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news 08 Mar 17

Montenegro Coup Row Fails to Deter Russian Holidaymakers

Russian tour operators have noted a rise in interest in holidays in Montenegro compared to last year - despite a furious row over whether the Kremlin tried to organise a coup in the Balkan country.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Kotor is one of the hot spots for Russian tourists in Montenegro. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ggia.

Demand among Russians for holidays this summer in Montenegro has grown by 40 to 50 per cent compared to the previous year, according to the Russian tourism organisation's estimates, presented on Wednesday.

Russians have been the most numerous foreign tourists in Montenegro for some years.

However, Russian interest in holidays in the tiny but scenic Adriatic country remains high despite a serious intergovernmental dispute over whether the Kremlin attempted to launch a coup there last October - and over the country's aspirations to join NATO.

"Pre-season sales [of vacations] to Montenegro have increased by 40 to 50 per cent and tourism businesses and representatives are now carefully assessing the situation," Russian Tourism Organisation spokesperson Irina Tyurin told Interfax news agency.

Interfax cited an agency manager Olga Borovkova as saying that Russian tourists want to take advantage of the current strength of the Russian ruble.

Borovkova said Russian tourists mostly choose four stars hotels and good-quality private apartments in Montenegro, and the most arrangements have been sold for June, July and the beginning of August.

Montenegro’s once close relations with Russia have cooled markedly since Podgorica joined Western sanctions against Moscow in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine and since it announced that it wanted to join NATO.

Relations become even tenser last October when Montenegro said Russians stood behind an alleged coup attempt aimed at overthrowing the pro-Western government and assassinating the then Prime Minister.  

The Russian government has called the accusations absurd and unfounded, with some leading media outlets in Moscow ridiculing Podgorica’s claims that its intelligence and security agencies only narrowly stymied the Russian plot.

However, one of the most influential portals in Russia, fontanka.ru, on February 21 suggested that the row over the “coup” had not only failed to stop the flow of Russian tourists but might even have worked as a kind of advertisement for the country.

Visitors from Russia accounted about 30 per cent of all overnight stays last year in Montenegro, followed by nationals from Serbia, France and Bosnia.

“According to the observations of Russians living there, Montenegrins know how to count money and do not mix private business with politics,” the fontanka article noted.

“However, traces from the scandal [about the alleged coup], despite the friendship which has lasted since forever, are still there,” the article concluded.

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