, Greece, US and UK. North Macedonia’s legal and regulatory framework is favourable to foreign investors and provides for incentives to attract new investments.
Invest North Macedonia is the Government of North Macedonia’s official investment and export promotion agency responsible for attracting foreign investments and supporting the promotion of the country’s exports. It assists investors to avail themselves of the benefits on offer to investors including:
All foreign investors are granted the same rights and privileges as Macedonian nationals. They are entitled to establish and operate all types of self-owned private companies or joint-stock companies;
North Macedonia has introduced a ONE-STOP-SHOP SYSTEM that enables investors to register their businesses after 4 hours of submitting on application (in practice, it might take 1-2 business days);
Recent economic reforms have included a revised corporate income tax rate of 10 per cent and personal income tax rate of 10 to 18 per cent relative to taxable income;
Access to 650 million consumers through trade agreements negotiated by the government;
The government has sign investment protection treaties with 28 countries and agreements for avoidance of double taxation with some 41 countries; and
The Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia guarantees an investor’s right to property. Foreign investors may acquire property rights for buildings and for other immovable assets to be used for their business activities, as well as full ownership rights over construction land through a locally registered company.
Tourism in North Macedonia
Tourism in North Macedonia is in its early stages of development but saw solid year-on-year growth of 12.8 per cent in 2018 taking total visitor arrivals who stayed overnight to 1.13 million. Just over 700,000 or 63 per cent were international visitors staying an average of 2.1nights. The number of Day Trippers have not been published and would significantly increase the total number of visitors. Visitors’ ‘Purpose of travel’ also isn’t published however as only 18 per cent of overnight stays are in the capital and business centre, Skopje, it could be assumed that a large proportion of business and government travel is day trips.
Skopje is a bustling city with a rich Hellenic heritage and a cityscape that is an incongruous mix of architectural styles and gigantic neoclassical statuary. Grandiloquent monuments sit beside monolithic socialist apartment blocks. Old Ottoman and Byzantine edifices recall the country’s pre-communist history while the business hub, happening bars, clubs and the arts scene project its forward-looking aspirations. Global hotel brands are present amongst Skopje’s 4 and 5-star properties including Marriot, Hilton, Holiday Inn and Accor.
The New York Times however wrote, “Macedonia’s best face is outside its cities, where snow-capped mountains, picturesque lakes and villages hidden in steep valleys evoke a lost kingdom.” Around 60 per cent of tourist overnight stays are in the scenic lake district in the south-west of the country. Here, the town of Ohrid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located on the eastern shores of Lake Ohrid, popular with international and domestic tourists for its beaches, heritage and culture, bars and restuarants. Ohrid is one of the many fascinating towns in North Macedonia which has numerous historical monuments including the Samuil’s Fortress, Church of St John, the Monestry of Saint Naum and Lychnidos amphitheatre which is still used for many cultural events. The are also a number of beautiful fishing and mountain villages along the Lake’s coastline such as Trpejca, Pestani and Ljubanista.
Over 70 per cent of North Macedonia is mountainous and the country has listed three National Parks and 33 nature reserves. Mavrovo National Park is the largest protected area with 3 mountain ranges, 80 peaks and 60 canyons within its borders. It’s popular for snow skiing and winter sports, and when the snow melts, it has all that is required for an adventure break with hiking, biking, horse riding, kayaking and white water rafting available. Mavrovo also has much to offer ecotourists. The species statistics are impressive: 1,500 flora; 130 bird and 50 mammal types are found here.
Apart from the rare landscapes and spectacular natural beauty, nature also endowed North Macedonia with natural springs containing important therapeutic properties. The country spreads over vast inexhaustible geothermal underground lakes with some 60 thermal spring tapped for spa complexes. They offer facilities for treatment, rehabilitation, recreation and accommodation with Proevce spa near Kumanovo and Kezovica near Stip being particularly popular.
Snow skiing is also gaining prominence in North Macedonia’s tourism offering with 8 ski resorts providing 48 kilometres of ski slopes and 31 ski lifts. Popova Sapka, the largest resort, reaches an altitude of 2,525 metres and has 20 kilometres of ski slopes.
Tourist Arrivals and Overnight Stays over past 5 Years
[supsystic-tables id=35]SOURCE: STATE STATISTICAL OFFICE OF THE REPUBLIC OF NORTH MACEDONIA
Profile of Accommodation by Tourist Destinations – 2017 and 2018
The Republic of Serbia has passed through a period of dramatic change, managing a rapidly evolving political and economic environment since the first agreement of principles governing the normalisation of relations with Kosovo signed in April 2013. Now landlocked, Serbia has a land mass of 77,500 square kilometres located in the central region of the Balkan Peninsula of Southeast Europe. It shares borders with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Romania. Serbia has a population of 8.74 million and its capital Belgrade, located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers has a population of 1.39 million and is one of Europe’s oldest cities.
Serbia is a candidate country for membership of the European Union (EU) reflecting the significant progress made so far in structural, economic and institutional reforms. The Government’s economic reform program focuses on ensuring economic and financial stability, halting debt accumulation and creating an environment for economic recovery, investment and growth to foster employment, and raise living standards. GDP growth for 2018 was 4.4 per cent, inflation was within target and the budget remained in surplus for the year helping to further lower the public debt burden.
The Serbian economy is expected to continue with solid growth of around 3-4 per cent over the medium term, although growth in 2019 is expected to slow to 3.5 per cent (World bank) as the effects of the increase in consumption and investment were to a large extent exhausted in 2018. Future investment and exports will be the main drivers of ongoing growth. Serbian authorities have the support of the EU and of the international financial institutions to modernise their infrastructure and support investment in the business community.
Serbia has a workforce of over 3 million with around 57 per cent employed in the services sector which contributes 50 per cent of GDP. Tourism, as part of this sector will continue to develop and is expected to make a larger contribution to GDP than the 3.2 per cent made in 2018. The agricultural sector contributed 6 per cent of GDP and the industrial sector, 26.4 per cent. Serbia has significant quantities of coal, lead, zinc, copper and gold but lack of investment has affected the mining sector for several years, preventing the country’s economy from fully realising the benefits of this wealth.
Economic Indicators – 2018
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Serbia
The Government of Serbia is committed to developing a stable and predictable business climate by implementing regulation which grants foreigners the same rights as its citizens to conduct business, with the benefits of a free market, favourable tax regime and investor incentives. These benefits include:
Regulation on Conditions and Methods of Attracting Direct Investment;
The Stabilization and Association Agreement between the Republic of Serbia and the EU was brought into force on 1 September 2013. It guarantees the alignment of national legislation with EU laws making conditions for investment and business more recognisable and predictable for foreign investors;
The Government may make cash grants available to investors to offset initial capital investment and foster start-ups businesses;
Corporate tax rate is 15 per cent. However, a 10-year corporate profit tax holiday is available to investors who hire more than 100 employees and invest over 8.5 million EUR;
Government or local municipalities can sell construction land at lower than market prices in support of investment projects;
Competitive operating costs for companies including taxation, utility services and transportation;
Availability of high quality multi-lingual labour at regionally competitive costs; and
Republic of Serbia has 54 effective double taxation agreements in place that cover income, capital and property.
Tourism in Serbia
Serbia is an emerging tourism market with 3.5 million tourists in 2018 of which half were international visitors. Belgrade and Novi Sad with their heritage buildings, lively cafes and night clubs attract two thirds of international arrivals while Serbian tourists favour the mountain and spa destinations.
Serbia’s landscapes range from the endless plains of Vojvodina in the north, the country’s breadbasket and wine cellar to the dramatic mountains and gorges of the national parks in the south, west and east of the country. Large numbers of tourists are attracted to the west with the Ovčar-Kablar gorge, towns of Čačak and Užice, and Zlatibor, one of the biggest Serbian tourism centres with its scenic natural environment, traditional mountain food, and picturesque ethnic villages. Further west is the spectacular Tara National Park and to the south, one of Europe’s most beautiful canyons – the canyon of the river Uvac.
The overlapping influences of past empires dating back to the Byzantium that occupied Serbia have contributed to an intriguing cultural diversity that pervades the country. It’s north leans to the profile of Central Europe while the south is characteristically of the wider Balkans and even Mediterranean. In addition to the many fortresses and heritage buildings, Serbia has five particularly significant cultural monuments with UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Serbia maybe landlocked but three of its major rivers are fully navigable – the Danube, Sava and the Tisa with luxury cruising of the Danube very popular with international tourists. During winter, Serbia’s 26 snow skiing resorts are in action. Rani Kopaonik at an altitude of 1,700 metres is the most popular and stays open after the snow melts attracting outdoor enthusiasts to explore the national park on foot or mountain bike.
Romania is the largest country in the Balkan Peninsula of Southeast Europe with a land mass of 238,400 square kilometres stretching from Oradea on its border with Hungary, 620 kilometres across the Carpathian Mountains and Danube River to Constanta on the Black Sea. Its population in 2019 is around 19.5 million with 1.8 million living in the capital Bucharest, considered to be one of the leading financial and industrial centres in Eastern Europe. Romania is a semi-presidential republic with the President as head of state and Prime Minister as head of government. The country became a member of the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2007, and holds the revolving presidency of the EU Council from 1 January to 30 June 2019.
The Romanian Government’s priorities for 2018-20 include the improved absorption of EU funds and a focus on securing investments in infrastructure and development projects, simplifying tax administration and improving public health. Its programs reconfirm Romania’s roadmap for achieving the Europe 2020 objectives for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and prioritises the use of EU funds in line with the European Structural and Investment Funds envelope for 2014-20 (EUR 40 billion). Political stability and continuing structural reforms will be important in the Government achieving its goals.
Romania has developed a market economy and is proceeding with programs to privatise public enterprises. Its robust economic growth in 2017 of 6.9 per cent was one of the highest in the region fuelled by strong exports and private consumption that was aided by expansionary fiscal policy and continued growth in real wages. Growth however slowed in 2018 to 4.1 per cent and this trend is expected to continue over the near term in line with the prevailing European economic climate.
Romania’s economy is mainly centred on the services sector which represents 56 per cent of GDP and employs 48 per cent of the workforce. Tourism in particular contributes 5.3 per cent to GDP and has the potential for significant growth. The technology sector has also seen immense growth in recent years due to emergence of a highly qualified and lower cost workforce, and is expected to expand from 6.2 to 12 per cent of GDP by 2025. The industrial sector contributes to 30.1 per cent of GDP with foreign direct investors involved in heavy industry (steel and metallurgy), vehicle parts manufacturing, building and construction, petroleum refining and textiles. Agriculture represents 4.4 per cent of GDP. Romania has limited energy dependence with large natural reserves of coal, oil, gas and uranium.
Economic Indicators – 2018
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Romania
Romania actively seeks foreign direct investment and offers a market of around 20 million consumers, a well-educated and skilled workforce at relatively competitive wages, a strategic location and an abundance of natural resources.
Since Romania’s accession to the EU in 2007 it has progressively introduced prudent monetary measures that have enabled the Country to gain the confidence of foreign investors and build FDI stock to EUR 73.3 billion. Benefit for FDI investors include:
The government has taken steps to strengthen tax administration, improve transparency and create legal means to resolve contractual disputes expeditiously;
Romanian legislation provides national treatment for foreign investors, guarantees free access to domestic markets and allows foreign investors to participate in privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOE). There is no limit on foreign participation in commercial enterprises;
Foreign investors are entitled to establish wholly foreign-owned enterprises and to convert and repatriate 100 per cent of after-tax profits;
The application of a new tax code adopted in September 2015 enabled the introduction of numerous tax adjustments in favour of liberalisation of the economy including a reduction in the VAT rate from 24 to 19 per cent in 2017 and a reduction in dividend tax from 16 to 5 per cent;
Standard corporate tax is a fixed rate of 16 per cent with concessions for certain businesses;
Standard individual personal income tax is a flat rate of 10 per cent;
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) law was revised in 2011 and amended again in 2016, and envisions the creation of contractual public-private partnerships as an alternative to the formation of a project company and also deals with issues of liability;
Romania has concluded double taxation treaties with over 90 countries; and
Investromania and the Ministry of Business Climate, Trade, and Entrepreneurship have resources available to assist foreign investors.
Tourism in Romania
Romania has an abundance of rich and diverse natural and built tourism assets offering countless unique travel experiences. A car or train journey can transport travellers from a cruise on the Danube River to beautiful, intact medieval towns – from vibrant Bucharest to a luxurious Black Sea beach resort. And from Southern Transylvania and the perfectly preserved hilltop citadel of Sighisoara to the historic regions of Buconina with its unique painted monasteries or Maramures with authentic, centuries old villages. Romania’s Danube Delta is recognised as the world’s third most biologically diverse area and has been recognised by UNESCO for its outstanding universal value. Romania also boasts 8 UNESCO inscribed World Heritage sites.
While Romania is known for its outstanding heritage tourism including the notoriety of Transylvania, it offers tourists many more experiences to enjoy. Cruising the Black Sea and beyond from Constanta or river cruises on the Danube with overnight stays in traditional villages. Travelling Romania by stream train exposes the unique cultures and rural tourism of the country, exploring its gastronomical experiences and its spa and health retreats. There are many museums and opportunities to immerse in the vibrant and flourishing arts scene.
The ecotourism offering includes hiking or biking the dramatic landscapes of the Bucegi and Carpathian Mountains, National Parks, cave complexes and the Danube Delta wetlands. Sinaia tops Romania’s 93 snow ski resorts with over 18 kilometres of ski slopes. The 220 kilometres Black Sea shoreline attracts 8.6 per cent of tourists each year staying in the wide range of accommodation available including 4 and 5-Star resorts.
Foreign Visitor arrivals reached 11.72 million in 2018, a major proportion of who were same day travellers. Around 2.78 million international tourists, an increase of 6.3 per cent over 2017 stayed overnight in registered accommodation. Domestic tourism still dominates the sector with international tourists accounting for 21.5 per cent of total tourist arrivals. Of the non-resident tourists visiting Romania during the first three quarters of 2018, 57.3 per cent arrived for business – attending meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and their expenditure accounted for 60.8 percent of tourist receipts for the period.
Romania’s diverse tourism offering has so much potential. Elevating the country’s tourism brand in the competitive global tourism market, tapping into new markets and investing in the country’s infrastructure and accommodation will collectively strengthen growth in the tourism sector.
Tourist Arrivals and Overnight Stays over past 5 Years
Note: Romania’s Institutul National De Statistica defines tourists as not conducting a paid activity as the main reason for their travel.
Accommodation Profile (International and Domestic Tourists) – 2017 & 2018
[supsystic-tables id=29] Source: Romania Institutul National De Statistica