Serbia benefits from COVID-19 'quarantine tourism' as Indians visit

FILE PHOTO: People walk near "The Victor" monument at the Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade, Serbia, May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Marko Djurica/File Photo

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia is benefiting from COVID-19 'quarantine tourism' as thousands of Indians make a two-week stopover on the way to other countries.

India has registered more coronavirus cases than any other country except the United States. Its citizens are barred from entering many countries during the pandemic unless they spend two weeks in another country en route.

Serbia has become a popular stopover destination for Indians because it offers them visa-free entry if they have been vaccinated and test negative for the virus.

They are also required to spend at least the first seven days of their stay in Serbia in isolation, depending from conditions set by their destination countries. They must also take another coronavirus test at the end of their quarantine.

Jagdish, who is from the Indian city of Visakhapatnam, stayed in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, en route to the United States.

Jagdish, who declined to give his full name, said he had waited in India for "some time for things to open up."

"But things were not opening up .... We chose Serbia because we do not need a visa ... and it (Belgrade) is also a beautiful city to explore," Jagdish said.

Hotel owners said thousands of Indians came to Belgrade in July.

"I would not call this 'quarantine tourism', but in the end it comes to that ... there are plenty of hotels which are full," said Ilija Smiljanic, manager of Mark Group hotels.

In June, Serbia recorded a 48.4% annual increase in tourist arrivals and the number of overnight stays increased by 39.3%, the Statistics Office said.

Tourism accounts for around 2.5% of the country’s gross domestic product. Serbia suffered a loss more than 1 billion euros ($1.19 billion) in revenues last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Since last December, Serbia has vaccinated almost a third of its 6.7 million population. Serbia has recorded more than 722,220 people COVID-19 cases and 7,118 deaths from the virus.

($1 = 0.8416 euros)

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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