Updated: Jan 13, 2022
Focus Groups were an integral part of the Needs Assessment of the MSMEs in the tourism sector in Kosovo. These Focus Groups are a component of the Green Hub Program, a program which is implemented by Sustainability Leadership Kosovo in partnership with VentureUP and UNDP Kosovo. This program is leading the change and driving the ecotourism trends in Kosovo. In this Focus Group we hosted representatives from different sub-sectors of tourism from the Mitrovica region.
Like all businesses of other sectors, the tourism sector in the Mitrovica region also faced problems with the situation of COVID-19 pandemic. In most cases, the entrepreneurs were forced to close their businesses.
Most of them used the lockdown to restructure their services and products in order to keep the employees and not fail as a company. On the other hand, some other businesses experienced more hardships during 2020, where they had to lay off half of their employees, but fortunately, the year 2021 was more acceptable than the previous year. Another problem that emerged after relaxation of lockdown measures in the tourism sector is the lack of culture in booking accommodation. For the vacationers, who came without previous booking accommodation, it has created a lot of dissatisfaction; and unable to accept them, the hosts were forced to send them back. In contrast, rural tourism has not undergone such hardships due to sufficient natural space where vacationers were able to keep the required distance between each other. When it comes to the future of their businesses, some of the entrepreneurs are not concerned about their businesses but about various natural disasters and urbanism that are continuously increasing, especially in Mitrovica. Bajgora residents are expected to fully evacuate their homes as a large number of them are in the process of leaving the village, and as a result for businesses this causes problems such as: the lack of local bio products and the lack of labor force.
In addition, water scarcity is also a big concern for businesses. Water scarcity is caused by the continuous excavations and erosion that take place in Trepça, and about 250 wells have been identified as having little or no water at all. Another problem that is of big concern for the entrepreneurs is that the lands in this area do not have owners or have so many owners that it causes problems when it comes to expropriation making the situation quite complicated and creating a systematic problem that needs intervention and change of approach that was used up until now.
According to the participants, there are many historical monuments in Mitrovica which have been preserved by the local residents, but these monuments are not visited by the tourists because Mitrovica and its tourism have not been developed so far and were not included in Kosovo tourism packages at all.
The identity of the city has been lost because of the division of the city 20 years ago and the locals are still facing the loss of their city identity, so they need to work on the redevelopment of the city so that all tourists and visitors can have a clear idea of what image the city had in the past and what image will have in the future. Unquestionably, Mitrovica has great potential for tourism development, but it depends on the local government and who handles these topics. Mitrovica needs to develop new tourist packages and digital marketing because currently only wind turbines are visited, and the other tourist attractions of the city are ignored.
The participants stated that their tourist offer is one of the best but the problem lies in attracting new tourists due to the lack of information and knowledge of what the city offers. Most tourist businesses in Mitrovica have poor marketing, and the tourists who visit Mitrovica constantly have requests for hotels and small businesses to have guides in order to be informed about the main tourist attractions and how they could visit them. Furthermore, there needs to be greater cooperation between the existing businesses in order to provide a more complete and attractive experience for visitors and tourists who visit Mitrovica and at the same time making the situation more beneficial for all participants in this sector.
Some of the participants stated that they have not changed the tariffs because if they did this they would lose even those few tourists that they have. On the other hand, some others stated that they increased the tariffs because they need funds in order to pay the employees as well as to recreate more qualitative menus.
Some of them in their businesses have natural resources like wells; they do not use chemicals for water filtration, and do not use potable water, they have the ultra violet system and the chlorine that they make use of is used in the right amount, so the water that is used is not changed but only filtered. They are aware that these practices that they make use of are quite small and that they need to implement sustainability practices, so they say that they are ready to go through various training sessions in order to treat this issue in a more appropriate way.
They state that they are constantly trying to invest in eco-friendly innovations. For example, those who have started working on the hostel's construction are using only wood, and not materials that are not eco-friendly. In addition, they want to include technology for marketing so that tourists or visitors can get information easier and faster. Apart from this, they also want to open an information office where tourists can be informed about the places they could visit in this city and a TV guide where tourists can have the chance to learn more about Mitrovica’s touristic offer.