Development of sports tourism to retain youths in Knjaževac - Interview with Mayor of Knjaževac Milan Đokić

Interview with Mayor of Knjaževac Milan Đokić

The town stadium in Knjaževac, which has been reconstructed with the support of the Kingdom of Norway, through the Norway for You – Serbia project, today provides better conditions to nearly 15,000 children, youths and athletes. But this infrastructural upgrade also serves for the development of sports tourism in Knjaževac, because, as the Mayor Milan Đokić noted, this is one of the strategic priorities of this local self-government.

Why is the reconstruction of the city stadium important for Knjaževac?

We were keen to reconstruct the city stadium to enable youths in Knjaževac to engage in sports and make their first athletic steps there and to provide all our other citizens with good, high-quality fields for recreation and healthy life-styles. We will also use this soccer complex as a resource for developing sports tourism, to strategically position Knjaževac on the national map of towns offering good sports preparation facilities. In addition to the soccer complex, Knjaževac also boasts a ski resort on Stara Planina, a hot mineral spring facility with an Olympic pool and two sports halls with basketball, handball and volleyball courts. This, together with the climate, clean air and good food, is why our municipality is the right place for sports tourism. We’re doing all this to retain young people in Knjaževac.

 

What are the potentials for developing this type of tourism?

Knjaževac reaps a significant income from tourist fees on Stara Planina, the home of the centre rallying Alpine skiers. On the other hand, the hot mineral spring pool is attractive to numerous Belgrade water polo clubs, which come here to train in the summers. The income from tourist fees and complementary tourist services accounts for a significant share of our municipal budget but this is just the beginning. By promoting all types of tourist services, we want to attract everyone to Knjaževac, both athletes and those who enjoy the traditional cuisine and good wine. By offering all of that, we will be able to vie maybe even with European cities with long tourist traditions.

 

What municipal developmental priorities will help you succeed in developing sports tourism?

In addition to the sports infrastructure – fields, stadium, pools and ski slopes – we need road and utility infrastructure. Knjaževac is now connected to other cities, Corridor 10 and the airport in Niš by good roads. We’ve begun reconstructing the water system and replacing the asbestos pipes by modern pipelines.  Development of Knjaževac and tourism calls for further investments in broadening the tourism palette and high-quality utility infrastructure, as well as in providing the citizens with adequate training in how to make the most of their potentials and engage in tourism.

 

What are Knjaževac’s other strategic priorities, in addition to sports tourism?

Tourism, agriculture and the SME sector have been the priorities of our development plans for a long time now. We have made major headway in tourism, but the progress we made in agriculture is probably the greatest in Serbia. Most of the land is covered by sour cherry and other orchards, we have planted new fruit trees on over 2,500 hectares and we have been granting subsidies to beekeepers. The citizens of Knjaževac can work in small or medium-sized enterprises and, in their free time, engage in agriculture -- in fruit-growing and beekeeping, which do not demand their full-time attention. Knjaževac can thus become a town people will be coming back to, rather than leaving it.

To what extent does the state and to what extent do foreign donors support you in pursuing your goals?

If it weren’t for the state’s help, we would be a small municipality in the east of the country, cut off from the rest of the world. If the roads hadn’t been built, we would be unable to reach even the neighbouring towns, let alone the corridors or the airport. The Timok District has ensured that the investments continue in the coming years and we have received support for building a hotel in the hot mineral spring complex “Banjica”, which will become the generator of development of modern spa tourism, like in Slovenia. This is precisely where the state has helped us a lot. We are also trying to be innovative and have actively been submitting development projects to international donors. Consequently, the Kingdom of Norway supported one of our strategic priorities - the reconstruction of the stadium – for which we are very grateful.

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RAZVOJ SPORTSKOG TURIZMA ZA OSTANAK MLADIH U KNJAŽEVCU - Intervju sa predsednikom opštine Knjaževac mr Milanom Đokićem

Gradski stadion u Knjaževcu, koji je rekonstruisan uz podršku Kraljevine Norveške preko projekta „Norveška za vas – Srbija“, danas obezbeđuje bolje uslove za gotovo 15.000 dece, mladih i sportista. Ali, ovo infrastrukturno poboljšanje služi i za razvoj sportskog turizma u Knjaževcu, jer prema rečima predsednika opštine mr Milana Đokića, to je jedan od strateških prioriteta ove lokalne samouprave.

 

Zašto je obnova gradskog stadiona važna za Knjaževac?

Bilo nam je važno da obnovimo gradski stadion, da mladi mogu u Knjaževcu da se bave sportom i započnu svoje prve sportske korake, kao da svim ostalima stanovnicima omogućimo da se na dobrim i kvalitetnim terenima rekreiraju i vode zdrav život. Ovaj fudbalski kompleks koristićemo i kao resurs za razvoj sportskog turizma, da se strateški pozicioniramo na nacionalnoj mapi za pripreme sportista. Osim ovoga, u Knjaževcu postoji i skijalište na Staroj planini, termomineralno izvorište sa olimpijskim bazenom, a pored stadiona imamo i dve sportske hale za košarku, rukomet i odbojku, što uz klimu, čist vazduh i dobru hranu, našu opštinu čini pravim mestom za sportski turizam. Sve ovo činimo samo da bi mladi ljudi ostajali u Knjaževcu.

 

Koji su potencijali za razvoj ovog oblika turizma?

Knjaževac ima značajne prihode od boravišnih taksi sa Stare planine, gde se nalazi centar koji okuplja alpske skijaše. S druge strane, termomineralni bazen „Banjica“ je atraktivan za mnoge beogradske vaterpolo klubove, koji ovde imaju pripreme tokom leta. Prihodi od boravišnih taksi i vanpansionske potršnje su značajni za opštinski budžet, ali to je tek početak. Želimo da kroz favorizovanje svih vidova turističke ponude učinimo da Knjaževac bude interesantan svima, i sportistima, ali i onima koji vole dobro vino i tradicionalnu kuhinju. Ako tako zaokružimo turističku ponudu, mogli bismo da pariramo možda i onim gradovima u Evropi sa dugom turističkom tradicijom.

 

Da biste uspeli u razvoju sportskog turizma, koji su razvojni prioriteti opštine?

Uz sportsku infrastrukturu - terene, stadion, bazene i skijaške staze - neophodna je saobraćajna i komunalna infrastrkutura. Knjaževac je sa ostalim gradovima, Koridorom 10 i aerodromom u Nišu sada povezan kvalitetnim saobraćajnicama. Započeli smo i rekonstrukciju vodovoda zamenom azbestnih cevi savremenim cevovodima. Da bismo razvili Knjaževac i turizam, potrebne su dalje investicije u sadržaj i kvalitetnu komunalnu infrastrukturu, uz adekvatnu edukaciju stanovništva kako da se bavi turizmom i da sve svoje potencijale stavi u njegovu funkciju.

 

Osim sportskog turizma, koji su strateški prioriteti Knjaževca?

U našim razvojnim planovima odavno su prioriteti razvoja turizam, poljoprivreda i sektor malih i srednjih preduzeća. Zabeležili smo značajne pomake u turizmu, ali u poljoprivredi smo napravili verovatno najveći iskorak na nivou cele Srbije. Najveće površine su pod višnjom i drugim voćem, imamo više od 2.500 hektara novih voćnih zasada, a dajemo i subvencije pčelarima. Perspektiva za Knjaževčane može da bude bavljenje poljoprivredom uz rad u nekom malom ili srednjem preduzeću, a voćarstvo i pčelarstvo to omogućavaju. Tako Knjaževac može da postane grad u koji će se ljudi vraćati, a ne iz kojeg će odlaziti.

 

Koliko u ostvarenju ciljeva imate podršku države, a koliko od stranih donatora?

Bez pomoći države, bili bismo mala opština na istoku zemlje odsečena od ostatka sveta. Da nisu izgrađene saobraćajnice prethodnih godina, ne bismo mogli da dođemo ni do susednih gradova, a kamo li do koridora ili aerodroma. Time je Timočka krajina obezbedila da se investicije nastave i u narednim godinama, a dobili smo podršku i za izgradnju hotela u kompleksu temomineralnih izvorišta „Banjica“, koji će postati generator razvoja banjskog turizma i savremenog koncepta modernih termi, kao što su one u Sloveniji. Upravo je to velika podrška države. Osim toga, trudimo se da budemo inovativni i aktivni u podnošenju razvojnih projekata međunarodnim donatorima, pa je tako i rekonstrukcija stadiona kao naš strateški prioritet naišao na podršku Kraljevne Norveške.