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Tourism Challenges & Digital Opportunities: Swiss support for the 5th edition of the Macedonian Travel Marketplace

The 5th Edition of the Macedonian Travel Marketplace, which took place on February 25-26, brought together more than 200 local and international tourism businesses, tourism experts, policymakers, and the donor community.

The Macedonian Marketplace is an event organized by the National Association for Incoming Tourism of Macedonia (NAITM). Established in 2016 and constantly growing it became the central event in the field of tourism in North Macedonia. It is the main meeting place for industry professionals to identify business opportunities through direct cooperation and sales.

This year’s hybrid event under the title “Tourism Challenges & Digital Opportunities” had three main objectives:

  • Education: Sharing good practices, knowledge and experiences through presentations and panel discussions led by international and local tourism experts covered topics such as trends in the travel industry for 2021, safety protocols and standards, digital marketing opportunities, and virtual tours of local destinations.
  • Promotion: Showcase of North Macedonia’s touristic destinations, their offer and products. Promotional expo of key business stakeholders, destinations and attractions with a platform for seamless direct contacting.
  • Business: Real business opportunities and export of the Macedonian tourist products and services. More than 200 direct B2B meetings between Macedonian and international tour operators took place. Over 70 international media and operators joined the event.

The Swiss Government has been providing continuous support for the event through the Increasing Market Employability (IME) and the Swiss Import Promotion (SIPPO) programs. For this year’s event, IME and SIPPO provided expert support for NAITM members – tour operators, hotels and other tourism businesses – to better prepare for (virtual) B2B meetings and effective communication of their unique selling points in front of their potential international clients.

“Building a resilient tourism sector that will sustain current and create new jobs, especially for women and youth, is at the core of the Swiss cooperation in North Macedonia. Therefore, Switzerland’s support to the tourism sector continues in these challenging times as well.”, HE Sybil Suter, Swiss Ambassador to North Macedonia, emphasized in her official address at the event. The Minister of Economy of North Macedonia, Mr. Kreshnik Bekteshi, in his opening remarks confirmed the GoNM efforts to provide additional support for the sector which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

A snapshot of the latest Rapid Assessment on the tourism sector in North Macedonia and international demand, jointly implemented by IME and SIPPO, was also presented during the event. As the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the conditions for tourism, this assessment explored 1) what the behavior and the requirements of the foreign tourists will be in the future, and 2) whether North Macedonia’s offer can respond to these requirements. These useful insights should assist both the relevant institutions and the tourism operators for planning their future initiatives and preparing for greater tourist inflows. A detailed presentation and roundtable discussion on the assessment findings will be organized in March 2021.