Source: eKapija | Sunday, 10.07.2022.| 13:02
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Miodrag Nikolic, President of Municipality of Sokobanja – Rich Offer for Both Tourists and Investors

(Photo: Opština Sokobanja)
The pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus has led to many troubles on a global level, but for Sokobanja, it has brought an improvement when it comes to its tourist sector, which is apparent this year as well, the president of the Municipality of Sokobanja, Miodrag Nikolic, points out in his interview for eKapija.

– When the borders were closed, the citizens of Serbia turned to local tourism and a large number of local tourists enjoyed the advantages that Sokobanja offers, but that trend was not confined to the period of locked borders, but the excellent impressions of our guests continued to bring new tourists, but also bring back those who, due to the pandemic, felt the beauties of our spa for the first time – Nikolic says and adds that Sokobanja has welcomed this tourists season ready as well, with numerous realized investments which have complemented its offer.

eKapija: What is Sokobanja offering to the visitors this year?

– All the tourism capacities are ready. The tourism offer of Sokobanja features pools with waterslides, at the Aqua Park “Podina”, whose expansion is nearing the end. Now there will be more room for visitors, and several green areas have been formed. This is just the first phase. In the second phase, which is planned for the next season, another recreation pool with water mushrooms will be made.

Regarding cultural features, during the season, Sokobanja offers a rich program within the Spa Cultural Summer. Furthermore, the renovation of the “Moravica” movie theater is close to completion. After the works are done, it will become a multifunctional facility and further enable the following of cultural features at the time of the year when, due to the weather conditions, it is not possible to do so at the Summer Stage “Vrelo”.

Finally, in cooperation with the Amateur Theater “SB” from Sokobanja, we came to the idea to organize the Vaudeville festival in September, because such a festival does not exist in Serbia even among professional theaters. This year, the festival will not have the form of a contest, but be of exhibition character.

The winter period is marked by a new skating and sleigh riding grounds, complementing the tourism offer in this period of the year and built within the Program of Cross-Border Cooperation Bulgaria-Serbia “Interreg IPA”.

eKapija: You’ve mentioned the Summer Stage “Vrelo” and the “Moravica” movie theater; which other investments has the Municipality realized lately and what can be expected from the investments?

(Summer Stage “Vrelo”)

– The Summer Stage “Vrelo” is a pearl of Sokobanja, whose opening in 2021 justifiably caused the greatest public attention. This excellent location at the very center of Sokobanja, while still in its own intimate environment, has unjustly slept throughout a very long time period. The facility features the Grand Stage, which has the physical and technical possibilities for organizing events for a larger number of spectators – concerts, music and stage events, festivals, shows etc. The capacity of the spectators’ area is 1,500 seats and 3,000 spaces for standing spectators.

In addition to the grand stage, a small stage has been built as well. It is surrounded by a water ring and it is meant for smaller events within the program of the Spa Fun Summer. The residents of the village of Citluk, southeast of Sokobanja, have also enriched their cultural life with a new summer stage, and the cultural development of life in Sokobanja will also be considerably helped by the “Moravica” movie theater, which has not been used for years.

In the very center of Sokobanja, the old building of the Elementary School “Mitropolit Mihailo”, which also has its cultural-historical characteristics, was given a makeover through reconstruction last year, making the surroundings at the promenade much more pleasant. In addition to the attractive exterior, which preserves elements from the 19th century, our pupils now have a stronger motivation for learning thanks to the modern interior.

What’s new in Sokobanja is the project of the installation of a technical system of protection and video-surveillance on a marble promenade, in city parks, on busy intersections, in public buildings and in education institutions. Also, the project features a speeding warning system, two radar systems for the measuring of speed and license plate detection. The aim of this project is to act preventively and to increase the level of safety for both citizens and tourists and for facilities in said locations.

In the past years, the Municipality of Sokobanja has also worked intensively on a big street reconstruction project, which entails the replacement of water pipes, the development of rainwater sewer, sidewalks, paving etc. Also, the populace of the surrounding villages gets roads which are easier to use, featuring recycled asphalt.

eKapija: The construction of a borehole near the Aqua Park “Podina” has also been announced, which will serve to provide hot water for the complex. How far has this project progressed?

– The project documentation for this project has been completed and we will try to apply with the competent ministry for the realization of this job, and in case we don’t manage to finance this project that way, we will do so from our own resources. In any case, the plan is to realize this in the very near future, because it would considerably improve the system of water supply, which is a decades-long problem in Sokobanja.

eKapija: Are there any news regarding the announced privatization and do you believe that it’s a good solution for Sokobanja?

– What would be interesting for investors in the territory of the municipality of Sokobanja are certainly facilities in the hotel domain and apartment offers. Currently, the biggest and most interesting offer as an investment is the company d.o.o. Lepterija, in bankruptcy – the biggest and the most significant hotel company in Sokobanja. Within this investment is Hotel “Zdravljak”, which is located within the core of Sokobanja and is an extravagant facility with a total of 720 spaces, three congress halls, two indoor pools and a complex of sports courts.

Within Lepterija is also Hotel Turist, which is located in the most attractive location, in the heart of Sokobarnja, on the marble promenade, but with its own parking spaces.

When the privatization of these subjects is realized, it will certainly improve the level of Sokobanja in various spheres: the tourism offer would be even richer, and a large number of citizens will also be employed. The life of a place does not consist of buildings, but of the people who work and live in them.

What does Sokobanja have that others don’t?
(Photo: Zavod za zaštitu kulture spomenika Niš/Studija graditeljskog nasleđa na teritoriji opštine Sokobanja)

Sokobanja lies on the ground once used by Romans, but, historically, it went through an enormous boom during the Turkish times. What cannot be missed is “Amam” – the only active Turkish bath in the territory of Serbia, located in the very center of Sokobanja, on the marble promenade. This is a true image of the combination of the old and the new, which is the slogan that represents Sokobanja. This slogan is also supported by the Homeland Museum and Milos’s Residence, which are also located on the outer reaches of the marble promenade.
(Photo: Zavod za zaštitu kulture spomenika Niš/Studija graditeljskog nasleđa na teritoriji opštine Sokobanja)

Also, one of the favorite destinations of the tourists is Sokograd. This medieval town is an inevitable location which needs to be visited. In addition to having a great historic importance, the tower provides an impressive view to the Rtanj pyramid in the north, whereas the south features a green oasis on the sunny Ozren. Sokograd is 2 kilometers to the southeast of the Sokobanja center, on a rock above the canyon of the Moravica River and is a favorite destination for trekkers. There are truly plenty of highlights, and our Tourism Organization and the National Library “Stevan Sremac” take care for the Event Calendar and the Fun Summer to always be eventful and adapted to various tastes.

eKapija: You have recently been pronounced the third most transparent municipality in Serbia; to what extent does such an acknowledgment contribute to the arrival of new investors and what do you then do as a local authority to justify this status?

– Sokobanja is one of the most transparent local self-governments in 2022, as shown by a survey presented by Transparency Serbia. The first place on this list went to Novi Pazar, whereas the second place belongs to Sombor. Sokobanja, which placed third, won 84 points, which is nine more than in the previous one, 2021. We had formed a work group for monitoring transparency and everything that the services needed to follow and act in line with the procedures. In 2019, we were 35th, and now we are 3rd with 84 points and I am very proud of it. The weaker result is in the part regarding public discussions, which is partly down to a slight disinterest on the part of the citizens when it comes to participation. I know that they may not be used to following the municipality’s website, and we try to provide all the information to local media as well about public invitations and about procurement procedures, as well as about the creation of the budget and decision-making.

eKapija: How useful to you is the portal meant for investors at

– There’s cooperation with RARIS, the agency which runs the investeastserbia portal. Equal to all other destinations of east Serbia, the brownfield investments of the location of the municipality of Sokobanja are displayed on this portal. RARIS also organizes in vivo presentations, which can be visited by interested investors, and of course the officials of the municipal administration department are available for all uncertainties and additional information, but we are also available as help and support as the heads of the municipality.

eKapija: In May, a five-year agreement on the cooperation of the City of Nis and South Sinai, and, at the end of last year, you also presented yourself at the exhibit in Dubai. How will Sokobanja benefit from this and do you expect the arrival of foreign tourists or some other form of cooperation, in tourism, but also in other fields?

– The world show EXPO has had a remarkable importance for the tourism and the economy of any country for decades now. The opportunity for us to also present ourselves at one such event is truly of huge importance for us. We have shown the world that, although we are a small country when it comes to the territory and the populace, we have a lot to offer that’s good and attractive. Considering that EXPO attracts interested parties from the whole world, after this fair, we can safely say that we have made a positive impression on the global level as well.

A team from Sokobanja agreed various joint activities on cooperation in tourism and opened the door for cooperation in the future this May in Egypt. After the presentation of the municipality of Sokobanja, Egyptian representatives from the field of tourism showed a special interest in cooperating with Sokobanja. As not a lot of time has passed since then, we expect that various possibilities and ideas for cooperation are only just to be revealed.

eKapija: In February, there was talk at the ministry about changing the categorization of Sokobanja so that the most visited spa in Serbia would get tagged as a first-category tourist place. When is this expected to happen?

– The Municipality of Sokobanja had not applied for categorization, because, according to the old rulebook, due to certain criteria, such as, for example, the proximity of the railway station, it would be second or even third category, whereas, by other parameters, Sokobanja deserves to get the first category status. It is true that, as a municipality, we had launched an initiative for the rulebook to be amended and our initiative was accepted by the competent ministry. However, considering that this all happened when the season had practically already started here, we will file a request for categorization immediately after the completion of the current tourist season.

B. Petrovic

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