Saturday, 19 September 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.


Even though the works are still in progress and the hotel has not been officially opened yet, one of the coolest hotels in Croatia received its first guests before Easter.

According to the British newspaper The Times, Salona Palace is one of the thirty coolest hotels in Croatia, which is located in the ancient Dalmatian town of Solin in the Split-Dalmatia County. It is a four-star hotel just 30 metres from the entrance in the ancient Roman city Salona, one of the largest archaeological sites in Croatia nowadays.

‘’A perfect place to feel the history and explore where Julius Caesar once walked. Hotel Salona Palace is a newly built small luxury resort offering you everything you need whether you are coming for business or pleasure’’, says the hotel.

Salona Palace is designed in the shape of a cross; it has four floors and spreads over 4200 square metres. It has 44 rooms and three suites (Standard & Superior Rooms and Caesar Suite & Junior Suite) as well as spa & wellness centre, swimming pools, a conference room, a banquet hall, and restaurants.

It is interesting to note that each room is decorated with Salona motifs, and each has a smart system for light and temperature regulation. The hotel will also open Joe’s Beach Lounge and Bar on nearby Kasjuni beach, with paddle boarding and kayaking on offer.

City of Dubrovnik joins the largest global environmental and voluntary movement ‘Let’s do it’ for the sixth time! This event is organized on Earth Day, with the aim of regulating illegal dumping and encourage environmental awareness inside the local community.

Department of Urban Planning, Spatial Planning and Environment of the City of Dubrovnik organizes Green and Blue cleaning in several locations, in collaboration with the numerous organizations, associates, partners, volunteers and local residents.

Program of the event:
-    Public Institution the Lokrum Reserve in collaboration with students of the Department of Aquaculture Dubrovnik
Departing on Lokrum on Saturday, April 22, and Tuesday, 25 April, with the boat at 10 am
Students will clean up the marine waste and also create a map with micro localities of the marine waste
-    Association DART
Departing on Lokrum on Saturday, April 22, at 10 am

Sipan – cleaning up paths and streams, April 26 and 27
- Youth Association Orlando
April 22, starting at 9 am at the location of "Old Hospital’’. After the action of collecting waste, eco- workshops are planned, as well as the screening of the documentary and amateur table tennis tournament.

-    Croatian Mountaineering Association Dubrovnik
April 22, cleaning footpaths Nuncijata-Sumet.
Gathering at the playground Nuncijata at 9 am.

-     Eco Center Zeleno Sunce, Mokosica, Dubrovnik
26 April, decorating eco-park in Mokošica and planting new seedlings, starting at 9:30 am.

- Volunteer Fire Department Rijeka Dubrovacka
As part of the campaign they will clean up illegal dumps in the City.

- Diving club "Nautilus"
Within the Blue cleaning, they will make examinations and analysis of heavy sediments in Rijeka Dubrovacka.
Everyone is welcome to join this action – protecting our planet starts with you!

According to the latest data from the eVisitor system, 117,288 arrivals and 399,921 overnight stays were recorded during the Easter period in Croatia, or 68 percent more arrivals and 94 percent overnight stays in comparison to the same period last year.

''For the first half of April the results are excellent and we believe such trend will continue in the rest of the month. These figures indicate that Croatia has plenty to offer even in the pre-season period, and that it becomes more recognizable as a year-round destination'', commented Gari Cappelli, the Croatian Minister of Tourism.

The data show that most overnights stays were recorded in the Istria County (134,000), in the Kvarner region (70,000) and in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County (57,000). The most numerous guests were from Germany (90,000 overnight stays), Italy (41,000), Austria (41,000), France (16,000) and Slovenia (15,000). The domestic guests realized 46,000 overnight stays in the Easter period.

Fashion can be often used for a good cause, and that is an idea behind the design of Croatian born Marija Curic, a fashion designer and Ivana Curic, Founder of Curic&Curic. After finding out that Matthew Shane Cameron, husband of well known Croatian singer and host Tajci and their dear friend, suffers from Stage IV lung cancer, they decided to unite and donate their designs and time.

Every shirt is hand painted by Marija Curic who designed an image of healthy lungs and painted on the back of shirts. Marija hopes that this design benefits other people who are fighting the same disease like Matthew Shane Cameron. The design represents healthy lungs and includes a hashtag #breathefree, as for patients with this kind of cancer that is the hardest part.

Croatian superstar Tajci was deeply touched by their initiative. If you want to be a part of it follow this link.



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 Voice of Dubrovnik


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