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 seasonality of Croatia’s tourism industry has caused mass closures of hotels all over the country as the winter starts to bite. Various think tanks, experts and tourism professionals have tried for years to create all-year-round tourism in Croatia but to no avail. After a record breaking tourism season hoteliers have thrown in the towels en masse and closed their establishments, meaning that from the beginning of November only one in four hotels in actually open.
According to information from the eVisitor electronic guest registration system of the 1,167 hotels in the county only 338 are still open this month, whilst the majority or 829 are closed for winter hibernation.
And the handful that are open are trying to scrape together guests from the festive period, it is expected that with the chimes of New Year still echoing only around 200 hotels will actually be open for business in the first few months of 2019. In other words Croatian hotels will be working at 20 percent of their capacity.
Quite clearly the major problem is that international airlines dominate the Croatian tourism industry, without planes landing it is difficult to fill empty hotels. And the relevant authorities don’t have the strength or commitment to put pressure on the airlines to fly out of the summer season, even though these same airlines fill their pockets during the summer months. Instead local authorities spend their time and considerable amounts of money organising winter festivals and entertainment programs rather than concentrating of actually attracting foreign guests.
According to the newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija the situation is getting worse. Twenty years ago, when Croatia had just returned to the world tourism market after the Homeland War, only twenty percent of the hotels throughout the country actually closed in the winter, and these tended to be the hotels without central heating and ones that were set up as summer retreats. The vast majority worked and were open to groups of guests from Germany, Scandinavia and the UK who enjoyed the winter sunshine as well as having the time and space to really experience the rich history and culture of Croatia.
Two decades later and the situation is almost completely reverse, instead of pushing forward with the most important industry and a huge contributor to the country’s GDP the tourism industry is going backwards. Filling a hotel along the Croatian coastline is hardly a challenge but during the winter it requires hard work, creativity and imagination.
Although Croatia's government utilised the country's recent economic upturn to reduce debt and strengthen external buffers, important challenges still remain, such as the need to restructure public administration and make the pension and health care systems sustainable, a delegation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Monday.
An IMF mission was recently on a visit to Croatia as part of their regular advisory visits. Their report on Croatia's economy was published by the IMF and the central bank on Monday.
The IMF noted that relatively low levels of public and private investments, and the emigration of young people hamper the nation's medium-term growth prospects.
"Emigration and population aging are generating labor shortages. They also challenge the long-term sustainability of the pension and the healthcare systems. This calls for a smartly focused transformation to a more dynamic economy, and a more efficient state," the IMF said, adding that "a sizable restructuring of public administration" was essential.
Other important issues to tackle are fixing the health care and pension systems, the IMF said, noting that although some progress has been made on those fronts, the momentum needs to be sustained.
Wizz Air have stated that the reason they don’t fly more frequently to Croatian airports is the high landing taxes and costs that airports charge. Speaking to the specialised website EX-YU Aviation the CEO of Wizz Air, Jozsef Varadi, commented that “For whatever reason, it is still kind of an inherited issue in the region to price airports very high and this is not the recipe for success.”
Wizz Air used to operate flights from London to Dubrovnik but these were shelved back in 2012 and now only operates a limited service into Split Airport. Whereas other low-cost airlines, such as easyJet, Eurowings and Volotea have carved their way into the Croatian market Wizz Air have been left to look for other airports in the wider south-east Europe region.
Varadi concluded that "Unfortunately, if you look at the Croatian coastline it is a very seasonal business. It is intact for a few months and then sort of dies out for the rest of the year. Zagreb Airport is quite in a similar situation as Belgrade Airport in terms of costs, so I think it is a high-priced airport environment with fluctuating demand. Should the costs come down, I think they would attract us".
The Dubrovnik-Neretva County will traditionally, for the ninth year in a row, donate ten tons of tangerines to the Vukovar-Srijem County as a Christmas gift and the fruit will start their journey north from Opuzen on Monday.
"For the ninth year in a row we will deliver ten tons of first-class tangerines that we have bought from manufacturers and distributors. Neretva tangerines is our strong brand, and we send them to children at Christmas. We do not consider this to be of some kind help but simply a message of friendship between the two counties and their residents," commented the County Mayor Nikola Dobroslavić.
Thanks to their unbelievable efforts in the 2018 World Cup in Russia the Croatian Football Association is richer to the hefty tune of $28 million. For the successful qualification at the World Cup the association will receive $20 million and for winning the silver medal a further $8 million.
And, according to the website Goal.hr, the windfall will be spilt 50-50 between the players and the Croatian Football Association.
And as a reflection of how they performed at the World Cup the players have decided to divide their share equally amongst all the players in the squad regardless of how many minutes they played. This all for one, one for all attitude perfectly sums up how the players played for each other as a team at the championships.
The same sum will be earned by the star captain Luka Modrić and the reserve players who hardly made it on the pitch. Meaning that each of the players will get around $454.545 gross.
As the festive season fast approaches its time to get the table ready for the big Christmas season and nothing says Christmas in Croatia quite as much as mulled wine or kuhano vino.
The aroma of this traditional Christmas drink is already wafting around the Old City of Dubrovnik as the Dubrovnik Winter Festival has brought various festive stands to the Stradun many serving this alcoholic delight. And it’s simple and straightforward to make in your home this Christmas and your guests are sure to love a touch of Croatia in their glasses.
Here is our recipe for mulled wine (kuhano vino) to get your ready for Christmas
Mulled Wine Ingredients
• One 750 ml bottle red wine
• One peeled and sliced orange (keep peel to add zest to taste into cooking pot)
• 8-10 whole cloves
• 2/3 cup honey or sugar
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 1 tsp fresh ginger
How to make mulled wine
Combine all of the ingredients into a large saucepan
Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (don’t boil keep it low and slow) for around half an hour
Add a touch of honey slowly until it dissolves
When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve
Enjoy your traditional Croatian Christmas drink
The traditional Dubrovnik Foreign Circle Christmas party was held last Friday in the Dubrovnik Sheraton hotel in Župa. Members from all over the world, reflecting the international touch of this Dubrovnik society, gathered for festive fun and a chance to catch up before the holiday season.
As ever a rich prize draw was held with numerous prizes donated by businesses from all over the region. The President of the Dubrovnik Foreign Circle, Christiane Mandukich, gave a speech to open the party and thanked all the members for their hard work over 2018 and wished them all a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year period.
The Dubrovnik Foreign Circle’s mission and vision is to actively serve the community by providing services that contribute to the health and vitality of the greater Dubrovnik Region. The organization’s goal is to provide friendship and understanding between its members and the Dubrovnik community at large by organizing cultural and social events. The Dubrovnik Foreign Circle engages in fundraising activities for the benefit of its community projects.
A new statue to the first Croatian President, Dr. Franjo Tuđman, has been installed in Zagreb ready to be uncovered today.
The new statue to the President is on the intersection of Vukovar Street and Croatian Community Street in the capital and the purchase of the statue was organised by the City of Zagreb.
The author of the monument is the academic sculptor Kuzma Kovačić.
The statue will be unveiled by the current Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, the Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.