With the onset of Covid-19, Bosnia closed its borders to foreign visitors until late in the summer months. “It was a strange situation across the country: even when the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, with no tourists there was no business,” says St. Oegger.
His most recent images show the devastating effects of the pandemic on the city’s tourism. âWhen I walked to the Apparition and Cross Hills, I only saw a handful of people compared to the hundreds or thousands I saw the year before,â he recalls. The hotel where he stayed in 2019 was also closed. âI tried to get in touch with the owners, but maybe they were out of the country themselves. The previous summer they were full, as were most hotels in town – and there really are plenty of them. But beyond the obvious understaffing, St. Oegger describes a noticeable âloss of energyâ.
âWhat is unique about Medjugorje is that the tourism of the pilgrimage industry is pretty much the only thing that keeps the local economy afloat. In Sarajevo, for example, as tourism has fallen, there are other industries that support the city and other opportunities for people to find jobs. This leaves things in a very precarious state if this summer is not going to be any different from the last and if travel restrictions are still in place around the world, âsays St. Oegger. Just like in the 90s, Medjugorje has recovered from the war, the city will be forced to rebuild itself again.