Although 2021 was better for the tourism industry than 2020 both in Serbia and the rest of the world, the tourism sector suffered perhaps more than all other sectors from the coronavirus pandemic, it is far from returning to the old successes of the pre-pandemic period.
Up until two years ago, most tourist facilities were completely booked for the summer. This year, the booking rate is not even 10%.
415 million people travelled last year, about 4% more than in 2020, but still much less than in 2019 (72%). Most experts believe tourism will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. “We are very far away from returning to the level before the pandemic and we have no idea when this might happen,” Aleksandar Seničić, president of the National Association of Serbian Travel Agencies (YUTA), told Danas daily.
“Almost no one relies on travel agencies to book their holiday, i.e. only 7-10% of tourists, compared to 2019. There were some bookings for winter resorts Jahorina and some in Bulgaria, but no bookings for Austria, France and Italy, which used to be the most sought after winter destinations, and that was a problem,” Seničić notes.
He adds that many travel agencies are in trouble, five or six have already declared bankruptcy, and he fears that there will be more to come and that insurers will not have enough money to compensate everyone if more travel agencies go bankrupt.
“A good portion of them don’t even want to take the money from banks anymore because they’re not sure if they’ll be able to repay their loans and if they’ll have enough business,” he points out. Seničić also says that nobody can predict what the season will be like and whether there will be enough work for travel agencies because the pandemic is ongoing and each country has its own specific protocols for entry, which sometimes change daily.
“We know that only vaccinated people can enter Greece, we hope it will stay that way for the summer season too. The EC has proposed that the COVID pass shouldn’t have expiry date, but we are waiting to see what will happen. In the past, entry into Albania and Montenegro was unrestricted, but that is not the case now. Also, tourists over 12 years of age need to be vaccinated to enter Spain. We are waiting until April to see the protocols of the various countries, and then we will know more,“ he concludes.
This post is also available in: Italiano