Takako Sakai Spearheads Tourism Development in Zlatibor, Serbia
Content submitted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – Tomomi
Submited Date : 16/02/2024

Hailing from Tokyo, Takako Sakai has an extensive background in tourism-related roles, having previously worked with Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), Hawaii Tourism Japan and Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB). Currently serving as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (2022, Feb 16th ~ 2024, Feb 15th), Sakai contributes to Zlatibor Tourism Organization, a mountain resort in Serbia.

Zlatibor is popular as a summer resort and a family-friendly ski destination in winter. Noteworthy attractions include the Gold Gondola, the world's longest panoramic lift, and sports and health tourism since the region offers diverse outdoor activities. Zlatibor has various tourist resources like the Stopica Cave, Gostilje Waterfall, and the open-air museum Staro Selo in the village of Sirogojno.

Zlatibor is at the forefront of tourism, implementing initiatives like online advance payments for tickets and developing digital signage. However, along with its growth as a tourist destination, Zlatibor faces challenges such as incomplete statistics for guest accommodations conditioned by insufficiently defined legal regulation, low awareness of environmental issues, and concentration of tourists in the central area during the high season.

Over the two years, Sakai’s notable endeavor was applying for the Green Destinations Top 100 stories. She was involved in conceptualizing and preparing documentation for the application. As a result, Zlatibor, for its commitment to local dairy production and consumption, such as cheese and Kajmak, was selected one of the good practice stories in the "Thriving Communities" category - a first time for Serbia. Additionally, she supported the planning and execution of various events and also organized "Japan Day" to introduce Japanese culture.

Finally, Sakai tells us that she hopes that Zlatibor focuses more on tourist flow in high season, enhancing environmental considerations, and finding a balance between local life and tourism to become a role model for sustainable tourism in Serbia, expanding its vision for sustainable tourism.