Last updated: 04:40 PM ET, Fri September 30 2016

Hotel Building Boom Could Signal Tourism Success for Sarajevo

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | September 20, 2016

Hotel Building Boom Could Signal Tourism Success for Sarajevo

This past summer, the Holiday Inn in the middle of Sarajevo reopened after being shuttered for more than a year during bankruptcy proceedings. The colorful and iconic structure is best known because it was used as a base for journalists during the siege of Sarajevo in the early 1990s.

The Holiday Inn is not the only hotel to open its doors recently in the Bosnian city. Sarajevo is experiencing a hotel building boom that could help it become known not for its past conflict but as one of Europe’s hottest up and coming urban destinations. 

A record-setting summer and new tourism success

Sarajevo had a record-breaking summer. More than 100,000 tourists showed up in August alone. That is an impressive number for a city of less than 500,000. 

Sarajevo wasn’t always a popular place for tourists, and its lack of hotels played a major part in dampening tourism growth.

A hotel on every street

It has been more than two decades since the shooting stopped in the city and the rebuilding began. However, that rebuilding did not include many new hotels. People who were not able to book into one of a handful of hostels or guesthouses had to opt for expensive luxury hotels. That dynamic is now changing, with new hotels and guesthouses in all price ranges springing up throughout the city. 

Though some international brands are developing properties in Sarajevo (Marriott now has two hotels in the downtown area), many of these new inns are independently owned. This means that local businesspeople have a large stake in the growing tourism industry. 

Read More: Could Tourism Elevate The Balkans?

Private businesspeople pushing tourism

One hotelier, Unkas Kupusovic, owner of the Balkan Han Hostel, said that the industry has developed despite a lack of help from the government. “The authorities do little to promote tourism. Everything that functions is a private business but the state hardly contributes at all.”

Aside from a general lack of tourism promotion, Kupusovic could be talking about the fact that new hotels that want to open in Sarajevo have to go through a lengthy registration and certification process that can stretch on for more than a month. The paperwork needed to construct a new building can take as long as half a year to be processed. 

So the municipal government is more of a hindrance than a help at this point. 

The next urban tourism hotspot?

This is why, despite the fact that new hotels are springing up on almost every block of the city center, there still aren’t enough rooms to accommodate visitors during major events like the growlingly-popular Sarajevo Film Festival, which takes place each August. 

However, it appears that tourists will keep coming. Sarajevo has established a reputation as a hospitable, laid back city with blossoming art, food and nightlife scenes. It seems that tourists intent on traveling in Europe are seeking cheaper, more relaxed European destinations as alternatives to the traditional urban destinations like Paris. Thanks to its new hotels and ambitious private businesspeople, Sarajevo could well become one of these hot European urban destinations. 

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