4 Out of 5 Kosovars Plan to Travel Visa-Free to EU in 2024, Survey Reveals

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For many Kosovars who will be able to travel to Europe in less than two weeks, the significance of visa-free travel represents a multifaceted pursuit, from cultural exploration to economic aspirations and educational endeavours, allowing this nation of fewer than two million people to have better global connections.

A recent survey conducted by SchengenVisaInfo.com concluded that the vast majority of Kosovars have plans to travel to Europe in 2024 โ€“ 80.3 per cent compared to 16.4 per cent who are uncertain and 3.3 per cent who claimed they do not have any travel plans for the upcoming year.

2024 โ€“ A Year Brimming With Travel Aspiration for Kosovars

Gentiana Pllana is one of 2,450 survey respondents who have travel plans for 2024. She says that her first destinations are Germany and Switzerland, but she has yet to start budgeting for her trips.

She also points out that she will be staying with her family members, who live in these two countries โ€“ a common practice among half of the survey respondents.

Pllana says that she expects 2024 to bring new experiences for her and expresses her excitement to explore new cultures and visit new places. Asked about her preparation for travelling, she says that she will make sure to comply with the rules set by the government.

I will make sure that I am able to sustain myself financially during my trip. Although accommodation is already taken care of, according to the rules, I must still be financially prepared to cover additional expenses. Besides the financial aspect, I will make sure to have days off from work, aligning them with my travel dates. The next step is booking my ticket and preparing the suitcase.

Gentiana Pllana

The survey, which had a total of 3,050 respondents of all age groups and social and economic backgrounds, was conducted between November and December 2023 and revealed that more than half of Kosovars (51.8 per cent) plan to take more than two trips per year.

Most Kosovars Plan to Travel in First Quarter of the Year โ€“ Mainly to Germany & Switzerland

Furthermore, 29.4 per cent of respondents said they would take two trips next year, most likely at the beginning of the year or during the summer season, while 18.8 per cent said they would take only one trip in 2024.

Asked about the month when they plan to travel, February was a top choice for 19.6 per cent of respondents, followed by January (17.6 per cent), August (15.1 per cent), and March (13.9 per cent), whereas the most preferred destination for their first trip was Germany (28.3 per cent).

The second and third countries to follow were Italy (19 per cent) and Switzerland (14.6 per cent), while Austria and Greece were also among the top destinations for 7.7 and 6.1 per cent of all respondents.

In addition, most respondents said they would travel with their families -32.7 per cent, compared to 25.3 per cent travelling with their partners, 23.3 per cent on their own and 18.8 per cent with their friends.

Air travel was the top choice for Kosovar respondents (93.1 per cent), while 16.7 per cent plan to travel by car, and fewer of those plan to travel by bus (11.4 per cent) and train (3.3 per cent).

While 72.7 per cent of respondents say their travel purpose is related to tourism or family visits (37.1 per cent), another 6.1 per cent said they plan to travel to the EU for business.

Kosovar Football Fans Head to EU for European Champions League, Survey Reveals

The European Champions League is also one of the top most mentioned reasons for travel among Kosovar respondents this year, in addition to music concerts held across the EU cities. The sports event will be held in Germany in June, which relates to the answers that respondents had for their first destination, as 28.3 per cent of them listed this country as the first destination.

During their trips to the EU, the majority of respondents said they are looking forward to exploring parks, beaches, and outdoor activities (67.3 per cent), in addition to visiting museums and exploring the culture (59.6 per cent), exploring the countryโ€™s culinary heritage (40.8) and going shopping (39.2 per cent).

Regarding their preferred place of stay, 49.2 per cent said they would be accommodated in hotels and 47.1 per cent at their families or loved ones. Another 3.7 per cent plan to stay over their friends during their trip to Europe.

Kosovarsโ€™ travel expenses are also expected to be higher this year as the majority of respondents claimed (67.3 per cent), compared to 21.2 per cent, that they donโ€™t know if they will be spending more for travelling in 2024, while 11.4 per cent said that their travel budget would remain unchanged to what they had before visa liberalisation.

Travellers Claim Theyโ€™ll Need to Save for Up to Three Months for Each of Their Trip

As per budget planning, the majority of respondents said they have not started planning yet โ€“ 42 per cent, while 18 per cent said they have been saving for one to three months to be able to afford their 2024 trips.

Another 15.9 per cent of respondents claimed they have saved money for the last three to six months, while 11.8 per cent said they have been budgeting for more than a year. Another 11.4 per cent said their travel budgeting will take them between six months to a year of saving up.

The survey also reveals that the current preparations that Kosovars are making include planning their visitsโ€™ destinations (54.3 per cent) and budgeting (44.5 per cent), while another 26.1 per cent have not started their preparations yet.

In addition, 28.2 per cent of respondents said they are looking into deals for accommodation, and 33.1 per cent were looking into their options for flight tickets.

In the meanwhile, 19.6 per cent of respondents, which translates into 480 people, said they were applying for necessary travel documents (ID cards and passports). Previously, the Kosovar Interior Ministry said for SchengenVisaInfo.com that the interest in obtaining such documents among nationals remains unchanged compared to times prior to the visa liberalisation.

High Travel Costs โ€“ Main Reason for Those That Do Not Plan to Travel in 2024

Although the share of respondents that do not plan to take any trip to the EU in 2024 is relatively low โ€“ 100 compared to 2,450 that do and 500 that are not sure yet, the most common factors are related to high travel costs (69.2 per cent).

Another 46.2 per cent of respondents cited lack of interest as the reason for not making travel plans, while 38.5 per cent of respondents said they would not travel because of family commitments.

Asked if they would consider travelling in 2025, 46.2 per cent said they would, 38.5 per cent said they were undecided, and 15.4 per cent remained clear on their decision not to travel.

L.G., a respondent who has no travel plans, also confirms that one of the determining factors for his decision is financial.

Even though I am personally employed, the inability to save until now will also impact the much-anticipated travels. However, I will still strive to prevent this from being a hindrance, even if only for one trip during the year.

L.G.

Asked if he will consider travelling in 2025, he is fully positive that if his financial situation is improved, he will make sure to take more than one trip to the EU.

Convenient Travel Deals Would Make 64% of Undecided Travellers Take Action

The survey shows 320 respondents, or 64 per cent of the total, would change their minds if travel deals were more affordable. In addition, some 36 per cent of participants said that better financial matters would also improve their decision-making.

Among undecided respondents, 30 per cent remain the same even for 2025, while 70 per cent say they will consider travelling in two yearsโ€™ time.

Employers Expect Staff Shortages, but Travel Agencies Claim There Is No Increased Booking Interest Among Kosovars

Ruzhdi Kurtishaj, the founder of Sharr Travel, a leading travel agency in Kosovo, says booking rates have not changed in recent months, but people have shown interest in travel offers.

The most common destinations that Sharr Travel operators are most asked about include Thessaloniki (Greece), Sofia (Bulgaria), Budapest (Hungary), Vienna (Austria), and Prague (Czechia), with these destinations being considered most convenient due to geographical proximity and affordability.

I cannot say that there is only interest in travel to European Union countries, as booking requests are diverse. There are requests for individual travel as well as group travel. We have several bookings from groups of 200 people โ€“ organisations or businesses that want to take their employees on three-day trips โ€“ with bookings being all related to tourism purposes.

Ruzhdi Kurtishaj, Sharr Travel CEO

Kurtishaj also revealed that a drop in the number of travellers from the diaspora to Kosovo had been noticed. According to him, Swiss-Kosovar nationals will be hosting more family members from Kosovo this year than they did prior to visa liberalisation, which also corresponds to survey results that 37.1 per cent of respondents will travel to the EU for family visits. As Sharr Travelโ€™s CEO noted, this phenomenon is also reflected in their bookings.

He also pointed out that sports events, such as The European Champions League, have ignited interest among young travellers, who have already started asking for offers and travel deals.

The European Champions League in Germany is going to be a significant event. The youth, both young men and women, have already started making arrangements, inquiring about hotels and places where the event will occur.

Ruzhdi Kurtishaj, Sharr Travel CEO

Kurtishaj says tourism packages will be launched in February, offering two, three, or five-day trips to several popular destinations. As per the summer season, he says that tourists have already started showing interest in places like Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria.

While the travel agencies say interest rates for travelling in 2024 will remain stable, employers say the opposite.

Liridon Hoti, Manager of a company of more than 40 employees, says that significantly fewer workers have taken days off for the end-of-the-year holidays compared to other years.

According to Hoti, the majority of his workers are saving their holiday leave days for spring, which corresponds to the survey findings that the majority of respondents will travel in the February-March period.

The situation impacts our business greatly, but we are trying to treat it as a regular season.

Liridon Hoti, Employer

Asked about what measures have been taken to address the issue, Hoti says that his management team is planning to distribute tasks in a more efficient manner and also be more understanding of employees โ€“ many of whom will be able to travel to the EU for the first time.

Visa Free Movement to Save Up Millions for Kosovars

Kosovar nationals will finally be able to spend their visa application money for actual travelling, after years of being required to apply for a visa in order to visit the EU.

According to Schengen Statistics, Kosovars filed 121,972 visa applications in 2022, with 6,032 short-term visas being granted compared to 13,674 uniform visas that were denied.

In the last nine-year period, Kosovars have spent โ‚ฌ22.3 million on visa applicationswith the highest expenses being recorded in 2022 and 2019 when 108,774 visa applications were recorded in 2019 alone.

Kosovo nationals are also evident to be the leading nationality to have filed the most requests per capitawith 6,891 people applying for a visa in every 100,000 inhabitants.

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