This year, the Convention Bureau is celebrating 10 years of work. How did it all begin? When you look back, what do you consider the most important thing done in the past period?
10 years ago, Tourism Organization of Serbia (TOS) has decided to form a special department which will be focused on a strategic win-win tourism product of Serbia, which
should follow the international standards of destination management. Since then, Serbia Convention Bureau functions as an integral part of the TOS, and most importantly, is an integral part of all strategic and operational activities of the TOS.
Biro has been recognized by the national associations, unions, alliances, eminent experts, doctors, researchers, professors and professionals as an entity that helps them unreservedly in the process of candidacy for organizing international congresses in Serbia, and, thus, creates the possibility for them to present local expertise, knowledge and innovation to their counterparts from abroad in Serbia itself. In this way, the activities of the Bureau become one of the elements of creating a knowledge based society.
The basis of all activities is a platform of public-private partnership, as without communication and partnership with private sector and our congress industry (hotels, PCO and DMC agencies), the results would not have been so significant. 10 years ago, except for inherited convention facilities, Serbia had a low base grounds. As the industry evolved, as the new capacities opened and the existing ones renovated, thus the market was growing, and thus the Bureau moved on in its activities. Without mutual support, dialogue and constructive criticism, congress tourism of Serbia would not today be one of the leading products. The relation of cooperation and co petition within Serbia and individual destinations, a relationship of mutual trust and respect among all stakeholders of the value chain of congress experience is something felt by the foreign congress organizers and the clients, and the ground on which we must continue to build the visibility in foreign market.
Which is the issue you are the most proud of?
Past period shows the continuity of activities, which is very important for a public institution. A great number of things was done, and many things are yet to be done. I am very proud to have destination management activities performed in the Bureau fully designed according to international standards and global practice, and in no way different from the activities of our colleagues from some of the most successful European and world destinations. Those are focused on the principles of proactive sales and emphasis of candidacy.
Although we have limited resources on disposal (especially human ones), the standard of quality, sales and destination communication is something recognized and appreciated by the customers. When a small destination like Serbia can compete the great “players” in the
global market by the quality of its relation and the product, then it represents a responsibility for us to do even better in the future in order to keep the standard at that level. As for certain issues, such as the number of candidatures submitted per employee, or the number of successful candidatures per employee, our Bureau is the leading one in the world.
Also, since last year, together with our partners from the convention industry, we are beginning to be more active in the corporate market. We can safely say that joining the resources and contacts ended up in good results. In the past 10 years, the convention industry and the Bureau managed to bring Serbia back on the map of the international convention market. 10 years ago, there were no sign of us, clients knew nothing about our capacities, and, nowadays, we are proud to candidate for the biggest events, compete with the world’s leading cities, and finally, organize the most prestigious world and European congresses, and, for those few days, Serbia becomes a center of the world, Serbia is then number 1 in a given field.
It’s really a great feeling when months and years invested in a candidacy, together with our professors, doctors and experts, are presented to the world. And if we get the nomination, then you know it’s the right thing to do. Even when we lose, mainly in favor of larger and
richer destinations, I am satisfied, because the representation itself meant getting out of the comfort zone and contesting in the conditions in which you know are moving from a low starting point.
A great number of professional challenges. What strategically and operationally realizes the TOS throughout the year, and therefore the Bureau as well, is a continuous improving of the image got by Serbia in foreign markets. Although the convention market seems to be low saturated, it is very difficult to find space for a new destination and gain the trust of the client
It is very good that the quality of service of our hotels,PCO, DMC and AV companies is at a high level, as it is something expected by the customers and no longer questioned. Now we are entering the second phase of image creating on the basis of recognition of unique experiences and adventures offered by Serbia.
Which are the activities that the Convention Bureau of Serbia is the most focused on?
The activities of the Convention Bureau of Serbia are aligned with the annual plan of the TOS,
because it is necessary to achieve synergistic effects of the overall promotion of Serbia. On the other hand, we comply the activities of the Bureau with the plans of the convention industry as well, taking into account the strong mutual support. The most intense activity in terms of budget refers to the performance at the fairs, and, since last year, the performance concept is improved in every way, and what makes us happy is around 300 meetings realized during the fairs.
The activities of candidacy ranks the Bureau among the most advanced, and only last year almost 40 candidatures began, 20 positively confirmed, and in this year we already have 10 new candidatures and 4 confirmations. It is necessary to emphasize the organization of destination inspections for international associations and corporate clients, and, only last year, in cooperation with partners, the Bureau hosted 250 clients.
What are the plans for the future?
Currently we expect the decisions for international congresses which could potentially bring about 100,000 overnight stays in Serbia and revenues of around 35 million euro. The process of standardization of PCO and DMC agencies will also be realized by the end of this
year, as it is the one of the final stages of establishing a destination and convention industry. We continue to develop relationships with leading AMC and global PCO companies, at the same time raising visibility to local experts who are active in international associations.