In recent years I have visited Belgrade several times, mostly for meeting purposes. At first glance, my association to Belgrade is related to a rich nightlife and general chaos. On the list of ten world cities with the best nightlife and cosmopolitan nature, it was included even by the famous Lonely Planet.

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As one of the oldest cities in Europe, Belgrade does not lack tourist attractions, as it has a rich cultural and historical heritage, which is concentrated around the Kalemegdan fortress. In addition, Belgrade has many experientially rich points such as Square of the Republic, Skadarlija, Dedinje, Ada Ciganlija and especially the area along the river Sava and the Danube.

Both rivers give the city a special character and mostly contribute to the landscape diversity of the otherwise rather boring Pannonian Plain, which stretches to the north of the city.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”900px” height=”” background_color=”#bed68b” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Tourism Oscar as the best place for tourism in SEE – Belgrade has been acclaimed as the best tourist spot in South Eastern Europe (SEE) in a tourism action carried out by Sacen International, an international centre for tourism and hospitality development based in Serbia, tasked with selecting the best of SEE tourism in 2013.[/dropshadowbox]

The second important experiential elements are the many green areas, forming a beautiful and interesting contrast to the urban parts of the city. After penetrating through the chaotic traffic on bridges across the Sava, in a completely different light, and one that I personally much prefer, the old part of Belgrade shows. Here, some of the friendliest congress hotels and locations for events, as well as the true soul of Belgrade, can be found.

I usually come to the capital down the highway of ”brotherhood and unity”, which is in a rather sad state following the crossing of the Croatian-Serbian border.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”900px” height=”” background_color=”#bed68b” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Royal Palace is officially open for visits – Visitors to the Royal and the White Palace will get acquainted with history, art and culture in a nice two-hour walk through the Royal Compound accompanied by professional tour guides.[/dropshadowbox]

Most of the congress guests arrive to Belgrade via the Surčin Airport, which is satisfactorily connected to major air hubs, but to seriously boost meetings industry, a few more low-cost connections will be needed.

A Direct link with the city, which a city and an airport of this size would necessarily need, is also bad. A special issue is the city traffic, which despite everything somehow functions, city authorities are trying to renovate and improve the system. When planning and organising congresses, this element has to be carefully considered. There is also no point in wasting words on the residential area of New Belgrade. The destruction at the end of 1990s largely influenced the chaotic urbanisation. The violation of norms and rules is a national sport. Apartment block buildings and isolate architectural colossi are a reflection of socialist architectural philosophy. All this affects the sense of quality of life, which is not the best. Current urban aesthetics of the city is not on the level of spiritual, cultural and intellectual potential of the city.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”900px” height=”” background_color=”#bed68b” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Air Serbia launching new routes. Planned growth from 29 destinations by end 2013 to 38 destinations by end 2014 and employing more than 300 people in roles across the business. [/dropshadowbox]

Belgrade is the leading Serbian tourist destination with over 30 % of all tourists.

Belgrade has some 2.000 solid hotel rooms, suitable for congress guests in hotels of 4 and 5 star categories. Considering the city’s potential, it is significantly malnourished in this area. Fortunately the situation will soon fundamentally change with the opening of new hotels, like the 5 star Falkensteiner. With well planned work, the destination’s image has improved over the past few years, to which numerous positive media coverage also contributed. According to the number of tourist attractions, the city is not far behind the leading cities in Europe, and it also has the advantage of the status of a new and hot tourist destination.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”900px” height=”” background_color=”#bed68b” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Crowne plaza hotel: once the Hotel Beograd, in January 2014 a fully renovated hotel reopened as the Crowne Plaza, an InterContinental Hotels Group brand. The new Crowne Plaza Belgrade has 416 units (387 rooms and 29 suites), 14 conference rooms and a choice of restaurants and bars.[/dropshadowbox]

Meetings industry is positioned highest on a scale of Belgrade’s tourist products. To this the Belgrade Convention Bureau, which continuously positions the city on the international market, contributed a lot. In the environment of the socialist New Belgrade, which is supplemented by ultra modern shopping centres, the former pride of meetings industry of Yugoslavia Sava Centre is located. Functionality of the Centre, which dedicated a part of its facilities to trade, never seizes to surprise me positively. As well as the relatively well maintained interior which is retro and has not changed from when it was built. The centre is anything but easy to manage and is in need of a thorough renovation, but it is still the largest in the region and gives Belgrade a chance to bid for very large international congresses. If hotels around it will be renovated as well, especially the Continental, who has lost a part of its name somewhere on the road (Inter) and the new Kempinski Hotel will be built, that will definitely be a new impetus for Belgrade’s congress events. In the same area you will also find a few newly built hotels with conference facilities, but they see congresses as a supplementary business (Holiday Inn and Hotel In).

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”900px” height=”” background_color=”#bed68b” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]36th International Fair of Tourism (ITTFA) was held in Belgrade. [/dropshadowbox]

On the Sava Island the Belgrade fair is located, which is from the time of the former common state oversized, but it is very proactive and it has numerous interesting fair events and a leading position in the city.

More than with hotels, Belgrade impresses with numerous location for receptions and other events. Finally it had been for many years the capital of the common state, which is also shown in numerous representative buildings. Here Belgrade discovers its soul and offers to congress participants many ways to spend free time at Kalamegdan and Belgrade fortress and in one of many parks. Here is should be noted that this is a big city and thus time for such activities should be carefully planned.

[pullquote]DID YOU KNOW?
That Belgrade was the second city in the world to have a Grand Prix in 1939, right before WWII. The first was Monte Carlo.

What impresses me again and again in Belgrade is the friendliness of the hosts. The city is such because of its inhabitants who are open and hospitable. In my opinion, this is the greatest competitive advantage of Belgrade. Event organisers will find professional and accurate information on the meetings industry, fast and friendly at the Belgrade Convention Bureau (www.tob.co.rs). It offers comprehensive overview of congress products as meetings planners understand them. With a little luck, you will find right partners for your event in Belgrade also in the field of agencies, who will leave you breathless with their courage, commitment and innovative proposals for the organisation of your congress.

Belgrade is an authentic, open and hospitable congress destination with soul.
The gap between current infrastructure and the actual potential of the city, which it has because of its historical and cultural position in the region, is the biggest challenge for Belgrade’s congress scene. In short, the zeitgeist of Belgrade is best summed up by writer Momo Kapor with the words: “Belgrade is a low-budget New York”.

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5 excellent meetings destination
4 quality meetings destination
3 recommendable meetings destination
2 average meetings destination
1 passable

A. Natural and cultural factors: 4.29
The city at the cros roads of routes and historic conflict is full of history and forms an authentic social and cultural whole interesting to tourists. Unfortunately, some cultural monuments are in a pret y bad shape and that is why the grade is slightly lower compared to the other parts of the region.

B. General and transport infrastructure: 4.15
All roads lead to. The geostrategic position of Belgrade is extremely favourable and al ows for easy access at any time of the year. Unfortunately, the traf ic and especial y its quality is the weakest part of the congress infrastructure. Years of wars, sanctions and isolation have claimed its toll on the transport and general infrastructure, which is slowly returning to normal.

C. Tourist infrastructure: 4.65
Belgrade is cur ently dominated by medium 3 and 4 star category hotels, in short this will be improved with new openings, which will improve the of er in the first hotel league. Otherwise, it is a city with remarkable cuisine, world-class nightlife, world events and positive vibrations, which makes it a very dynamic and attractive tourist destination.

D. Meetings infrastructure: 3.89
Belgrade has a good basis for the development of meetings industry with a large convention centre, the Belgrade Fair, numerous convention hotels, the long tradition and very reasonable prices. With the establishment of the Serbian Convention Bureau in 2007, co-operation and promotion has thoroughly improved and now Belgrade has in terms of management a unique opportunity to take advantage of its benefits, provided that the complete infrastructure will be thoroughly renewed.

E. Subjective grade: 4.49
Looking at Belgrade in terms of conference infrastructure, investments are neces ary for it to be able to compete in the premier league of European cities. Most convention facilities need renovation to get rid of a dominant retro style from the beginning of 1970s. The city has enormous potential, which is stil significantlyuntapped.The gap betwen expectations of international congres planners and the reality is simply too great.

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Comparison with the region:
Belgrade bases its congress story on the rich culture at the crosroads of East and West, the central position in the South-East Europe and a lively social life. Belgrade is a city on the rise and a rough congress diamond, which has enormous development potential and can be placed geo-strategicaly side by side with world congress capitals, if it improves its infrastructure and handles the entire meetings sales chain.




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