The arrival of Pope’s envoy could help bring in more pilgrims to Međugorje.
According to forecasts, Međugorje can expect an increased number of pilgrims after a recent visit by papal envoy Henryk Hoser, reports Večernji List on April 9, 2017.
Such expectations are shared by Davor Ljubić, the owner of one of travel agencies in Međugorje. While Hoser called Međugorje a small Lourdes due to the growth in the number of hotels, restaurants and shops, Ljubić says that Međugorje still cannot be seriously compared with Lourdes in the number of accommodation units. “Many who come to Međugorje see only the commercial aspect, and do not take into account spiritual benefits which pilgrims get while on pilgrimage to Međugorje,” said Ljubić, adding that his assessment is that there are currently about 10,000 beds in hotels with 3 and 4 stars in Međugorje (interestingly, officials records do not exist).
“I found the information on various internet websites which offer accommodation services in Međugorje, and anyone can add up the number of rooms. Also, in addition to this, there is a similar number of beds in very good pensions and private accommodation. So, the total estimate would be about 20,000 beds,” said Ljubić.
He confirms claims that there has been excessive construction in Međugorje in recent years. Given that there are around two million pilgrims a year and as many as 20,000 beds, the occupancy rate on an annual basis is about 30 percent. “By all tourism indicators, that is too low. It is estimated that the costs of the construction of the hotel break even at around 40 percent occupancy. On the other hand, I am sure that hotels with 3 and 4 stars are cost effective, while pensions are declining. Unfortunately, the cost of accommodation in Međugorje is not proportional to quality,” said Ljubić, adding that hoteliers have been forced to lower their prices.
“In a good 3-star and 4 star hotels, full board price is 35 euros. When prices are so low in hotels, then pensions are forced to lower them even more, so this is good news for pilgrims for whom it might be more economical to live for a month in Međugorje than in Rome when you add up all the costs. In the long term, this is not good, and something will have to be done in terms of prices,” explained Ljubić.
“I recently went to Fatima and their tourism organization told me that Fatima has 8,000 beds, and last year they had about 5 million overnight stays. It is estimated that Lourdes is annually visited by 6 to 8 million pilgrims, so Međugorje has a great growth potential. The number of pilgrims will grow, but I am sure that the number of accommodation units will eventually be lowered. Existing pensions will have to be modernized, and for some time there will be no new construction,” said Ljubić.
“I expect the number of pilgrims to grow, not so much due to Hoser, but due to the fact that economic conditions in Italy are improving. Also, Hoser’s statements will certainly allow a large number of Italians to come to Međugorje without a fear of annoying their bishops and the Church. Since 2015, there have been some Italian bishops who did not speak approvingly about Međugorje and a large number of Italian pilgrims respected that. There has been a large increase of pilgrims from Eastern European countries, as well as from Spain. I must stress that there is a major impact of good transport connections,” concluded Ljubić.