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News 17 Jul 15

Russian Tourists Start Returning to Montenegro

Montenegro is likely to see more Russian tourists this summer, after a 40-per-cent drop last year, caused by the devaluation of the ruble and impaired relations between the countries.

Dusica Tomovic

The number of Russian tourists visiting Montenegro has increased compared to last year, data from the National Tourism Organization have revealed.

According to the data, in the first half of the year, Russian visitors made up 22 per cent of the total tourist arrivals, 5 per cent more than in the same period last year.

"Because of the crisis on the Russian market, at the beginning of the year we had news that Montenegro could expect a decline in visits from Russia. However, Montenegro has managed to maintain its position on the Russian market," the  National Tourism Organization said.

Some tourism businesses say this year's increase is insignificant, however, adding that Montenegro will never again be a "hot spot" for Russians, as it was from 2008 to 2013, when Russians made up more than 70 per cent of the total visitors.

About 300,000 Russians visited Montenegro in 2013. According to local surveys, more than 40 per cent of real estate in Montenegro now belongs to Russians.

However, relations between Montenegro and Russia have cooled since last March, when Podgorica joined Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

Montenegro's goal of NATO membership also runs counter to the tradition of "fraternal relations" between the two Slavic, Orthodox Christian nations.

The government has not released a breakdown of the number of Russian tourists in 2014 but the head the Montenegro's Tourist Association, Zarko Radulovic, said the number dropped by more than 40 per cent last year.

Russians are returning to the Montenegrin coast this year, Radulovic told BIRN on Thursday, because flight tickets are cheaper, hotels have "smartened up" and cut the prices of the accommodation and the Russian currency has stabilized.

"But we should not kid ourselves, it will never be as it was before," Radulovic added.

A report of the European Travel Commission said the number of tourists from Russia to Europe generally in the first quarter of 2015 fell by 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

The only exceptions were Montenegro and Romania.  

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