Serbia, next top destination for Chinese tourists?

By Bi Mengying Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/2 23:18:09 Last Updated: 2020/4/2 19:24:09

Nikola Slijepcevic (second from left) with tourists Photo: Courtesy of Nikola Slijepcevic

Serbia has attracted a large following among Chinese netizens as mutual assistance in the COVID-19 outbreak strengthened ties between the two countries, and many have started to look into traveling to Serbia after the pandemic ends.  

According to data from Chinese travel services and social networking platform Mafengwo, searches with the keyword "Serbia" have seen a 480 percent month-on-month increase.  

A travel blogger named "Hey, this is Susu" posted a video about traveling to Serbia Wednesday evening on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, which has garnered more than 10,000 likes and reposts in less than 24 hours. 

Many shared their memories of traveling to Serbia, or the stories about Serbian friends they've made in comments. "Serbia would be my first destination for traveling abroad when the pandemic ends!" one post said. 

The Serbian Embassy in China opened its Weibo account on March 18, and it attracted 534,000 followers as of Thursday. Below the embassy's recent post, which notes Serbia doesn't require visas for Chinese visitors, some pointed out that Serbia was the first European country that lifted visa requirements for Chinese nationals. 

A mutual visa-free regime between China and Serbia came into effect in January 2017. In 2019, China and Serbia launched joint police patrols in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It will make communication easier for Chinese tourists and make them feel safer, noted Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic.

In comments below the embassy's Weibo post, many netizens called for direct flights between China and Serbia, while expressing strong interest in visiting the country.

Feng Rao of the Tourism Research Center of Mafengwo noted that while Serbia may have been a niche European destination for Chinese tourists in the past, its significantly increased popularity in China amid the pandemic is likely to boost its tourism in the near future, according to a report by Culture & Tourism, a news outlet for China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism.     

Nikola Slijepcevic, who has been organizing private and group tours in Serbia for over six years, shared Feng's view. He also noted the significantly increased arrivals of Chinese visitors in recent years. 

"Guests from China make up the majority of tourists in Serbia. Some Serbian attractions are more famous in China than in Serbia, for example [the Drina river house, near the town of Bajina Basta in Western Serbia]," said Slijepcevic.

The Drina river house near the town of Bajina Basta in Western Serbia Photo: Courtesy of Nikola Slijepcevic

He used to rely on translation software to communicate with Chinese visitors, but since June last year, a Chinese friend of his decided to help with his business, Slijepcevic told the Global Times Thursday. 

"We expect the number of Chinese visitors to increase because of the very good relations between the two countries. The pandemic has brought our two countries even closer, because I think you will see who your friend is during the hard time for your country," said Slijepcevic.


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