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.
Today at exactly 14:07pm an earthquake shook the Dubrovnik region. The epicentre is believed to have been 48 kilometres northeast of Dubrovnik. The quake of magnitude was 4.5 on the Richter scale and was recorded near Bileca in Bosnia and Herzegovina at a depth of 10 kilometres. Tremors from the earthquake were felt in Dubrovnik as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
So far no material damage from the earthquake has been reported.
When you mention the slalom, your first association is probably a tourist resort in the Alps, possibly in the Dolomites. But a slalom in Dubrovnik? Hardly likely, unless you are surfing on the waves or bypassing the rows of restaurant tables inside the historic city centre. The flood of tables and chairs in front of restaurants, cafes, pizzerias and pastry shops has turned into a tsunami. According to statistics within the city walls there are, at least, a thousand tables and four times as many chairs. Barricades interfere, and sometimes almost block the flow of traffic in the already too narrow streets. This summer tables have sprung up like mushrooms from every corner, covering every street and square. At night, as the sun goes down, the same scene appears. Mountains of people eat and drink, the clink of cutlery and glasses, waiters who collide with passersby. The clear passages through the forest of tables are becoming more and more infrequent. The local population cannot often enter their own homes due to the “table forest.” Foreigners out for a stroll are pirouettes around the tables to get to the finish line. Happiness comes when the thousands of passengers from cruise ships sail away at night in Dubrovnik, otherwise the scrimmage throughout the evening would be unbearable.
The invasion of tables, which began five or six years ago, has reached its peak this summer. And it seems that it has finally been noticed by the city authorities who have agreed with restaurant owners an embargo on the increase on the number of "outdoor spaces" in the next three years. But no one is proposing the reduction of the current number of tables. The status quo is a compromise between the city and the restaurant owners, but it seems that the pedestrians have been forgotten. For the time being they will continue to slalom between the tables and street advertising. And only a few years outdoor tables were a rarity. Restaurants were for mostly eating inside, here and there on the terrace, and on the pavement was not exactly popular. Somehow, it was thought that space for walking should not be turned into open-air cafeteria. But somewhere along the way the rules changed. Now the tables have occupied the last remaining squares public areas. Now you can barely even see the pavement. Of course, only in summer, in the winter you have all the space you need because everything is closed. After all a ghost town has no need for “al fresco” dining.
The Dubrovnik Times caught up with the director of Hennes and Mauritz, or H & M, for Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, Claudia Oszwald. Southern Croatia now has its first ever branch of this popular high-street brand with the opening of a shop inside the SUB City shopping centre in Zupa. In fact this is the 15th branch of H & M in Croatia, but the first in Dubrovnik. The opening of this new shop was attended by Oszwald who was impressed with the new store and shopping centre.
I can see from your CV that you are related to Dubrovnik. You were born on the 3rd of February which is the day that Dubrovnik celebrates its patron saint, St. Blaise.
I know that day was the celebration of Saint Blaise, but I did not know that he is the patron of Dubrovnik. That's great!
Is this your first time in Dubrovnik?
Thank God it's not! I've been here several times before. I'm speechless, it's incredibly beautiful, one of the most beautiful places that exists and it is a great privilege to be here for the opening of this branch. This also means that I will be able to visit the city more often. It's fantastic!
Many Austrian come to Croatia on vacation. What this the case for you as well?
I have been to Croatia twice on holiday. But since I have started working in the country I have had the opportunity to experience some fantastic places. Before I did not come so often, but since 2011 I am a regular guest here and I am thrilled with the country and its people. When we stopped in front of the shop I said: Finally we are in Dubrovnik!
As "Country Manager" for H & M you enjoy great autonomy. What drove you to open a branch in the south of Croatia?
We have been present in Croatia since 2011. That was the year that we opened our first branch in Zagreb. H & M is very well received by our customers in the country. As you know, we then go step by step towards the expansion and have now expanded throughout all of Croatia. What we always lacked was the south of Croatia. Now we are naturally very happy that we have finally got the chance to be in the Dubrovnik area.
So you were already planning to open a store in Dubrovnik but just lacked the right space?
Exactly. For us it is very important to always have the best location. Regardless of whether it is in the city centre or in a mall, this can sometimes take a while, but you need to have patience.
What customers can expect from the Dubrovnik area?
I'm happy here; we can offer almost all our product range. So, there is fashion for men, women, teenagers and children. We offer clothing for the whole family, and there is a supply of jewellery. The local offer is almost complete.
Customers are given the opportunity to leave their old clothes in your branches and then get a discount for a new piece of clothing. Will this model of recycling be on offer here?
Of course. We are very proud because sustainability is a very important issue for H & M. The ability to offer our customers the opportunity that they can bring their old clothes and then receive a voucher for a discount is one aspect. Another aspect is that the question of what we do with that collected old goods? Recycle old clothes all over the world and make new products from recycled materials. Our aspiration is that of old clothes we can produce entirely new pieces of clothing. In our department we have a Jeans-department "Denim-Reborn", and there are products created from recycled products.
Is it important to quantify how much of the old goods people can bring? Are there any benchmarks?
No, all you can fit in a plastic bag which can be inserted into the appropriate box. Of course, if it comes with a whole container then it will be difficult, but as I said, all that can fit in a plastic bag. The customer can do this five or fifteen times, it does not matter.
How many fashion conscious are Croatians?
Croats are very fashionable. Croatian customers are great customers who have fashion preferences that are clearly oriented to what is new in fashion, but they are also conscious when it comes to quality and materials.
Most employees at H & M are women. What is the relationship of employees here in Croatia?
We don’t see any difference between the sexes; we are an equal opportunities employer. In Croatia we have around 400 employees.
Your career with H & M started as a shop assistant. Does the H & M employment ladder operate this successfully?
It's easy and it's always possible. If you're engaged, passionate in your work, if the work place acts properly then anything is possible. We are constantly looking for resources. We open hundreds of branches each year all over the world. In the fall we will open a new branch office in South Africa, the phones are constantly "hot".
What is your recipe for success for the future and current employees?
The recipe is hard to put my finger on.
Is it more a matter of luck or ability?
I think it is based on merit. It depends on how long someone has been employed and sometimes also depends on how brave you are. In H & M we sometimes get such challenges where you think, "Hmm...maybe it will not succeed," But, if you have the courage to make the first steps then you can succeed if you have the skills for it. Flexibility is of course also an important factor. I have always accepted the challenges that I have encountered.
Pop icon Justin Bieber will play a concert in Zagreb this year! The globally popular singer will perform in the Arena Zagreb in the capital on the 9th of November as part of his world tour to promote his current album “Purpose.”
This will be the first time that Justin Bieber has held a concert in Croatia and there is sure to be a rush for tickets. And you will have to book your seats early to see Beiber in Zagreb, with tickets ranging from 265 to 565 Kunas and are already available online. When news broke that Beiber would be playing in Zagreb this year fans from all over the region started snapping up tickets.
Beiber’s albums sell by the millions worldwide, and his hits remain on the global music charts for weeks. In early December, as many as 17 of his songs were among the top 100, which is three more songs than the Beatles once had – thus breaking a record which stood for 51 years.
Economic sentiment markedly improved in Croatia in December 2015, reaching a record level thanks to confidence in the services and industry sectors, and the European Union as a whole also recorded an improvement, the European Commission said on Thursday.
The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) for Croatia last month reached 127.2 points, its highest level since the Commission started monitoring it for Croatia. It was up 2.7 points from November and surpassed the previous record of 124.6 points, recorded in October.
The improvement was mainly due to stronger services confidence, which reached 19.7 points (+3.3 points from November). Industry confidence increased by 2.7 points to 6.5, construction confidence increased by 2.2 points to -13.2, and retail trade confidence increased by 2 points to 12 points.
Only consumer confidence deteriorated in December, decreasing by 1.3 points to -18.
In the EU28, ESI improved by 1.4 points to 108.9.
The popular duo the 2Celoos, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, will perform on the 11th of January at the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony, the most prestigious individual award presented to a football player for success in the past year. The award ceremony will be held in Switzerland.
Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic time will continue a series of meetings and cooperation with well-known people and at the ceremony will have the chance to rub shoulders with Ronaldo, Neymar and Messi. In addition the 2Cellos will once again contribute to the promotion of Croatia.
Last year they released the acclaimed album "Celloverse", as well as a successful world tour. At the gala ceremony in Switzerland the British singer Leona Lewis will also perform.
The New York Times has recommended the island of Korcula as a top destination to visit in 2016. In an article on The New York Times travel section entitled “52 Places to Go in 2016,” the island of Korcula near Dubrovnik finished in seventeenth position on the list.
“It’s a big world out there, so we’ve narrowed it down for you. From ancient temples to crystalline waters, here are our top destinations to visit this year,” opens the article. Publicity in such a renowned publication is certain to increase interest with potential tourists to Croatia this summer season. In 2015 American tourists were the second most numerous in Dubrovnik and the indicators are that this year could be even better.
“Beyoncé and Jay Z called this one. The couple’s 2011 visit to Hvar Island seemed to open the tourist floodgates to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Korcula is Hvar’s more modest neighbour,” adds the article proving that celebrity visits are great PR.
Read the full article here
2015 was a bumper year for the Croatian tourism industry. According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Tourism over 14 million tourists visited Croatia last year. In total 14 million and 150 thousand tourists decided to spend their holidays in Croatia in 2015 which is 8.3 percent more than 2014. A massive 78.5 million overnight stays were achieved in 2015, an increase of 6.8 percent over 2014. Of the 14 million tourists in Croatia in 2015 12.7 million were foreign visitors.
“The great results from last year are certainly an outcome of good performance of the private as well as public sector, the synergy in our activities, the increase in investment, and good marketing activities,” commented the Minister of Tourism, Darko Lorencin.
The leading Croatian region in terms of overnight stays was Istria with a total of 23 million and 600 thousand overnight stays, followed by Split with 14.6 million and Kvarner with 13.2 million. The Dubrovnik-Neretva County realised 6.7 million overnight stays in 2015 with 1.5 million tourists visiting the region.
The most numerous guests to Croatia, in terms of nationality, were from Germany, Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Hungary.
“The excellent results that were achieved in 2015 make us very proud, because they are, amongst other things, a result of our activities,” said the director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Ratomir Ivicic. “From these results it is clear that the advertising and PR that we carried out was justified,” he concluded.