“To have gotten this far in these tough economic times is something I’m quite proud of,” says Elena.
“Taking the first steps in setting up your own business can be quite daunting and a lot of good ideas simply never see the light of day,” says Sinisha Pekevski, one of the expert trainers working with the self-employment programme. “Helping people to bring their ideas to life is what makes these workshops so rewarding for everyone.” Twenty-seven-year old Elena Naumovska from Ohrid was one of the 900 people who successfully applied for and completed the programme in 2010. “I recommend this course to anyone who has a good business idea and is prepared to be persistent,” she says, “Persistence is crucial to making the best of this opportunity because being accepted on the course is only the beginning. You have to get your business plan up to the standard required by the Expert Committee at the end of the workshop.”
Elena’s persistence paid off soon after completing the course—she now runs her own tourist agency and employs her own staff. Elena graduated from the Information Technology faculty in Bitola and had already started working as a tourist guide before she finished her studiesin 2006. Over the following four years she gradually built up the contacts and experience necessary to provide more and more services for tourists and it was then she began to consider opening up her own tourist agency. “Ohrid is the top tourist destination in the country,” she explains, “And although it’s a very competitive market in a relatively small city the potential is still growing for different types of tourism—ecotourism, adventure holidays, congresses, cultural tourism—especially now that our country is being more successfully promoted abroad.“
To start out on her own, Elena knew she needed a good business plan that would give her an edge over the competition. “One of the most important insights I got from the Programme was an understanding of the importance of a sound marketing strategy.” On completing the workshop, Elena opened a small agency in the heart of Ohrid’s tourist centre on Turisticka Bulevar. “Thanks to the grant I was able to buy all the equipment I needed to furnish the office,” she says, “And the same funds meant I could start actively promoting the agency over the internet to target customers throughout the country and abroad.” “We were very glad to see innovative ideas for tourism amongst the applications,” says Violeta Dimitrievska, Head of Sector for Active Labor Market Measures in the National Agency for “We were very glad to see innovative ideas for tourism amongst the applications,” says Violeta Dimitrievska, Head of Sector for Active Labor Market Measures in the National Agency for Employment, “Especially because eco-tourism is an area that ties in closely with our wider aim of ensuring the sustainable development of the country’s most beautiful and environmentally fragile regions.”
Going global Taking the leap into tourism 18 Employment, “Especially because eco-tourism is an area that ties in closely with our wider aim of ensuring the sustainable development of the country’s most beautiful and environmentally fragile regions.” To succeed in the tourism business requires strong marketing skills and a willingness to try out new ideas for attracting tourists, especially in the current global economic climate when taking a holiday is increasingly seen as a luxury. Elena puts the success of her new business down to proactive marketing on the web and persistence in finding new offers for different types of tourists. “Focussing on winter tourism offers has been one of the breakthroughs,” she says, “Because you can’t rely only on one season. And building up good cooperation with international tourist agencies is another area that’s proved a sound investment of time and energy. ” Since the agency first opened, Elena has managed to cater for over six hundred tourists from Hong Kong and China, some 150 tourists from Romania, and over 500 tourists from the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Importantly, too, she has broken into the congress tourism market, organizing a major conference for bankers in Ohrid.
Confirming the hopes of all those involved in designing and running the self-employment programme, the success of Elena’s agency has resulted in increased employment opportunities for others: “We have four people employed in the agency now,” she says, “all of them previously unemployed. For one of them I’ve been able to use the grant available through the Government programme for subsidized employment.” “To have gotten this far in these tough economic times is something I’m quite proud of,” says Elena, “Slowly but surely we’re building a brand that will some day compete with the top players in the local market. The quality of the services we provide is high and the next step is to promote the agency in more and more countries while continuously improving and diversifying our offers. ”
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