When people mention Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s hard to shake off the image most people my age have imprinted in our heads – The Bosnian War. After the war ended in 1995, there would be the usual post-war reports and then not much at all. No news is usually good news, and the good news is that they have picked up the pieces and moved on.

The thing that’s been rolling around inside my head the last couple of days after our coffee with HE Ensar Eminovic on the Malaysian Global Business Forum is the tourism aspect. Maybe it’s because I’ve attended a number of tourism-related events. Maybe it’s because I’m from Sarawak and we’re pretty good with the tourism thingy ourselves.

But honestly, how many of you ever considered going to Bosnia on vacation?

Watch this video:

How many of you wanna go to Bosnia now?

My answer is absolutelyhellyes. I like medieval architecture. And horses and wide open spaces. And the possibility of cracking my skull rowing down a river that looks like a giant staircase. And watching people jump of bridges. No wonder tourism is their biggest money maker.

If Nordin or Ensar comes by again, they gotta tell me where this is:

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See that splash mark under the bridge? Guy just hit the water.

Going to Bosnia now will require you to transit through a couple of airports, but it may be a little easier to get there in the near future. Malaysia and Bosnia signed an air agreement in August, opening air links between the two countries. Now it’s up to Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia or some new Malaysian airlines to fight for the route. ;-)

This will mean significant tourist traffic to add to their already booming tourist industry.

“Tourism is booming to the extent that we have a serious problem, which is the lack of accommodation capacities,” said Ensar in the first half-hour when everyone was still feeling each other out. “We lack hotels. If I had money myself, I’d invest in a hotel and it would guarantee profit.”

He added that many people are turning their homes into guesthouses or motels. This is of course a savvy move to meet an obvious demand. Personally, I like the idea of staying in a guesthouse as long as it is well-run, clean and have friendly staff.

Five-star hotels are nice, but outside my range. It’s also a very effective cocoon from the real world. You know how a lot of these international hotels strive to make you feel like you could be in any one of their outlets anywhere in the world no matter which one you are in? That’s nice if you’re on a business trip and want to focus on what you’re there for, but not really when you’re out to visit a different country.

If you asked me, I’d like to encourage the guesthouse angle. Take a page from the Malaysian homestay programme, which was recently relaunched with new guidelines from the Ministry of Tourism. Set up a cozy guesthouse with some emphasis on the local culture and offer small, personal tours of the area… all appropriately priced.

It’s probably not going to cost as much as building a whole hotel from ground up, and it gives everyday people a chance to literally operate a business from home.

Speaking of big hotels, anyone wanna guess what’s coming up in the Bosnian Pyramid Valley? According to Ensar, large pieces of land around the pyramids have been snapped up… by Malaysian businessmen.

“What they are planning to do, I do not know. Probably something related to tourism,” he added noncommittally.

I hardly think they’ll be building banks next to what promises to be the next cool thing since the pyramids of Egypt.

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