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Montenegro hopes Russians will save its tourist season

Beaches along the Montenegrin coast of the Adriatic Sea, usually overcrowded with tourists in August, remained nearly empty over the past week, showing how severe the coronavirus effects are on the country's economy, Reuters reported.
Revenues from the summer tourist season are expected to drop by 90 percent from last year's 280 million euros, given that 20 percent of the Montenegrin economy's revenue comes from tourism, BTA reports.

In the seaside resort of Budva, visitors in the restaurants are small and sit away from each other.

"Our turnover is now about 12 percent less than last year,” restaurant owner Krsto Niklanovic tells Reuters, looking out over his establishment's empty terrace.

To save the season, Montenegro opened its borders last week to Russian tourists, who usually make up a third of the 2.6 million tourists visiting the country annually. Russia is expected to adopt reciprocal measures before its tourists start arriving in Montenegro.

Relations between Podgorica and Moscow have become strained since Montenegro became a NATO member in 2016, but Russians still own a third of foreign companies and real estate in Montenegro.

Zeljka Radak-Kukavicic, head of the Montenegrin Tourism Organisation, says the arrival of Russians will help reduce the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

In March, Montenegro closed its borders, airports and ports and banned public gatherings and outdoor events.

On May 25th, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic declared the country “coronavirus free”, but the virus has reappeared since mid-June.

Since the outbreak began, 3618 infected in population 620,000 have been recorded in the country, while Covid-19 deaths are 64 in total, far fewer than other countries in the region.

Zarko Radulovic, co-owner of Montenegro Stars hotel chain, says a new increase in cases could dash hopes of recovery this season.

"If we have 300 more sick, God forbid, everything falls apart,” he says.

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