International arrivals in 2017 numbered almost 1.5 million and the projected growth for the next three years is 40%.
Offering visa-free travel to citizens from Europe, China, Russia, India and the USA has no doubt helped, but Maria Lubovic, chief executive of the National Tourism Organisation, says greater awareness of what the country has to offer is key.
“We offer a range of quality tourism products such as city breaks, cultural tours, wintersports, activity holidays, river cruising, health tourism and major, internationally acclaimed festivals,” she said.
Marketing plans for 2019 include a higher focus on integrated digital campaigns including travel and news portals. A six-part TV series highlighting what Serbia offers to tourists will also air on Sky in the coming year.
In 2021, Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city – one hour by road from Belgrade – will be the European Capital of Culture, the first time the accolade has been awarded to a country outside the EU. And in Belgrade, hotel investment has been especially strong, with new openings this year including Hilton, Mama Shelter and the Sheraton. The newest is the 236-room Radisson Blu Old Mill, a slice of industrial-chic in a restored former cotton mill, with room rates from €60 per night.
The $3 billion Belgrade Waterfront is currently under development, and will provide a new cultural and leisure focus for the city, with more hotels, restaurants and public spaces.
Construction is also under way for a new scenic gondola, linking the city to the Kalemegdan Fortress overlooking the river Danube.
Work is also in progress to increase the pedestrianisation zone of the city centre.