Vladimir Zivanovic, director of the Tourist Organization Zlatibor, reveals the way this mountain acquired European respectability and attracted visitors from all over the world
Continuous innovations, expansion of the offer, the attractive contents represent just a part of what, along with the natural beauties and characteristics of Zlatibor, makes the mountain’s status higher year after year. However, every achieved goal is only a way towards new challenges.
From your point of view, what has contributed most to the fact that Zlatibor is becoming a great European tourist center?
In the base of the moving towards that demanding purpose are certainly extraordinary natural characteristics: the status of an air spa that the mountain deservedly took over a century ago, based on curative and healing air and incomprehensible green landscape with “golden” pines and clear water, which is the first reason and impression that numerous visitors fall in love with Zlatibor.
Also, great benefit is the ideal traffic position, mid-way from Belgrade to the Adriatic Sea. However, in highly developed tourism, already reached by this most visited mountain of Serbia, nature, and location are only starting points.
Without wisely thought development plans, without major infrastructure and other investments, there is no complete progress. Right on time, this was understood and successfully achieved on Zlatibor: the combination of natural beauty and value, but real investments, has led in recent years to the intensive development of this destination. However, we do not stop with already accomplished things.
Continuous investments in new facilities are present, that attract new guests year after year and bring old guests, that already visited it, back to the mountain. Soon the Gold Gondola will start working, the greatest investment of the Municipality of Čajetina, worth € 13 million, and it will advance the development of Zlatibor.
Also, the great efforts that the tourism industry and tourism development providers in Zlatibor make in marketing and promotional activities contribute to the fact that the benefits of the “golden mountain” and its diverse tourist offer are heard outside the borders of Serbia, across Europe and even worldwide. That is why more and more foreigners visit us, and the reason Zlatibor is becoming a significant European tourist center.
What are the key strategies for maintaining a position as a leader in mountain tourism in Serbia?
It is already known how difficult it is to become a leader in any business, especially in tourism. It is even more difficult to stay at the top for a long period when the competition is good. Zlatibor has been doing this in mountain tourism for a long time, which is making us proud.
I consider that our leading position among the mountains of Serbia is maintained by constant investments in new content, excellent quality of tourist offer that keeps the service at Zlatibor at a very high level, as well as the well-known hospitality and kindness of Zlatibor hosts. Tourists recognize Zlatibor as a destination that follows contemporary trends while still maintaining the spirit of tradition and distinctiveness.
Lately, a lot of effort and resources have been invested in new, modern ways of promoting. New channels of communication, internet promotion, social networks, and mobile applications are used to represent Zlatibor. Therefore, we try to present the mountain from a different angle, appropriate to the time and make it more attractive and accessible to younger generations.
The summer season on Zlatibor has justified all expectations. How are preparations for the winter season going, and what contents, besides the standard ones, are expecting the visitors?
Even though last year was a year that marked the largest number of guests and overnight stays, this summer we were able to increase the number of tourists for 5 percent, which is a big success, also we are very pleased with the increase in the number of foreign tourists, for about 30 percent.
Preparations for the winter season are already in progress. This winter, skiers, and lovers of winter sports are expecting a new two-kilometer ski slope at Tornik.
In addition to the new one, the already existing ski slopes with a six-seat cable car, two ski lifts, and an artificial snow system will be in function.
Ski resort for the beginners and recreational skiers, located in the very center of Zlatibor on the edge of the hill Obudovica, will be operating every day as well.
At their disposal, guests will have a large number of ski schools and ski rentals, also in several locations organized sledges ski resort for children.
Dino Park and Adventure park on Zlatibor will have their attractive winter contents this year. Some of the most visited regions (Stopić Cave, Museum Staro selo, meaning the Old Village, in Sirogojno, the waterfall in Gostilje and others) are open to visitors throughout the year.
The „cherry on top” of Zlatibor’s numerous content offer, as usual, we are preparing for New Year’s holidays: during this period, when Zlatibor is extremely visited (and 30,000 tourists a day here), all guests of the mountain should expect an unforgettable entertainment with concerts of the most famous music stars at Kraljev Trg, meaning the king’s square.
Is the long tourist history of Zlatibor known to visitors? From your point of view, what are some of the highlights of its history?
Zlatibor has a tradition of organized tourism development that is longer than 125 years. Long-time ago, in 1893, King Aleksandar Obrenovic came to the mountain, and, enchanted by the fresh and healthy air, with the beauty of the landscape and the hospitality of the Zlatibor people, decided to help the development of the mountain.
In the spring of the cold mountain water Kulaševac, he built a fountain named by the locals as Kraljeva Voda, also the same name was given to the tourist location that was created around the fountain. An important moment for the development of the mountain was the construction of the hotel of the same name, the first one to be built on the mountain, whose construction was empowered by King Petar I Karadjordjevic in 1908. Therefore the royals also recognized the value of this air spa.
In the modern development of Zlatibor, the first turning point was the construction of the Palisad Hotel in the 1960s, when the mountain became a contemporary tourist destination, as well as the previous construction of an artificial lake in the center of the location, which today is a favorite oasis for walking, relaxing and enjoying the benefits of the mountain.
Afterward the intensive construction of many hotels begins, as well as holiday villas, apartments, restaurants… And in the last decade, when modern hotel and other contemporary facilities were created, which nowadays makes Zlatibor recognizable, the first five-star hotel in Zlatibor opened named Grand Hotel Tornik, persuasive proof of the strong development and progress of this tourist center.
Zlatibor is satisfying the needs of visitors looking for peace and relaxation, families, lovers of winter sports and adrenaline, campers, but also hedonists who enjoy nature, gastronomy, tradition. Is it challenging to consolidate all that?
For the developers of tourism Zlatibor and the tourist industry, this represents the biggest challenge – to merge all the benefits and contents that the mountain offers and provide them to tourists so that it is a unique and memorable experience. It is challenging to accept the sophisticated needs of modern tourists, and still be able to preserve the natural and traditional values on which the tourist attractiveness of Zlatibor is based.
That’s why at the same time we offer our guests active holiday in modern organized centers and adrenaline sports merged with enjoying long walks in the pure Zlatibor nature, with entertaining contents in Kraljev trg (Kings Square) and traditional rural events (Pršutijada, Rakijada, Dani pastrmke, jablanički višeboj, Vašar starih zanata) and of course, the unforgettable flavors of the best prosciutto, a traditional komplet lepinja meaning bun, roasted lamb and homemade healthy food.
What are the impressions of visitors from abroad?
The fact that foreign visitors from the ”golden mountain” carry mainly great impressions is a fact that from year to year there are more of them on Zlatibor. In tourism there is a saying that a satisfied guest always comes again. It is no longer just tourists from Montenegro, Bosnia and Macedonia, as in previous years. There are now more and more guests from Russia, Israel, distant China, India.
They are delighted by the fresh mountain air, great climate, landscapes, adventurous contents … They gladly point out that they especially remember the known komplet lepinja, Zlatibor market, and friendly Zlatibor people. To this great number of foreign guest contributes the modernly equipped 3-star Zlatibor Camp, which accommodates many organized groups of campers from the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, Slovenia …
They are very satisfied with the conditions in the camp, the excursions that are organized for them and the contents available on Zlatibor, therefore they are happy to return as individual campers. Regarding this, the curiosity is: although the camp season is just over, we already have six announced groups of Dutch as well as campers from the UK for the coming year.