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News 27 Jul 11

Bosnia’s Airline Aims to Tap Pilgrim Market

Bosnia's national carrier plans to start charter flights to Italy, in order to profit from the flow of Italian pilgrims heading for the shrine of Medjugorje.

Eldin Hadzovic
Sarajevo

Bosnia's national carrier BH Airlines says it intends to start charter flights from the southwestern town of Mostar to Pescara in Italy.

The airline hopes to cash in on the flow of pilgrims heading for the shrine of Medjugorje, which is only a short taxi ride from Mostar. 

A BH Airlines official told Balkan Insight that the public would be notified as soon as all the papers were signed by both sides.

“I can only confirm that the line from Mostar to Pescara will be open soon,” the official told Balkan Insight.

According to the same source, flights will begin in early September and will run until the end of October.

The service will operate once a week, as it faces competition from Croatia Airlines, which also plans to start flights to Pescara from the resort of Dubrovnik.

Both airlines clearly want to tap the flow of Catholic pilgrims from Italy to Medjugorje, which has become one of the most visited shrines in the world since a group of six local children had a vision of the Virgin Mary there in 1981.

As a result, a once obscure village has grown into a boom town whose streets are lined by multi-storey hotels.

The shrine is now major economic asset to the arid region of Western Herzegovina, the heartland of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and an area once known for its poverty.

While pilgrims come to Medjugorje from all over the world - mass there is said in a range of languages - the shrine is especially popular with visitors from Italy and Ireland.

Mostar Airport has been reporting strong passenger figures this year, becoming Bosnia and Herzegovina’s second busiest airport, behind Sarajevo.

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