When most people think of Jajce, their first associations are the waterfall, diving from the waterfall, and the royal city, all of which are associated with tourism. Can this city that lies on two rivers speak of serious tourism only because of its natural beauty and monuments? How to attract tourists who spend “serious” money? How to extend the season?
We had the opportunity to discuss all of this with the foremost expert on the Open Air Museum, Anto Brtan. As the Director of the Agency for Cultural-Historical and Natural Heritage and Development of Tourist Potential of the City of Jajce, he “knows Jajce inside out”.
The Necessity of Luxury
Jajce is undoubtedly the most potent tourist potential in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What is missing to make it shine!?
Every year, we witness a continuous increase in the number of guests, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to establish Jajce as a true tourist destination. The key to achieving this is to increase investments in tourism offers and promotions. Local tourism organizations cannot implement this without the help of state institutions.
What specifically needs to be done?
Currently, many guests bypass our area due to the lack of a luxurious 4 or 5-star hotel. We must improve our gastronomic offerings and provide education to all individuals involved in the tourism industry. While non-governmental organizations could be a valuable asset, there appears to be a lack of interest. Therefore, it may be best to leave the organization of rafting, hiking, and other activities to the private sector.
Is it possible to reduce the number of off-season days?
Without investment in infrastructure, it is impossible. Jajce used to be a well-known congress destination before the war, but the devastation of the hotel “Jajce” has left no capacity for the development of such tourism. By investing more in tourism instead of wasting resources on paving and lighting up deserted villages, we could help move things along.
Are there other locations in Jajce that have potential for winter tourism besides Ranč?
There is a ski center at Ranč which was restored after the war with private capital and operates as much as weather conditions allow. However, the slope is not in an ideal location, so the snow does not last long. There is potential for better conditions on the other side of the mountain, but that would require investments. Nonetheless, visitors can enjoy paragliding or hiking throughout the year in the Ranč area.
Tourists remember the taste of food on their travels. Can we enrich the gastronomic offer?
Caterers recognize the need for this, but there is a lack of effort being made. Many young people who complete training to become chefs or waiters do not envision themselves in these roles, which leads to caterers having to make do with what they have. During my visit to Zagreb, I had the pleasure of meeting a Bosnian gastronomic expert who runs a catering business in Opatija. We discussed the possibility of organizing caterer seminars in Jajce, and I hope to implement this plan in the fall or winter.
The Waterfall Diving Competition project has achieved its goal: divers and adrenaline lovers now plan their vacations around the competition schedule. Are there similar plans in the works?
Not at the moment. Last year, the Competition was recognized as the best tourist event in Bosnia and Herzegovina, earning us the prestigious Star of Tourism of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Zvijezda turizma BiH). We plan to improve the event further to justify this honor and attract more competitors.
Above the waterfall, there is a zipline towards Borovi, with the King’s tomb nearby. How is the restoration coming along?
The King’s Tomb (Kraljev grob) is one of the most significant national monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, located in Jajce. It is a shame that it has been neglected for so many years. As the head of the Agency, ensuring the preservation of this monument became an immediate top priority. In 2020, we collaborated with the Sarajevo National Museum to conduct archaeological research and secure funding for preservation. Unfortunately, obtaining approvals was a prolonged process and we only received building permits in February 2023. We have completed public procurement and signed a contract. We hope to finish the restoration by June 5, 2023, in time for the 550th anniversary of the death of King Stjepan Tomašević, and open the restored monument to the public.
What is the condition of other national monuments?
There are several monuments in poor condition, particularly those that are privately owned and were damaged during the war. The owners lack the resources for restoration, and the state, which granted the protected status, is not offering any assistance. Even if owners had the means, they would be unable to perform any restorations without the approval of institutions and adherence to set rules. This is also the case with destroyed buildings in the monument protection zone, which covers almost the entire area of the city of Jajce. It’s time to take action to solve this problem, not only because of the risk to people but because it paints an unfavorable picture of us as a society. We have already restored several watermills and access paths. Our main priority now is the Main project for the restoration of the Jajce Fortress. We have already funded smaller research efforts in this area, but we now require 80,000.00 BAM to realize the project. One of the key issues at the fortress is the collapse of part of the wall in an inaccessible location, which is estimated to cost around a hundred thousand marks to repair. This project is a top priority because every delay is only contributing to further collapse. We also plan to perform minor repairs in the catacombs, mills, and the park near the waterfall. Additionally, we are currently preparing a project to arrange an archaeological exhibition in the Agency building, where the Jajce County Ethno Collection (Zavičajna etno zbirka) is located.
Is there potential for the development of religious tourism in Jajce?
On the list of national monuments in Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are a variety of religious sites available to tourists the Church of St. John the Baptist in Podmilačje, the Orthodox Church, and three mosques, as well as the Church of St. Mary with the bell tower of St. Luke (converted into the Sultan Suleiman’s Mosque in 1528). All these sites are accessible to tourists, but only the Church of St. John the Baptist in Podmilačje is currently developing religious tourism. To improve this form of tourism, we need to create a unified offer for tourists that presents the religious diversity in Jajce.
Can legal entities or natural persons with projects that enhance the tourist experience apply for and receive support for their realization?
The Municipality of Jajce allocates funds to support start-ups and the self-employment of young people. However, very few choose to pursue job opportunities in this industry. Although the funds allocated may be small individually, they provide a solid foundation for starting a more serious business. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of registered apartments and rooms for rent, reflecting the growing demand for tourism in the area.
With summer approaching, what else is being prepared in Jajce besides the Theatre Games (Pozorišne igre)?
Last year, we hosted several world-class events, including the MoonJune Festival and Cercle Invites Jamie Jones at Pliva Waterfalls. We are a bit concerned that we have set the bar very high, but we hope that visitors to Jajce will enjoy an exceptional series of events. The summer kicks off in late June with a new festival – Entertainment in the Royal City (Zabava u kraljevskom gradu), featuring concerts by Željko Bebek and Doris Dragović. In July, visitors can experience the Days of the Middle Ages (Dani srednjovjekovlja), attend a concert by Dženan Lončarević at the Old Town, and enjoy the Descent on Jajce (Desant na Jajce) festival. The Diving Competition is on August 12, and to wrap up the season, we will be screening the best movies from the Sarajevo Film Festival.