BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia benefits from COVID-19 ‘quarantine tourism’ as thousands of Indians make a two-week layover on their way to other countries.
India has recorded more cases of the coronavirus than any other country except the United States. Its citizens are not allowed to enter many countries during the pandemic, unless they spend two weeks in another country en route.
Serbia has become a popular stopover destination for Indians as it offers them visa-free entry if they have been vaccinated and tested negative for the virus.
They are also required to spend at least the first seven days of their stay in Serbia in isolation, depending on the conditions set by their destination countries. They must also take another coronavirus test at the end of their quarantine.
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Jagdish, originally from the Indian city of Visakhapatnam, remained in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, en route to the United States.
Jagdish, who declined to give his full name, said he had waited in India “for a while for things to open up”.
“But things were not opening … We chose Serbia because we don’t need a visa … and it is also (Belgrade) a beautiful city to explore,” Jagdish said.
Hotel owners said thousands of Indians came to Belgrade in July.
“I wouldn’t call it ‘quarantine tourism’, but in the end it comes down to it … there are plenty of hotels that are full,” said Ilija Smiljanic, hotel manager for the Mark group.
In June, Serbia recorded an annual increase of 48.4% in tourist arrivals and the number of overnight stays increased by 39.3%, said the Statistical Office.
Tourism represents about 2.5% of the country’s gross domestic product. Serbia suffered a loss of more than one billion euros ($ 1.19 billion) in revenue last year due to restrictions related to COVID-19.
Since last December, Serbia has vaccinated nearly a third of its 6.7 million inhabitants. Serbia has recorded more than 722,220 cases of COVID-19 and 7,118 deaths from the virus.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic, edited by Timothy Heritage)
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