We’re talking to Dejan Ćika, managing director of JP ”Skijališta Srbije“, who is fоr three years now succesfully striving in making mountain tourism a serious development opportunity of our country.
What were your and your team’s expectations and results?
When my team and I came at the helm of ”Skijališta Srbije“, we started off very ambitiously. We’ve completed big investments we’d previosly projected and the results were obvious in the first season. We broke every single record in company’s business history, namely the financial results and an impressive spike in number of tourists that visit Serbian ski resorts. Number of skiiers has grown for more than 20 percent and it continues to grow every season. We’ve perfected piste maintenance, we enlarged the existing pistes and made new ones, we set the lighting, so Kopaonik now has three pistes for night skiing. We’ve also bought new snow-maintaining mechanization and have broaden the system of artificial snowmaking, which guarantees five months of snow regardless of snowfall and rainfall. Furthermore, we’ve built a double ski-lift on the Marine vode piste which solved the problem of queues and bottlenecks on this location. All of this is only a part of what we do every day. We try to make our customers satisfied in order for them to come back in our ski resorts next year. It’s safe to say that ”Skijališta Srbije“ are the bearer of development and enhancement of winter tourism in Serbia. Our results speak for themselves and for the way we conduct our business. Our customers return to our mountains every year and their satisfaction is an additional reason to be the best we can and to justify their trust.
Does Kopaonik as the most developed ski resort have enough space for additional enlargement of accomodation and skiing capacity? Are there any plans in that regard? Do you think they’re proportional at the moment?
Kopaonik is definitely the biggest and the best ski resort in the region and its offer meets the global skiing standards. Including new, latest generation ski infrastucture, top-notch hotels and after-ski offer – the complete offer, really, makes this mountain recognizable. Due to the huge demand and interest, the ammount of accomodation has been rising in the last few years, which required the enlargement of ski capacity. We’re trying to keep up with this destination’s development, so we’re having a lot of investment every year. That’s why we’re growing and building new pistes.
Is it difficult to compete with the seaside during summer? What do ”Skijališta Srbije“ offer during the hottest months, especially on Kopaonik?
Tourists are slowly changing their mindset, so more and more of them are opting for mountains during summer vacations. We try to attract as many as we can with a rich offer and various content, so they too get to feel the summer charms on a higher altitude. Panoramic cable car ride, picnic tours, electric and mountain biking, adventure park and adrenaline content are a part of the offer which proves to be interesting to tourists and which fulfills their vacation. Our resorts Kopaonik, Tornik and Stara planina are adjusted to literally every temperament and that’s reflected in the number of visitors every summer. It’s interesting to note that skiing on Kopaonik is available 365 days a year, starting this summer. We’ve layed out an artificial piste so everyone who can’t wait for snow can ski during summer as well. This groundwork is excellent for preparation of professional athletes and for those who wish to start the skiing season completely ready.
What are the biggest challenges in the year ahead?
Since the skiing season has just started, we’re dilligently working on piste preparation in order to put the whole resort to work. We’re expecting to break the last year records and the number of skiers should surpass earlier years. After winter season, we’ll continue to build the garage which is one of the most important projects for Kopaonik ski resort. It will have more than 300 slots and it will solve the pressing matter of big traffic jams. Furthermore, we’ll continue with other investment projects of broadening and organizing the ski resorts. As we don’t have a recess anymore, the preparations for the summer season will start as soon as the winter season ends. The work will continue, but under different conditions. We’re accustomed to the fast pace and we’re funcioning excellently. The results show that.
What are the most frequent visitor comments, especially by foreign visitors, after visiting Serbian mountains? Do they come in bigger numbers? How does Kopaonik fare against other regional ski resorts in their opinion?
When you’re working in tourism, it’ very important to see every guest off with a smile on their face. You always put yourself in their shoes – when you visit a destination, you’re looking at the complete offer and the impression you get sticks with you forever. We’re listening to skiers and their reactions to our work and their opinion means a lot to us. As both domestic and foreign visitors come in larger numbers every year, it seems we’re doing a good job. We’re hosting ever more skiers from Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, former Yugoslavia, and we’ve become very interesting to the Chinese market. In that regard, we believe that Kopaonik has no competition in the region when it comes to the quality of the offer and ski pass prices, which is still, I must add, the lowest in Europe.
By: Slavko Stefanović