Lack of snow hits winter tourism in Balkans

23/01/2014

Unusually warm weather is alarming to tourist operators, resort hotel managers and skiing instructors who have been registering a significant drop in revenues.

By Tzvetina Borisova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 23/01/14

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Winter resorts in the Balkans are experiencing hard times as the number of tourists has declined sharply compared to last year. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]

Resort operators in the Balkans are concerned about what appears to be a snowless winter. Although there are no precise data about the exact impact yet, the number of tourists has declined sharply compare to last year.

Eli Dimitrova, manager of the Aleko resort on Vitosha mountain outside of Sofia, said the hotel so far is only using artificial snow.

"The situation is incomparable to last year's," Dimitrova told SETimes. "The very fact that we have guests who have cancelled their reservations and guests who have rescheduled their visits waiting for the snow to come speaks for itself. Our visitors' numbers are roughly 40 percent down from last year."

According to media reports, the number of tourists in Romania's mountain and ski resorts in January has dropped as much as 80 percent from last year, resulting in losses worth more than 1 million euros. Hotel occupancy levels have declined as much as 20 percent during weekends, while through the week hotels have no visitors at all, Mediafax reported.

Montenegro's government decided to exempt companies with operations depending on ski resorts from paying taxes until September 1st.

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In Kosovo, drought is threatening to leave about 400,000 people in and around Pristina with reduced supplies of drinking water due to the dramatic drop in the levels of the two artificial basins that secure these supplies.

The lack of snow alarms agricultural producers. Farmers warn that although it is still too early to give any certain predictions, crops could suffer if the warm weather continues and is followed by a sharp drop of temperatures.

One of the few positive aspects of the current weather conditions is lower electricity and heating bills, especially, for low-income families and retirees.

"My heating bill in December was down 17 percent from last year, when I paid 97 leva [about 50 euros], while now my bill is 83 leva [around 40 euros]," Simeon Simeonov, a 77-year-old retiree from Sofia told SETimes.

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