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Tihana Putin: Novi Sad is a unique “must see” destination

October 20, 2023

FROM A PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW: Tihana Putin, analyst for the promotion of tourist offers, Tourism Organization of the City of Novi Sad

You have been in tourism for more than 20 years. Before the Tourism Organization of the City of Novi Sad, you worked in travel agencies and a publishing house, dealing with promotion, marketing and sales. To what extent does working at TONS differ from other companies?

– My first contacts with the business world were at the beginning of the 90s when, as a student, studying at home, I was also the secretary to my father, who had a private business, and whenever he was on the road, I left him messages (because it was not the time of cell phones). Naturally, from such an environment, I wanted immediately after finishing high school and during my studies to, apart from acquiring theoretical knowledge, work in parallel. My first job was at the travel agency “Kompas”, where, due to the volume of work in the early 2000s, the working hours were not from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but from 6:00 a.m. to after 4:00 p.m. The bottom line is that, when you get used to living your work life, then you don’t separate the business part of the day from the private part, but it somehow permeates you, and it is quite natural that, if you feel that there is not enough time to finish something during working hours, you will come earlier or leave work later. And it is not the employer who dictates you to do that, but the way you do your job. It’s all about good organization, dedication and love or passion for the job. If there is no such thing, I really think it is unnecessary to talk about results. The fact is that for a job in the public sector, it is often considered that none of these predispositions, qualities are needed, but if a person is like that, you cannot change the person, just let him work and contribute. We in the travel agency had such a harmonious team and several of us sat and worked in the evening hours, when the whole world around us calmed down, we even called each other in the evening, so that we could share some ideas for the next day. No one asked us to do that, simply, it was easier for us to function that way (laughs).

How complex is the promotion of a destination such as Novi Sad and what does it actually mean? Can that kind of work be done without bringing in personal emotions and love for the city?

– As I mentioned in the previous part, three key components that guided me through every job, and especially through work on the promotion of the destination, is impossible without good organization, dedication, love or passion for the job. The job of the spokesperson, who has the task of presenting everything that has been done at the level of the development sector, is to follow the city’s development strategy in other segments related to tourism (infrastructure, cycling, city development, hospitality sector, night life, work of cultural institutions, cooperation with colleagues from other tourism organizations, monitoring demand according to different markets (domestic, regional, foreign)), then monitoring initiatives, wishes and needs of business representatives and much more. More importantly, it is important that the spokesperson personally knows people from all those segments and conveys the right impression and word of mouth that he gets from the market. I also admit that no book has been published anywhere that trains us how to work on the promotion of a tourist destination through this job, and the fact that I did everything according to my personal feeling and drive, to make the work better and better, only led to the result. One day I will definitely publish a book on this topic, because I think it can be useful for everyone (laughs). I have to add that even journalists are not educated on the topic of tourism at university, so my desire is to bring the topic closer to them in that segment, make it impressive, intrigue the audience and followers. Cooperation with journalists is of key importance, because if you don’t have mutual satisfaction in cooperation, everything has gone down the drain. I became friends with most of the journalists and we very easily found a way to meet the needs of each other, even if it meant arranging and corresponding on some topics on Sunday evening. This again speaks in favor of the fact that this job has no working hours. Therefore, it is not important to market the news here, but to bring it closer to those who will read or listen to the news. It has happened to me that people I don’t know stop me at the checkout or on the street and comment on how we at TONS run the business successfully, that it is noticed that everything we do has a result in the city through a greater number of foreigners, their longer stay and of course, therefore, higher consumption. Success is when people from other branches cheer you on and praise your results (pharmacists, doctors, lawyers,…). We must not forget that tourism returned to Serbia through EXIT in the early 2000s, but it was important to retain tourists, expand the segment of tourist demand and market and present them with all types of tourism that Novi Sad has at its disposal. There is not only a festival, but also a rich cultural, sports, youth, senior, family, business offer of the city. The job of spokesperson and promotion of a tourist destination is very complex, interesting, always in a state of change, meaningful and never boring.

Many years of work on promotion and cooperation with the media have brought you numerous interesting, funny, but also stressful situations? In that sense, what left the biggest impression on you?

– There was everything, from getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go live, to having journalists from several countries as guests, each of them interested in something special and different, to the “Youth Fair” youth tourism fair project, on which we have worked in partnership with EXIT and other collaborators for years. There was no sleep before that, I remember the interview at 2:00 a.m. with Darko Rundek, while at that moment I was three months pregnant. In most of those situations, the emotions went in the following order: excitement, fear of uncertainty and the unknown, laughter, then tears (of joy and others), and with all that, you bring your whole self to work. This means that you take that job home to your husband, children, friends, parents and all of that is not easy to handle, again I come back to the fact that for this job you need to have love, passion, good organization and dedication. I can’t forget asking Đorđe Balašević for an interview for Chinese CCTV, wandering EXIT representatives around the festival at midnight to give a statement to some British media, but perhaps the moment that best describes this work happened in 2019. On the fifth day during EXIT, journalists from Greece, Hungary, China, France, Germany, along with the Russian delegation, were with me all day. To please everyone, to make them feel important and to get the story they came for was only possible with perfect organization. During that period, even while you are sleeping, you wake up with an idea of how to do something even better. On the last day, Sunday, I took my two children, aged 3 and 4, to hang out together with the guests at Salaš 137, because they hadn’t seen me for five days. While giving statements, I help journalists to refine their impressions and stories from Novi Sad, and my children play on the farm near us and we all “work” together to promote the destination, because journalists are also parents. They get information from my children how children can spend their time in the city, while their parents are having fun at the festival.

Living in another country, are you still (sub)consciously involved in the promotion of Novi Sad?

– The city of Novi Sad is in my heart, like my beloved hometown where I lived for over 40 years. So, that love is a bit boundless, you know its flaws, you adore its virtues, you rejoice at every return and, knowing the large number of people, I am glad that no passing through the city goes by without an informal greeting, chatting and jokes. Novi Sad is a city where I enter a conversation without saying: “Hello! How are you?”, I just slip into the conversation. I love that immediacy, I live it. That’s why, even in another country, whenever I have the opportunity I present Novi Sad as a “must see” destination, still taking into account the needs and wishes of tourists.

Interviewed by: Maja Guzijan