June 28, 2020 - Specific dates for opening borders alongside measures introduced by competing countries have meant that some tourists, who would otherwise have preferred to come to Montenegro, have already opted for destinations such as Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Egypt and Tunisia.
Montenegro is currently open to more than 100 countries, but more than 70 percent of them are not the markets from which most guests come. According to the Association of Hotels and Apartments of the Municipality of Ulcinj, the more favorable entry measures introduced by Albania have led to up to 90% of their tourist capacity being filled, compared to last year.
The situation in Croatia is similar to Montenegro’s, yet as a European Union member it must adhere to the measures prescribed by the EU.
Montenegro is currently open to countries with fewer than 25 active cases per 100,000 population. The problem with this criterion is that on any given day the criterion may be fulfilled, and yet in five days’ time it may no longer be. In the meantime, flights have been arranged, sales have been agreed, and packages sold to tourists, yet five days later everything has to be cancelled. In order to save the economy, the tourism industry is proposing the abolition of the PCR test when tourists enter, with stricter controls.
Given this situation on the tourism market on the one hand, and the significant impact that tourism has on the economy of the country on the other, the tourism industry expects the competent institutions in Montenegro to find sustainable solutions that will allow economic activities to make the most of the rest of the tourist season.
As the "Fly Montenegro" agency claims, the current measure cannot be applied from the point of view of specifying flights, because countries that meet that criterion can be on the list of banned countries again by the time of the scheduled flight, e.g Poland and Israel.
"Competing countries (Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Egypt, etc.) do not have the criterion of 25 active patients per 100,000 inhabitants but have either fully open borders, with certain measures to implement distance and mandatory wearing of masks when entering (Albania, Greece, Croatia, Egypt, etc.), or carry out tests for incoming passengers (Turkey)," Fly Montenegro states.
According to their information, in addition to the aforementioned measures, Croatia and Albania have introduced filling in forms upon entering the country. The purpose of the form is to know where an individual will be staying, and the date of arrival and departure in order to monitor the situation and controls. In Tirana, forms are filled out manually during the flight, to avoid crowds on landing. Croatia has created a web application through which passengers can fill in the required information before arriving in Croatia in order to avoid waiting at the airport.
Tivat - Photo Boka News
The Association of Hotels and Apartments of the Municipality of Ulcinj recently appealed to the Government to open the borders and allow unimpeded entry and stay of persons from the countries of the region because, as they say, the economic situation is very difficult.
The President of the Association, Fuad Lunji, claims that in Albania, compared to last year, 80 to 90 percent of the capacity is currently filled and that they are doing fairly well, adding that many of their tourists had wanted to stay in Montenegro.
“Tourists as tourists have an alternative and why would they go somewhere where it is closed and pay for a PCR test, when they can go somewhere that is completely open and pay nothing. We cannot be too smart and not be able to establish that,” Lunji stated.
He suggests that with increased controls at border crossings, tourists should be allowed to enter without tests.
“Every person in Montenegro depends directly and indirectly on tourism, especially those of us on the coast who depend on tourists from the entire region: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, North Macedonia - these are our markets. We were the only ones to make a PCR test compulsory. I agree that the situation is bad, and it is a pandemic, but I think we have a much worse economic situation heading towards us. I feel sorry for all the people who get sick, people who die, but believe me, a huge catastrophe awaits us when all this stops,” Lunji believes.
His hotel "Salina" in Ulcinj currently has no guests. While the borders were temporarily open without a test, he says they had full weekends of tourists from Kosovo. However, he now claims that their situation was better in November and December last year than now.
“We have to find a way out and make the best of the situation, whatever the disease turns out to be,” Lunji thinks.
Travel agency "Fly Montenegro" spoke to Pobjeda, saying that apart from the region, there is a huge interest from tourists from Belarus and Ukraine, from where about 100,000 tourists came to Montenegro last year. Flights from these countries are now being diverted to Albania precisely because of the measures.
“The fact is that due to the global crisis caused by Covid-19, we cannot expect significant numbers from Western European countries this tourist season, because they are telling everyone to spend their summers in their countries. So our potential traditional incoming markets remain primarily Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, our region, Poland, the Emirates, the Czech Republic, Israel and others,” claims Fly Montenegro.
Herceg Novi during coronavirus
It is especially important, they say, to consider measures of competitors in the tourist market (Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Tunisia, Egypt, etc.), which over time are taking more and more tourists from the traditional incoming markets and are therefore decreasing the chances for some sort of rescue for at least part of the tourist season.
“We already have seen a number of examples where flights from Belarus that were planned for Montenegro were redirected to Albania, where the first flight arrived on 12th June. The first flights from Minsk, which were planned and sold to Tivat in mid-June, were diverted and landed in Tirana. The flight was welcomed at Tirana Airport by the Minister of Tourism of Albania. Belarus is not yet on the list of countries from which it is possible to come to Montenegro because they have more than 25 active patients per 100,000 inhabitants, which is completely realistic considering that mass tests are performed in that country, between 15,000 and 20,000 a day,” states Fly Montenegro.
They add that for now, flights from Minsk to Tivat have been moved to start on 10th July.
“If a sustainable solution is not found, the airline Belavia will be forced to completely cancel flights to Montenegro this year and redirect all its flights to competitive markets. How important the Ukrainian market is is best shown by the fact that negative PCR tests for Ukrainian tourists are not required by Croatia, Albania, Greece, Turkey or Egypt,” said Fly Montenegro.
As they explain, the last change according to which Ukraine was put on the list of countries from which tourists can visit Montenegro, but with the obligatory negative PCR test not older than 48 hours, cannot be applicable to tourist arrivals for two reasons.
Beach - tourism
“The first is of a technical nature because in Ukraine the minimum turnaround for PCR tests is 72 hours or longer, as the number of laboratories that issue PCR tests is limited. The second is economic in nature because the PCR test costs about 80 euros, which automatically removes us from the market as competing countries can attract them by not insisting on a negative PCR test. For example, a family of four has to pay over 300 euros for tests alone, and there are huge queues for PCR testing. In addition, no one can guarantee that the tests will be issued between the 48 and 72 hours as required by us, and therefore tourists opt for competing countries where there are no such requirements,” the agency clarified.
The outcome of this situation, they say, is that the planned flights from Ukraine to Montenegro from 1st July have been cancelled.
June 22, 2020 - Last weekend, the Tourist Organization of the Municipality of Tivat hosted representatives of a study group of media and travel agencies from Bosnia and Herzegovina and a group of influencers from Albania.
The visit of a group of media and tourist agencies from BiH to Montenegro was organized by the National Tourism Organization of Montenegro, in cooperation with local tourist organizations along the coast. On Saturday, June 20, the group stayed in Tivat. TO Tivat, in cooperation with partners, designed an interesting programme to showcase what the area has to offer and present the potential of the municipality of Tivat as a tourist destination.
The programme included a tour of the Porto Montenegro marina resort, a walk along the Tivat Pine waterfront and a tour of the luxury complex Luštica Bay. The tour of Luštica Bay, accompanied by a guide, included a visit to “The Chedi” hotel, “The Rok” beach bar and “The Spot” restaurant, where dinner was organized in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The gathering was attended by representatives of the media: BHT1, TV Sarajevo, Face TV, Klix portal, Exclusive, SA Radio and portal, and Gracija magazine, as well as representatives of Relax, Sirius, Castanea, M97, Viptravels travel agencies.
Sunday, June 21st, was reserved for a visit by Albanian influencers, who were guests of the Regent Hotel in Porto Montenegro from June 19th to 21st. Well-known influencers from Albania had a full programme organized by the management of the Regent Hotel, with Sunday morning organized by TO Tivat. The tour organized by TO Tivat in cooperation with the agency “Montenegro Destinations” included a ride through the city in attractive tuk tuk vehicles, followed by a visit to the beach complex “Movida”, where after refreshments in the beach bar influencers had the opportunity for a walk and to take some stunning photos. The authentic taverna "Vino Santo" was a perfect spot with just the right atmosphere for the group to enjoy lunch, arranged to include tasting of fish specialties.
The previous Saturday, June 13, the Tourist Organization of the Municipality of Tivat hosted a group of local influencers, also guests of the Regent Hotel, and in cooperation with Montenegro Destinations, organized a picnic in the atmospheric village of Gornja Lastva.
June 17, 2020 - The Union of Medical Doctors of Montenegro (SDMCG), Action for Human Rights (AHR) and the Center for Civic Education (CCE) are calling on the Minister of Health and the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases (NKT) to allow entry into Montenegro without institutional quarantine to all persons with a negative PCR test, not just those who enter the country on private planes and yachts. Tourists will be required to bring a negative PCR test result that is not older than 48 hours, and Montenegrin citizens and residents will be able to be tested directly at the border.
AHR and CCE have previously pointed to discrimination regarding the fact that people are allowed to come to Montenegro on private planes and yachts from all countries, regardless of the infection rates, if they have a negative test not older than 48 hours, while this is not possible for those who want to enter the country in usual ways, for example, by car.
It is known that citizens and residents, coming from Serbia, are entering Montenegro through Bosnia and Herzegovina, without any quarantine or testing. Rumours are circulating that in this way several people who have been infected with the Covid virus have already entered the country -19 who were infected at a recent football match in Belgrade. We call on the authorities to confirm or refute these rumours.
Also, many people are entering Montenegro unhindered from Albania, although the scope of testing there is worryingly low, meaning that the numbers of people infected and the risk of importing the virus cannot be realistically assessed.
Given this, we believe that it is far more rational that, instead of there being a “narrow gateway” into Montenegro through Bosnia and Herzegovina with no testing or monitoring, everyone should be allowed to enter via the "large gateway", but with a negative test, not older than 48 hours, or indeed they should be given the opportunity to undergo a test at the border crossing. In the latter case the person would be obliged by the decision of the sanitary inspector to wait for the test result in self-isolation. Symptoms can be monitored by the Institute for Public Health (IPH) via an application they have developed and is already in use.
If the NKT and the Minister of Health believe otherwise, we expect them to inform the public of all the reasons behind their position in an open and considered manner. We also expect the Ombudsman to give a reasoned opinion on whether the orders of the Minister of Health are discriminatory or not.
June 13, 2020 - Montenegro has partially enabled international bus transport of passengers with clearly specified conditions, and some of the regular international lines have been re-established with clearly defined requirements and rules. Bus traffic within the country is running smoothly. The lines are consistent, passengers respect the prescribed measures, but there are slightly fewer of them than there were before the COVID-19 epidemic.
According to data from Tivat bus station, they still do not have information on when the buses will be leaving for Belgrade, Novi, Sad, Nis, Dubrovnik, Tirana, or other destinations with regular bus lines before the COVID-19 epidemic. Now only the bus line to Sarajevo-Pale is functioning. And from the Kotor bus station, international bus transport takes place only with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Station chief Mirko Roganovic says:
"Carriers started operating on the route Ulcinj - Sarajevo at 7:40 from the bus station from Kotor. They run two companies alternately - Lalatović and Centrotrans. A line has been established with Doboj, where the carrier Lazaro runs on Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays at 6.40 p.m. These are currently the only international departures from the bus station in Kotor."
One of the carriers that run from Boka outside the borders of Montenegro is Lalatović transport. Current international lines are for Serbia and Albania. Mostly seafarers travel to Albania, and most travelers to Serbia are Montenegrin citizens studying in that country. Director Vladimir Lalatović says that the interest is high, so they run twice a week:
"We are going from Herceg Novi, Tivat, Budva, Podgorica, Bijelo Polje, travelers from Niksić and Berane are also joining. It is a matter of free transport, and all passengers must contact our agency or branch office in Herceg Novi to get the necessary information. We are preparing a list of passengers, so we arrive at the border completely ready, and there is no delay. There is no transfer because the buses go directly to Belgrade. On Sunday, June 16, our coach will drive to Novi Sad. And direct lines to Albania function without any problems. "
When it comes to returning, there are no passengers, and according to Lalatović, the reason is to avoid mandatory quarantine upon entering Montenegro. The situation is the same as for the return from Albania.
Source: Radio Tivat