|Montenegro Airlines to start Zadar charters for Chinese tourists|
Montenegro Airlines will launch three weekly regular charter flights between Tivat and Zadar, which will cater for Chinese tourists visiting both countries. The Montenegro Tourism Association (CTU) says it is finalising talks with both its Chinese and Croatian partners, which would see travellers from China spend three days in Montenegro. "We are negotiating with our colleagues from Croatia for the national carrier to launch three weekly flights from Zadar to Tivat. This is in line with the demands of Chinese travellers who wish to visit as many countries as possible during their seven to ten day holidays", the CTU said in a statement. Just last week, Montenegro eased visa restrictions for Chinese citizens.
The Tivat - Zadar service, which is expected to launch within a month, will operate until June 1, 2016. Plans for the route are expected to be finalised by September 10. Chinese tour operators have expressed strong interest for their holidaymakers to travel outside of the high season. This way, Montenegro will also address its difficulties with high seasonality. Montenegro Airlines recently said it was preparing for a "smart" winter season in a bid to cut costs. It is looking to put its aircraft to better use during the upcoming slow months. Previously, the airline planned to launch scheduled flights to Zagreb this winter and was considering introducing services to Skopje as well. However, in light of its lacklustre financial performance, these are now under question.
Tivat Airport is also expected to profit from the charter flights. Montenegro's busiest airport has seen its passenger numbers decline 1.1% during the first seven months of the year, as it deals with a sharp downturn in visitors from Ukraine. However, with the prospect of Chinese tourists arriving on a regular basis throughout the winter, and growth from other markets, the airport is expected to handle a record number of passengers this year. On the other hand, Zadar, which has also seen a sharp decline in passenger numbers over the past month, would benefit from the flights as Croatia Airlines is the airport’s sole customer during the winter, maintaining flights only to Zagreb and Pula. In April, Zadar Airport’s Managing Director, Irena Ćosić, said that one weekly charter flights from Chongqing, in China's south-west, to Zadar, would most likely be introduced in September by Hainan Airlines, after plans to launch the route in May were cancelled. However, in a statement to EX-YU Aviation News in July, the Chinese airline ruled out the service.