Serbia’s accession to the European Travel Commission (ETC) was announced at a meeting between the Serbian minister for trade, tourism and services, Professor Bojan Dimitrijević, Mr. Miodrag Popović, director of the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia (TOS), and the president of ETC, Arthur Oberascher. At a press conference that attracted lively attention from Serbian press and television, Oberascher and Popović exchanged letters that officially sealed Serbia’s joining the ETC as the organisation’s 35th member. Oberascher, who is also CEO of the Austrian National Tourist Office, was visiting Serbia at the invitation of TOS.
ETC joins together the continent’s national tourism organisations (NTOs) to market “Destination Europe” globally.
Oberascher, explained that the invitation to Serbia was part of ETC’s strategy to extend its membership to the entire continent. “Tourism is a dynamic force for stability and economic growth”, said the ETC president adding, “in southeast Europe, tourism can help transform the region’s economy and, equally important, its image from political tinderbox to vacation playground”.
Contacts between Serbia and ETC were initiated in 2004, and the country participated in an ETC General Meeting as observer for the first time last October. The recent resolution of Serbia’s constitutional status has opened the door to full membership
Outlining the advantages of ETC membership at the press conference, Oberascher highlighted the visibility boost of a presence on the group’s new internet portal visiteurope.com in the company of Europe’s major destinations. The ETC’s activities in IT, market intelligence and operational excellence were a tremendous resource for NTOs, explained the ETC president, who qualified these as key issues for the success of Europe’s tourism industry in a competitive global environment.
Another ETC initiative to enhance the competitiveness of “Destination Europe” was the creation for the first time of a common brand and logo in the form of a pair of soaring wings that invite guests to experience “Europe - A Never-Ending Journey”.
In discussions with Minister Dimitrijević and TOS director Popović, the Serbian partners outlined the country’s tourism strategy and activities undertaken to upgrade tourism infrastructure, product quality and promotion. Serbia has been drawing increasing numbers of foreign guests, with the number of arrivals and overnights nearly doubling since 2001.
Oberascher said he was enthusiastic about Serbia’s tourism potential: With its vibrant capital Belgrade, cultural heritage, location on the Danube, and its people’s traditional hospitality, he described Serbia as “a brilliant mosaic stone in the never-ending journey that is Europe”.