Photo credits: Lifestyle Serbia

Belgrade has progressed in the fields of general and transport infrastructure, tourism infrastructure and destination marketing.

On this year’s scale for the best regional meetings destination, Belgrade ended up third and with less than a point overtook Dubrovnik. The story of Belgrade is an example of a destination that from a poor starting point a decade ago has become a leading light due to a number of various factors.

Text by: Gorazd Čad, Editor in Chief

belgrade, serbia

A. Natural and cultural factors, Final grade: 4.29
Belgrade generates mostly positive reactions among meeting organisers for a number of reasons that include its diversity of landscape, set at the confluence of two rivers, alongside its cultural diversity, which creates a special experiential feeling. Both the social attractiveness and cultural diversity factors are highly rated, as since Belgrade sets out to impress its visitors with its rich sense of lifestyle. Among other evaluation criteria, access to forests and the rivers Danube and Sava, as well as to the large number of green areas, were very well scored. The weakest part of the offer is the attitude to sustainable development, landscape sensitivity and the more general state of the environment.

  • Comparison with Dubrovnik / 4.94: Due to an exceptional experiential value that has seen it placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list Dubrovnik has received the highest average grade among the examined destinations.

B. General and transport infrastructure, Final grade: 4.63
Belgrade lies at the crossroads of a number of Balkan transport corridors. With a solid road, rail and river infrastructure, a few years back ago it was limited only by limited and deteriorating flight availability. With the arrival of Serbia Airline, however, Belgrade has become the regional aviation hub, which in the first nine months of 2015 welcomed 3.7 million passengers. As a result of this and due to its improved security, Belgrade progressed heavily up the scale. On the other hand the municipal infrastructure, local structure and public transport were rated the lowest, and in these areas Belgrade has to work the hardest if it wants to be serious about entry into the best destinations club.

  • Comparison with Dubrovnik / 4.35: Dubrovnik is an obvious flight destination. Dubrovnik ranks fourth in the region according to the number of passengers.

C. Tourist infrastructure, Final grade: 4.82
Belgrade is constantly in pursuit of the most developed tourist destinations in the region. A huge investment wave has already completely changed Belgrade’s hotel scene and it seems that the development surge won’t stop just yet, certainly when thinking of the Belgrade Waterfront project plans. Belgrade has a great selection of restaurants, cafés and a rich nightlife and a great advantage of the city is its extraordinary cultural offer and additional tourist activities, including shopping. The weakest aspects of the tourist offer were tourist information and destination management, which according to the commission’s evaluation fall behind the leading destinations.

  • Comparison with Dubrovnik /4.95: Dubrovnik lives for tourism and in terms of tourist infrastructure retains its leading position in the region, with its offer annually enriched by some new top hotels (this year the Sheraton).

D. Meetings infrastructure, Final grade: 4.55
For the moment the most problematic part of the offer is the condition of the Sava Centre, which needs an urgent renovation, as the hotel’s convention centres cannot replace the large footprint of a multifunctional centre. Belgrade has made significant progress with a few globally recognized brands and congress providers, however (in particular Radisson Blu Old Mill and Crowne Plaza), and the quality and the share of suitable rooms in convention hotels was also highly rated. The room for improvement is in further development and a greater diversity of congress products and by increasing the activities of city’s Convention Bureau. Currently, the Serbia Convention Bureau is doing a large part of the structural work and with clearer procedural share there could be a lot of room for improvement.

  • Comparison with Dubrovnik / 4.69: Dubrovnik is rated higher due to its very active and well-functioning Convention Bureau, which is the integrative engine of the entire industry. In the area of infrastructure Dubrovnik is facing similar challenges to Belgrade and plans to build a new convention centre.

E. Subjective grade, Final grade: 4.77
The better political stability and consequently safer destination has improved our subjective grade. Belgrade is one of the leading meetings destinations in Europe with regard to the relationship between price and quality, which really improves its competitiveness. Combined with the unmatched hospitality of the locals and a high standard of e-services, the personal experience is extremely positive and professional. Belgrade has to work on general standards, business practices and changing the image of the destination from a fun one to a serious meetings destination.

  • Comparison with Dubrovnik / 4.39: The most problematic part of the Dubrovnik offer is the poorer subjective grade because of the relatively high prices and seasonality of the destination. Despite the excellent image, this part of the offer is dampening its competitiveness.

F. Marketing buzz, Final grade: 4.91
The capital of Serbia, Belgrade has gained mostly from the intensive promotion undertaken by the Serbia Convention Bureau. The bureau stands behind the rapid growth of the destination and has improved its image – the Serbia brand has become internationally recognised and regarded as very efficient. Add to this the marketing activities of the new, recognizable hotel chains and the results are an improved identity and image to the international professional public. The room for improvement is in the areas of greater integration of marketing, loyalty to the destination and wider use of distribution channels. Improvements can also be made in the field of digital and content marketing.

  • Comparison with Dubrovnik / 4.65: Dubrovnik’s marketing is consistent and very focused. Therefore, the grade may be a bit lower than Belgrade’s, but that’s just the current situation, which is changing on an annual basis.

About Meeting star award:

The Editorial Board of Kongres Magazine had decided on the selection of best meetings destination, because we want to emphasize the importance of various factors in the development of meetings destinations and want to get closer to the real conditions in terms of meeting planners.

Since 2010 the evaluation of the best destinations has taken place in the Editorial Board of Kongres Magazine. Each is scored on 75 criteria that allows the realistic comparison of meetings destinations. Since its inception five years ago the award has become the leading regional award in the field of meetings industry. A ‘Meetologue’, published annually in May with all the destinations, is an indispensable resource and guide through the region for international meetings organisers.

The award for best destinations is awarded each year at the Conventa trade show. With this award, they promote the best destinations and its best practices that contribute to the greater competitive advantages of the meetings industry of New Europe.

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A long-time meetings industry addict, Gorazd is the Founder and owner of marketing and event agency Toleranca Marketing. He has many years of experience in planning, preparing and carrying out large international meetings and exhibitions. As the founder of the "Power to the Meetings" methodology, he still firmly believes in the power of live events and human to human communication. He is also the author of numerous articles and editor-in-chief of the meetings industry magazine Kongres Magazine.