U okviru portala organizacije Ecoclub - koja je jedna od ključnih globalnih organizacija posvećenih ekoturizmu kao i održivom razvoju turizma je objavljen intervju sa prof. dr Jovanom Popeskuom, redovnim profesorom Fakulteta za turistički i hotelijerski menadžment Univerziteta Singidunum.
Prenosimo deo intervjua:
Interview: Jovan Popesku, Professor, Singidunum University, Serbia
"...Tourist flows lead to the successful renewal of ties among countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia...the situation is much better but it requires hard, constant and persistent work to achieve relatively small progress on the grassroots level, which then becomes easily threatened by the activities on the high level."
Jovan Popesku is a Professor at the Department of Tourism and Hospitality of Singidunum University, Belgrade, Serbia and President of the Centre for Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Development. Formerly, he headed the National Tourism Organization of Serbia during the turbulent 1990s as its first CEO. Professor Popesku's field of research includes tourism marketing, tourism destination management and sustainable tourism management. He has authored three university textbooks and over 80 journal articles and conference papers and led more than twenty domestic and international projects related to tourism destination management, tourism marketing and sustainable tourism development. Professor Popesku is committed to sustainable tourism and cooperates to this end with various European and global organisations. He is a Member of the International Association of Scientific Experts in Tourism (AIEST), of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), and a member of the Managing Board of the Serbian Marketing Association (SEMA).
ecoclub.com: You led the Serbian National Tourism Organisation during a very difficult period for your country, let alone its Tourism. What are the main lessons learned from that period, in terms of tourism crisis management and the resilience of Tourism?
Jovan Popesku: It was an extremely unusual period for the normal functioning of any National Tourism Organisation (NTO). The main issue was how to attract tourists while the country was under almost absolute economic sanctions, which meant a cut off from the world and a prevailing animosity of public opinion towards Serbia. While I was a director of the NTO of Serbia (NTOS) since 1995 the sanctions were first gradually decreasing after the signing of the peace agreement related to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they were completely restored since 1998 due to the events in Kosovo. Therefore the activities of the NTOS on the international market in that period were aimed to maximise the introduction of Serbia’s main tourist attractions on the key markets and to create a basis for the gradual increase of the international tourist flows once the sanctions were abolished. There were, for example, promotional activities performed to support the return of Thomson Ski to Serbia with the inclusion of Kopaonik as a ski destination in its brochures in 1997. It is important to emphasise that NTOS and its employees did not have any obstacles for the normal functioning such as participation at tourism exhibitions and advertising, with the exception of those that were applicable for the country as a whole like non-functioning of foreign payments and lack of funds. Furthermore, it could be said that there was understanding of the public and private sector in the Western European countries for the NTOS activities in promoting the cultural and natural values of Serbia. Having in mind the complexity and uniqueness of Serbia’s position during the economic sanctions it is difficult to draw main lessons learned. In such circumstances, an NTO should strive to perform any possible activities to maintain the awareness of the existence of a tourist destination and to prepare the basis for the gradual return on the tourism market once the causes that led to the abnormal situation are not in place any longer. This return for NTOS started in October 2000 and was in place until March 2001 while I was a director, and of course continued afterwards in the increasingly normalised circumstances. On the other hand, despite the catastrophic impacts, Serbian tourism as a whole demonstrated high toughness and resilience based predominantly on the domestic tourist flows. For me it was very important that after my term in NTOS was over I came back in the full capacity to my work with students, something which I was still doing during my term in the NTOS and which I am also occupied with now as a full professor at the Singidunum University Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management. This Department is the leading university institution in tourism and hospitality field in Serbia, with a UNWTO.TedQual-certified Bachelor and Master programs as well as with significant cooperation with similar institutions in Europe and other parts of the world.
ecoclub.com: The peace-building abilities of Tourism have been more frequently praised than proven. What is the case, in your view, within and between the countries of the former Yugoslavia, both at the grassroots and the high level? Have tourism flows resumed?
Jovan Popesku: Very often, when speaking at conferences dedicated to achieving peace through tourism, I use the opportunity to cite the example of the consequences that armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia had on tourism and about the restoration of tourist flows afterwards. An example of this is the foreign tourist traffic to Serbia, where the most of the former Yugoslavia countries in 2016 and in the years before were in the top 10 number of overnight stays (in 2016 the first was Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro was 2nd, 4th and 6th were Croatia and Slovenia while the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was in 12th position. Also, tourists from Serbia made up a significant part of the tourist traffic in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This testifies that tourist flows lead to the successful renewal of ties among countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia. Of course, there are still some challenges, especially concerning the situation in Kosovo, that burden the possibility for the free movement of passengers in that part of the former Yugoslavia. Certain events in each of the former Yugoslavia republics also have consequences on making tourists’ decisions about travelling to other countries of the former Yugoslavia, which particularly stands for the relationship between Serbia and Croatia. However, the situation is much better but it requires hard, constant and persistent work to achieve relatively small progress on the grassroots level, which then becomes easily threatened by the activities on the high level. We'll see how the situation in this regard will continue to unfold, particularly in a view of the significant changes in the world political scene.