Updated: Jan 13
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 Pristina region.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the participants talked about how difficult this period has been in the tourism sector for the entrepreneurs of Pristina region. The chairman of the Kosovo Tourism Union mentioned the research that their organization has undertaken with a large number of respondents about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the tourism sector. The findings showed that this sector is one of the most affected by the pandemic, not only in Kosovo but worldwide. This research showed that of the sub-sectors, the tour guides were the ones who were the most affected as they did not work at all since the groups of the visitors which were booked beforehand were cancelled. The hotel industry, the travel agency sector, and the tour operators have also been badly damaged. Comparing to the other sectors, the transport and gastronomy sector have been less affected by the pandemic as they have had more operations than the other sectors.
One of the main concerns of the participants is that the local and governmental Institutions do not support the tourism sector sufficiently.
Every project and investment that these entrepreneurs have undertaken in the last year has been very difficult to finish. Most of them have tried their best to keep their employees, but a large part of them had to restructure their staff due to the lack of income. Fortunately, this year seems to be better for them, although it is not yet as good as it was in the previous years.
As for the tour operators, the pandemic has affected them so greatly that they have not been able to work all year round as the opportunities to travel have been minimal.
Participants reported that by facing this situation and being the sector most affected by the pandemic, they have managed to learn new ways of managing the situation in such cases.
The industries that were most affected from the COVID-19 pandemic are the accommodation-related businesses, the guides and finally gastronomy. According to them, they did not have any support from the relevant institutions either at the beginning of the pandemic or from the economic recovery packages. One of their biggest worries is the development of this pandemic, and the very existence of their business, but they said that they should focus on getting best practices from other countries.
The Kosovo administration should develop platforms which link the businesses to institutions and ease the processes and reduce the administrative burdens.
Despite being heavily affected by the pandemic and belonging to different sub-sectors, their companies have not increased their prices, on the contrary they have tried to lower their prices in order to attract more tourists.
In terms of tourist behavior in recent times, there is a growing trend for eco-friendly products. For most of them the biggest challenge is to familiarize their staff to eco-friendly practices rather than the customers. In terms of sustainable and innovative practices, some of them have started using solar panels. For accommodation sector enterprises, the biggest costs are the use of water and heating of the buildings. They are trying to find alternative methods of using natural water through wells so they do not consume the drinkable water for their operations such as washing and cleaning. Connection to the central district heating network would reduce their heating costs for them and at the same time would enable them to not cause so much pollution in nature. The guides group is planning to include electric bicycles as means of transport and planning to use solar panels to heat the water tanks.