Tuesday, 04 August 2020
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

The second largest IT company and the largest exporter of technology services Infosys which opened a centre for the delivery and support for its users in Croatia last autumn, has announced an official opening.

The Indian IT company has located its regional headquarters in Karlovac, where it took on a number of engineers who worked for the French industrial giant Alstom (after it was taken over by the American company General Electric).

Apart from Croatia, Infosys has already opened a similar centre in Moscow, Russia. The new delivery centre in Croatia, which is intended for the European Union market, and the delivery centre in Russia, which is directed towards the market of the Commonwealth of Independent States, focus on businesses related to aerospace and automotive industry, energy industry, turbo machinery as well as to serving other engineering clients.

"The establishment of centres in Croatia and Russia enables us to tap into a rich pool of engineering talent and bring this to the industrial and manufacturing companies that we work with around the world'', said in a statement Sandeep Dadlani, Global Head-Manufacturing, Retail, CPG and Logistics at Infosys.

Over the course of last week there were eight traffic accidents in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County. According to information from the police one of these accidents resulted in a fatality, three accidents in which six people were injured and four accidents with material damage.

In the county last week the traffic police stopped 366 drivers for traffic violations. This total included 189 drivers who were fined for speeding, 29 for not wearing a seat belt, 18 for improper overtaking and 6 for driving under the influence of alcohol.

The fourth edition of the Dubrovnik wine festival “Dubrovnik FestiWine” was presented in Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. This year's festival will be held until the 23rd of April and this year the festival has an international character as leading wine producers from around the region are participating.

festiwine dubrovnik 2017

“Dubrovnik FestiWine was created following the strategy of development of viticulture and winemaking in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. The strategy has promoted the excellent wines of our county, as it is known to have the highest quality red and white wines in Croatia. We wanted through this festival to promote wine buyers and wine lovers, our citizens and numerous tourists. This year we have a festival open to the countries of the European Union and some special partners," commented the prefect of the Dubrovnik – Neretva County, Nikola Dobroslavić.

The central event of the festival is “The exhibition of wine” which will be held in the Lazareti complex on the 21st and 22nd of April 22 and is open to the public.

Dubrovnik FestiWine held since 2014, when it emerged as a regional wine festival Dubrovnik-Neretva County, with the aim of promoting indigenous variety Dubrovnik-Neretva County as well as the wine culture.

More information and the full program of the Dubrovnik FestiWine 2017 can be found here

The Rochester Institute of Technology in Croatia is celebrating their twentieth anniversary in Croatia this year. Hundreds of students, both from Croatia and international, have graduated over the years and are now working in positions all over the world. On this important birthday the Dubrovnik Times caught up with the President and dean of RIT Croatia, Don Hudspeth.

This year RIT Croatia is marking an important anniversary, your twentieth anniversary in Croatia. Why was Dubrovnik the first location for RIT in Croatia?
The start of our story in Dubrovnik happened when the Rochester Institute of Technology in the USA received an invitation from the Ministry of Science and Technology. At that time they were interested to see if there was a market for private education in Croatia. The other point was to help the country’s tourism industry with a new model, because the mass tourism model that had been a part of tourism in the former Yugoslavia was quite clearly not the right model for the future. A new approach was needed and the Ministry understood this. They approached Rochester because RIT had a MBA program in the Czech Republic and had experience in working with emerging countries in the region. The Ministry and the Croatian government obviously knew the potential of Dubrovnik as a brand. Obviously we arrived in Dubrovnik in a post-war period and the decision of the Ministry was connected to the city’s redevelopment. I would also like to add that we found great partners here at that time, the University of Dubrovnik. I can honestly say that the University was a major help in RIT in Dubrovnik getting started. They were extremely flexible and they also had a faculty that was big enough for us to use when we first started.

You once said that your biggest success is the success of your students.
How I ultimately judge how successful we have been is when the students graduate and find employment. Many of our students have made a contribution to the tourism industry in Dubrovnik, and in fact not only Dubrovnik but beyond. Whether in the hotel section, travel section or restaurant business, we have seen our students in some of the most important sectors of the tourism industry. We really judge ourselves, and our success, by our students outcomes and by their futures.

Are all your graduates able to find employment in positions relevant to their education? The short answer is yes. We continue to see every year that our students have a high placement rate, even through the years of the financial crisis. And it isn’t only in the tourism and hospitality industry that our students are finding employment. I would say that fifty percent of our graduates find positions in the business sector, away from the tourism industry.

don hudspeth RIT

Croatia has an employment problem in a way that we as a country need more workers

In fact RIT Croatia is made up of two faculties, one in Dubrovnik and the other in the capital, Zagreb. Do more students in Zagreb tend to follow their education into business rather than in tourism?

Of course the bulk of employment positions in Dubrovnik are in the tourism industry, which obviously means that if our graduates decide to continue living in the city there is a good chance that they will end up in tourism. Of course we have many international students, therefore a percentage of these foreign students will return to their home countries after graduation. Around 15 percent of our graduates in the Zagreb campus decide to follow a career in tourism. This is great because as we all know we need more people working in the tourism industry, .

What do you believe are the advantages of studying at a private institution?
Firstly I have to say that there is a variance in private education in terms of quality. When you look at the Croatian marketplace there are some great private universities but there are also some that aren’t so good. I think the one biggest advantages of private education in general is that we can be a lot quicker to adapt and make changes. When someone decides to study at RIT Croatia they are making an investment into their future. With a tuition rate of 6,000 Euros annually, or over four years of education 24,000 Euros, at RIT Croatia we of course are very interested in what types of jobs they get after graduating. We really like to show that there is a return on that investment. So with that in mind we are in constant contact with businesses and industry, we get feedback all the time from them to see what we should be doing in our curriculum to match their demands. This is helped with the fact that our students must do internships as part of their education. So this gives us another chance to talk to businesses and ask them for feedback. In the public system there isn’t a lot of contact with businesses and they are also really slow to react to situations. I really believe that you need a certain amount of “market” input in everything, because the market keeps things healthy. As soon as you take out this market input you lose relevancy. Not only do we ask companies what do you need now, but we also ask what will be missing in five years time. If someone starts studying now they aren’t going to finish for five years time, so we need to know what companies will need in the future. Especially in the IT industry, an industry that moves so quickly, we prepare students with a solid background but we also look to the future - what will be big in five years time. By the way this isn’t just a Croatian problem; this is the same the world over. There has been some improvement in the public universities but there is still a long way to go. One of the biggest complaints from companies in Croatia is that graduates aren’t prepared well enough for their working lives.

At your Career Education Days, which RIT Croatia organises, many American companies and international companies are present. How successful are your students in finding employment with these companies?

We were the first university in the region to organise these “Career Educations Days” and have so far held seventeen. We have local, regional and international companies attending this event. Our focus, and the reason we call them career education days, is not necessarily finding jobs at that actual event but on how to prepare for searching and succedding in finding a job. The steps from firstly where they will do their internships and then what to do after graduation, it is a whole process. We have a lot of companies they come and actually do interviews on those days. But we also have companies that make presentations and then hold interviews further in the future. If we look at that initial contact that was made on these career education days our findings show that around 25 to 30 percent of our graduates find jobs in the future. 

 You have been in Croatia for a longer period of time, since the beginning of RIT in the country, and have been following the education system. Every new government announces new reforms, but these hardly ever come to fruition. What do we need to change in the Croatian education system?

This is a huge question. I think that in the twenty years that I have been here we have seen some improvements but nowhere near the amount that we need to see. I have experience of both a personal and private nature. I see the paths that the students take through our faculty and also my own children. Certainly one of the most important things that needs to change is this way of teaching masses of information, this leads to learning things “parrot fashion” rather than learning to understand and think. Because children are forced to learn so many subjects and a huge transfer of knowledge they aren’t doing things like problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and innovation. These are all key things that will help them in the future and unfortunately they are missing out on this. We see this with students that start our university. Their base is very strong, they have a very broad base of knowledge, but this is at the expense of never being in the situation that they needed to solve problems. And that is the greatest challenge that students find when they start studying with us. Of course this school system follows on in public universities. There have been some changes and some professors are looking at different models, but the change is nowhere near where it needs to be.

Have you had positive co-operation with local city authorities over the years?
Over the years we have been involved in some city initiatives, for example when the city was bidding for the 2020 city of culture we had two people on the team. We probably have more contact and more involvement with DURA than with the city government.

Would you like to be more involved with the city government?
It is important that we are a member of the community and make a contribution, and I think we do that. Of course if we were more involved with city projects we would have to select those projects very carefully to make sure that they fall into the overall strategy of the faculty. And also we want to be involved in things that have final results. I don’t want to be doing something just for the sake of doing something; there must be a genuine goal.

don hudspeth RIT 1

We are starting to embrace a higher quality brand of tourism

You have been living in Dubrovnik for quite some time now, what changes have you noticed over those years? 

For those of us who live here and really want the best for the city we sometimes think that things go a little slow. But in truth things are moving in the right direction. The differences I see from 1997 to today they are huge. On the tourism side we are starting to embrace a higher quality brand of tourism, and the international brands that have opened here have helped to this process. We continue to see great international exposure, whether this is through movie locations to the fact that international car brands, such as Mercedes and Nissan are choosing Dubrovnik as a destination for major conferences. These types of companies are very selective and they have the whole world to choose from, so it says a lot about Dubrovnik as a destination that they are choosing us. I also sometimes think that those beautiful walls around the city can also be walls around our minds. Sometimes we are afraid of making changes. This protective mentality can end up actually harming the city. The irony is that Dubrovnik has survived through the centuries by being open to the world, not being closed. You don’t hold onto your cultural values by hiding them away from the world.

Text - Mark Thomas

Photos - Tonci Plazibat 

The Croatian Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli is to officially visit London this week for a series of bilateral meetings with high political representatives and British tourist companies.

The aim of this visit is to strengthen cooperation with the UK, which has become one of the most important tourist markets for Croatia in recent years, with an average annual growth of around 20 percent.

During the first day of his visit on the 19th of April, Minister Cappelli will visit the British Parliament and attend Prime Minister Theresa May's Questions. He will also meet with Tracey Crouch, the State Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage, Damian Collins, the president of the Committee for Culture, Media and Sports of the House of Commons, John Whittingdale, the member of the Parliament and the former Minister of Culture, as well as with Patricia Yates, the director of strategy and communications at Visit Britain, the British institution which was found with the purpose of promoting the UK and development of the British tourism industry.

On the second day of his visit on the 20th of April, Cappelli is to meet with the directors of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in order to discuss investments in Croatia, as well as with Reli Slonin, the CEO of the Arena Hospitality Group.

According to data from the Croatian Ministry of Tourism, the tourist market of Great Britain is one of the most important emissive markets for the tourism industry in Croatia, whilst British tourists are the seventh most numerous guests in the country. Last year they realized 630,000 arrivals (+22%) and 3,3 million (+25%) overnight stays in comparison to 2015. The most visited destinations were Dubrovnik, the Konavle region, Split, Pula and Porec.

Dubrovnik musical spring, a series of concerts of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, which will be held April 18th to 28th, will begin with performances of one of the best young Croatian pianists, Aljosa Jurinic

The first concert will be held tonight, April 18th, in the Franciscan church. Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Austrian conductor Christoph Campestrini.  Talented young pianist will be presented with Prokofiev Concert for Piano and Orchestra no. 2 in G minor. In the second part of the concert the orchestra will perform Schumann's Symphony no. 4 in D minor. The concert starts at 8:30 pm.

The biggest success of Aljosa Jurinic was in 2012 when he won prestigious piano competition Robert Schumann, in the composer’s home town Zwickau. In 2015 he was a finalist in the 17th International piano competition Fryderyk Chopin in Warsaw. He won numerous competitions, such as three piano competitions in Italy: Third international piano competition Encore! Shura Cherkassy in Milan, fourth international piano competition Luciano Luciani in Cosenza and fifth international piano competition in Massarosa in 2014. Aljosa is also the winner of all the major prizes for young musicians in Croatia.

Dubrovnik audience will also have the opportunity to listen to Aljosa Jurinic in the recital, which will take place tomorrow, on Wendesday April 19th, in the Franciscan church. The pianist will perform works of Beethoven, Chopin, A. Dorman and F. Liszt.

With the increase of tourists in Dubrovnik since the beginning of the year comes news that the sales of the Dubrovnik City Card has also had a huge increase. In the first three months of 2017 sales of the card have increased by an impressive 30 percent compared to the same period from last year.

And hand in hand with this there has also been a healthy increase in the revenue from the sale of the Dubrovnik City Card, this time by 44 percent compared to the same period from last year. “Based on previous indicators a significant increase in revenues can be expected this year compared to 2016,” read a statement from the organisation.

The 1-Day Dubrovnik Card is a unique pass allowing entry into 9 cultural-historical monuments, the top attractions of Dubrovnik. The 3-Day and 7-Day Dubrovnik Card are a unique pass allowing entry into 10 cultural-historical monuments, 9 top attractions of Dubrovnik, and 1 gallery in Cavtat. By purchasing a Dubrovnik Card, you will get a bus card valid throughout the city of Dubrovnik, and also coupons for a suburban ride by purchasing 3 – Day and 7 – Day Dubrovnik Card.

The weather was favorable to all those who gatherd on Easter Monday in Dubrovnik village Klisevo on manifestation Easter in Primorje for the eight year in the row.

At the event, which grew into an international folklore and tourist attraction, local specialties and traditions were presented, with the participation of cultural and artistic groups from our region and neighboring countries.

Some of the things that were shown are an ancient art of egg painting with hot wax and pituresque Wedding in Primorje, which was brought to life by the assocciation Primorski svatovi. That traditional type of wedding has some military elements and festive costumes are really special – costume and jewelery of the bride shows how wealthy her house is.

You’ll feel like you went to Klisevo with beautiful photo gallery by Zeljko Tutnjevic.

The Voice of Dubrovnik


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