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.
Croatia has the fourth most expensive hotel room rates in Europe, with the average price of a room a whopping 135.9 Euro. According to research by the leading agency STR Global into the price of accommodation in Europe the most expensive room rates are in Switzerland with an average price of 192.8 Euro.
The agency investigated accommodation, travel agencies, tourist attractions and prices across the whole of Europe and Croatia came out as the fourth most expensive room rates. After Switzerland, Italy came in second place at 142.8 Euro, followed by Malta at 138.3 Euro and Croatia at 135.9 Euro.
Croatian accommodation is more expensive than France (118 Euro), Spain (114 Euro) and Greece (119 Euro). Whilst some of the cheapest countries were Germany (101 Euro), Great Britain (105 Euro) and Finland (103 Euro). According to the research the cheapest room rates in Europe can be found in Austria which had an average hotel room price of only 101 Euro.
“Overcrowded destinations are successful, but there is a thin line between success and failure,” commented the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, at the recent ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.
Overcrowding is a huge problem is many popular tourist destinations, Venice, Barcelona, New York and London are all facing problems tackling the downside of being tourist magnets. And Mediterranean destinations have the extra pressure of thousands of cruise ship passengers arriving every day.
With cheap flights and online accommodation agencies travel has never been cheaper or easier, meaning that many tourists arrive for shorter trips, in fact the average stay in Dubrovnik last year was less than 3 days.
However, the advantages of easy travelling have led to overcrowding, in a survey by the consultants IPK around 9 percent of travellers commented that overcrowding negatively affected their vacation.
According to a recent report the City of Dubrovnik is getting creative in order to cope with the crowds. By the end of this year the city will launch a new app that will inform visitors when the historic Old City is overcrowded. It will feature a real-time people counter that will show the number of people in the city core at any given time.
And in an attempt to disperse tourists to other regions around the historic walls the city plans to launch a car-sharing scheme.
And the last, and quite possibly most important measure, will come from the Port of Dubrovnik, who will work on rearranging the arrivals of cruise ships to the city in an attempt to ease the infrastructure problems in peak times. This scheme will come into force this year but the full effects are expected to be seen from next year. The city is also looking at overcrowding solutions in New York and Venice.
The runway and aprons of Dubrovnik Airport are currently undergoing a major overhaul with the works on schedule to be completed by the middle of March.
The current works are the second phase of the development project aimed at increasing the capacity of the airport to almost 4 million passengers a year.
The runway and taxiway works that are in progress will expand the western apron, include the construction of two new rapid exit taxiways, a new east apron and the construction of a new commercial aviation apron on the western side.
For the eighth time the state owned hotel chain, Hotel Maestral, has been put up for sale. The Centre for Reconstruction and Sales (CERP) have announced the public sale of 355.520 shares in the Hotel Maestral company for a total nominal price of 71 million Kuna. This amount of shares makes up 68.9 percent of the shares in the Dubrovnik hotel chain.
CERP are calling for interested parties to send a letter of intent for the purchase of the shares by the 9th of March 2018.
Hotel Maestral consists of five hotels in the Lapad Bay area of Dubrovnik. This last remaining state owned hotel chain in Dubrovnik has been up sale for the past few years but so far every deal has fallen through. The current management of the company are even considering putting together a management buy-out package for this latest sale.
Do you ever have the feeling that you are caught in the same day over and over again? Does the day to day routine somehow give you déjà vu? It’s like that 1990’s film with Bill Murray, Groundhog Day, where he continually wakes up in the same day for weeks. I have that Groundhog Day feeling at the moment.
It could be the winter blues. Dubrovnik may be a hive of activity in the warmer months when the swallows arrive but let’s face it in the winter it is a little…well boring. Maybe it’s good to be bored a little. But I am not really the kind of person who has time for being bored normally. I looked at the event calendar on the Dubrovnik Tourist Board website the other week looking for some inspiration, only to be greeted with two events that week, two all week!
At the moment I feel like I am running on auto-pilot a little. But it seems I am not the only one running around in circles. I was flicking through the newspaper archives a week ago and many of the headlines and articles I came across from five years ago and exactly the same headlines that are being used today. Coincidence? Probably not. Many of the problems Dubrovnik had five years ago, ten years ago and two decades ago are exactly the same problems it has today. Coincidence? Probably not.
Instead of forward movement, there is stagnation. This could be due to a couple of reasons. Lack of willing to move forward and solve problems. Lack of adequate knowledge to be able to solve the problem. Or a lack of sight, so as to be blind to the actual problems. I would suggest that a combination of these three is the situation. Most people can get excited about the results, the finished product, but they dread the process of doing the actual work, so they don’t bother to try.
Many of the challenges that the city faced decades ago - infrastructure, social issues, cultural inadequacies, education, health, finance and even something as benign as sewerage and exactly the same today. We are stuck in a never-ending Groundhog Day.
I was with a businessman from the US last week and he was reminiscing about how he had visited Dubrovnik in the early 2000’s. “To be honest apart from the odd building facelift and a few new hotels nothing much has changed,” he said over his coffee. I was desperate to prove him wrong, to praise a new development, but I was left scratching my head. “Of course you have a few more tourists and cruise ships coming, but apart from that it seems like status quo,” he concluded. He was right, unfortunately. Is it a lack of creativity? We have all been blessed to live in such a unique city, but maybe we really need some unique ideas and unique people to go with the city, to breathe live back into all of us. Change your thoughts and you change your world.
We seem stuck to this routine of – work all day every day through the summer – hibernate in the winter. And we all conform to this pattern, to this way of life, not wanting to break the mould and start something new. Of course that’s the easy option. It’s much harder to be a non-conformist than a conformist, especially in a small town. So we go with the flow and not rock the boat. “What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” said Bill Murray in the film.
And here we are in March already. Soon the flights will arrive, soon the city will be full again, soon we will all be working at top speed, and in that melee of madness we will all forget that winter was even here. The same old problems will arise again, the same old shouts for something to be done and the same old excuses that we have all heard. And, guess what, nothing will be done. The sun will melt our memories as an ice-cream on the beach and the life will go on in our Dubrovnik Groundhog Day. And then the colder days will be here again and once again we will hibernate and like an emu bury our heads in the sand. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower, once said Steve Jobs.
Even though it is a beautiful and sunny day in Dubrovnik today, the first day of the weekend, it is about to get much wetter in Dubrovnik.
The Croatian Meteorological Office has issued a yellow warning for tomorrow for Dubrovnik and the whole region. Gale force southerly winds are forecast bringing with them overcast skies and rain.
The wind is expected to blow at over 40 km/h up to 65 km/h with plenty of rain. There is a chance that ferry services will not be operating tomorrow as high seas are also expected. The bad and unsettled weather is expected to continue until the middle of next week.
The kayak confusion in the Pile Bay of Dubrovnik looks like finding a solution this year. One of the most heavily criticised tourist attractions in the city, both from local and tourists, is the disorder and disorganisation of kayaks in the Pile area just a stone’s throw from the ancient Dubrovnik City Walls.
All 90 kayaks will be moved to the beach on Pile
The main problem was, apart from it looking unpleasant, was the fact that tourists wishing to visit the Lovrjenac Fortress, which is popular with guests as it featured in the Game of Thrones serial, had problems passing the numerous kayaks beached on the public area. This year this will all change as the Dubrovnik City Council has decided to move the area for kayaks across the Pile Bay to the beach area.
There are a total of 6 kayak companies located in this area and altogether have a total of 90 kayaks between them.
After yesterday's very successful presentation of the Croatian tourist offer during the first day of the ITB travel fair in Berlin, numerous promotional activities and important meetings with key international partners were held today during the second day of the largest world tourism fair.
The Croatian delegation was led by the Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli, and with the Director of the Croatian Tourist Board Kristjan Staničić, and they met Sebastian Münzenmaier, the President of the German Bundestag Tourism Board, who visited the Croatian booth and praised the new design and concept of the Croatian Tourism Association and added that Croatia is a very popular and sought after destination among German tourists.
During the first two days of the fair, numerous meetings were held with key partners including Jet2com, TUI, Federal Tourism Association (BTW), Expedia, Olimar, Germania, Eurowings, Condor, Thomas Cook Germany and others.
Staničić pointed out that all of the key partners had concluded last year with excellent results, which is why they announced the extension of the 2018 program. "Croatia is a very sought-after destination in the German market, and in line with the plans presented by the largest partners in the German market, we expect to keep positive trends in 2018,” said the Director of the national tourist board.
Adding that airlines have a key role and announced that new flights from major airlines would be introduced as well as the increase of the rotation of existing flights. New flights to Zadar, Rijeka, Pula, Split and Dubrovnik have been announced by a number of airline companies such as easyJet, Eurowings, Ryanair, Lufthansa, Condor and many more. Minister Cappeli emphasized that tourism is the driver of the economic system because of the opportunities it creates for new investments and softening diplomatic ties. "Such events are a great opportunity for meeting different stakeholders in tourism, from tour operators and airlines to representatives of political institutions for tourism, as well as for holding meetings with interested foreign investors,” commented the Minister.
Jet2com's representatives stressed that they have more than 40 flights a week to Croatia, and that they have achieved excellent results and increased traffic over the past year to destinations such as Dubrovnik (+ 26%) and Split (+ 36%).
Condor's representatives presented new lines from Frankfurt to Zadar and Rijeka, and from Dusseldorf to Split, which will also connect with Hannover. Eurowings in the summer of 2018 will boost operations from Germany to Dubrovnik, from Düsseldorf, Hannover, Berlin, Cologne (Bonn), Munich and Stuttgart. There is easyJet's new line connecting Zadar and Berlin, and although they already have a line from Berlin's Schönefeld airport to Pula, they are introducing a new line linking Pula to another airport - Tegel.
Lufthansa announced a new line in Zadar - Frankfurt in 2018, as well as an increase in operations to Pula, while Ryanair has announced earlier three new lines from Frankfurt to Pula, Rijeka and Zadar and the Zadar - Bremen line.