Eastern Europe and the former state of Yugoslavia are becoming a playground for growing competition from low-cost carriers, but the latest expansion by easyJet into new country markets in these areas is helping to establish stronger connectivity in and out of Europe.
This month easyJet will launch its first flights to Montenegro, its 32nd country in its network and an emerging destination with limited current international connectivity. The country was a well-known tourist spot in the 1980s and has both a picturesque coast and a mountainous northern region. Yet, the Yugoslav wars that were fought in neighbouring countries during the 1990s crippled the tourist industry and damaged the image of Montenegro for years.
Montenegro is now welcoming the arrival of low-cost airlines: Ryanair offers flights from the capital Podgorica to Brussels Charleroi and London Stansted, while Norwegian has a link between Tivat and Oslo. easyJet will also launch flights to Tivat, a coastal town in the southwest of the country, located in the Bay of Kotor. These will operate twice weekly from Manchester from March 27, 2016 and in the last week reservations were also opened for a new twice weekly connection from London Gatwick during the summer months.
With its Mediterranean climate and a vibrant coastline littered with beaches, Montenegro is a truly up and coming destination which is proving more than a match for the long-established Mediterranean resorts. The UK carrier expects to carry over 19,000 passengers on the new route in the first summer of operation.
“We expected that this new route would not take long to become a firm favourite as an easy and affordable summer destination for our customers and it has proved to be so successful that we believe there is a real demand for this flight from London Gatwick to Tivat,” said Neil Slaven, Commercial Manager, easyJet.
The new easyJet operation will significantly boost flights between the UK and Montenegro. The country’s national carrier, Montenegro Airlines had previously provides regular flights into London from both Podgorica and Tivat, but now only offers a summer-only schedule between Tivat and London Gatwick, a seasonal route that will resume in April 2016. Meanwhile, Ryanair has served the Podorica – London Stansted market on a twice weekly basis since April 2014.
The turbulent history of this small country has left behind an invaluable treasure in numerous historic monuments throughout this proud country. The blue sea with endless beaches, restless waters of the clear rivers and beautiful mountain massifs, mixed with the spirit of the old times, have presented Montenegro with the ingredients to grow as a popular leisure destination.
Official 2014 arrivals data from the Montenegro Statistical office show 1,517,376 international tourist arrivals, up 1.7 per cent on the previous year, while 9,553,783 overnight stays were recorded, a 1.5 per cent rise over 2013. The largest markets were its Eastern European and Balkan neighbours - Russia (30.0 per cent), Serbia (24.0 per cent, Bosnia & Herzegovina (7.5 per cent), Ukraine (5.8 per cent), Kosovo (2.9 per cent), Belarus (2.7 per cent) and Poland (2.6 per cent) – and the new connectivity will allow the country to grow visitors from other parts of Europe. In 2014 the data shows 24,313 tourist arrivals from the UK and 114,483 overnight stays.
The direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to Montenegro’s GDP was €348.7 million (9.8 per cent of total GDP) in 2013, and is to rise by 8.6 per cent per annum to 2024, to €892.4 million. (17.7 per cent of total GDP) in 2024. The total contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP was €714.2 million (20.0 per cent of GDP) in 2013, and is forecast by 8.8 per cent per annum to €1,877.3 million (37.2 per cent of GDP) in 2024, according to World Travel and Tourism Council analysis.