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WTM UPDATE: Serbia emerging as an affordable European destination with a festival focus

While Belgrade is the obvious and popular city break destination for visitors to Serbia, the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia (NTOS) was busy promoting a wide range of destinations at World Travel Market (WTM) this week.

These included the cities of Nis, Novisad and Guca. In particular, Serbia is well-known for a wide range of festivals, including Exit, a popular international music event, as well as many others. The Exit festival, held in Novisad, came about when a musician decided to keep playing until former president Slobodan Milosevic was overthrown. Novisad is the 2021 European Capital of Culture, the first time a non-EU country has received this honour, and this is expected to provide a major boost for tourism.

"In Serbia, we have a festival for everything," a spokesperson for NTOS told Travel Bulletin. "There is the Belgrade beer festival, there is a raspberry festival ... there is even a fish soup festival." 

The restoration of the monarchy has been a boon for Serbian tourism with the Crown Prince reopening royal buildings to tourists. There is a strong British connection for the Crown Prince as he was born in Claridges in London while the royal family was in exile, and Queen Elizabeth II is his godmother.

Access to Serbia is improving, according to the spokesperson with five flights a week from Luton to Belgrade on Wizz Air and Air Serbia, which has partnered with Etihad, offering flights from Heathrow. The country's secondary airport is in Nis and NTOS is encouraging more low-cost carriers to add routes in and our of this city to increase access to other parts of Serbia for visitors.

Tourism numbers have been increasing - in 2017, the country received more than 1.49 million tourists, a 17% increase on 2016, and in 2018, tourist arrivals for the first nine months increased by 15% year on year.

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