The travel experts at ForwardKeys were recently invited to present at the Adria Forum in Zagreb to shed additional light on the development of tourism in the Balkan region by highlighting the important role flight connectivity has in international and domestic arrivals.

And the results are interesting as it reveals the savvy business approach of Croatia over the summer as well as reinforcing the future value of Tirana and Podgorica as important airport hubs into the region.

Rising Stars: Albania and Montenegro

The Balkans have fared substantially well throughout summer when compared to other regions in Europe down by 35% compared to the European average of -60% versus the same period in 2019.

The coastal towns of Croatia: Zadar, Split, Pula and Dubrovnik, outperformed Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia.

“This doesn’t come as a surprise as our data has been consistently showing since the outbreak of the Coronavirus that urban centres have lost their appeal. Rather sun and sea destinations, key leisure markets, are the ones showing the highest resilience,” says Juan Gomez, Insights Expert at ForwardKeys.

However, what eagle eye investors will notice is the potential for tourism development in lesser-known raw diamond destinations in Albania and Montenegro. International arrivals in Tirana airport increased by 14% when compared to 2019 levels.

Podgorica also witnessed an increase of 4% whereas the popular seaside resort town of Tivat dropped by 84% – rather surprising considering the range of luxury hotel chains based in the Bay of Kotor.


US travellers in Croatia

Croatia was one of the first countries, alongside Greece, to make an early pre-summer season welcoming message for vaccinated travellers from the USA – where vast parts of Europe stayed closed.

The share in volumes compared to 2019 were positive. So much so that by early July, arrivals from the USA surpassed 2019 levels!

“Other international arrivals only started to increase slightly in numbers by the end of July but still stayed below 2019 levels. This emphasised the importance of the US as top source market to Croatia this summer,” adds Gomez.

From the US arrivals into Croatia from June – August, three cities reaped the benefits the most with Dubrovnik in prime position, followed by Split.

All eyes are on how the Balkans will approach tourism as summer comes to an end and the coastal towns of Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro prepare for winter.

“I think it will be exciting to see how the urban centres rebuild travel and tourism as we can see that flight connections have increased from a few of the key airports such as Nikola Tesla in Belgrade, while the new potential is worth exploring in Tirana and Podgorica,” says Juan Gomez.

ForwardKeys has been a valued industry partner for tourism boards and hotels since 2010. With the most comprehensive global air ticketing data, directly from airlines and GDS systems, ForwardKeys helps you predict travellers’ impact on your destination through a suite of data solutions.


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