Belgrade has launched campaigns in the hopes of attracting a significant number of visitors from China, director of the Tourist Organization of Belgrade told Xinhua in an interview at the International Tourism Fair on Saturday.
Miodrag Popovic said that Serbian capital city has launched a new promotion video expected to draw attention of Chinese tourists, as well as a series of activities to promote Serbian capital, hoping this would result in a significantly higher number of visitors and tourists.
"Chinese market is probably the most important one when it comes to tourism and we think we can participate in it disregarding that we have modest means, limited budget and the fact that we have to compensate all this with our own creativity," Popovic explained.
He reminded that the organization recently premiered a promotion video starring Velimir Bata Zivojinovic, an actor who played the main role in the 1972 movie "Walter Defends Sarajevo" at this year's 38th international tourism fair that takes place from Feb. 18 to Feb.21, saying the video is expected to draw attention in China.
"This movie was both popular in China and across former Yugoslavia, and we wished to attract Chinese tourists to Belgrade by having Zivojinovic in our 30-second promotion video which already became popular in Serbia," Popovic said in an interview at the fair considered to be the biggest in South East Europe.
Popovic said that the video is part of a larger campaign consisting of promotions and presentations, aiming to make Belgrade more attractive in Chinese tourism market.
According to data provided by the Tourist Organization of Belgrade, last year 14,238 out of 1.13 million (1.3 percent) foreigners who visited Serbia were Chinese. 646,778 foreigners visited capital Belgrade in 2015, among which 10,190 are from China (1.6 percent), a 60 percent increase compared to 2014, when only 6,386 Chinese people visited Belgrade.
"The whole region is like a small alley, having in mind the size of China and its population, and the fact that around 20 million Chinese visits Europe every year. A proportionally small part of this number would mean a lot if they would come to Serbia or elsewhere in our region," Popovic said.
He said that Serbia should expand its good cooperation with China in the area of tourism.
"I think this is very logical having in mind the political, economic and above all friendly relations between the two countries, the scale of Chinese investments in Serbia, and the fact that in December 2014 the third China-Central/Eastern European (CEE) summit was held in Belgrade. I think that this can expand to the area of tourism, and that we should work on attracting as many Chinese tourists as possible to Belgrade," Popovic told Xinhua.
He said that a delegation of the Tourist Organization of Belgrade, government and companies engaged in tourism will visit Beijing in June to promote Belgrade, and the campaign will spread on several other Chinese cities by the end of the year.
Popovic explained that the organization is looking for potential partners to make the deal work, among which most important part would be Chinese tourist agencies, while on the other hand Belgrade authorities are eagerly investing in infrastructure to make the city more attractive.
"Overall plan of Serbian government is to improve infrastructure in Belgrade - the city will get new main railway station, Belgrade Waterfront, revamp of the Sava littoral zone and the port in following years. These investments are all beneficial to tourism," Popovic estimated.
"In the past three years Belgrade is developing its promotion as a tourist destination. This year we will work a lot on city's facades, which we consider very important for returning it its glow. Also we plan to invest in promotion on big markets. Tourism is the generator of new work posts and investments, so every investment in tourism is justified," he added.
Popovic estimated that China, a great country with educated people in his eyes, will be interested in Serbian culture, history and tradition spiced up with local gastronomic specialties and nightlife.
"Some other countries of the region entered this market already. We used the first chance that we got, and already this year Belgrade will be present on Chinese tourism market with this campaign video starring famous Walter as well as with promotions and actions that we will undertake."
"I expect a lot from this. I think this will lead to a significant increase of Chinese guests to Belgrade this year," Popovic concluded.