Day two of the International Investment Conference of the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum has brought new opportunities to regional entrepreneurs. It was opened by Mr. Chris Barton, the United Kingdom (UK) trade commissioner for Europe, who said that the whole world is focusing at launching new investments, economic recovery and raising economic standards.
"We strive to connect with our neighbours and partners, and to ensure a greater level of security. Our goal is to have prosperous societies and reliable partners. Our government strongly supports investment in this region. We are committed to new investments in the countries of the region and our government has expert teams throughout the region that provide information on investment and trade exchange. I call on my colleagues from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to sign a free trade agreement, to take advantage of these business opportunities together with other Western Balkan countries", said Mr. Barton.
The potentials of "nearshoring" in Western Balkan countries are presented in a study by the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. Ms. Sophia Kluge, coordinator of the Western Balkans Chamber Partnership, said in her presentation that nearshoring is a driving force after the pandemic.
"There is a growing trend of allocation of companies from Germany. German investors choose Western Balkan countries as countries where they have allocated their production. The advantages they set aside are geographical proximity, low price of labor and educated workforce. Some investors cited cultural similarities and connections among people as advantages when deciding to invest. In addition, the region offers low taxes, which with labour prices are the main drivers for investment", Ms. Kluge said.
In the "European Nearshoring Experience" panel, participants voiced their own experiences, and defined the benefits of investment and reallocation of production in Western Balkan countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina has prepared a study of B&H's development at the time of the pandemic, and B&H and the Western Balkan countries are recognised as a good opportunity to reallocate industrial production.
Ms. Amra Surkovic, director of AHK B&H, presented the experiences of German companies during and after the pandemic. "The interest of German companies is great, especially for the metal and wood industry sectors and the energy sector. The metal industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded 30% of exports in 2021., mostly exported to the German market", Ms. Surkovic noted.
Mr. Martin Gaber, director of the German Trade & Invest (GTAI) office for the Western Balkans, presented the experiences of companies from Germany which want to invest in foreign markets or achieve trade to prioritise the choice of countries with geographical proximity and cultural social similarities. Mr. Adnan Smailbegovic, president of the FB&H Employers' Association, noted that Bosnia and Herzegovina has highly skilled workers, however it is important for investors to prepare and establish a production work system. He also said that B&H needs a "nearshoring" process, as well that government support is also needed through various reforms that will facilitate administration, improve the education system, and affect wage increases for workers.
Ms. Snjezana Köpruner, CEO and majority owner of GS-TMT Ltd. and Mr. Paul Cronin, CEO of Adriatic Metals (AM) are investors who have recognized and invested in Bosnia and Herzegovina's potential. "I think B&H is the best address for foreign investors. B&H is close to Europe, and people have knowledge and experience that provide the possibility of reallocating production to foreign companies", Ms. Köpruner said.
The panel was followed by a presentation "Case study – Porto Montenegro" held by Porto Montenegro CEO Mr. David Margason. Boka Place is a new urban neighborhood in Porto Montenegro that presented itself at this year's Sarajevo Business Forum, based on wellness values and a healthy way of urban life. The combination of attractive shops and cafes, fitness hotel SIRO (Kerzner International) wellness center with large oasis of green areas make this space unique.
On the second day of the 11th Sarajevo Business Forum, the panel "The Power of Tourism in Boosting Economic Growth" was organized in cooperation with USAID's Sustainable Tourism Development Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. At a time when BH is experiencing a rise in number of tourists and an increased need for accommodation capacities, panelists have spoken about best international practices and considered local initiatives to launch investments in tourism, growth, and development, with a view to position the country as a globally competitive tourist destination.
Mr. David Goodger, director of Tourism Economics company, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina attracts many tourists, including tourists from China and Saudi Arabia, and that holiday travel will dominate over business travel for the next three-years period. Ms. Anita Mendiratta, founder and president of Anita Mendiratta & Associates, said that investors will focus in the future on the concept of sustainable tourism that brings many advantages, as well that investors want to simplify administration and regulation.
Mr. Alan Elliott Merschen, head of Myriad Marketing and Mr. Milos Milovanovic, GainingEdge's analysis and research manager, noted the importance of regional cooperation when it comes to the tourism sector. Panelists also talked about the importance of branding the destination, which is important not only for the tourism sector but also for other branches of the industry. The session highlighted that Bosnia and Herzegovina could grow and has an excellent prospect for new investments in the sector, however it is necessary to invest in personnel education.
"It is necessary to keep the working personnel that migrate to other countries. Bosnia and Herzegovina has potential to establish the "hub" for educating the workforce in the tourism sector", said Dr. Joseph Ruddy, expert in quality assurance and human capital development.
Panelists at the session not only mentioned that BH is the most exciting destination to visit, but also segment to invest. Tourism is one of the fastest growing branches of the economy in BH before the pandemic, and recovery is evident after the pandemic. As for halal tourism, Dato’ Dr. Mohamed Razip Hasan, director general of the Islamic Tourist Centre (ITC), an agency under Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture Malaysia, noted the significant potential of Bosnia and Herzegovina's industry in the realm of halal tourism.
President of Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad Dato' Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir stressed the importance of air traffic, connection of the countries in Southeast Europe with Malaysia, and the possibilities of improving the tourist offer.
Mr. Jawad Al Hawaj, a member of the Executive Board of the Bahrain Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said many Bahraini businessmen are attending the Sarajevo Business Forum today. "We believe that we have great opportunities ahead of us to establish a strong and stable relationship between Bahrain and Bosnia and Herzegovina and we are here to support business ties in all sectors. Tourism is one of the most important aspects, especially in a country such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and greenery", Mr. Al Hawaj noted.