STA, 11 August 2020 - The coronavirus pandemic has caused the number of visitors in mountain huts plummet by 25%, while some huts high in the mountains have seen their visitor numbers drop by as much as 50%, as significantly fewer foreigners are hiking in Slovenia this year. However, the number of Slovenians staying at the huts has increased.
According to the Slovenian Alpine Association, huts accessible by car have actually seen their visitor numbers go up, as many Slovenians have decided to redeem their tourism vouchers there.
"Compared to previous seasons, the structure of guests has changed. While 70% of our gusts last year were foreigners, they make up only a handful this year ... with nearly 95% of our guests being Slovenians," said Jakob Zupanc of the Srednja Vas Alpine Association, which operates four easily accessible huts in the Bohinj area, north-west.
Data from the Financial Administration (FURS) shows that over 1,833 vouchers had been redeemed in mountain huts, or 1.67% of all vouchers, which have been issued to every permanent resident in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, health restrictions mean that capacities are lower than usual. Under the orders of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), a maximum of two people can sleep in the same room, with exceptions being members of the same household and people hiking together.
The tourism voucher scheme designed by the government to help tourism recover from the pandemic has drawn to the huts Slovenians who usually would not have opted for the mountains, said Dušan Prašnikar of the Alpine Association.
As of July, visitors can book their stay at some of the mountain huts on the Alpine Association's website. The system, used across the Alps, also allows easier bookings at mountain huts abroad, said Prašnikar.
Slovenia has a network of more than 10,000 kilometres of mountain paths connecting 179 mountain huts, shelters and bivouacs providing a total of 7,400 beds and the capacity to feed more than 10,000 guests at one time.