17.07.2021 – 14:06
Northern Macedonia is registering the most difficult tourist year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ohrid and Struga, two popular summer holiday towns along Lake Ohrid, are on the verge of collapse as hotel facilities and the gastronomy sector survive on tourism. By mid-July, they have not filled even 10 percent of capacity, a figure that is not remembered to have ever been recorded in these two popular tourist cities.
In 2019, more than 20,000 tourists stayed in Ohrid and Struga from the Netherlands alone. In 2020, during the pandemic, this number dropped to about 2 thousand people, while this year their number is negligible.
“Unfortunately, this year all reservations have been canceled. The Dutch government has not allowed flights, so we will not have traditional tourists. We will not have tourists from Poland either as they also canceled the trips. This was influenced by the Delta variant of coronavius, but also other factors. We hoped that this year ‘s season would be better than last year, but apparently this year will be even worse than the previous one. It is enough to go out along the lake and everything is clear, the beaches are almost empty “, says Ana Janceva, manager at the hotel” Drim “in Struga.
According to the State Statistical Office, in the period before the pandemic or in 2019 the number of tourists in the months of June and July was 120 thousand and 180 thousand tourists respectively. In the same period of 2020, the number of foreign tourists was about 5 thousand in June and close to 32 thousand in July. The same situation is expected in June and July this year.
Erhan Papraniku, manager at the Belgrade Hotel in Struga, does not remember Struga being more abandoned than it was this tourist season. He hopes that survival will be found in emigrants and weddings are expected to be in greater numbers after the easing of measures.
“I can say that we do not have tourists at all. We expect only individual visits, which are very few. We do not have organized tourists, all reservations have been canceled, they have been canceled for the whole season, so we do not even expect them. So the only hope of this season remain local tourists and expatriates with weddings. “These are the two hopes if they can save the tourist season”, says Papraniku.
Lejla Gogova, manager at the Metropol Hotel in Ohrid, also says that the situation is alarming.
“We all expected that this season would be better than the previous one. We had all the preparations to receive guests from abroad as well as locals. But, I must say that our expectations were not met. The hotel is almost empty or it is unlikely that the capacities will be filled so that we can all be satisfied with the tourist season “, says Gogova.
The managers of these hotels say that they do not expect any state aid, not that they do not need it, but they do not see any warning or readiness from the government for a new financial package to help tourism.
The government has not ruled out the possibility of a new aid, they are waiting for the course of the tourist season and the reports of this sector to see if or not it needs help.
Last year, the government helped the private sector, including tourism, by covering the expenses in the salaries of employees for two months, as well as by allocating 100 thousand coupons in the amount of 200 euros for local tourism.