site.btaBalkan Summer Unlimited 2022
Tourism in the Balkans is enjoying a booming comeback approaching the record 2019 levels after COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions were lifted. Here is how some Balkan countries are coping with the challenge of tourist season 2022:
Is currently witnessing a veritable tourist boom, with near-triple revenues from the sector in the second quarter and the number of foreign tourists in January-June approaching 2019 levels. This practically means a comeback from the pandemic-caused decline and welcomed foreign cash. The resorts on Aegean and Mediterranean shores are overflowing, and enormous numbers of tourists are flocking to Istanbul (over 1.47 million in June alone), as well as to Cappadocia and Central Turkey. Then again, the border city of Edirne is visited by many Bulgarians and Greeks, but mostly on shopping trips.
The decline of the Turkish lira to the dollar also contributed, making the country a cheap destination for foreigners. Not so for locals, though, who have to look for cheaper accommodation through platforms like Airbnb instead of booking at de lux hotels in the Aegean resorts.
Over 16 million tourists visited Turkey in January-June 2022, 186% more year-on-year or USD 8.72 billion, the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said. Most of them came from Germany, followed by Russia and then Great Britain. Bulgaria ranks fifth.
Turkey plans to receive 42 million tourists this year and revenue from the sector is expected to reach USD 35 billion, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said.
Following a decree of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued in July, Bulgarian nationals are able to enter Turkey with just an identity card when transiting through Turkey or paying a tourist visit for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days. Now, even more Bulgarian tourists than before cross the border, large groups of whom go shopping in Edirne.
In just a month, this has attracted merchants from neighboring provinces like Istanbul and Kirklareli, and raised office rents from EUR 2,700 to EUR 8,800 for the same premises.
Is enjoying a season much better than expected, with revenues anticipated to help cushion rising energy prices. Revenue from tourism may reach 80-90% of record 2019 values, Reuters quoted government and branch officials as saying. In 2019, 32 million tourists resulted in a revenue of some EUR 18 billion, the agency recalls.
The absence of Russian and Ukrainian tourists was felt by the sector in Northern Greece, but was replaced by visitors mainly from the Balkans, Tourism Minister Vasilis Kikilias said on state ERT TV. Efforts to extend the season and the development of cruise tourism also contributed to the good results, a case in point being Thessaloniki harbor with a 280% rise in cruise ships.
July saw 900,000 weekly arrivals to Greece and the number is expected to exceed 1.0 million Kikilias said. Tourists from the United States, Austria and Israel all exceeded pre-pandemic numbers.
Relies on tourism for some 20% of its GDP and has yet to achieve pre-pandemic levels. In January-July, the country welcomed 10.3 million tourists who registered 54.3 million overnights – 60% and 46% increases respectively year-on-year, but still just below the record 2019 levels.
Most of the tourists came from Germany, Slovenia and Austria. The most visited sites were Rovinj, Dubrovnik, Porec, Split and Umag.
Tourism and Sport Minister Nikolina Brnjac expects August to deliver its usual peak annual results. No doubt this will be helped by the recent unveiling of the Peljesac Bridge. The bridge spans the sea channel between Komarna on the northern mainland and the peninsula of Peljesac, thereby passing entirely through Croatian territory and avoiding any border crossings with Bosnia and Herzegovina at Neum.
In turn, gets some 25% of its GDP from tourism. The country with a population of some 605,000 welcomed 351,000 foreign tourists in the first half of 2022, 148.6% more year-on-year national statistics show. These spent an average 3.6 overnights.
Most tourists came from Serbia, Germany, Albania, France, and Great Britain, among others.
Although the Russian and Ukrainian market have been lost, good strategy and new markets are compensating and the sector is doing very well, Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic said in the beginning of August. Tourism Minister Goran Djurovic reported at end-July that 171,300 were currently staying, 2.44% more than at the same time in 2021. He added that the country had reached nearly 90% the number of visits in 2019.
Is becoming an increasingly popular year-round tourist destination offering anything from seaside to adventure and winter sports. In addition, the country is home to numerous cultural monuments and archaeological parks where special tours are offered.
This year’s season is promising to be successful, with a large number of foreign tourists. Over 2.5 million foreigners have visited Albania in January-June, or 51.3% more than in the same period of 2021, the Albanian Statistical Institute said. Just June saw the arrival of 876,056 foreign tourists, 45% up year-on-year.
In the same period, visitor to cultural sites doubled compared to last year, with 213,519 visiting such compared to the 106,534 registered in 2021, Culture Minister Elva Margariti said.
Tourism makes for some 27% of the country’s GDP and is an important source of revenue for the country. Nearly 5.5 million foreign tourists visited it in 2021 and 6.41 million in the pre-pandemic 2019, bringing a revenue of USD 2.46 billion.
Tourism is flourishing, registering 1.2 million visitors, or fivefold the number in 2021 under COVID-19 restrictions. British tourists accounted for nearly two-fifths, followed by Israelis, then Poles, Germans and Greeks.
In the first half of 2022, the island achieved 75% of the visitors registered in the record 2019 the Chairman of the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises, Akis Vavlitis, said, adding that, given the circumstances (of losing Russian and Ukrainian tourists) the achievement was a good one.
In 2019, one-fifth of the foreign tourists were Russian, ranking the market second after the British in Cyprus. Last year, the share rose to over 25%, the Cyprus Mail reported.
The tourism and travel sectors have the largest contribution to the country’s economy, with a 22.7% share of GDP for 2019 amounting to EUR 20.9 billion.
Is no different from the other Balkan countries. With tourism accounting for 5.3% of the country’s GDP in the pre-pandemic 2019, Romania registered 10.2 million foreign and 2.7 million domestic tourists. In 2021, the numbers dropped to 8.4 million domestic and a mere 840,000 foreign tourists, Tourism Minister Daniel Cadariu said.
This year, though Romanians are enjoying the lifting of restrictions to the full. However, Popular destinations of the Romanian Black Sea coast from Mamaia to Constanta are now seeing the weakest season in the last 30 years and a 30% drop in demand for bookings compared to 2021. The long lines of cars that once used to form along the way from Bucharest to Constanta have shifted to the border with Bulgaria.
The outflow of tourists from the coast, particularly the northern part, is due in part to questionable local authority decisions such as RON 100 (BGN 40)/day paid parking at Mamaia and Constanta. This goes hand in hand with high prices, chaotic construction, dirty beaches and no gardens, visitors complained.
Thus Romanians either prefer either their own southern resorts of Eforie or the Neptune-Olympus zone, or Bulgaria, particularly at half-price in September.
Commenting on the situation, the Secretary General of the Federation of Employers in the Hotel Industry, Corina Martin, called Romanian tourism to the Cinderella of the national economy, neglected for years by the state which has not invested a single euro in an advertisement campaign, unlike Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Tries to attract visitors with urban, balneo and mountain tourism. The sector accounts for some 7.0% of the country’s GDP, including investments and supply chains.
Compared to 2021, tourist visits in the first half of the year rose by 65.4%, the number of foreign tourists – by 135.7% and that of domestic tourists - by 35.8% year-on-year.
The largest numbers of tourists come from Bosnia, Russia and North Macedonia.
Balneo tourism increased by 35.4% and mountain tourism – by 36.4%, in both cases mostly due to foreign tourists.
The most visited locations were Belgrade, Novi Sad, Subotica and Nis; Vrnjacka Banja and Sokobanja balneo centres and Zlatibor, Kopaonik, Divcibare, Tara and Fruska Gora mountain resorts.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Relies on attracting tourists from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia this year. Both countries are among the ten largest tourist markets in Bosnia and Herzegovina where about half of the population is Muslim.
A total of 98,000 tourists from UAE and Saudi Arabia visited in 2019 and 8.5% of all tourists in the country in 2021 came from the two Arab states.
Nevertheless, the most numerous visitors come from the neighbouring countries of Serbia and Croatia, as well as Turkey. People from Germany, Slovenia, the United States, Poland and France are also interested.
Tourist visits in January-June rose by nearly 70% year-on-year, the FENA agency said. A total of 594,485 tourist visits were registered, as well as 1,295,674 overnights, or 68.3% up compared to 2021.
In the pre-pandemic 2019, tourist visits in January-June numbered 713,745, and overnights – 1,454,904. The country was visited by 1.20 million people and the revenue from tourism stood at USD 1.23 billion. Tourism had a 12% share in the country’s economy.
(Nora Cholakova, Petar Kadrev, Sofia Angelova, Mina Dimitrova and Sofia Georgieva contributed to this story)