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.
Households in Croatia spend on average around 6,800 Kuna per month, which places Croatia near the bottom of the list of the poorest European Union countries, according to an article from Vecernji List.
The average household in Austria spends around 36,000 Euro a year, in Germany around 31,000 Euros and Italy 30,000 Euros. Whilst Croatians are near the bottom of the EU scale spending around 13,000 Euros. In Slovenia and Greece households spend around 20,000 Euros a year.
The new research shows that the poorest Croatian households, around 150,000 households, live with slightly less than 20,000 Kuna annually.
For every 100 Kuna spent in Croatian households the budget breakdown looks like this – 28 Kuna on food, 15 Kuna on travel and transport, 7 Kuna on clothing and footwear, 5 Kuna for telephone and internet, 3 Kuna for cigarettes and alcohol as well as coffee in cafes, almost 3 Kuna on health and just less than 1 Kuna on education.
Like mushrooms after the rain the number of ATM machines inside the historic Old City of Dubrovnik has grown to abnormal levels. Every spare metre squared of shop front is blocked off with multi-coloured flashing machines causing one local to comment “It feels like we are now living in Las Vegas.”
It has been growing steadily in recent years, with more and more shop owners deciding to subsidise their sky-high rents by installing ATM machines. However, it has come to a head in recent weeks with an absolute explosion of automatic bank machines on every corner and filling every shop front.
On the main street through the Old City of Dubrovnik, the Stradun, a street that is the main attraction for tourists, there are now an incredible 26 flashing ATM machines. Given the fact that the Stradun is approximately 300 metres in length that’s one ATM every 11.5 metres. And inside the ancient Old City walls there are 37 bank machines, whilst in the close vicinity of the walls there are another 9, or 46 ATMs inside a radius of around 500 metres.
The speed of these new ATMs are springing up is alarming to say the least. For example, from the 28th to the 29th of May three new ATMs were installed on the Stradun.
Business owners are trying to cash in on the guaranteed rent that banks and money exchange companies pay every month for the privilege of renting a couple of metres squared. Information obtained by The Dubrovnik Times suggests that banks pay between 1,000 and 2,000 Euros a month in rent, depending on the position and the footfall. Whilst money exchange companies pay between 800 Euros and 1,500 Euros a month. With many business having two ATM machines in their shop front it is easy to see the financial benefits, but at what cost to the overall image of the destination.
Speaking to Dubrovacki Vjesnik the owner of the Artur Gallery in the Old City, Tea Batinic, commented that “Stradun isn’t a normal street but the identity of the whole city. Shop windows on the Stradun are the eyes of the city. Every shop window and door before represented one craft, they would display their goods for the public to see. If we need this amount of ATM machines then they should be moved to the side streets. The number of ATMS is counterproductive and we risk that tomorrow all we will have is a gallery of ATM machines.”
And with the vast majority of tourists paying with credit card or some form of electronic payment device is there really a need for so many cash dispensers.
The Dubrovnik City Council also had on their agenda for this week the ATM problem with the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, stating that “As for the ATMs, and I would like to use force, but this is not always real or possible. I'm sure we will find a way to solve it. What kind of message are we sending to tourists?”
And the President of the City Council, Marko Potrebica, added that “It's true that a private owner can do what he or she wants, but only as long as we allow it.”
One new ATM machine placed in the doorway of a travel agents in the Old City takes up so much room that the owner has to slide into his shop side-on.
“They said there were 22 ATMs on the Stradun, and ten just off the Stradun. That’s 32 ATMs in the historic core. And every day new ones are appearing. Obviously, the rental fee is significant. And you know well the exchange rate between the Kuna and the Euro, some of these ATMs are giving 640 Kunas for 100 Euros (the rate is around 7.5 meaning 750 Kunas for 100 Euros) and not to mention that these ATMs have a sliding scale of commission, so that between midnight and 5:00 am the commission is 20 percent,” concluded the Mayor.
And one of the opposition political parties had a clear message, if somewhat tongue in cheek, about what the future might look like in Dubrovnik. “Srd je Grad” published a mock-up photo of an ATM machine on the top of a statue in the Rector’s Palace.
Photo - Facebook Srd je Grad
One of the largest Croatian telecommunications operators, Tele2, has been purchased by United Group, which is owned by London based investment company BC Partners. United Group have paid 220 million Euros for Tele2 and the purchase process is currently underway whilst a permit from the regulator is expected to be delivered by the end of the year.
BC Partners became the majority shareholder in United Group early this year and this is there first purchase. United Group is already the largest media and telecommunication company in southeast Europe and with the acquirement of Tele2 they will spread their network into Croatia.
Victorija Boklag, the CEO of United Group, stated that “Croatia is a very attractive and important market to us and we are glad about the acquisition of Tele2 Croatia because it will enable us to further spread the group’s business into the EU countries and improve the telecommunication services we provide."
If you are travelling from Dubrovnik towards the airport this Saturday morning beware of long delays on the only road leading to the airport.
The road authorities are currently painting the roads with white lines are these works are causing major delays to and from the airport. According to information from witnesses the traffic jams are kilometres and kilometres long. And these very delays could cause people to be late for their planes.
Why these works need to be carried out in the middle of the tourist season, and especially in the middle of the day and not at night is unknown.
The unusually bad weather in Dubrovnik has not only caused tourists to run for cover from the rain but has also brought down trees. Early this morning a large pine tree was uprooted and crashed down on a road leading to the Dubrovnik General Hospital.
Firefighters were on the scene very quickly and cut up the tree and removed the debris from the road, but it is more evidence of the unsettled weather in Dubrovnik at the moment.
It started off as a novelty, something unheard of before in May, but now the novelty is wearing then fast. What is up with this weather? Rain, rain and more of the wet stuff as the grass grows faster than a turbo-charged Usain Bolt. My garden, in fact the whole of Župa, has never been greener, my roses have already bloomed three times, truly crazy weather.
“What can we do in Dubrovnik when it rains?” Is a question I’m being asked more often than “Is the cable car running yet?” And the answer is…well the answer is that I don’t have an answer for either of those questions. We certainly aren’t prepared for a summer season that isn’t full of blue skies and sunshine. I see foreign tourists determined to wear their holiday wardrobe and even though both rain and the temperature are dropping like leaves in winter they are stubbornly wearing brightly coloured shorts and bikini tops. I even saw a lady the other day walking back to her hotel wearing a skimpy summer outfit whilst desperately holding onto an umbrella.
And to make matters worse the north of Europe is basking in golden sunshine. “Oh I had to come in from the garden the other day as I started to burn,” said my mother to me as I could see for myself the blazing sunshine behind her. It must feel like some strange role reversal for British tourists coming to Dubrovnik at the moment.
It also just goes to highlight what a fragile business tourism really is! How many businesses in Dubrovnik are based around tourism? And how many are looking up at grey skies every day and cursing their bad luck. All of them. Sure the sun will come back soon and summer will arrive, even if it is a little late, but losing a month, or more, of income will hit many businesses hard in the pockets. This isn’t normal. And it’s hard to plan your business around completely unusual situations, but the delicate nature of tourism when it is reliant on a factor that nobody can control is challenging. Maybe if we already some indoor facilities, then at least we could offer something. An indoor concert centre, water park or some kind of “dry” inside entertainment.
I really can’t imagine how families with young children are keeping themselves busy in these rainy days. There are only so many times that you can play cards or Ludo. Basically we aren’t prepared for bad weather. The guaranteed sunshine, or at least we thought it was guaranteed, has made us lazy. There is no plan B. And now we are stuck with empty sunbeds on the beach and tonnes of ice-cream still in the deep freeze. This lack of flexibility has meant that changeable weather is enough to destroy plan A.
A couple of years ago I published a text entitled “What to do in Dubrovnik on a rainy day” on my website. It gave some creative ideas to wind away the time whilst showers fell, and was really aimed at people visiting in the winter. Never has that article been so popular as this year. Whatever else happens these days, European elections, end of Game of Thrones, natural disaster or mega event, all people want to read is this text, hundreds and hundreds of people a day are reading it.
But what really is there to do in Dubrovnik on a rainy day? Again we come back to the heart of the matter…nothing. Even if the cable car was open I doubt it would be as interesting for guests to ride to the top of Srđ to see a sea of grey clouds rather than an ocean of blue. The cable car is officially closed because of a “greater force” which is rather appropriate as Dubrovnik is also closed at the moment for the same reason. It was the great English explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
But I guess the same quote could be used to explain Dubrovnik’s tourism business in these rainy days, “there is no such thing as bad fortune. Only inappropriate expectations and reactions.” What’s the weather forecast for the next seven days? Let me guess…
Students from the University of Connecticut’s Student Support Services program are collaborating with Dubrovnik’s own Bonsai Association for Civil Society!
The event, Dancing with Angels, will be held this Friday, May 31st at Paula Di Rosa Center from 17:00 to 20:00 to raise awareness for youth with disabilities across the globe.
The night will include dancing, music of all origins, refreshments, and food. The night will be wondrous and the first of many.
Summer time may not have arrived just yet, but the Dubrovnik Craft Beer Festival, which will take place on the 14 and 15 and June in Solitudo Camp will bring a touch of sunshine to the city, especially for beer lovers.
After a successful years of festivals where many visitors could enjoy many free concerts and even the World Cup, the Valamar resort has organised another festival jam-packed with music, fun and of course craft beer.
Visitors will be able to enjoy dozens of types of handmade beer from a number of local micro-brewers over the two days of the festival, and not to mention numerous free concerts from leading Croatian artists.
For all foodies there will also be a food corner where visitors can "spoil" their palate with an excellent gastronomic offer.
The festival will be open on the 14th and 15th of June from 6:00 pm to 2:00 am, and free parking will be provided to all visitors as well as free entrance into the events and concerts.