bne IntelliNews – The challenge of wooing tourists to the Adriatic
The tourism-dependent economies of Albania, Croatia and Montenegro hope that the summer of 2021 will bring large numbers of visitors back to the sunny shores of the Adriatic. Their challenge will be to convince vacationers that a trip will not put them at risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19).
Despite the pandemic, construction of new hotels and resorts is underway in the area, with several opening their doors for the first time as tourists returned to the area ahead of the Orthodox Easter weekend at the end of the month. April. Other hotel operators have taken advantage of the forced shutdown periods to renovate their facilities. There are also big plans, in Albania in particular, to invest heavily in airports and other tourist infrastructure. Still, that won’t guarantee a good 2021 summer season unless the region is also safe for travel.
This is why campaigns launched by several national tourist offices in the region have focused on presenting countries as safe destinations.
In mid-May, the Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB) announced the launch of its “Trust me, I’ve been there” campaign to encourage visits during the summer season. The campaign targets 12 key markets mainly in Central Europe, as well as France, the UK, the Netherlands and Russia. While it features targeted content for each market – e.g. sun, sea and foodie to Germans, culture to the French and Dalmatia and the Makarska Riviera to Poles – the overall message is that the Croatia is a safe destination.
The Trust me campaign of the Croatian National Tourist Board. Source: CNTB.
“This is a new campaign that is different from all the previous ones, that is to say that is personalized and adjusted to the preferences of each individual market. It is with this objective that we decided to create a unique messaging, and the main faces of the campaign are happy with the guests who invite their fellow citizens to come to Croatia and have shared first-hand information that our country is an ideal and safe destination for summer holidays ”, CNTB Director Kristjan Stanicic said during the campaign presentation.
At the same time, Minister of Tourism and Sports Nikolina Brnjac described some of the measures taken to allow Croatia to open up for the summer season, including vaccination of workers in the tourism sector and test points COVID-19 in tourist centers. “We are ready for the season, and further optimism is brought by the improvement in the epidemiological situation, which we know is crucial for the benefit of the guests,” Brnjac said on May 12.
Croatia was one of the first countries to open up to large-scale tourism last year, and the sector has done much better than initially expected. However, the tourist season came to an abrupt end at the end of the summer with a sudden increase in the number of cases, many of them linked to social distancing being ignored in tourist destinations.
The situation in Montenegro was even worse, as after declaring itself COVID-free in June, the small country experienced a new wave of the virus over the summer. Montenegro suffered the largest decline in GDP in the emerging European region in 2020, with Croatia in second place.
This year Podgorica is so keen on attracting tourists that Health Minister Jelena Borovinic Bojovic and Economic Development Minister Jakov Milatovic announced on May 19 that all tourists who contract coronavirus in Montenegro will receive free treatment in the local health system. , and all tourists will receive a free PCR test to take back to their home country. Bojovic urged tourism workers to get vaccinated before the summer season.
Montenegro launched a mass vaccination in early May, after getting some much-needed hits. Authorities are trying to get protective immunity ahead of the summer season, hoping to attract more foreign tourists, which would boost the economy.
Albania, which was visited mainly by its landlocked neighbors Kosovo and North Macedonia last year, aims to attract tourists from further afield in 2021, but its efforts have been thwarted by negative comments from the German minister of Health, Jens Spahn. – prompting a lively response from Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Spahn said in an interview with German newspaper BILD that half of the cases in Germany last summer were due to visits to relatives in Turkey and the Balkans. Speaking to BILD two days later, Rama retaliated that he “will not allow Albania to be portrayed as a risky country for holiday travel, there are no figures to prove it”.
Slovenia, which has 47 km of coastline, has also announced that it is ready to welcome tourists, and the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) and its partners have stepped up their promotional activities to invite foreign visitors to spend their holidays. in Slovenia. The crisis allows Slovenia to capitalize on its strengths as a green destination by emphasizing healthy outdoor experiences.
“We will have enough vaccines for everyone by the summer. Let’s be responsible to ourselves and others, get ourselves vaccinated and wait a few more weeks. It’s time for a normal summer,” the Premier tweeted. Minister Janez Jansa earlier in May.
Tourists start to come back
As the latest wave of the pandemic eases, restrictions are lifted. After months of virtually no tourist traffic, the first international tourists returned to the region in April.
Year-on-year variation in the number of foreign tourist arrivals, January 2020 – March 2021. Source: National statistical offices.
The Croatian National Tourist Board reported that more than 110,000 foreign tourists visited Croatia in April, and a further 23,000 on the first weekend of May, as data from the eVisitor system show.
The tourist office indicated that while the largest number of overnight stays were from domestic customers, there were also customers from Slovenia, Poland and Germany. Among the first arrivals to Croatia after it reopened to tourists was a Russian tourist plane that arrived on April 26, on the first international flight to land at Pula Airport this year.
The Roman amphitheater in Pula, Croatia.
The government announced further easing of restrictions on May 24 that will allow restaurants to serve customers indoors, while gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed. Croatia reported 323 new cases of the coronavirus on May 25. As of May 24, more than 1.18 million people had already received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 401,566 had received two doses.
Tourists have also returned to Albania, with around 32,000 people arriving from Kosovo on the first weekend in May, Albanian Ambassador to Kosovo Qemal Minxhozi told the Koha daily. Albania recently closed its regional COVID-19 hospitals as the number of new cases has declined, and restrictions are expected to be reviewed on May 27.
On May 11, the government of Montenegro decided to lift the curfew and allow intercity travel, which had been banned for weeks due to the high number of new coronavirus cases.
The Slovenian government eased restrictions on the hospitality sector, allowing hotels to reopen on April 26, as the number of new cases of the coronavirus began to decline. A new easing has allowed large hotels to offer half of their rooms to their customers from May 10.
Meanwhile, investments in new tourist facilities and the renovation of existing ones continued during the pandemic.
Albanian Rama, who is about to start a third term after winning the general elections in April, has presented plans to make Albania a tourism “champion”. It aims to increase the number of tourists above the 6 minutes recorded in 2019 with the addition of new international aerodromes and other infrastructures.
There are plans for an overhaul of Tirana International Airport, and a second international airport in Kukes, serving budget airlines, opened earlier this year. There are plans for additional airports in Vlora, Saranda and possibly other cities, as well as the construction of a marina at the port of Durres.
As Albania’s tourist offer grows, several new hotels have been announced. German Maritim opened its second hotel in Vlora, Albania in April. Maritim noted that the franchise was signed in 2020 but was not opened until May 2021 due to travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Peter Wennel, COO of HMS Hotel Management Services International GmbH, responsible for the international expansion of the Maritim Hotels group, said he sees “enormous potential in the emerging region of the west coast of southern Albania ”, noting in particular the plans for an airport to serve the city of Vlora.
The beach at the new Maritim hotel in Vlora, southern Albania.
Among Radisson Hotel Group’s 16 additions to its portfolio in the first quarter were the opening of a new hotel in Albania and the addition of Albania’s first Radisson Collection property in Tirana.
Hilton announced the signing of a management agreement to open the 174-room Hilton Tirana in February, in conjunction with Kastrati Residences Ltd. local. This will be the first hotel under the Hilton brand to open in Albania, following the opening of the Hilton Garden Inn Tirana in 2018 “Tirana is transforming into a thriving metropolis, and we see great potential in this city in full development. Albania saw the number of visitors increase by more than 70% between 2014 and 2019, ”commented Patrick Fitzgibbon, senior vice president, development, EMEA, Hilton.
In Croatia, Valamar Riviera, listed on the Zagreb Stock Exchange, announced in April the reconstruction and renovation of the Valamar Meteor Hotel 4 * in Makarska with an investment of 85 million HRK (11.3 million euros) including the construction a new outdoor swimming pool and the renovation of swimming pools and wellness center. The opening of a hotel in Hvar under the new lifestyle brand Valamar [PLACES], aimed at young travelers, is also planned this spring.
Valamar reported in February that it has maintained job and business stability in 2020, during which it hosted nearly 300,000 guests and no cases of coronavirus transmission were recorded at Valamar properties.
PPHE Hotel Group said in April that it was continuing the Brioni Hotel repositioning program in Pula as planned, but the group “is closely monitoring market conditions before committing to a launch and opening date. appropriate ”.
Bluesun opened its first hotel on Makarska Riviera in Brela last month, while the five-star Kempinski Hotel Adriatic golf resort added new luxury private villas ahead of its reopening at the end of April.
The international group Kerzner opened its first resort under the luxury brand One & Only in Portonovi, Montenegro on May 1. The resort is located at the entrance to Boka Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shortly after, luxury and hospitality brand Nikki Beach announced the opening of Nikki Beach Montenegro, its fifth resort and thirteenth beach club, close to the resort town of Porto Montenegro.
The One & Only luxury resort in Portonovi, Montenegro.