The tourism sector offers export and investment opportunities and has significant potential for future development. The country’s geographic location, mild climate, and historical and religious sites provide favorable conditions for the development of the tourism industry. North Macedonia offers a full range of accommodations in 262 licensed hotels. North Macedonia has many tourist attractions, including three natural lakes (Lake Ohrid, Lake Prespa, and Lake Dojran), and high mountains suitable for camping, hiking, and winter sports. The most popular tourist destination, which accounts for almost 80 percent of North Macedonia’s tourist revenues, is Lake Ohrid. The town of Ohrid is a UNESCO historical and cultural heritage site. Tourists primarily come from Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Albania, and Germany.
U.S. franchise hotels Holiday Inn, Best Western, Marriott, and Hilton are present in Skopje. DoubleTree by Hilton opened in Skopje January 1, 2019.
The tourism sector was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but is rebounding. The State Statistical Office reported in July 2022 that the number of tourists in North Macedonia from January to May 2022 increased by 74.3 percent compared to 2021, with 26.7 percent more domestic tourists and 133 percent more foreign tourists.
Since there has been very limited investment in tourism, legacy hotels need repair and upgrading. There has been an increase in the construction of smaller hotels (more suitable to the market in North Macedonia), primarily in Skopje and in areas around Lake Ohrid, but investments in training and management for hotel and restaurant employees could greatly increase guest satisfaction. There are no golf courses in North Macedonia, nor do the three largest lakes, Ohrid, Prespa, and Dojran, have any significant watersport centers.
In order to attract visitors, the value-added tax (VAT) on tourism has been reduced from 18 percent to 5 percent. Investors in priority projects receive special benefits, such as zero percent personal income tax and zero percent VAT for the first 10 years of operation. USAID has supported the development of adventure tourism opportunities in North Macedonia, such as hiking, biking, and paragliding.