The fact that the European inland water network has an active fleet of almost two million vessels, from rowing boats to sailboats and large motor yachts, is in favour of the need for a systematic and planned approach to this activity.
Bearing in mind all the potential of international, regional and domestic inland waterways, nautical tourism has found its place in the Development Strategy of the RS for tourism from 2016 to 2025 as one of the priority tourist products, and the Danube Region, as one of the leading destinations from tourism and economic aspects. Contemporary international tendencies of nautical tourism that take place on the Danube – PanEuropean Corridor 7, which is the only inland waterway among 10 Pan-European corridors, demonstrates that it has become an inland tourist waterway in the last few years which is the focus of global tourism demand. In addition, several tourist routes are offered within the tourist product of Serbia in the Danube area, such as the "Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route" and "The Danube Fortress".
The Action Plan of the European Commission’s Strategy of the European Union for the Danube Region from 2010 sets priorities for the further development of tourism along the Danube. These priorities also apply to Serbia and are reflected in the combination of river and land transport within the region, system navigation development and ports for cruise ships and individual vessels and tourism infrastructure planning in terms of tourist and catering facilities for accommodation, port tourist infrastructure, information centres, promenades, bike paths and their connectivity in the Danube area, including their connection with the network of roads along the Sava River, but also other tributaries of the Danube in Serbia.
According to the Port Governance Agency, from 2015 to 2019, the number of port calls in the Republic of Serbia increased by 70.6 percent (from 902 to 1,539), while the number of passengers increased by as much as 81.5 percent (from 114,932 to 208,797).
The upward trend of nautical tourism development in recent decades represents a reliable indication that the market is showing increasing interest in the most attractive tourist locations on river banks and hinterland. The assumption is that the demand for nautical tourism products and services will continue to increase in the coming period in the entire European Danube Region; therefore, Serbia needs to get more involved in this market and take a more active part. This primarily involves investing in infrastructure and superstructure that will provide the conditions to receive and meet the needs of individual vessels that are increasingly present in our section of the Danube. In addition, in order to improve this tourist product, it is also necessary to provide charters (renting vessels – rent-a-boat service) which are pretty scarce in our country. For these reasons, according to the Action Plan of the Strategy, the MTTT has begun to revive the nautical economy in the Republic of Serbia with investment programmes that stimulate activities to renovate the existing and build new nautical and supporting infrastructure and superstructure, as an important segment in the nautical offer of our country. This is, above all, related to the more intense expansion of the network of marinas, piers and mooring for recreational (individual) vessels, as well as the completion of existing and opening new international passenger terminals.
To overcome the challenges that represent obstacles to the further development and use of our rivers, we began by identifying spatially and functionally optimal locations for nautical-tourist points of reception, as well as equipping and putting into service the existing ones. Although these activities are conducted primarily on attractive tourist sites on the Danube, which is the backbone of our navigable system, other tourist destinations in which nautical tourism has development potential have not been neglected. Activities to improve passenger waterway transport in our country are also based on the Memorandum of Understanding in the field of nautical tourism on inland waterways, which is signed by the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications and the Port Governance Agency, which recognizes the importance of investing in the construction and the opening of new international passenger terminals and marinas.
When it comes to investments, in accordance with the Program schedule and use of subsidies, transfers and grants intended for tourism development projects, the Ministry financed the design and construction of pontoons and landings at eight destinations (14 projects) in the period from 2015 to 2018: in Požarevac (Kostolac), Smederevo, Golubac, Kladovo, Veliko Gradište (Ram), Sremski Karlovci, Beočin (Banoshtor) and Belgrade, with a total amount of 327,990,000 dinars. Of the aforementioned eight terminals, the international passenger terminals in Kladovo, Smederevo, Kostolac and Golubac have already begun operation.
The construction and opening of these locations for individual vessels and cruise ships will largely contribute to the greater visibility of the nautical potentials of Serbia and the further improvement of nautical tourism, as well as introducing the natural and cultural attractions at the destinations. This will certainly continue to have a positive impact on the revitalization of existing tourist offers and integration with complementary tourism products which can be commercialized (city tourism, rural tourism, manifestations/events, cultural heritage, thematic routes, gastronomy, special interests, etc.). The results should be reflected in the increasing development of local self-governments, creation of new jobs, rising living standards of the population, an extension of the tourist season and an increase in total tourism revenues. Further activities are certainly aimed at improving the competitiveness of nautical tourism in Serbia on the international market, which would provide nautical product positioning and a platform for activities in the field of international cooperation with countries of the Danube Region.