As in the past, as in the present, Macedonia is visited by many tourists who pass through the crossroads of the Balkans, by travelers who have yet to explore these parts of the world, by tourists who are looking for cultural and spiritual tourism.
The definition of tourism is different in different textbooks, books, scientific papers and depends on the sources of literature that are used, but also on the intention for which an attempt is made to define tourism. At the world level, there is still no consensus on the definition of tourism, and almost every institution defines it in a different way. The World Tourism Organization under the United Nations has published the following interpretation: “Tourism is a set of activities, services and industries that deliver a travel experience, which includes: transportation, accommodation, food and beverages, shops, entertainment activities and other tourist services for individuals or groups who travel outside their home.” Geldner defines tourism as “a set of phenomena and relationships that arise from the interaction of tourists, companies, host institutions and home communities in the process of attracting and accommodating tourists and other visitors”.
Because not every trip is tourism, for the trip to be part of tourism, it should include a visit outside the usual environment, have a purpose and duration. Tourism and travel are inseparable, so even the most ordinary trip can be transformed into a tourist visit. Travel and tourism are one of the biggest generators of employment and investment, and the main driving force for economic growth and development. Travel and tourism generate one in eleven jobs worldwide and are responsible for one third of the world’s services exports. Through direct, indirect and induced impact, travel and tourism reaches one tenth of the world’s GDP, making it a vital participant in world development, enabling it to build a unique role in building strong, sustainable and balanced global development.
The creation of jobs through the creation of sustainable tourism and decent working positions, enable the necessary stability and security for a better life of the population. The demand for Geo sustainable and ecotourism from experienced and conscious tourists, causes awareness of natural resources, cultural heritage and the quality of life of people on the entire planet Earth. The market is a living witness that consumers are the ones who define demand, lay the foundations for future changes, influence trends, and in the 21st century, modern technologies, together with cultural heritage and natural resources are the main pillars of consumer demand, even the tourist of 21st century. Tourism is an economic mechanism that has a huge potential for developing sustainable development in developing countries, especially in countries with a low level of development and growth. Although its roots lie in often unplanned research and discovery practices, its future lies in highly structured and well-planned and managed execution.
Tourism is much more than an industry, it represents a diverse, multidimensional supply chain across various sectors. It looks simply, but in fact it is very complex, and its success depends on the foundations on which resilient systems and local communities are laid and connected. The World Tourism Organization confirms that the focus is on ensuring that conditions are enabled so that local producers and suppliers of products and services can supply the tourism operator. Skills are required for the development of local employment and development, connecting domestic culture, creating innovative and durable practices for long-term stability and a positive outcome not only for the economy, but also for the environment.
In the territory where today’s Republic of Macedonia is located, since ancient times, various purposeful travelers have passed, arrived and stayed, literally from all corners of the world. In their articles, travel writers laid the foundations of today’s tourist geography as a scientific discipline. Merchants, in search of new markets for supply and sale, practiced business tourism even before our era. This country has been visited, is visited, and will still attract the attention of many travelers and tourists from all over the world. The geographical position, climatic conditions, natural resources and cultural heritage are concentrated in one seemingly small territory, a Republic in which you can visit places that are rare not only in the region, but also in the whole world.
As in the past, as in the present, Macedonia is visited by many tourists who pass through the crossroads of the Balkans, by travelers who have yet to explore these parts of the world, by tourists who are in search of cultural and spiritual tourism, to people who practice recreational tourism, but also those who study and explore our cultural heritage and the natural resources we have at our disposal. Due to the youth of the country and little experience in the way of management, the tourism offers as part of the administrative system, expressed through an intertwining of institutions and the private sector, lags behind what is really required on the market by active tourists, whose interests are shaped by the trends in tourism and the trips. We are still working on draft strategies, plans and agendas for the development, promotion and expansion of the types of tourism in the Republic of Macedonia, but we are also witnessing an increasing number of activities by individuals and civil associations, which with their actions in certain parts of the Republic of Macedonia contribute to the development of tourism.
There are also noticeable changes in health and business tourism in the Republic of Macedonia, although for now only in the regions that are close to the borders. The presence of many domestic as well as foreign tourists on the many mountain climbs, nature walks, visits to natural rarities and cultural sights, as well as the development of “extreme” tourism is increasingly noticeable.
At the same time, the commercial offer with its complexity and insufficient promotion, i.e. lack of adequate presentation and display, lags behind the real demands of “conscious” tourists, which makes us as a country a destination that still needs to be preserved, stabilized and developed. There is also a lack of involvement of official institutions to encourage the organization of domestic and international events, which can always contribute to the development of tourism and its promotion.
The promotion of Macedonia as a tourist destination with special characteristics, different from anything in the world, in the way that larger countries and markets do, contributed to the development of the tourist market and offer, but it turned out that promotional activities without real support from the current situation and the state of natural resources and cultural heritage, in the long term create new challenges that we urgently need to face. These are the protection of objects that are cultural heritage, sustainable management of them, but also of natural resources, scientific research on natural rarities, finding models and ways through which sustainable tourism could be developed in the Republic of Macedonia.
Demographic processes and migration contributed to the opening of new opportunities in the tourist market, so it is now possible to choose between abandoned villages and regions with special natural characteristics, and the preservation of the connection between the local population and cultural heritage can contribute to the development of sustainable tourism in near future. According to official documents from state institutions, strategies and projects for the development of tourism in the Republic of Macedonia, as well as cross-border cooperation for the same purpose, it can be noted that in the 21st century attempts, and efforts are being made to develop tourism in the Republic of Macedonia. The real situation shows that despite all attempts, strategies, plans and projects to develop, upgrade and expand the tourist offer, as well as connecting tourism with the population’s tradition and cultural heritage, the results are missing.
According to my research so far, I managed to conclude that the tourist offer in Macedonia is far behind its real potential, because until the institutions of the system and market participants adapt to world trends, the demand for different tourist offers from the commercial ones in the big market grows, and thus we fall behind the rapid changes in trends and demands. What is always valued by experienced tourists is cultural tourism related to the tradition of the local population of the tourist destination, its customs, types of food, way of living, celebration and so on. Because we are full of potential destinations for the most modern type of tourism – a return to nature and true values, instead of luxury and “modern destinations”.
With its relatively small area, natural features and geographical location, the Republic of Macedonia can grow into a country in which not only organic production will be produced and natural resources will be used sensibly, but also tourism will be developed, which will represent a combination of the most modern technologies. , the latest achievements of economic sciences and human consciousness, expressed through “conscious tourists” and “conscious hosts”. The country is visited by all kinds of tourists, but it is noticeable that there is an increasing presence of visitors from all over the world, who are looking for the Macedonian tradition, cultural landmarks, natural rarities, authentic food and beautiful Macedonian landscapes.
We have an advantage over the rest of the neighborhood because of the size of our country, but also because even though we are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century, we still keep old recipes, seed varieties, folk costumes, practice traditional customs, and in The Republic of Macedonia still lives the myth and essence of the people, which has been preserved for centuries, if not millennia. Tourists with a developed awareness of the importance of protecting the planet Earth, as well as keeping alive the cultural values of different peoples, are in constant search for new experiences through which they will get to know authentic stories, beautiful regions and indigenous food and drinks. The Republic of Macedonia has a huge potential for the development of tourism, which would be different from the commercial one, which will contribute not only to the development of the economy, but also to the spread of the culture and traditions of our people.