Wednesday, 21 August 2019
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

In the first six months of this year, the Adris Group's total revenue amounted to 2.87 billion Kunas, which is four percent more than the revenue realized in the same period from last year. Adris Group is the owner of Maistra, which is one of the largest hotel companies in Croatia, and includes assets in Dubrovnik such as the Hotel Hilton Imperial. Maistra achieved a one per cent increase in accommodation capacity over the same period.

The total planned investments in 2019 in the tourist part of the group amounted to around 300 million Kuna. And the current bookings are two percent higher than last year, confirming positive trends in rising number of overnight stays, with an average price increase. Apart from investing in raising the quality of its own content, Maistra is also aimed at increasing the recognition and offering of entire destinations. Almost 95 percent of Maistra's income is realized on the foreign market.

When did I become a seasonal worker? Probably 21 years ago when I left the hustle and bustle of London for the supposedly more relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle of the Adriatic. The whole concept of working, well to be more precise earning, enough money in the summer months to cover the costs of the barren winter was a completely alien conception to me. Kind of like the squirrel storing his nuts in a hollow tree to cover the rainy days. Somehow overnight I have turned into a squirrel.

But that’s the thing when you work in tourism, you aren’t the master of your own destiny anymore, and apart from tourism there isn’t a whole lot else going on in this town. You dance to the beat of a drum played by tourists, and for them there isn’t a weekend or holiday, every day is a holiday and they just want to have fun. And who can blame them?

I have recently taken on a few new roles in the tourism industry and am seeing from the front line the challenges facing our city. Whether you are working on the front desk, or in the back office, there are certainly a whole plethora of obstacles. And that old adage of working with people is the hardest is absolutely true. Firstly, it is really, really hard to find workers, and next to impossible to find workers who actually want to work. I sometimes get the feeling that many people would be a lot happier if tourists just sent their money in an envelope and didn’t actually turn up in the city at all. There are more lazy “workers” than fish in the Adriatic. But that’s a story for another day.

So I am a seasonal worker, joining the ranks of the Slavonians, Montenegrins and half of BIH who migrate like swallows every summer to land in Dubrovnik. Over the past few weeks I have been fortunate enough to dine in many different restaurants, as part of my job of course, and so far I don’t think I’ve met a waiter from Dubrovnik. We must be the biggest importers of workers in the country, apparently so 3,500 this season have descended. Dubrovnik has always been a “cash cow” for the entire region so why should things be any different this year, and at least on the surface it seems that these migrant workers do at least want to work.

I was chatting the other day to a couple from California. In fact, they were diaspora, or rather second generation diaspora which of course they didn’t speak Croatian. Anyway we were chatting about their summer, or put another way their never ending summer. And that got me thinking.

So I’ll ask the same question to all you seasonal workers. Would you like to work at the same pace throughout the whole year and not only in the warmer months? Could you cope with working like you do in the summer all year round. After some deliberation I decided that I wouldn’t mind at all. In fact, I would like to have the opportunity at least to work all year round.

And this is one of the problems facing Dubrovnik as a destination. The stop/start way of working makes it hard for everyone. From the airport which goes from less than 20,000 passengers in the winter to closer to half a million in the summer, from hotels that go from packed to the rafters to locked down and abandoned in the winter. And of course to the workers, for the most important piece in the tourism jigsaw is exactly them, people. The peaks and troughs of our current season makes it hard for people to adjust their lives, their earnings and their families. We go from floods to dry deserts pretty much overnight.

I’m not saying that it for everyone, but at least people could have a choice. Now they have no choice. And it is possible. For example, if I said “Austria” the first thing that comes into your minds is skiing, snow and maybe Mozart. But did you that Austria receives more tourists in the summer than Croatia. They have no sea, no coastline, no swimming and not close to the same sunshine filled climate, but they have more tourists in August than Croatia does. So if it’s possible to turn a classical winter vacation destination into an all-year round holiday spot then there must be hope for us as well.

And then my dream of working hard all year round could come true. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning – Albert Einstein.

Once again this summer the Croatian Prime Minister will visit Dubrovnik. On Saturday, Prime Minister Plenkovic will attend the premiere of Hamlet in the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, on the Lovrijenac Fortress in Dubrovnik.

And on Sunday he will participate at the final conference of the project "Lazareti - creative district of Dubrovnik", in the Lazareti complex. On Monday, he will visit the island of Korcula where he will visit the newly-built operational coastline at Dominče’s ferry port.

Then he will attend the signing of the contract for the project "reconstruction of the breakwater in Korcula harbour". At 11.00 am, he will attend the City Hall of the City of Korcula. After the session of the City Council of the City of Korcula, the Prime Minister will visit Vela Luka where he will participate in the signing of the contract for the project "Construction of the Passenger Terminal Vela Luka" at 1.00 pm.

The retail giant Spar recorded the largest financial growth of all the supermarket chains in 2018. Across the board revenues from the retail chains in Croatia increased by 2.5 billion Kuna in 2018 when compared with the previous year, and leading the pack was Spar and Lidl.

From the major supermarket chains, both home-grown and international, operating in Croatia, Spar saw the largest percentage growth increase last year, followed by the German Lidl, Konzum, Tommy and the bakery Mlinar. In total 34 food retail companies recorded an increase in profits in 2018.

Unsurprisingly revenue growth was the highest in Zagreb, slightly more than 500 million Kuna, followed by a rise of 97 million in Split, while in Osijek there was a growth of 31 million and 20 million in Rijeka.

In the City of Zagreb, revenues from the retail trade in 2018 amounted to 6.9 billion, whilst in 2017 the figure was 6.4 billion.

As far as market share is concerned Konzum still holds top position in the capital, followed by Spar and then Kaufland in third position.

 

The vast majority of Europe was baking in a heat wave yesterday with many cities seeing temperatures hitting the 40 degrees’ mark. And Dubrovnik is also in the middle of a warmer period, not as drastic as the rest of northern Europe, but weather forecasters are predicting a short, sharp break from the heat this weekend.

For both Saturday and Sunday the Croatian Meteorological Service are predicting flash storms with a fifty percent chance of some rain. Temperatures will also fall over the weekend, with highs on Saturday expected to reach 28 degrees and on Sunday 27 degrees. The popular weather website AccuWeather has stated for the Dubrovnik region on Sunday that "times of sun and clouds, a couple of showers and thunderstorms." But the wet spell won't last long and by the beginning of next week the baking temperatures will be back in full force.

In such roasting temperatures experts are warning people to drink at least 5 litres of fluid a day, to stay out of direct sunlight between midday and 4 o'clock and to apply plenty of sun cream.

 

The number one tennis player in the world seems to have certainly had a vacation to remember in the south of Croatia. Novak Djokovic, fresh from lifting the cup in the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, took a family cruise around the island of south Croatia.

He spent a lot of his summer break on the small islands doted around Korcula, where he was spotted numerous times. Yesterday Djokovic and his wife arrived in the picturesque town of Cavtat, presumably to catch a flight home after his holidays.

Djokovic (32) is a huge fan of the Adriatic coast and is quoted as saying that the Croatian coast is the most beautiful in the world. “I have visited many countries, but somehow I feel the best, it is the same language and for me the same culture,” commented Djokovic.

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Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli on Wednesday said that it was time for tax changes in tourism and recommended a VAT rate of 13% on food and beverage services to be part of the fourth round of the tax reform.

"I've been asking for that from day one," Cappelli told reporters ahead of a government meeting. He informed that he is calling for a VAT rate of 13% on all food and beverage services and added that it was time for that to occur in the fourth round of the tax reform.

Asked whether that would lead to lower prices, Cappelli said that VAT is not the only problem and that the entire tax reform needs to be observed. He said it was time for "tourism to feel an additional step in the fourth round" of the reform and that it was necessary to improve quality and increase wages to make tourism more competitive.

He recalled the recent reduction of VAT on food and accommodation for personnel who work outside their usual place of residence. "I think that it is time for an extra step, either through personal income or VAT, which would create the opportunity to increase wages and for tourism to start breathing in that segment," he said.

Asked to comment on some cases of "rudely high prices," Cappelli said that the state would not intervene in that but that these cases were not good.

"I'm reading about what is going on. Gone are the times when you could make easy money in a month or two. Tourism has become real business," he said.

Asked whether it was time to discourage apartment-style accommodation, he said 70% of apartments had 3 stars and that he would insist on a reclassification and for quality to be improved.

 

The Dubrovnik – Neretva County will be richer for two new port facilities as the Prefect of the County, Nikola Dobroslavic, presented the projects yesterday.

"We wanted to share with you and the public the fact that we have decided to finance two port infrastructure projects in our county worth 100 million Kuna,” commented Dobroslavic at the press conference yesterday. The first of the projects is the construction of a new passenger terminal in Vela Luka on the island of Korcula.

And the second the reconstruction and of the wave breaker in Korcula harbour. The Prefect of the County also mentioned that a few days ago he announced the plan to finance the reconstruction of the coastline in Donje Celo on the island of Kolocep. In a project worth 24 million Kuna.

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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