Government's tourism development policies show results
Macedonia needs to implement the Tourism Development Strategy prepared in cooperation with UNDP and the World Bank, to bolster regional cooperation related to tourism and to strengthen the role of travel agencies at national level through public-private partnership, Minister of Economy Fatmir Besimi and Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai concluded at their joint meeting in Skopje on Thursday.
Macedonia is making a breakthrough, especially in infrastructure and in enabling sophisticated tourist services, Rifai noted after the meeting.
"I'm particularly impressed by the development. Services are much better than expected. Once the strategy starts being implemented, then more headway will be made gradually," he said.
Pointing out the necessity of establishing regional cooperation, Rifai said that countries from the Balkans and southeastern Europe should collaborate, overcome numerous challenges they are facing and mitigate the movement of people, visitors and tourists in general.
"Tourism plays an important role worldwide, not only owing to the economic aspect, but also due to intercultural cooperation. It is one of the sectors allowing more jobs to be opened, investments to be attracted and an influx of foreign currencies to be realised," Minister Besimi said.
He, too, noted the importance of establishing regional cooperation in the field of tourism.
One of Macedonia's priorities, Besimi added, is the development of rural tourism, for which finances from EU's IPARD funds are at disposal.
Macedonia is facing another challenge - to reach the average number of almost one million tourists, which was the case in the 1980s. Currently, an average of 580.000 tourists are visiting Macedonia.
"This year the results are good. The number of tourists in the first five months is 180.000, which is a 6.4% increase. The number of foreign tourists has increased by 20% compared to the same period last year. However, we need to take advantage of the potential for tourism development," Minister Besimi stressed.
Tourism participates with approximately two percent in GDP.
The strategy, which is due to be enforced, refers to the development of lake, spa, cultural, rural and mountain, alternative tourism.