Croatia, Slovenia, Albania and Montenegro draw tourists to the Adriatic coast


Hundreds of thousands of people are now on the move in Central and Southeast Europe as travel restrictions imposed to contain the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are eased, according to a news report by Intellinews.


More than 350,000 tourists are now in Croatia and the number is rising by the day, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said last week.

Admittedly this is low compared to last year, when 20 million people visited the country, but it is positive news for the tourism-dependent country that is trying to save at least part of the summer season this year despite the pandemic. GDP is forecast to dip by 9% or more this year, with the collapse of tourism an important contributing factor. 

“We will probably not reach those figures this year, but according to today’s reports, we can say that the entire security system has shown exceptional efficiency in resolving crises, regardless of whether it is epidemics, crimes or fires,” Bozinovic told journalists.

Croatian hotels, campsites and other tourist accommodation started reopening in late May and continued into June, as announced by the Croatian Association of Tourism (HUT). 

This was helped by the reopening of Croatia’s border with Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Poland, which make up almost 60% of Croatia’s leading source markets. 


Montenegro declared itself coronavirus-free at the beginning of June as the final patients recovered (it has since imported two cases from Bosnia & Herzegovina, which led to a fresh outbreak). 

The tiny country has carved out a niche as a destination for jetsetters and super-yacht owners, and as of mid-June some of its top luxury resorts were reopening, after Podgorica opened its borders in early June — but only to visitors from countries with no more than 25 patients per 100 people. 

A spokesperson for the exclusive Porto Montenegro marina and resort told IntelliNews that it is now open and has seen interest from holidaymakers.  “We have seen arrivals of larger yachts and more interest from the region when it comes to general visitors. As the borders are slowly opening and with return of airline traffic from July 1, we expect this to be substantially increased,” she said. 

Most of the requests were from within Montenegro and nearby countries such as Albania, Kosovo and Serbia, there was also interest from further afield: Germany, Russia and Switzerland. 


In contrast with Montenegro’s high-end offering, neighbouring Albania is popular among package tourists from Eastern Europe seeking a cheap sea, sun and sand experience. 

Tirana has already opened its borders to countries from the region, despite fears of a second wave of the virus following the easing of restrictions. Albania received its first planeload of 192 tourists from coronavirus hotspot Belarus on a Belavia charter plane on June 12, according to local media reports. It is now expecting more arrivals from Poland and Ukraine in the near future. 


Meanwhile, Slovenia opened its borders to 17 European countries from June 8, almost all of them EU members, as it eases travel restrictions. 

However, Slovenia is hoping that local tourists could make up for at least some of the lost revenues from international visitors. A survey by the Slovenian Tourist Board, quoted by state news agency STA, finds that 52% of respondents plan to spend their summer holidays in Slovenia, due to a combination of reluctance to travel abroad during the pandemic and vouchers issued by the authorities to spend on holiday accommodation. 

Other countries are also looking to domestic tourists to make up at least some of the shortfall as large numbers of international holidaymakers choose to stay at home. However, with the exception of Slovenia, incomes in the region are some of the lowest in Europe, so this won’t fully compensate for the lack of foreign visitors. 

As the World Bank points out, even though travel restrictions are now being lifted, many people will be reluctant to take foreign holidays this summer or may no longer have the disposable income to do so; as a result, “much of the summer holiday season is likely to be lost…initial estimates place the global decline in international tourist arrivals between 60% and 80% in 2020”. 

“Impact of this may be felt most strongly in countries such as Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro and Turkey, where tourism accounts for a sizeable share of GDP,” says the report. 

After long being dependent primarily on tourists looking for summer beach holidays, countries such as Albania and Croatia have been attempting to diversify their tourism offerings and extend the season by encouraging more people to visit outside the peak months of July and August. Some of the initiatives include adventure tourism in Albania and gastronomy in Slovenia, which recently got a boost when six local restaurants received the country’s first-ever Michelin stars.