At the recently held Summit 100 Business Forum in Sarajevo, many topics of contemporary relevance for the region of Southeast Europe were expectedly touched upon.
Be it the supply of sustainable energy, the position of women in business, or the issues related to infrastructure & transport conditions, it was an opportunity for a number of prominent experts and government officials to weigh in with their opinions on how to improve the overall business situation in our region. However, one of the greatest impressions from the conference have been the discussions on the mobility of goods and people within our region, as well as the respective implications. Having in mind the beginning of summer being just a few days away, perhaps the most illustrative example in this regard can be the tourism industry and the ways in which it has been – or potentially can be – affected by such regulatory frameworks of SEE countries.
If we were to take a macro perspective on the issue, there are many specific aspects of the tourism industry that should be outlined. A front-running one, in this sense, being the fact that it is currently the world's fastest growing industry, thus showing its undisputed potential on a global scale. Moreover, taking into account tourism's inherent multi-disciplinary qualities – the fact that it currently offers every 11th job opening in the world – as well as the way in which it contributes to other spheres of a country or region's economy through transportation, hospitality, and even national branding, the said potential only proves itself to be further grounded in the tangible factors of contemporary life.
However, if we were to look into the state of affairs in our region in this regard, one must pause and question the seemingly shallow depth of involvement with this matter. Even though Slovenia and Croatia have managed to capitalise on their natural resources and had their tourism industry thrive in a national context, such activities haven't been conducted on a regional level. The question here is why, considering the wide-reaching potentials that organised and regulated cooperation could bring to everyone involved. Looking at numbers, Croatia and Montenegro lead the way in terms of offering seasonal employment to people in the region, but rather through convenience than through intentional regulation. The issue of regulation in this regard can further be illustrated by the fact that in Macedonia – another country with significant tourism potentials – the employment regulations make no distinction between candidates from neighbouring and remote countries. Furthermore, another factor that should be taken into consideration when advocating for a regional based offer of tourism services is the aspect of seasonality. Despite each of the countries being undoubtedly rich with natural resources, none of them – barring Slovenia to a certain extent – have such a complete offer that can span across a calendar year through a fusion of beaches and seaside, as well as spas, mountain resorts and skiing. A region-wide effort to complement each other is something worth exploring further, en route to reaching a unique region wide non-seasonal tourism offer , giving each country a chance to participate with their own offer for the sake of greater benefit, while at the same time allowing for seemingly needed labour migrations.
By Dragan Karanovic, Senior Partner, Karanovic & Nikolic