There is very exciting news for travel to Macedonia. Skopje's first ever double-decker bus tour has arrived,and promises to engage visitors by providing a bi-lingual Macedonian/English tour of the city.
The bus is a brand new, open-top "panoramic" double decker bus operated by the public transportation authority in Skopje - the JSP. The JSP has allocated this bus specifically for the Skopje tours, and will provide travelers with a first hand look of the city from the air conditioned first floor, or the outdoor top floor.
The bus will operate daily, leaving from the "Porta Macedonia" arch at the main square, and touring around the city. The bus will depart twice daily - at 11am, and 5pm.
Main attractions will include: The main square of Skopje, Macedonia's largest Orthodox Cathedral, Macedonian parliament, the Skopje Fortress (Kale), The church of St. Spas (Where revolutionary hero Goce Delchev is buried), the Skopje Museum, and back towards the main square.
Macedonian travel agencies have already begun to incorporate the Skopje City Tour as part of their local offerings, and expect to see an increasing number of foreign visitors taking part in the tour. The cost per ticket will be 0.5 Euros per person, which is the cost of a regular bus ticket in Skopje. In the future, the public transportation authority (JSP) plans to add a broader range of city tours and offer even more for travelers to Macedonia.
On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, the United Arab Emirate based low-cost airline "Fly Dubai" announced that it will be expanding it's air service to a new destination in the Balkans - Skopje.
Starting on October 18, 2012, Fly Dubai will offer service directly from Skopje to Dubai twice weekly, at a price of 490 Euros. This latest addition to the airlines flying out of Alexander the Great in Skopje will allow for a much shorter, less expensive, and more convenient connection between Macedonia and the middle-east and Asia.
Macedonia has a sizable diaspora population living in Australia, and travel from Australia to Macedonia often has 3-5 stops because of the lack of direct connections between the two countries. This new line would allow Australian-Macedonians to reach their home country with only one stop, in Dubai.
There is also a fair amount of working Macedonian citizens living in Dubai who will capitalize on this connection when traveling back to Macedonia.
This past week marked the first visit of the ECAC President (European Civil Aviation Conference) Catalin Radu to Macedonia. The ECAC is a non-governmental international organization that promotes the development of safe and efficient European civil aviation.
The ECAC President met with the chief of the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency - Dejan Mojsoski - during his stay in Skopje, and they discussed the huge progress made in Macedonia over the past few years. It was noted that the Macedonian agency had implemented new reforms to improve the services offered to passengers, new regulations that require airlines to abide by certain international standards, and the major milestone that was the opening of the new Alexander the Great airport in Skopje.
Coupled with the new airport (10 times larger than the previous one), the government of Macedonia has introduced many new Subsidies and eased airport fees and taxes in order to attract more low-cost airlines to the country. As the Civil Aviation Agency chief explained, in 2011 Macedonia experienced a 15% growth in it's air travel, while in the first 3 months of 2012 there is a 20% growth rate. These double digit figures put Macedonia on the map of the highest growth rate of civil aviation in Europe.
As Mojsoski explained, the goal of the Macedonian government is to encourage travel to Macedonia, as well as foreign investment, and to make Macedonia a leader in the regional and pan-European aviation scene.
One of Macedonia's newest and largest factories, UK Owned Johnson Matthey just outside of Skopje, has announced plans to double it's capacity and employ 100 new workers, adding to it's already 400-strong local labour force.
The Johnson Matthey Skopje plant produces emissions parts - specifically catalytic converters - for light and heavy duty diesel engines. The manufactured products are made only for export, and the factory has been operational since early 2010. In 2011, Johnson Matthey became Macedonia's largest exporter by value, with it's product value totaling almost 700 Million US Dollars.
The Johnson Matthey factory in Skopje has changed the structure of the entire Macedonian export economy, since previously Macedonia's largest exports were Iron and Steel products, now Catalytic Converters top the list. The new factory being built will cost roughly 60 million Euros, totalling Johnson Matthey's investments in Macedonia to 120 million Euros.
In January of 2012, Macedonia had already received roughly 35 Million Euros of foreign investment in it's economy, encouraging forecasters to predict a prosperous and busy year for Macedonia.
According to a recent press release from the Macedonian Ministry of Transport & Communications, Macedonia's two international airports have had an increase in passenger traffic of 20% in comparison to the previous year.
January's growth started strong, and has managed to continue throughout February and March. Since last year's completion of the new Alexander the Great airport in Skopje, airport authorities have been introducing new flights and connections throughout Europe, and government subsidies have attracted more low-cost airlines to the country.
The St. Paul The Apostle Airport in Ohrid has announced more summer charter flights carrying holiday goers from across Europe, specifically Denmark, Germany, and Holland. The tourists from Western Europe will arrive in the May-August summer months and spend their holiday weeks along the Ohrid coastline.
The Transport Ministry has also revealed that a 10% increase in cargo transportation is also evident so far this year. The airport management's goal is to capitalize on the size and modern design of the newest airport in the Balkans, and turn Skopje into a regional hub for cross Europe-Asia flights, and provide more inexpensive and efficient links to the world for Macedonian citizens. 4x4 Auto Sales Guelph.
A recent blast of cold weather and heavy precipitation has hit Macedonia, and has been affecting all of Europe for the past week. International media report over 70 dead across the continent due to severe cold, while no deaths have been reported in Macedonia.
This winter has been generally mild and has caught most citizens of Macedonia off guard. In fact, this winter has been proclaimed a drought winter because of the lack of precipitation. Although the snow is a burden for remote villages and for busy cities alike, the precipitation is being welcomed by farmers and people employed at hydro electric power plants. The snow/water will help to quench the thirst of the soil and fill the rivers and lakes with water to allow increased production of clean electricity, which comprises roughly 25% of Macedonia's usage.
The AMSM (Automotive Association of Macedonia) has issued a ban for heavy trucks on certain mountain passages until the snow removal crews can make the areas safe enough for large cargo vehicles to pass. Some areas in the vicinity of Tetovo, Gostivar, and Debar have been more heavily affected due to their higher elevation.
No major collisions have been reported on national highways, and buses and trains are operating with small delays. The Airports Alexander the Great (Skopje) nd St. Paul the Apostle (Ohrid) have not reported delays.
Last year, the Macedonian government offered the two national airports (in Ohrid and Skopje) to a concession company which was obligated to invest a certain amount of money into the renovation and promotion of the new airports. Traffic has been consistently rising, and new data for 2012 proves promising.
The Skopje Airport - named Alexander the Great, after Macedonia's most famous national hero, has had an astonishing increase in passengers of 140% in the first two days of this year, in comparison to last year. The Alexander the Great Airport has been completely rebuilt, and the old terminal has been put out of use for now. The new passenger terminal and administrative building is many times larger than the previous one, and has had a positive effect on all the passengers that have passed through it. It offers two duty-free shops, a few restaurants and cafes, quicker processing times for incoming and outgoing passengers, larger and more convenient parking, bridges to load passengers onto the planes, and an enlarged runway to be able to process larger and heavier airplanes. There has also been new hangars constructed for the Cargo section of the airport. A large part of the increase in traffic can be attributed to the introduction of low-cost airlines, which offer flights from Skopje to many other European destinations for 30 Euros or less.
The Ohrid Airport - named St. Paul the Apostle, has a passenger increase of 86% compared to the same period last year. This airport hasn't been rebuilt, but has gone through a renovation by the same concession company that is responsible for the Skopje airport. The Ohrid airport was once a very busy place, with tourists coming to the Southern Lake City from all over Europe and the world. After the transition period of the 1990s, Ohrid lost many of it's tourists, but times are changing again. Ohrid is being promoted worldwide, and the Macedonian government is actively seeking partnerships for domestic tour operators, and the city is being revitalized. More and more passengers are passing through the gates at St. Paul the Apostle airport, and more people are exploring the natural and cultural wonders that the Ohrid region has to offer.
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