Tourism is an economic activity of attracting tourists and meeting their needs, which rapidly grows in the globalized world. As demand for tourism increases, destinations compete and must be favorably differentiated from their competition as well as to have strong image position in the mind of tourists (Echtnerand Ritchie, 2003).
The topic of this dissertation is the development of the image of Serbia regarding leisure tourism and represents a very important and needed exploratory area for practitioners engaged in positioning destination as well as for academics trying to understand the destination image construct. In the global tourism market, which is the highest growing and strongest one, the management of place has been required in the countries, regions and individual destinations to develop adequate positioning strategies and effective plans that will clearly differentiate them from competitors on the tourist market (Baker, 2007; Prebezac and Mikulic, 2008).
Tourism, the fastest and largest economic sector in the world, is one of the fields where the development of the destination image could be effectively used. Destinations mainly compete based on their perceived images and attractions they made for the consumers which are facilitated by increased leisure time and higher income. The tourism image is a critical success factor of any destination.
The defining of the strategic approach to positioning Serbia as an attractive tourist destination at the international and regional market is currently on the turning point. Evaluation of potential for development of the destination image in the Serbian tourism industry regarding leisure is a great opportunity to offer tourists “impression about Serbia” in exciting way and to develop new leisure tourist offerings.
Horwath Consulting Zagreb shows in its report that Serbia has no image as tourist destination and it has not positioned itself in tourism. Serbia faces several challenges in the tourist market: to attract international tourist with positive values and attractions and to improve international competitiveness in tourism which has been hurt by previous politics and war. In order to change current situation and to position itself as an “attractive destination” Serbia begins with creating international competitiveness and focuses on identifying the attractions and tourist products (city breaks, business tourism and MICE, mountains and lakes, rural tourism, health tourism, special interests, events, nautical tourism, circle travel) which can be commercialized in the middle and long term strategy. According to the analysis done by Horwath Consulting Zagreb (2006) Serbia’s strengths are:
- It is a country which hosts international tourists honestly with “the heart” making close and true relationship based on intimacy, understanding, tolerance, thus personal and professional respect;
- It uses the tourism to expresses it’s pride, identity and all cultural and historical values and specialties
- Serbia respects and makes a special attention to keep and protect all natural and cultural treasures;
- Serbia is perceived by international tourists as reliable, interesting, trustful and clean tourist destination;
- It will give different tourist products as results of rich and steady arranged resources and attractions structure.
- Serbia regards tourism as a sustainable resource of income.
Serbia is expected to increase it’s tourist performances within the next 10 years up to around 20 million tourist nights, from which 50% foreign tourists, and that would enable income of 1,2 -1,5 billion EUR per year.
The tourist position of Serbia has to be made by three value systems:
- Tourist valorization of “Balkan”- advantage in the promotion of tourist experiences in the “emotional” meaning, and because the “Balkan” has not been recognized yet as tourist destination.
- Tourist valorization of Danube- in the whole navigable part of Danube Serbia is able to get “quick win” international market position, especially in Belgrade as the capital. Additionally, this is the advantage of Serbia to use Danube in its promotion as tourist destination.
- Integral communication of “Serbian values” and “Made in Serbia”- Serbian values as are culture, people ready for parties, art and literature, warm reception, passion and pride, mix of traditional and modern, all of which are good resource to make short visits to Belgrade, touring around Serbia, river cruising across Serbia, events and entertainments, rural and spa tourism.
All three concepts are very interesting but additional researches are needed to choose the best solution to position Serbia and to develop the image of Serbia regarding leisure tourism. Research has to be done through exploring agencies, tour operators, and tourist managers and directly with clients.
The motivation for this research proposal lies in the fact that Serbia has to position its image on the international market and there is potential to implement leisure tourism in order to create a successful strategy.