Over the past two decades, prior to the Covid-19 crisis, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tourism sector has been rapidly growing, contributing with approx. 10% to overall GDP and employment. However, the sector has not reached its full potential, as the consumption remained low compared to the region, due to a limited offer and non-existence of destination management, inadequate transport and tourism infrastructure, poor business environment and inadequately utilised natural and cultural resources for development of an outdoor and cultural tourism activities.
Unfortunately, the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic also took heavy toll on the tourism sector, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the whole European Union. The sector recorded a steep decline dropped by cca 80% and has not rebound yet to pre-crisis levels. Although a full recovery of the sector is not expected before 2022, the crisis can provide an opportunity for the country to resolve some long-standing structural issues and open more and growing possibilities to promote the country with its full potential, which will contribute to better positioning on international market, increase in revenues, employment and investments. BiH needs a more holistic and strategic approach to tourism development and promotion, as a unique tourism destination with use of modern marketing practices, better destination management and well-qualified human resources. BiH should engage in structural reforms for creating enabling environment for sustainable tourism development and promote investments in tourism related infrastructure.
Through support for new initiatives and projects, the European Union has done a lot to mitigate the negative impacts on tourism, strengthen and strategically steer the tourism sector in the right direction. The best example is one of the EU flagship programmes, EU4Business. This programme supports tourism partnerships through its grant component worth over 1.5 million EUR. The focus of the programme is the development of tourism products, access to international markets and utilisation of the newest ICT tools in tourism. As a result of enhanced tourism opportunities at local level, new jobs will be created. EU4Business funding priorities are Cultural Tourism (UNESCO Heritage) and Outdoor Tourism (Via Dinarica Green Trail). In addition, the currently designed 2020 Special Measure support for the socio-economic recovery of BiH from the impact of covid-19 on SME’s will include more grant support for tourism sector. Besides that, the feasibility study for the construction of Sarajevo-Pale cycling route was initiated between the four municipalities of the cities Sarajevo and Eastern Sarajevo, with support of the EU4Business project. The prospective small-scale investment in tourism infrastructure should enrich an outdoor tourism offer in the two cities and related local communities.