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.
The British airline easyJet announced on Tuesday that it will significantly increase its capacity in the summer quarter, to 60 percent of the pre-pandemic level, indicating the easing of coronavirus measures and increased demand for travel in Europe.
Between April and June, the group used only 17 percent of pre-pandemic capacity due to pandemic constraints in much of Europe, recording a pre-tax loss of £318 million, eight per cent lower than at the start of the 2020 pandemic.
Its revenue jumped to £212.9 million, from just £7.2 million in the same period last year when the entire fleet was grounded.
The decision to significantly increase capacity was prompted by optimistic estimates of travel demand in the summer and autumn months, they explained on Tuesday, adding that they were shifting the focus of flight schedules to European routes as Europe opened faster than the UK.
The company is thus planning 60 percent of flights on routes within the European Union, which has so far been on a par with Britain in its schedule.
The head of easyJet was among the loudest critics of the British attitude towards travel in the past two months, condemning the unexpected changes that he said resulted in waves of reservations and equally mass cancellations, reminds Reuters.
In 2018 around 50,000 Indian tourists visited Croatia, that number jumped massively in 2019 to 70,000. Why? Well mostly due to a Bollywood movie. This week we caught up with the Indian Ambassador to Croatia, Raj Kumar Srivastava, to discuss the future challenges, or as he says opportunities, between the two countries. From the fantasy land tourism that Indian tourists are looking for, to the development of closer links and of Croatia being a future gateway to Europe. Whilst the vast majority of Indian tourists only know of Dubrovnik the whole of the country has a chance to attract even more tourists with its hidden gems.
What would you say is the general opinion of Croatia as a tourist destination in India?
I would say in general, and bear in mind that we are talking about a population of 1.3 billion, that they don’t know much about Croatia. However, those people that do know about Croatia really know about Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is well-known thanks to serials like the Game of Thrones and other movies that have been recorded here. You also have to understand that many travellers arrive in Dubrovnik by boat, either cruise ship or private yacht, and don’t visit any other part of the country. Therefore, any promotion of Croatia in India should be spread to include all regions and all attractions of the country, from the Plitvice Lakes to the Adriatic to the hinterland.
How do you think that this clear power of movies and serials could be used to promote Croatia in India?
This has been done before, for example in Spain, where a Bollywood movie was shot in conjunction with the Spanish National Tourist Board. This film highlighted the main attractions of Spain and to show you the power of the media the number of Indian tourists in Spain increased by 300 to 400 percent in just one year. Another example is Iceland. There was a Bollywood movie made in 2016. It was a really interesting movie and the landscape was just unique. Before 2016 and before this movie Iceland received around only 1,00 tourists from India, but in 2017 there were 19,000. There is a clear value of filming in locations as these movies are seen by a wide section of the Indian population. The key for Croatia would be to highlight the gems of the country and not just Dubrovnik, which is already popular.
How demanding do you think Indian tourists are? Are there any special facilities or attractions that we need to think about in Dubrovnik?
Most Indian tourists look for “fantasy land” when they leave India. This is because it’s like going outside of your regular life and trying to live a dream. And Croatia has those dream possibilities. This could be a walk in the nature in one of the many National Parks, it could be exploring the wonderful history of Dubrovnik, Split or Zadar or the prehistoric museum in Vukovar. These things need to be promoted, you can come to one country and you can see multiple attractions and live multiple dreams. And you don’t even have to get onto a plane as everything is easily reached by road. Indian tourists can focus on one country, with one flight from India. A small, yet extremely diverse country.
Bollywood has already been in Dubrovnik with the filming of the movie Fan starring one of the greatest Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan. This clearly had a great impact on the interest of Dubrovnik in India.
Yes, in 2018 there were around 50,00 tourists from India, and then in 2019 that jumped to 70,000. I would say that all of this jump is due to that film, that is the power of Bollywood! This jump was quite substantial, so it can only happen due to external stimulant. I would certainly say that the vast majority of these tourists from India came here to see where the movie was made and to take a selfie in the locations. This is the “fantasy land” effect. The Game of thrones had so effect in India but nowhere near that of Shah Rukh Khan filming here.
And yes of course we took a selfie in the Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik
What are your challenges as the current Indian Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia?
First of all, I don’t see challenges, I see opportunities. The challenges in diplomacy would be considered those where there are differences of opinions, I don’t see those kind of things between India and Croatia. A difference, or rather a fact of life, is that India is 60 times bigger in land mass, 300 times bigger in terms of population. This is a fact of life. So that every time I say something about Croatia in India they will think about it, but then the size comes into the picture. But when you say that Croatia is on its way to becoming a completely European country, with entry into the Eurozone and Schengen coming up, then Croatia becomes a point of entry for the whole of Europe. And in that sense Croatia’s size can be seen bigger than it actually is. And as India is currently upgrading its relationship with the European union to a new level, we’ve just had a summit between the EU and India, this brings more opportunities for Croatia. And as Europe is trying to put more focus on a smarter Europe, a more digital Europe that is climate change orientated this would bring India and Indian companies even closer to Croatia.
How difficult is it for Indian tourists to physically get to Croatia?
It is really a question of demand and supply. So, for example if 70,000 tourists were coming and that number grows then more airlines would introduce flights. One of the good things about Indian tourists coming to Croatia is that they would come in June and July rather than in August, at the height of the normal tourist season. Indian tourist at the moment need a visa to enter Croatia, but of course when Croatia enters the Schengen border-free system then a Schengen visa would be enough. The main connection between India and Croatia at the moment is through Frankfurt and Amsterdam, now depending on the load and the demand there could well be in the future direct flights from Delhi to Zagreb or Dubrovnik.
Away from tourism are you looking for co-operation in other fields in Dubrovnik and Croatia?
Yes, we are looking across the whole of Croatia for opportunities. In the past six months we have been able to create four new partnerships across the country with various universities. I can see a future partnership between Croatia and India based around the four T’s. Those are tourism, technology, trade and talent. India is known for its surplus talent. For example, India produces close to one million engineers every year. That’s one of the reasons that there is an IT revolution in India. This talent can be useful for Europe as well as Croatia. For example, there are currently 120 Indians working in the main shipyard in Split at this very time. The possibilities for the future, with new Croatia and Indian start-ups is very promising, and I look forward to a much closer connection, in many ways, between our two countries.
After twelve prominent journalists of prestigious Russian media such as Bazzar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Elle, Cosmo, Grazia and Style stayed in Dubrovnik from June 13 to 15, organized by the Hotel Rixos Premium Dubrovnik and with the support of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board articles about Dubrovnik have been published in several prestigious Russian media.
During their several-day stay at the Rixos Premium Hotel Dubrovnik, the journalists, accompanied by a local guide, visited the main sights of Dubrovnik, as well as the Elaphite Islands, and got acquainted with the cultural heritage, but also the rich gastronomic offer.
In June, Russian journalists were welcomed in Dubrovnik by the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Ana Hrnić, emphasizing the importance of the Russian market for Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik this season is connected by daily direct flights from Moscow by the airline Aeroflot.
Since the beginning of the year, the Russian market has been recording excellent results, and compared to 2019, from the beginning of the year until the 18th of July there were 12 percent more arrivals and 33 percent more overnight stays, and since the beginning of July, there have been 75 percent more arrivals and 79 percent more overnight stays than in 2019.
The Tourist Board of the Municipality of Dubrovačko primorje, in cooperation with the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service and Mr. Enes Bešić, made a study for routing hiking and biking trails in the area from Banić, Slano to Majkovo, as part of the development of new tourist products, with the aim of raising the safety of tourists who want to engage in active tourism in the municipality. In this area, hiking and biking trails stretch for about 45 km and are divided into several categories.
The second part of the project included an interactive web view of the map of hiking and biking trails, with the possibility of viewing on mobile devices (Android/iOS) and the possibility of downloading data via a web application to a computer for the more detailed planning of walks or cycling.
Mr. Enes Bešić, the project manager stated that “An interactive web map of hiking and biking trails was created with the purpose of facilitating movement in the field, and thus increasing the safety of visitors in a particular area. We decided on the simplest possible concept using QR-codes that will provide users with information about the route and the position of visitors via a web interactive map. In this way, visitors who stay in the area of Dubrovacko Primorje will be able to load them to mobile device and move more safely. All these activities are encouraged to raise the level of security of tourists staying in our municipality. Through this concept we strived for simplicity. Therefore, through various researches and concepts that we have carried out and through conducted tests, we have come to the simplest solution to use Google chrome and Google maps from the user's mobile phone, and support from a certain internet space finally successfully coupled to the QR-code. We realized that the benefits of using this type of concept are extremely great, because the user knows where they are at all times, sees the track on their mobile device, sees his location where they are and whether they are on the right route.”
The third phase of the project envisages the marking of the mentioned pedestrian and bicycle paths. In addition to the signs, it is planned to set up information boards in the entire area from Banić, through Slano to Majkovo.
So far, through joint projects of the Dubrovacko Primorje Tourist Board and the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service a tourist and mountaineering map of the region has been prepared, listing all hiking and cycling trails and marking a 50 km long Slano - Bistrina cycling trail. accompanying brochure for this project entitled "Thematic bike path - Stećak tombstones of the Dubrovacko Primorje."
Fifty percent of citizens in Istria have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, which makes this county the most vaccinated county in Croatia, according to the latest data from the Institute of Public Health of the County of Istria.
This news is sure to be welcome by foreign tourists looking for a safe Croatian Adriatic destination to spend their summer holidays. Although this number of 50 percent still falls some way behind the European Union average which is, according to the European Centre for Disease Control, over 66 percent. In fact, almost 50 percent of citizens of the European Union have received two doses.
Across the whole of Croatia 45.9 percent of the adult population have had one dose, and 38.8 percent two doses.
The prefect of the Istrian County, Boris Miletić, commented that “Thank you to all citizens who have responded to vaccinations, which protects themselves and others, and I invite all those who have not yet done so to be vaccinated. The tourist season is in full swing, and Istria is once again a desirable and safe tourist destination, which is an additional reason to try to preserve such an image, as well as maintain a low incidence of infection.”
In Croatia, 146 new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in the last 24 hours, and three people have died, the National Civil Protection Headquarters reported on Tuesday.
The number of active cases in Croatia today is a total of 739. Among them, 121 people are in hospital, of which 11 are on ventilators.
Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, 361,759 people have been infected, of which 8,243 people have died. A total of 352,777 people have recovered, 89 of them in the last 24 hours.
There are currently 3573 people in self-isolation.
To date, a total of 2,223,324 people have been tested, of which 4,612 in the last 24 hours.
As of July 19, 2,930,768 doses of vaccine had been consumed, and 39.3 percent of the total population, or 47.2 percent of the adult population, had been vaccinated.
This morning, a prefabricated fish market for the retail sale of fish and shellfish and other products was opened in Slano.
The project is funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund through a tender published by FLAG South Adriatic.
The total value of the project is 287,562.50 Kuna, of which 85 percent is financed from EU funds, while the funds of the Republic of Croatia participated with 15 percent.
The main specific goal of this project, which derives from the strategy of the local action group in fisheries Flag South Adriatic, is to provide quality space for the sale of fishery and aquaculture products in Slano. In addition to that goal, the project also has a long-term goal, which is to increase the consumption of fish and other aquaculture products.
In the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, 15 new cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in the last 24 hours. These are five males and ten females; seven from Dubrovnik, four from Ploče, two from Župa dubrovačka and one each from Zažablje and Opuzen.
Six people made a full recovery - four from Dubrovnik and two from the Dubrovačko Primorje.
In the last 24 hours, 489 samples were processed, and since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 92,382 samples have been analysed.
Eight people tested positive for coronavirus were hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital.
There are 240 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours, three violations of the self-isolation measure were recorded, two of them at the border.