In the province of Vojvodina and part of eastern Serbia, an area where tourism has yet to be tapped to its full potential, an undertaking called the Wealth of Diversity project has been set in motion. Coupled with the warm-hearted, friendly, open nature of the unique diversity of people who live there, the project guarantees visiting tourists a special multicultural experience and hopes to help generate vital revenue in the hosting small villages.
Origins of Diversity on the Pannonian Plain
In the Danube region of Serbia, the land’s original inhabitants are, generally speaking, newcomers. Until just 300 years ago, the region was a sparsely populated swampland. The Pannonian Plain, which bordered the left bank of the Danube River, was 80 percent covered by water and unsuitable for human habitation.
Then, during the time of the expanding Ottoman Empire, the ruling Austro-Hungarians chose to reinforce their defenses against the encroaching Turks by launching the most ambitious project of its time in Europe. They built a system of channels through the Pannonian Plain and settled it with people from all over Europe.
In addition to the Hungarians, Serbs, Romanians and, to a lesser extent, other peoples who had already lived here for several centuries, the newly inhabitable land was colonised by Danube Swabians, Slovaks, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Spaniards, Italians, French, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Slovenes, and Serbs and Croats from Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans. Bulgarian Catholics, Roma and numerous other smaller ethnic communities have also found refuge here since then.
A Tourism Treasure
Today these groups – more than 25 different ethnic communities with six languages in official use (a number exceeded only by the European Parliament) and numerous religious communities – constitute the indigenous population of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, which enjoys a high degree of independence in Serbia.
Nowhere in Europe are there so many different peoples living in such a small region. Although the cultural wealth is made possible by their peaceful coexistence – an intertwining, mutual respect and acceptance – the different communities cultivate their unique traits in an effort to preserve their national identities. It is this wealth of diversity that has been identified as the region’s greatest asset in promoting tourism.
The Wealth of Diversity project was therefore launched at the initiative of the Magelan Travel Agency DMC and is being implemented by the Istar 21 Danube Tourism Cluster in cooperation with the government of the Province of Vojvodina. The goal of the project is to spotlight multiculturalism in the Danube region as a unified tourism product on the world market and lend this part of Serbia a recognisable brand.
A Promising Project for Local Villagers
The Wealth of Diversity project identifies villages that best represent the ethnic mix in Vojvodina and the Danube region. Through the creation of tourism-driven market opportunities, the project will create conditions for the employment of women, young people and people on the margins of society.
Guests can enjoy traditional houses, crafts and local food, as well as rich folk-dance and musical programs, horse-and-coach rides, bike and boat tours and participation in the preparation of traditional produce. Villagers are encouraged to create authentic souvenirs and local food specialties.
The Wealth of Diversity project also involves training the local population that will be involved in providing tourism services. It will be essential to raise the quality of these services to a level that meets contemporary tourist expectations and, through modern technologies (a website, mobile apps and social networking), make promotional information accessible.
The local population, which has increasingly been abandoning the villages for better opportunities elsewhere, places great hope in the Wealth of Diversity project. Here, a multiculturalism unique in Europe can be promoted, and the survival of these communities is made possible.