Entrepreneurs from Sarajevo, fed up with grandiose words about their city’s unused potential, took matters into their own hands. The tourist and meetings industry development is visible at every step and turn. Since the city did not have a proper convention centre, they built a modern one in Hotel Hills in Ilidža. Many say hotel chains are the key to growing a city’s potential. Well, in Sarajevo, Arab investors brought them with their exorbitant investments. Not least, Sarajevo is among the fastest-growing air destinations in the Balkans, with a growing network of flight connections. Even some of the former venues of the Winter Olympics have undergone a thorough renovation. Recently, Monti Hotel & Wellness opened its doors on Igman Mountain, on the site of the former Youth Hostel Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A thorough renovation of the iconic Igman Hotel has also been set in motion. Bjelašnica has also come to life as an ideal incentive destination. Entrepreneurs believe in the potential of their city, which recently ranked third in a survey that aimed to find out which former Yugoslav destinations are most popular in marketing recall. Sarajevo ranked third, trailing only behind Dubrovnik and Bled.
Twenty-seven years after the war ended, optimism has returned to Sarajevo, and the city looks to the future with promise. Even though Sarajevo has no convention bureau, and the information about the offer is difficult to garner with the help of Google, the city is abuzz with activities. The people of Sarajevo are unrivalled hosts who always welcome their guests with open arms. The confident entrepreneurs in Sarajevo often say that the city needs no marketing campaigns as business booms on its own. We can only imagine what would happen if Sarajevo made an organised effort to place itself on the map under a unified team. Still, they would need a great leader to do so. The formula to success is persistence, solidarity and cooperation between the private and public sectors. That sounds logical, but key stakeholders in Sarajevo, especially from the public sector, have difficulties coming to grips with that. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it seems, the bureaucracy is even more complex than in the West.
In any case, we are always moved by the city and its authentic ways, even though Sarajevo has lost some traditional charm in recent years. That void has been filled by cosmopolitanism, rekindled on the streets of the Olympic City. The spirit of the 1984 Winter Olympics is returning through tourism and events that regularly come to the city.
NEED TO KNOW IN 2023
The heavy construction machinery did not go quiet even during the corona crisis. Just before the COVID-19 outbreak, Bosmal Arjaan by Rotana Sarajevo opened its doors. The hotel offers 132 apartments and a smaller conference centre. During the same period, Ibis Styles welcomed its first guests on the edge of Sarajevo. In addition, several smaller boutique hotels opened.
Most novelties include new hotel openings on the mountainous Olympic plateaus surrounding Sarajevo. Thus, Igman Mountain became home to the world-class incentive Monti Hotel & Wellness at the end of 2020. On the other side of the Mountain, on Bjelašnica, Hotel Han opened in mid-2021. The latest addition to the brisk hotel scene is the brand new Hotel Nomad Wellness & Spa on Bjelašnica, boasting a roomy conference centre. The hotel opened in 2022.
Events are a daily feature in Hotel Hills in Ilidža, which has become the epicentre of meetings and events in the city. The hotel’s convention centre is the largest in Sarajevo, and its offer is constantly evolving. The novelties do not include only investments but also the promotion of Sarajevo. Lately, Sarajevo has been focusing its marketing efforts through the active Tourist Board of Sarajevo, led by new director Haris Fazlagić. He has recently announced that the Sarajevo Convention Bureau will soon start operations. In our opinion, the city is in dire need of an organised convention bureau. The city has also implemented a pilot project named Sarajevo City Card. The event scene is just as lively, with numerous events taking place in Sarajevo aiming to connect the region. The events include the 1st Sarajevo Tourism, promising to become the central event of the regional tourism industry. Events are still the glue between East and West in Sarajevo, as they once used to be. It seems that is one of the city’s advantages.
BEST INCENTIVE IDEA
On the path of Vučko – Treasure or Photo Hunt
The legendary Vučko, the mascot of the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, is an omnipresent souvenir in the city. Finding Vučko can be an exciting treasure or photo hunt on one of the Olympic Mountains surrounding Sarajevo or within Sarajevo itself. We recommend starting at Monti Hotel & Wellness and searching for Vučko on Igman Mountain, where he supposedly feels best. A team walk across Igman Mountain will undoubtedly benefit the health of participants, as the area is a renowned climate-healing destination.
BEST KEPT SECRETS
Viječnica – the most recognisable venue in Sarajevo
In August 1992, amid the raging war, Viječnica, the famed city house and a symbol of Sarajevo that had become the national library in 1949, was entirely destroyed. A fire engulfed the venue, burning over two million books – almost eighty per cent of the material within the library. In 2014, the venue reopened in glamorous fashion. Viječnica is one of the most sought-after venues in Bosnia, and unsurprisingly challenging to book for an event.
TOP EVENTS IN 2023
Among numerous events and festivals that take place in Sarajevo, the following five will be in the limelight:
Sarajevo Tourism Summit (26 April – 27 April 2023)
TEDx Sarajevo (13 May 2023)
Sarajevo Business Forum (17 May – 18 May 2023)
Sarajevo Film Festival (11 August – 18 August 2023)
Sarajevo Travel Fest (12 October – 14 October 2023)
The multi-faceted and cultural diversity of Sarajevo is reflected in the cuisine, which has become more than the legendary ćevapčići and burek on Baščaršija. The gastronomic scene is developing at an unbelievable rate, and the number of superb restaurants is increasing. To experience an authentic culinary journey with a view, I like to book a table at Kibe Mahala Restaurant, slightly away from the tourist hustle and bustle. The restaurant’s offer revolves around traditional local dishes. Their pies are unrivalled, much like their lamb. That may be because they have a simple policy of buying all ingredients locally. To top off the dishes, the restaurant exudes an ambience of cosiness.
Debating with the locals about the best ćevapčići in town is hard to avoid. The legendary grilled meat dish is both a myth and legend, passed down from generation to generation. The recipe is never written down but instead lives in the minds of the people who work in the decades-old restaurants and have learned the recipes from their ancestors. The dish is a matter of pride and spurs numerous debates about the quality of meat and the way of preparation. You can decide for yourself whether Ferhatović, Hodžić, Željo, Zmaj or Mrkva dishes out the best. Just the scents while strolling through Baščaršija Market are intoxicating. Umami! To understand the depth of the culinary story in Sarajevo, we recommend watching the latest comedy film by Denis Tanović titled Not So Friendly Neighborhood Affair.
SARAJEVO IN A FEW WORDS
Sarajevo is the heart and soul of the Balkans, where all stereotypes reside in one place. In the aftermath of the horrifying war, thirty years later, life has seemingly returned to normality. Likewise, the meeting infrastructure has perpetually improved. The war in the mid-nineties halted the development. Paradoxically, that standstill ensured Sarajevo still has an authenticity that the West lost decades ago.
Today, the city is a captivating and sought-after meeting destination, marked by historical events in its long and tumultuous history. In that light, Sarajevo is unparalleled in the Balkans. The time has thus come for international event organisers to discover the city. Should they choose Sarajevo, they can experience the hospitality of heartfelt, kind, and open-minded people. The people of Sarajevo have a great soul, an acute sense of humour and occasionally ooze the feeling of melancholy. You can understand their sentiment through sevdah, a type of music that teaches you to love, mourn, celebrate and yearn. Sevdah is the moment we shut off our brains and transcend time. Once you understand sevdah, then you can see the true Sarajevo. We hope the friendly locals will know how to unite and organise to start and develop the meetings industry together systematically and holistically. We believe the time for that has finally come.
DESTINATION FINAL GRADE
|SARAJEVO INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2022|
|Natural and cultural factors||4.82|
|General and transport infrastructure||4.42|
|ICCA index - worldwide ranking||2.52|
|Numbeo Quality of life Index||2.75|
|Numbeo Safety Index||3.57|
|ACI Airport Connectivity Index||2.84|
|Nomad List Overall Score||4.13|
NOTE: The MTLG Destination Update is not a paid advertisement. The Sarajevo MTLG Destination Update was prepared based on a personal visit of Kongres Magazine’s assessor in April 2023. Based on the evaluation, Sarajevo will be evaluated according to the Meeting Experience Index methodology. The MTLG evaluation will be prepared at the end of July 2023.