27 companies are interested in a concession deal for Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday.

At the ceremonial opening of Etihad Airways’ unified service center, Vucic said the companies included five firms from China, as well as others from France, Germany and other countries, Tanjug reported.

According to Vucic – who opened the center at the Airport City business park together with Etihad CEO James Hogan – “everyone sees Belgrade as an important city, the hub of all roads, not just in South East Europe, but also in Europe, so the fight for the concession will be tough.”

As for the center, he said it would employ 700 workers, and noted he was “happy because Etihad, in competition with Polish, Bulgarian and other countries chose the Serbian capital.”
The center will operate for Etihad Airways, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles and Etihad Regional, “and in due time will also cover Alitalia and Air Berlin,” a statement posed on the government’s website said.

According to it, Vucic also “conveyed gratitude to the United Arab Emirates and Sheikh Mohammed Al Nahyan for everything they have done for Serbia, as well as to the company Etihad – thanks to the friendship of Belgrade and Abu Dhabi, we can be proud of the success of Air Serbia.”

The number of passengers at Belgrade Nikola Tesla has doubled in the past three years, while the number of passengers of the national airline increased2 .6 times, he said, adding that he expects a direct air link with Beijing to be established “with a Chinese company” which will bring “a significant inflow of tourists and increase revenue on this basis.”

According to Vucic, in recent years the number of tourists in Belgrade went over 1.1 million, while 2.6 million foreign tourists visit Serbia every year.

“I think that in two years we can double those figures and have four to five million tourists, and for all that we need Etihad,” he said.