WITH unseasonably cold weather and heavy snowfall across the country at the beginning of April, it looks like Slovakia's tourist industry can look forward to more Slovak skiers hitting the slopes over the Easter weekend.
About a third of Slovak ski slopes are still reporting good or very good conditions this late in the season.
This might help to offset the effects of reduced numbers of foreign tourists as a result of the current global climate. Some European countries, like Norway, are warning their citizens against travelling, and some Americans have expressed concern about negative attitudes towards them in Europe.
It is strange to see the increased security on the streets and borders in Slovakia, when the country is a world away from being a terrorist target. However, the threat of terrorism (no matter how remote) is putting pressure on the local tourist market.
It is possible that these concerns will be reduced with an early end to the war in Iraq, but most people will have already made their holiday plans for the summer, so any improvement in the tourist numbers will probably not be seen before next year.
The spa town Piešťany is likely to be hardest hit, as more than half its visitors come from abroad, including from the Middle East, although other popular destinations such as the High Tatras will also be affected. Some of the tourist routes from Poland have been closed as part of increased security measures.
The impact of these developments may be reduced as fewer Slovaks travel abroad on holiday. With general prices rising and pay levels staying put, Slovak tourism sites have a good opportunity to try to attract more domestic visitors.
And more foreign travellers may discover - or rediscover - Slovakia too, as airlines slash their prices in a desperate bid to attract passengers, and the prospect of less-crowded tourist attractions draws a certain type of traveller.
With Slovakia's expected entry to the European Union next year, we can expect more interest in the country from other Europeans. That, in turn, will probably lead to increased prices in the resorts, so the earlier visitors come, the better.
14. Apr 2003 at 0:00