Are Middle Eastern tourists flocking to Bosnia?

The recent Economist’s article states that majority of foreign investors in Bosnia and Herzegovina are coming from the politically unstable Middle East and Arab countries. For the last twenty years Bosnia has had struggled to recover its economy from the war in the 1990’s. This investment is both a blessing and a curse for Bosnia.

Visitors to Bosnia January – August 2017

Visitors to Bosnia January – August 2017

Bosnia is a multi cultural country with majority people being Muslim. The liberal Muslim faith practiced in Bosnia is much different than the strict conservative beliefs found in many Middle Eastern countries. The article mentions local individuals wishing to invest but being shut out because many properties are saved for Saudi’s investors.

The Emperor’s Mosque, the oldest mosque built in the Ottoman era in Sarajevo, the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Source. Julian Nitzsche wikimedia

Arabs want to invest in Bosnia for its Muslim friendly outdoor recreation opportunities. Bosnia is being fast tracked into EU membership which will enable Arabs to have their own slice of Europe. An example of this expansion are numerous with small resorts in central bosnia that only see locals being bought by Arabs as investment opportunities. Bosnian are excited and terrified at the same time wondering if Arabs putting themselves in charge of Bosnian economy will ever be equal to what Bosnia was before the war.

The last two summers have been really popular for Arab tourist and investors in Bosnia. In the first ten months of 2015 over 19000 came from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Locals every coffee shop or restaurant in Sarajevo has at least a table with foreign Arab visitors. Buroj is being a Dubai development outside of Sarajevo that is contracting 3000 villas, a hospital, a sports stadium, and the largest shopping mall in the Balkans.  Will an influx of Arab right wing conservators with money influence politicians? Is Buroj outside of Sarajevo going to segregate Arabs vs Bosnian nationals?

Middle Eastern Visitors to Bosnia January – August 2017

The Real Tourist Numbers

Looking at the hard numbers obtained from on tourists we can see that tourism has doubled in the between 2013 to 2017. I went ahead and quickly merged countries by geographic areas to determine the makeup of the world regions visitors are coming from.  The output of this is here.

Looking at what percentage per year come from each world region we can see that Asian and Middle Eastern visitors have doubled in comparison with Europeans and Americans.

The number of visitors to a country is one thing, the amount of money they spend is another. The more time (nights) a tourist spends in Bosnia the better it is for the economy.  Middle Eastern vistors on average spend 2.7 days visiting per trip as compared with Europeans who spend on average 2.1 to 2.4 nights. This extra half day amounts to hundreds of dollars extra per visitor or millions of dollars more in revenue for the local Bosnian economy.


Middle Eastern tourists are in fact increasing in numbers spending and staying more than the average tourist. Bosnia should embrace this tourism as a boom to an otherwise stagnant economy but be wary as those from other parts of the world.

Additional chart of individual countries.

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