Банкеръ Weekly



Many problems in the Balkan countries' leisure industry are similar, but could be overcome by joint efforts, participants in the official international session of the Balkan Alliance of Hotel Associations (BAHA), held for the first time in Bulgaria, concluded.
From a political point of view the operation of such an organization is one of the instruments for our sooner integration into the European Union. The unique geographic situation of the Balkan countries, their outlet on five seas, and the extremely rich cultural and historical heritage, are factors leading the leisure industry in the region to and exceptionally quick development, Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Evgenia Koldamova said during the meeting.
The aims of the alliance are the promotion of tourism and of friendly relations between the counties, presentation of the culture, traditions and history of the peninsular. One of its members' intentions is to prepare a joint advertising strategy and attract guests not only from Europe but from the whole world as well.
People should realize that the Balkans are not a place where wars are waged, BAHA's Deputy Chairman Doncho Tanevski pointed out. These problems already belong to the past and we are turning a new page in our history. The region is a wonderful place for holidays. Positive results could be expected soon. We'll do what politicians have failed to do for decades. We have an exceptional cultural and historical heritage but we do not advertise it properly. We should establish a joint product in the Balkans as a tourist destination. It's normal to achieve an annual turnover of EUR40BN, Mr. Tanevski said.
Macedonia's Deputy Minister of Economy Sasho Andonovski also shares the opinion that we have common targets in the leisure industry sector. When holiday-makers come to us we'll help them visit Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, Croatia... And when they go to those countries, they will visit Macedonia afterwards. We have so much to show. Our history is often common. What is important is to make it a tourist product and present it in such a way as to awake interest towards the Balkans and turn them into the most attractive leisure industry destination in the world.
According to BAHA's Chairman Blagoi Ragin, investments of EUR43BN will enter Bulgaria and Romania, but we all are interested in the development of tourism not only in our own country but to assist its development in our neighbours as well. Leisure industry is what unites us and could give an impetus to the region's development. The alliance is open to the European Union. We believe this expanded Balkan market will be of interest not only for Europe.
The participants in the session shared the view that the visa regime between the individual Balkan countries was an obstacle to the sector's development and discussed opportunities for its facilitation. For instance, Bulgaria is already opening two new consular representative offices in Macedonia. At boarder checkpoints and airports there will be also such an organisation as to relieve travellers from a number of inconveniences.

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