On the last day of September, Adria Airways bit the dust and filed for bankruptcy, capping off a dismal month for European aviation.
The collapse of a European flag carrier like Adria has numerous causes, including airline consolidation across Europe, dwindling investor confidence, and a weak economy in Europe. And much like with Iceland’s Wow Air, the collapse of a key carrier in a relatively immature tourism economy can have significant effects.
A study from travel analytics firm ForwardKeys found that the collapse of Adria will result in a 59.7 percent loss of international seat capacity to Slovenia. Two dozen countries, including key markets for tourists like Czech Republic, Spain, and Switzerland, have lost direct flight connections entirely. The Slovenian Tourism Board had a similar figure, telling Skift that 50 percent of flights to Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana were formerly Adria’s.
The loss of Wow Air meant Iceland’s tourism growth had dropped an estimated 15 percent by June compared to 2018. But given the exponential rise in tourism in the last five years there, a 15 percent decline in 2019 would still leave the country at 2017 levels — a 400 percent increase compared to 2011 visitation levels. So not exactly catastrophic.
In Slovenia, the scale is quite different. Slovenia welcomed 5.9 million visitors last year. which was the fifth straight year of growth. International arrivals grew by 11 percent in 2018, which is respectable. The country’s growth has been buffeted by its region-oriented marketing and smart positioning as the kind of destination that’s the antidote to the likes of over-touristed Venice and Barcelona. But this latest development may have it worrying more about attracting visitors than about avoiding overtourism.
“The Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) regrets the situation with Adria Airways,” Maša Puklavec, global communications manager for the Slovenian tourism board told Skift in an email. “[We] execute various promotional activities for improving the accessibility of Slovenia through flight connections and this will remain one of our main activities also after the bankruptcy of Adria Airways.”
Puklavec added that she hopes the disruption will only have a short term impact on air accessibility. Already, increased frequencies or new routes have been planned or announced by airlines including Lufthansa, Air France, Swiss Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and others.
Of course, tourism officials hope these airlines will be able to fill in the 50 percent-sized gap, but it will certainly not be an overnight fix.
Olivier Ponti, vice president of insight for ForwardKeys, said: “Given the attractiveness of Slovenia as a destination, I expect other airlines to fill the gaps left by Adria Airways but how long it will take to get back to the previous level is anyone´s guess.”