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 premiere of Hamlet as part of the 70th Dubrovnik Summer Festival had a rather special VIP guest in the audience. The Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, as well as the Minister of Culture both attended the opening night of Shakespeare’s classic in the Lovrijanc Fortress last night.
Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by Paolo Magelli, opened the premiere drama program of jubilee 70th Dubrovnik Summer Festival. Hamlet returned to Lovrjenac after nearly ten years after the last production and this is the thirteenth time that is has been performed in this stunning Dubrovnik fortress.
The first Hamlet on Lovrjenac took place in 1952, and over the years some famous names have appeared in Dubrovnik including Derek Jacobi, Daniel Day-Lewis and Goran Visnjic.
Croatia Airlines could well have a new owner by 2020. The privatisation process of Croatia’s national airline has begun with the Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, commenting that "The company's privatisation process should be completed by the end of the year, and I firmly believe that we will be able to deliver within the set timeframe.”
The privatisation process of Croatia Airlines will happen in three stages, selecting advisors, creating a future business model and finally the actual change of ownership. The first step has already been completed with the German DVB Bank and Privredna Bank Zagreb chosen as the pair of financial institutions to act as advisors. And the final two stages are to be finished by the end of this year.
The airlines have recently reported that they expect a growth in passenger number of 5 percent this year, but that they are also not planning any new routes for next season until the privatisation process has been finalized.
The Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, and the Director of the Dubrovnik General Hospital, Marijo Bekić, have signed a contract for the donation amounting to 2.15 million Kuna for the reconstruction of the hospital’s IT system. The financial resources will be provided from the budget of the City of Dubrovnik.
“Today is the second contract signing in the last 10 days with the General Hospital of Dubrovnik. This initiative of the City of Dubrovnik started two years ago with the donation of funds to increase the quality of the General Hospital of Dubrovnik, but also to increase the quality of service provided to all citizens of Dubrovnik. Significant funds are being allocated to raise the quality of health care for all our citizens, and we will continue to donate in the future,” commented Mayor Frankovic.
Director Bekić stressed that the Dubrovnik General Hospital at the beginning of the millennium was the first and only in the Republic of Croatia to be a so called "non-paper hospital", but over time the system has not been upgraded and this has created many problems over the past two years, which is why they started with the process of reconstruction of the system in a project worth 3.4 million Kuna.
“I thank for the donation, the understanding and the partnership that continues between the General Hospital of Dubrovnik and the City of Dubrovnik,” added Bekić.
Croatia’s inevitable path towards complete European Union integration has taken another step forward with news that entry into Schengen passport-free zone. According to reports in the Croatian newspaper, Vecernji List, Croatia has received unofficial information from the European Commission that it has met all technical requirements for accession to the Schengen area.
Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, is a strong supporter of the EU and is taking Croatia into deeper integration in all levels. He has even set his government a target of meeting all conditions and actually joining the Schengen border-free area by 2020. And next year marks another chapter in Croatia’s European future as the country will assume the control of the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.
Current Schengen zone - Photo Wikipedia
Parallel to entering the Schengen zone the Croatia government pushing hard to adopt the Euro as the official currency and ditch the Kuna. And whilst handing over the fiscal control of the country to the EU might, in the eyes of many experts, not be such a bad step, it looks like it will also happen without the people being able to decide with a referendum. Plenkovic has clearly stated that the people have already had their say on the fate of the Kuna when they voted in a public referendum in January 2012 to join the EU. And all the signs are that Croatia is pushing hard to adopt the Euro by 2023.
All of the member states of the European Union now need to agree on Croatia’s Schengen entry, with the Council of the EU expected to vote in the second half of September.
But entry is far from a forgone conclusion. Slovenia has already indicated that it will bring up unresolved border issues and could block the Schengen path. And just reaching all the conditions clearly doesn’t guarantee entry. Both Romania and Bulgaria completed all conditions in June 2011, but both have been blocked entry with several EU members raising concerns over corruption and organised crime in both Eastern EU members.
A Dubrovnik restaurant has been recommended by the American media giant CNN. In a recently published article entitled “The world's best waterfront restaurants promise more than a view” CNN choose the 26 top global restaurants with a waterfront view, and Dubrovnik’s own Nautika made the list. In fact, this Dubrovnik restaurant was the only Croatian restaurant on the list.
"This restaurant, which sits alongside the western entrance to Dubrovnik's Old City, is steeped in history: Formerly the Dubrovnik School of Maritime Studies, it has hosted famous seafarers since the 1880s," writes CNN.
The menu boasts local delicacies such as lobster from the Dalmation island of Vis, but it's the deeply romantic vista that draws royal visitors from around the globe: On one side, the glittering Adriatic Sea, on the other, the dramatic fortresses of Lovrijenac and Bokar rise from the water,” continues CNN about Nautika.
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.