UNUSUALLY good winter conditions in the High Tatras have significantly boosted profits for hotel owners in the region. And with hotels booked at between 60 and 80 percent of their capacity, local tourism experts say that the season has been one of the best in 10 years.
"As long as there is enough snow for skiing throughout the whole season, hotels are stuffed with tourists. It's all in God's hands," said Bibiana Dzurilová, director of the Slovak Committee for Tourism.
Contrary to last year's season, when the first ski lifts in the Tatras started operating shortly before Christmas, this year the first lift started operating in mid-November. There is now only one ski lift, out of 22, not operating.
Dzurilová said that this year the Tatras have continued to attract tourists from the countries of the former Soviet bloc as they remain much cheaper than a holiday in the Alps.
At the beginning of the season, hotel owners had already said their revenues were up by 10 percent in comparison with 2000/2001.
"This season we expect better figures than last year. Client numbers have grown, even in traditionally weak periods when there are no holidays in the countries where our clients come from," said Milan Griglág, director of the Slovan hotel in the High Tatras.
Around 75 per cent of rooms at Hotel Slovan were occupied over Christmas, rocketing to 100 per cent over the new year.
General figures for the Tatras show that between December 24 and January 15, between 84 and 95.4 per cent of all accommodation available was occupied.
Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians made up 21 per cent of all tourists in the High Tatras, followed by Poles at 20.3 per cent, Slovaks at 18.4 per cent, Czechs at 18.3 per cent and Germans at 12.8 per cent.
Ski centres in the Tatras are reporting between 30cm and over a metre of snow. And even though temperatures have recently warmed slightly, meteorologists say that the mild weather is not likely to disrupt skiing.
"We do not expect any dramatic melting of the snow in the Tatras. Most of the ski slopes have been covered with snow since early December, so there is a good base which is not likely to melt. There will be enough snow for skiing," said Miriam Jarašová, a meteorologist with the Slovak meteorologic authority.
Although hotel owners in the High Tatras say that the season has been one of the best in a decade, the only airport in the region at Poprad recorded its worst profits for the last 30 years in 2001. Airport officials have expressed little optimism for any significant improvements this year.
Last year only 8,702 passengers used the airport - 30 per cent less than in 2000.
Juraj Rokfalusy, the head of the business department at Poprad airport said the 2000 drop had been caused by the imposition of a visa regime for Russians and Ukrainians.
However, in 2001 the number of Ukranians using the airport recovered by 15 per cent.
28. Jan 2002 at 0:00 | Peter Barecz