People, Travel

Serbia, Slovenia Embark on Tourism Promotion Drive

Travel & Environment Desk
Slovenia and Serbia are targeting Iran after Turkey lost its appeal among Iranian travelers.
Slovenia and Serbia are targeting Iran after Turkey lost its appeal among Iranian travelers.

Representatives from Slovenian and Serbian tour operators and tourism boards met with Iranian travel agents in Tehran on Saturday to promote their respective countries.

Held at Tehran’s upscale Parsian Azadi Hotel, the event drew a modest crowd, almost all of whom were travel agents.

With fewer Iranians traveling to Turkey—the most popular foreign destination for leisure travelers—many countries are incentivized to secure a share of Iran’s outbound travel market.

“I think that’s definitely the case,” Zlatko Ljuskovic, marketing manager at Serbia Tour Operator, told Financial Tribune when asked whether the two Central European countries are targeting Iran as a result of Iranians staying away from Turkey.

He said Serbia, having been a part of the Ottoman Empire, bears similarities to Turkey that might help intrigue Iranians. "There are also halal restaurants, beautiful mosques, and shopping centers."

Taking a cruise down the Sava and Danube (Europe's second-longest river) in Belgrade is a popular activity in the Serbian capital.

Slovenia, an EU member state, offers Schengen visa. What it lacks in the way of shopping malls, it makes up for by being a major destination for health and ecotourism in Europe.

"Besides, major cities like Venice in Italy and Zagreb in Croatia are only two hours away from Ljubljana (Slovenian capital) with a car, so shopping can be done in those cities," Vesna Mojsilovic, deputy head for sales promotion at the Slovenian Tourism Board, told the Tribune. Getting a visa for Slovenia allows tourists to travel in the Schengen zone.

No Visa-Free Travel Yet

Barring one instance, the Serbian Embassy has not rejected visa applications from Iranian tours in three years.

“It takes two weeks but the visa is granted,” said Branko Markovic, first counselor at the Serbian Embassy.

He said discussions to abolish the visa regime altogether were suspended due to the migrant crisis, as Europe’s policy to grant visa-free travel to Middle Eastern countries changed.

“But as soon as that’s over, we’re restarting talks,” he said.

Dejan Vladic, charge d’affaires at the Slovenian Embassy, said the country has just reopened its embassy after closing it down in 2013 “due to austerity measures”, and it will start issuing visas once the new ambassador arrives in Tehran in May.

For the time being, Austria’s Embassy in Tehran is issuing visas for Slovenia.

Vladic said all EU member states will start outsourcing visa services to reduce waiting time.

“Right now, people have to wait four months to get a visa appointment, but with a visa management company they go in whenever they want and submit their documents,” he said.

Markovic said an Iranian delegation will visit Belgrade next month to sign trade deals, one of which includes an air service agreement allowing Iran Air to launch direct flights to the Serbian capital.


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