Sarajevo Card: A tourist card for a simpler visit to the BiH capital
Out of love and experience in travelling, and a desire to present her hometown in an attractive way to those who visit, Nađa Huseinbegović started Sarajevo Card
The 34-year-old Nađa started Sarajevo Card as a unique offer designed to simplify the stay for tourists in Sarajevo. Accommodation, public transport, tickets for museums and the city’s cable car, as well as an Internet package, are just part of the services offered by this card, targeting visitors who are staying from one to six nights.
The idea was born three years ago during a trip to Budapest and Rome with her husband, when Nađa bought a card which included a similar package of services thanks to which they could enjoy sightseeing more easily. They thought how it would be good if they had such a thing for tourists visiting Sarajevo, which would enable them an easier stay but also try to keep them a bit longer.
„We decided to make a platform which would enable tourists to set up everything from home, and to just come to Sarajevo and enjoy. That’s how it all started,” Nađa recalls, explaining how there are a lot of tourist offers in her hometown, but in most cases the hotel and transport have to be booked separately. „Everything is being done individually. The aim of Sarajevo Card is to gather everything in one, so that tourists don’t have to think too much about it, and that they can have it all without any problems, both tickets and discounts.”
Sarajevo Card is one of 15 small businesses supported through the project “Women Economic Empowerment in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Rebuilding Better” which is implemented by Foundation 787 and UN Women in BiH with the financial support of United Kingdom government.
After journalism studies and more than ten years of working in the media, media production and marketing, six years ago, together with her husband, Nađa opened a tourist agency for far away destinations like Zanzibar, Cuba, Sri Lanka and Bali. During the pandemic – when tourism was one of the most hit industries globally – she decided to start another small business that she now leads.
„I decided to work in tourism in Sarajevo, to attract people so they see what Sarajevo has to offer and how Sarajevo breathes. I am sending off our own people to travel outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina while making foreign tourists come to Sarajevo,” she says.
„I did not see myself in this business right away, but now that I am here, now that I started, I see that it can all be well combined and that it is possible to make a good thing, with one goal – and that is to attract tourists and make vacations in Sarajevo special for them.”
A drop in tourism amid pandemic
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, tourism was one of the most hit industries in the world due to moving and travelling restrictions.
The growth in the tourism sector, primarily due to the influx of foreign tourists which was recorded in the previous decade, stopped and Bosnia and Herzegovina is now facing a variety of challenges and restrictions which are not allowing for a greater competence in the international market. The pandemic led to lower activity of private tourism subjects and to growth in unemployment in the sector, showed the Analysis of sector of tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Data from 2019 shows that tourists who came to Bosnia and Herzegovina are mainly European tourists, about 65 percent, followed by Asian tourists with about 30 percent. By the number of tourist visits, the top ten countries from where tourists come are Croatia, China, Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Poland. With the relaxation of movement measures there are signs of tourists returning.
The analysis of the tourism sector mapped that the products with the largest potential for development are, among others, cultural tourism, which includes city tourism and festival and events tourism, wellness and mountain tourism. What slows down the competence of Bosnian-Herzegovinian tourism is insufficient state support to development of tourism, low visibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a tourist destination and low quality of tourist products, services and tourist infrastructure.
Support to women entrepreneurs
Since it was formed in 2020, Sarajevo Card got the support of many international organisations, including the programme Challenge to Change which, with the support of Sweden, enabled financial assistance in starting and developing innovative business ideas. This support, but also the mentorship and financial assistance through the BizUp programme, which is being implemented by Foundation 787 and UN Women BiH, with the financial support of United Kingdom government, was a game-changer for Nađa Huseinbegović and a recognition that she has a good product.
„Every time when someone says you did a great thing, it’s a very good feeling. When I came into this business, I gathered courage and confidence to apply to many calls which support businesses and projects led by women and I am glad that each time everyone welcomed me with open arms,” she says.
The biggest value she sees in BizUp is the exchange of experiences with other women entrepreneurs and a chance to hear what challenges they faced and how they overcame them.
„As a woman who entered a big project alone, I did not believe I would get support. It was only when I saw how many people support me that I started believing I will succeed. I got self-confidence and I am convinced it will all turn out good.”
Promotion of Sarajevo Card
Since the beginning of 2022, the website SarajevoCard.com is available to the public and currently they are working on design and promotion of the whole project. With the support of BizUp, Nađa now has a chance to attend different workshops and learn more about how to position her business on the Internet and in digital media and how to apply digital marketing in promoting her product. She will also use the financial support for promotion and organisation of events with the engagement of influencers who are working on promoting tourism on social networks. What brings her special joy at the moment is a chance to be among the entrepreneurs from Bosnia and Herzegovina in the official delegation visiting Expo in Dubai between March 23 and 28, 2022.
This article was made possible within the project “Women Economic Empowerment in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Rebuilding Better” which is implemented by UN Women in BiH with financial support of government of the United Kingdom.