Serbia could lose its EXIT festival due to COVID-19, as the government proposes to organizers to solve their financial problems by laying off all the employees.
City of Novi Sad has been a home for EXIT festival since its inception, and now new rumours have started that Umag in Croatia could be the new festival destination. If that happens, it would mean that the Istria region would host artists like David Guetta, Solomun, Nina Kraviz, Paul Kalkbrenner, Paul van Dyk and other headliners already announced for 2021.
EXIT, one of the most recognizable Serbian brands, has generated about 200 million euros to Serbian tourism. Besides Croatia, locations in Montenegro have also been connected with the festival moving.
Lack of money
Well versed sources say the reason for the festival relocation is that Serbian government did not implement any measures which would help the most affected economy branches, among which are the music and festival industry. Because of the Coronavirus epidemiological measures, these industries have lost all their revenues. The government did not help them by cutting the usual finances given to the cultural and tourism projects, to which EXIT belongs.
That is why the festival loses for 2020 sit at about 1 million euros. Because of that, organizers would need to fire about a hundred people who work all year round, as well as several thousands which work during the festival dates. Even though the organizers did not want to comment, Jutarnji list has unofficially found out that the country has given them advice to solve the financial losses by “firing all employees”.
In addition to lack of the government’s help, more bad news came from the sponsors. Telekom, which is in state’s ownership, has renounced the sponsorship for 2021. Even though there was no EXIT festival in 2020, the organizers initiated the Life Stream project, which live streamed performances of some of the world’s largest DJs, watched by over 6 million people around the world.
EXIT groups together 5 other festivals from 4 countries. Besides EXIT, there is No Sleep festival in Belgrade, Revolution festival in Temisoara, Sea Dance in Budva and Sea Star in Umag, Croatia. The cooperation with Umag started in 2017, which is why the Istrian town is among the potential alternatives for EXIT. The festival has always been a symbol of a post-war regeneration and youthful power, creating a new and optimistic picture of Serbia. Despite that, the lack of support and COVID-19 crisis have made it realistic that EXIT would not be in Novi Sad, starting maybe from 2021.
Budva in Montenegro is a current favorite to host the festival. Their plan is to bring young people, a demographic most likely to travel post-COVID. Montenegro and Budva count on about 30 million euros which would be generated from EXIT, in addition to the promotion of the country. EXIT also received a lucrative offer from a rich Arabian country, planning to make the festival the largest in the world, by bringing over 500 thousand people each year.
However, the organizers will most likely want to stay in the region, because not a lot of people from the region would be willing to go that far to attend the festival.
New location closer to Europe
The advantage of Umag as compared to Montenegro is much better connectivity with European airports. Wherever EXIT goes next, it is expected to bring a lot of money to that country’s tourism, about 200 million euros in the span of 10 years. Promotional value is even bigger, estimated by CNN to be about 87 million euros per year. The final destination of EXIT should be known by the end of 2020.
The director of Umag Tourist Board Milan Popović did not have any comments about EXIT moving to Umag. However, he did acknowledge the will to cooperate, which says that some talks did take place.
What I can say is that cooperation with the Sea Star festival has been more than satisfying. There are over 20 thousand people per day during the festival. Umag would be able to accommodate the number of people which usually go to the EXIT.Milan Popović, Umag Tourist Board