Cut off by virus, Mostar's tourism season faces collapse

  • Wednesday 13, May 2020 11:42 AM
Sharjah24 – AFP: Without a single tourist clambering across its stone arc, Mostar's majestic bridge would be a picture of tranquility if not for the desperation of Bosnian locals whose tourism season has been wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the prized jewels of the Balkans, Mostar welcomed one million visitors last year to its enchanting Old Town, whose two halves are connected by the Ottoman-era bridge that peaks above the emerald Neretva River.

With more than 90 percent of those tourists foreigners, the town is now facing a particularly painful collapse as the pandemic shutters international borders and severely curbs air travel, sending the global tourism industry into a tailspin.

A few months ago, the Almira hotel, which sits just across from the iconic bridge, was already fully booked for the season thanks to tour groups of between 30 and 50 people who reserved spots each night.

Today however, all that has changed.

- 'Season is lost' -
Bosnia has so far been spared the worst of COVID-19, which has claimed around 100 lives in this country of 3.5 million.

But the economic effect is already being heavily felt in travel destinations such as Mostar, a UNESCO heritage site whose population of 100,000 is sustained by its tourism profits.

The dearth of visitors is a sharp reversal from a tourism stream that had been growing steadily ever since the town's Old Bridge was repaired in 2004 after it was destroyed during Bosnia's 1990s war.

Today, most of the souvenir shops are padlocked shut while restaurants are closed under lockdown rules.