Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
Martin Cruickshank, a Croatian war veteran, is trying to break the Guinness record and become the first Croatian to row an ocean. And if you thought his name doesn’t sound very Slavic you are right, Martin was born in Scotland.
In 2015, Martin and his sister Fenella McAlister undertook an attempt to row the Atlantic from Sagres in Portugal to Barbados on board the boat Fifty-Fifty.
The brother-sister team has already rowed halfway to the other side of the Atlantic or more than 1,500 nautical miles out of 2,602 in a boat with no sails and no outboard motor.
It is interesting to note that Martin Cruickshank was born in Scotland, where he acquired a military education. During the Homeland War in Croatia in 1991, he joined the Croatian Armed Forces and was one of 481 foreign volunteers from 35 countries who defended Croatia in 1991-1995. Today he works as a Security and Investigations Consultant and Contractor; he is a member of the Croatian Forces International Volunteers Association and an adventurer. Martin is a Croatian citizen and lives in Velika Gorica with his family.
The Ocean Rowing Society International has been following and reporting about this adventure. If the team succeeds in this endeavour, Martin and Fenella will become the first brother-sister team, and Martin-the first Croatian to row an ocean. Thus, they will surely enter the Guinness Book of Records.
One of the first Croatia's hotel brands Bluesun Hotels & Resorts concluded the last year with a revenue of almost 50 million Euros or 12 percent more in comparison to 2015, whilst a profit increased by 40 percent, according to information from the company.
''All tourist indicators showed that 2016 was one of our best business years so far. The number of overnight stays has had a continuous rise over the past years, whilst last year we achieved a record-breaking 760,000 overnights or one percent more than in 2015'', stated from the Bluesun company.
According to financial data, the number of overnight stays and other indicators, and among all destinations in which Bluesun operates, the best results were achieved in Tucepi on the Makarska Riviera, where four Bluesun hotels are located (Hotel Afrodita, Hotel Alga, Hotel Neptun and Hotel Kastelet).
In the overall structure of tourists, Germans had the largest share in total overnight stays (25 percent), followed by the French (12 percent) and the Swedes (10 percent), whilst the number of Norwegians and tourists from the UK and Slovenia continues to rise.
In terms of bed places, the Bluesun Group has accounted for 3,5 percent of the total accommodation capacity of all hotels and camps in Croatia with nearly 6,000 beds in 15 hotels and one campsite. These figures also include the accommodation capacity of the Group’s new hotels, the Hotel Berulia in Brela and the Hotel TUI Blue Jadran in Tucepi which are to be opened this year.
The national air carrier Croatia Airlines has announced expansion plans for the upcoming summer season and emphasized cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism.
In consideration of good news on bookings for 2017, Kresimir Kucko, the CEO of Croatia Airlines and Garri Cappelli, the Minister of Tourism recently discussed the possibility of improving mutual cooperation and coordination regarding an introduction of potential new routes in this and next year.
In addition, both executives emphasized the importance of partnership between the two institutions because Croatia Airlines operate flights all year round and is a significant factor for extending the summer season. This year the air carrier will continue to operate flights from Zagreb to Lisbon, St Petersburg, Milan and Prague, whilst flights from Croatian destinations to Scandinavia are actively being taken into consideration.
''The tourist season for our company starts around Easter holidays, and this year we are introducing seasonal flights to and from the most important emissive markets until the end of October. Flights in pre-season and off-season represent a strong support to the development of tourist capacities in our country thus we are ready for the cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism'', commented Kresimir Kucko, the CEO of Croatia Airlines.
''These meetings are necessary for the benefit of the whole Croatian tourism industry, especially for the extension of the summer season, which depends not only on destinations’ offer and facilities, but also on regular flights. I would like to keep an open dialogue between the Ministry of Tourism, the Croatian Tourist Board and Croatia Airlines in order to find the best way for quality cooperation'', explained the Minister of Tourism Garri Cappelli.
According to the latest data from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (HZS) in the first eleven months of 2016, the Croatian airports had almost eight million passengers, which was a significant increase of 13 percent in comparison to the previous year.
According to an article published on the New York Times portal two Croatian destinations have found their place on the ''52 Places to Go in 2017''.
Canada is the favourite destination among Americans, but the pearl of Croatia's tourism the city of Dubrovnik was highly ranked and placed as the 6th on the prestigious list. The largest Croatia's peninsula Istria is another Croatian destination worth visiting this year; it placed as the 41st among 52 destinations from all over the globe.
Authors of the list described Dubrovnik as ''the star of Dalmatia'' which offers new ways of enjoyment. Among other things, they particularly emphasized the possibility of exploring hidden beaches by public electric scooters as a supplement to the public transportation.
On the other hand, the authors stated that Istria had long been in the shadow of Dalmatia and that it definitely deserve tourists' attention. It is a region full of newly opened hotels, Roman ruins, truffles, finest wines and seafood specialities.
The Swedish multinational clothing retail chain and the second largest global clothing retailer Hennes and Mauritz (H&M) has released data on their financial results for 2015/2016. The H&M company generated a revenue of 1,972 billion Euros at the group level.
However, the company has explained the decline in profits by higher procurement costs due to a stronger dollar and increased discounts after a cold spring in Europe.
Despite the situation on the world markets, there is some good news from Croatia. Even though H&M recorded sales declines on the markets of France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy as well as the US and China, the Croatian market showed much better results. Only in Croatia, H&M achieved sales revenue in amount of 670 million Kunas or 4 percent more in comparison to the previous financial year.
These results only indicate the great popularity of the H&M retail chain among Croatian citizens since the opening of its first store in Zagreb in 2011.
The German low-cost airline Eurowings has announced an increase of the number of flights to Croatia in 2017.
As a member of the Lufthansa Group, Eurowings will increase the number of flights to Rijeka's airport on the island of Krk and will launch new routes from Munich to Pula and Zadar in the period from March to October. The airline has also announced a route from Dusseldorf to Pula and an expansion of seasonal flights from Berlin and Stuttgart from April to October. It will also operate flights from Vienna to Zadar in the same period.
On the other hand, an increase of the number of flights to Split has also been announced. During the summer season flights to the city of Split will be operating from Dusseldorf every day except Wednesdays.
Good news from Eurowings is also related to the city of Osijek in the continental region of Croatia. The air carrier has also planned direct flights between Osijek and Stuttgart to be operated twice a week from May to October.
Recently the Croatian Ministry of Tourism announced a meeting of the Minister of Tourism Garri Cappelli with representatives of Eurowings at the ITB travel fair in Berlin which is to be held at the beginning of March. The Croatian minister will discuss further promotion of Croatian destinations and new direct flights to Croatia from airports in eastern Germany and those outside the country.
Apart from beautiful beaches, crystal clear sea water and great parties during the summer, the island of Hvar is also known for its cultural heritage.
In the very heart of the historical centre of Hvar is situated one of the oldest theatres in Europe – the Theatre of Hvar. According to data the oldest one is the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza from 1585 and the Teatro all' antica in Sabbioneta from 1588, whilst the Theatre of Hvar was built in 1612. The most interesting thing is that this theatre opened its doors to all classes and not only for the wealthy high class.
It is a well known fact that theatres all over Europe were exclusively intended for rich members of European societies, the ruling class, whilst the poor citizens were not allowed to attend drama performances. However, the Rector Pietro Semitecolo opened the theatre in Hvar in 1612 and enabled all citizens, regardless of their social status to participate in various cultural and social events. This way he established the first public theatre in Europe.
At the time, the Rector's move caused a lot of controversy and a big drama among the rich, but he was very persistent in enforcing his decision thus subverted many of the social norms of the time.
Over the centuries, the theatre has lived through many changes; it was renovated several times so the present-day Neo-baroque appearance of the theatre dates back from the mid-19th century.
Therefore, apart from being the first European public theatre, the Theatre of Hvar is also one of the ten oldest and best preserved Baroque theatres in Europe.
From the 26th to the 29th of January the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) participated at the Fespo fair in Zurich and at the ITF Slovakiatour in Bratislava to promote Croatia's tourism.
According to data, around 240,000 Swiss tourists visited Croatia in 2016 and realized over a million overnight stays thus a significant increase was recorded both in arrivals and overnights.
Ranko Vlatkovic, the head of the HTZ office for Switzerland and Austria, said that Swiss tourists accounted for 1.22 percent of all visitors to Croatia. ''The Swiss market has great potential thus we will make efforts in attracting even more Swiss tourists''.
During the FESPO fair in Zurich the representatives of the HTZ met with numerous partners and tour operators such as TUI, Novasol and Croaticum which have already confirmed a great interest in Croatian destinations on the Swiss market.
On the other hand, according to data from the eVisitor and eCrew systems, around 410,000 Slovaks visited Croatia last year and realized 2.8 million overnight stays.
Nora Henterova, the head of the HTZ office in Slovakia, emphasized that the ITF Slovakiatour in Bratislava provided a unique opportunity to meet with representatives of tourist agencies from all over Slovakia as well as with a number of journalists of the most important Slovak media. She also added that Croatia's tourist offer was one of the most wanted among Slovak tourists.