That Belgrade is not really adjusted to international tourists visiting becomes clear from several things. But most obvious is the fact that its open bus tours are called ‘BS Tours’. “Wanna hear some bullshit? Come with us!”
At the end of each year, people like to look back on what happened in the past 365 days. Entrepreneurs don’t have much time to look back. It is more important to focus on tomorrow than to think about yesterday. Therefore, if I look my back the summary is practically the same each December: ‘It was a great year, but next year should be even better!’ I am pretty much convinced that 2015 will be better than 2014, just as 2014 was better than 2013, etc. I can be pretty sure about it, because a lot of it depends on me: How hard I will work, which choices I will make, what risks I will take and so on. Of course, in the tourism business there are many things you can’t control, like the number of tourists that will come. If I can believe CNN, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides, Belgrade will be one of the world’s most popular places to visit in 2015!
The paradox of this is that while Belgrade is becoming more and more attractive to visit, it becomes a less and less attractive place to live. To give you some examples:
– Because the Serbian economy is doing very bad the local currency (Serbian Dinar) is getting worth less every day. This sucks for local people, but is great for Euro and Dollar-tourists, who can buy more for less.
– Because Serbian Railways is a run-down organization, probably led by some politically appointed directors who don’t know anything about how to run a company, nor know anything about trains, tourists can still enjoy a 14-hour train-ride from Belgrade to Montenegro in an antique train with beautiful scenery, for almost no money. For any citizen who just wants to go from A to B as fast and smooth as possible, the only option is a stinky old bus.
– Becasue the average young tourist who comes to Belgrade to party will love the fact that Belgrade is the only city in Europe where you can still smoke inside, drink as much as you like even when you’re only 16 years old and eat mountains of pig-meat and huge greasy hamburgers for 2 Euro. In the meantime, the numbers of people in Serbian dying of cancer, dying in traffic because of alcohol and suffering from obesities are many times higher than any other country in Europe.
And it does not seem to get any better in 2015. A government without much vision or strategy is comfortably in power. Although lawyers, teachers, students and even pensioners are on strike and many others will join them in 2015, it seems that nobody really seems to care. As a Serbian friend told me the other day: “Serbs don’t worry about anything, until they reach the bottom. That’s a problem. But the real problem is: even when they hit the bottom, they start digging a hole and find a way to fall deeper.” Maybe that’s partly true, but certainly not for everybody in Serbia. Some are thinking entrepreneurial and say to themselves: 2015 will be better than 2014! I will work hard, make good choices and take risks. But even if for some reason less people decide to visit Belgrade in 2015, I still aim to have more visitors joining our bike-tours.If that doesn’t work? Escape Belgrade and come back as a tourist. You will love it!