Administrator Power at the Launch of BiH International Tourism Promotion Campaign

Speeches Shim

Friday, January 21, 2022

Trebević, Bosnia and Herzegovina

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I would like to thank both Minister Djapo and Minister Gašić for their leadership, for their welcome of me to their country, and for their close collaboration with USAID and the dedication that they bring to growing tourism in this country everyday. I would also like to thank Justin Reid and Tripadvisor for their partnership with USAID’s Turizam project, and their commitment to promoting the beauty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As we rode the cable car up here, I was not only taken aback by the view, but I even managed to get a quick peek of the bobsled track from the 1984 Olympics. My mother and I would sit in front of our fuzzy TV, quickly becoming experts on sports that we had never watched before and cheering on athletes like Debbie Armstrong.

The energy surrounding these Olympics that some of you remember well, could be felt from thousands of miles away, and for those few weeks, the world’s eyes were on Sarajevo. There was such pride and such admiration for the unity, diversity, pluralism of this country. And though those games continue to stand out in our minds as a success, it was of course just a short time later, under a decade, when war would break out, and Sarajevo was once again the center of the world’s attention for other reasons.

In 1993, I came here as a rookie journalist to cover that war. At the time, the sense of pride the world had seen in 1984 had soured into bitter ethnic separatism. But in the face of all of that suffering, I encountered remarkably resilient people. They invited me into their homes, offering me whatever food or drink they had left as they faced shelling and sniper fire and deprivation of the kind that pervaded the country. These people - you all - trusted me with your stories, introduced me to your loved ones, improved my accent as I attempted to speak your language, and shared with me their favorite jokes. While the deep loss and trauma of the war cannot be overstated, the resilience, the sense of humor, and irony that I encountered gave me such a deep appreciation for the hospitality of the people of this land. 

Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina has rediscovered the place it has held in Europe for centuries: as a crossroads of cultural and ethnic diversity. This is a nation that has so much to offer. As Bosnia and Herzegovina looks to the future, the people here have an opportunity to transform this country into Europe’s next great tourism destination - while enhancing ties among the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, creating well-paying jobs, and spurring sorely needed economic growth.

Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for almost 10% of this country’s GDP. And with the right approach to a post-pandemic recovery for this industry, it can grow even higher. The foundation for this effort is already laid: thanks to the country’s natural beauty, thanks to your warm people, your delicious food, the great skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Bosnia and Herzegovina had the third largest tourism growth rate in the world in 2019. In the world. 

Over the past decade, USAID has supported efforts here to promote tourism. We have supported you in building Via Dinarica, developing award-winning mountain trails across the country, and transforming BiH into a world-class outdoor tourism destination. Unfortunately, as we all know, the pandemic stymied tourism, but when we turn the corner on COVID-19, which we will, which we must, USAID stands ready to help the people of BiH bring tourists back.

As part of a new joint partnership between the Federation and Tripadvisor, the Federation is investing in an international promotional campaign to attract tourists from across Europe and Eurasia. They will use research and monitor market trends to promote experiences throughout the country to these prospective visitors. This is truly an innovative strategy that could not be carried out without the close cooperation between the public and the private sectors.

We are also encouraged by the adoption of a new tourism strategy by the Republika Srpska this past December that USAID helped develop, and their great work to attract the World Rafting Championship this Summer. Their significant investment will turn this event into a chance to expose the world to BiH’s beautiful rivers and natural landscapes while facilitating investment from the private sector. 

USAID Turizam is also working to bring more international flights to Bosnia and Herzegovina, work with travel agents and tour operators to attract more trips to the country, and help the country preserve and enhance the heritage of some of its most beautiful, historic villages. There’s even an effort to build a new wine route through the country that will create new jobs, expand business opportunities, and gain international accreditation for the country’s vineyards. And we had an opportunity to talk about this initiative before coming out here and joining you.  

With all of these developments, I look forward to coming back again to this great country—not as a public servant, but as a tourist. I want my children to taste Cevapi and burek, I want my husband to hike some of these trails—and I must admit I want to take that wine tour. I want the world’s eyes to be on Sarajevo once again—not because of its divisions, but because of its unity and dynamism. I want the world’s eyes to be on the entire country. To be providing job opportunities with the infusion of tourism and the resources that flow from it so that young people can remain right here enjoying those rivers, those mountains, that burek. 

Thanks to the efforts of Minister’s Djapo and Gašić, and the partnership of private sector partners like Tripadvisor, when the pandemic subsides tourism can once again be an economic engine for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a source of domestic pride that unites people of all backgrounds. And as a partner of all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, no matter their ethnicity or where they live, the United States will stand by you as you realize that vision.

Thank you so much. 

Last updated: January 22, 2022

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