Tuesday, 05 December 2023
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

At the end of October, in Croatia, the accounts of 215,100 citizens were blocked, with a total principal debt of 2.76 billion euros, along with 14,800 business entities, whose principal debt amounted to 681.6 million euros, according to the Financial Agency (Fina).

When the principal debt of 2.76 billion euros is added to the debt based on interest amounting to 871.7 million euros, the total debt of citizens with blocked accounts at the end of October amounted to 3.63 billion euros. The majority of the debt, at 0.67 billion euros (excluding interest), was related to consumer debt to banks as creditors, while the debt to all financial institutions amounted to 0.77 billion euros, as reported by Fina.

At the end of October this year, the payment order register recorded 14,806 business entities, which is 581 business entities or 4.1 percent more compared to September, but also 233 business entities or 1.5 percent less compared to October 2022.

Their debt principal amounted to 81.6 million euros, which is 97 million euros (16.6 percent) more than in September and 172.2 million euros (33.8 percent) more than in October 2022. The debt based on interest amounted to 145.5 million euros, making the total debt of business entities at the end of October reach 827.2 million euros.


“When you are enthusiastic about what you do; you feel this positive energy. It's very simple,” and I whole heartedly agree with Paulo Coelho.

There is a saying in English “can’t see the wood for the trees,” that probably sums up most of us living in Dubrovnik. It basically means getting so involved in the details of something that you can’t see the whole picture. We’re just too close, and more importantly too accustomed to something, that are judgement is clouded.

It often takes seeing something through someone else’s eyes to get the real picture.

It has been an extremely busy post-season in the Thomas household, as indeed it has been for the south of Croatia. Our “revolving” front door has been spinning off its hinges.

We have just waved goodbye to my sister and niece. Although my niece is a regular visitor (soon she’ll be getting her citizenship if she carries on like this) my sister hasn’t been for quite a few years.

A certain global pandemic killed a few of her travel plans. So it was really nice to see her back in the Dubrovnik sunshine again. And of course we took the opportunity to explore together.

“What an incredible view, how lucky you are to drive past every day,” she exclaimed as we drove from Župa to Dubrovnik. Yes, I drive it every day but the look on her face as she saw it again after so many years was priceless.

It got me thinking that we really need to appreciate what we have. We are far too often blind to the beauty that surrounds us.

I guess it is the same for anyone who lives in or around a spectacular place. Do people of Rome notice the Colosseum, or citizens of Athens the Acropolis, or Parisians the Eiffel Tower? Living with a “super model” just becomes normal.

Is it normal? Of course not!

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As we drove over Peljesac the endless stunning vistas, the harmony of the greens and blues, she was pleasantly surprised by the massive scale of the sea and the soaring mountains. The quaintness of Cavtat, the beaches and calm of Slano and the ruggedness of the interior. More and more often as we passed through a picturesque spot she would say “Oh, I could live here.”

Are we seeing what she was seeing?

She was starting to notice more things that I had completely forgotten about. And she also certainly noticed how the general tourist offer has improved. Whilst we may see what feels like a snail’s pace of development a few years of absence had shown my sister a completely different story. Are we too quick to complain? And I include myself in that category.

Last week made me think you need to wake up and smell the coffee. To have more of a glass half full attitude. “I can’t believe its late October and we are swimming,” she once said as we dipped in the Adriatic.

Another thing we take for granted – the weather.

I am not saying it was all honey and sunshine. Yes, she noticed the negative points as well, such as the sharp increase in prices. Supermarket prices were the same, or in some cases more expensive, than she is used to in the UK. Although the price of coffee wasn’t shocking. But overall the pluses far outweighed the minuses.

I just think we could accomplish so much more with a positive mind-set, instead of going two steps forward and one back the whole time. Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.

Or as the Dalai Lama once said “In order to have a positive action we must first develop a positive vision.”

The season is drawing to a close, the year is drawing to a close, let’s look back and concentrate on the good and not the bad.   

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


Office-based employees of Studenac, Croatia’s largest retailer by store count, have been stocking shelves, operating cash registers and assisting customers in its network of more than 1,200 stores as part of a workforce engagement initiative.

The “From the Office to the Store” program ran from June to September and gave board members and other managerial employees from headquarters a first-hand view of the daily routines of their frontline staff. The company’s focus on worker wellbeing and retention also includes bonuses for top performing locations and a strategy to integrate employees of acquired companies.

“Seeing what our store colleagues do every day is invaluable for those of us who work in offices,” said Biljana Kostović, in charge of HR projects at Studenac, who spent time working at a downtown shop in the coastal city of Split. “As we continue to grow rapidly, it's important to stay close to our employees and understand their needs and the challenges they encounter."

Since its 2018 acquisition by private-equity fund Enterprise Investors, Studenac has tripled its store network through acquisitions and organic growth throughout the country. Today it has more than 6,000 employees and is targeting a 10% market share and the No. 3 position in sales by 2025.

"This project gave us an opportunity to assist our colleagues, deepen our connections, embrace new challenges and create beautiful memories,” said Board President Michał Seńczuk, who also spent a day at a store in Split. “Strengthening collaboration among all members of our team is one of the most crucial aspects of our business, and we look forward to future initiatives.”

His fellow board member Nina Mimica, Studenac’s chief innovation officer, was reminded of her first ever job – scanning barcodes in a store in the United States. This summer, she experienced the dynamics of seasonal demand at a Studenac store on the Adriatic coast, a popular destination for tourists from across Europe. Her duties included restocking and organizing shelves, updating prices and assisting customers.

Studenac Board President Michal Senczuk works alongside frontline employees as part of the From the Office to the Store program

"I talked to customers, answered questions about prices, helped people find things, and checked if we had cucumbers in stock,” Mimica said. “I enjoyed it because I like organizing and creating things, whether it's my closet at home or the shelves in a store.”

Bonus program

Studenac is focused on delivering the best possible shopping experience for its customers by ensuring its employees are engaged and motivated. In addition to raising average salaries by around 20% compared to last year the company also rolled out its "One Month – Two Salaries" program in October.

Each month, employees at the three Studenac stores that have the best performance on metrics including sales, customer service and overall store management will be rewarded with double their regular salaries.

"We believe in rewarding excellence and exceptional efforts within our organization," Kostović said. "The 'One Month – Two Salaries' project is a way for us to show our appreciation for our employees’ dedication and hard work, and to provide an extra incentive for our teams to continue delivering exceptional results."

Studenac has also developed a model for integrating newly acquired companies, a key tool for a company that has taken over 15 smaller players over the past five years, investing more than €120 million. Those acquisitions have brought around 2,900 new employees into the company, including more than 1,300 in a single transaction when Studenac bought Lonia Trgovina last year.

The integration strategy centers on understanding the target company’s organizational culture and crafting a comprehensive plan of alignment, a process that can take up to 12 months. Employees of acquired entities keep their original benefits and are entitled to new ones available to Studenac employees.

“People are at the center of the entire process,” says Andrija Topić, director of integration. “It is crucial to keep them motivated because they know local customers and their habits best, and we are happy to say that we have an extremely high employee retention rate after integration.”


Out of 386 project proposals submitted to the Call for Granting Non-Refundable Funds for 'Energy Renovation of Public Sector Buildings' by the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction, and State Property, decisions for funding have been made for 30 buildings, with the contracting process ahead.

Among the approved projects is the Energy Renovation of the Dubrovnik General Hospital, for which a sum of 7,364,913.12 euros has been approved. The implementation of this investment will lead to significant energy savings for the central healthcare institution in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. It will improve access for people with disabilities, green the hospital's surrounding areas, and execute various other components.

he total allocation for this Call amounted to 39.82 million euros, while the requested amount for non-refundable funds was nearly 307.4 million euros, which accounts for a remarkable 772% of the allocation. The total value of the 30 selected projects for energy renovation of public sector buildings is 75.91 million euros, with non-refundable funds from the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism amounting to 37.88 million euros.


From the midweek to the weekend in the city, there are almost two and a half thousand guests - 13 percent more than this time last year.

According to data from the eVisitor system for registering and deregistering tourists, the most numerous are from the USA, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France.


In a historic move, Dubrovnik Airport has undergone a significant transformation, officially changing its name to Dubrovnik Rudjer Bošković Airport. The renaming pays homage to the distinguished physicist Rudjer Bošković, born in Dubrovnik in 1711 during the time of the Republic of Ragusa.

Bošković, a pioneering figure in the scientific world, made ground-breaking contributions, including the precursor to atomic theory and significant advancements in the field of astronomy. By renaming the airport after this eminent native, Dubrovnik seeks to celebrate its rich scientific heritage.

Accompanying the name change, the airport proudly revealed its new logo, symbolizing the spirit of innovation and the legacy of Rudjer Bošković. The unveiling ceremony marked a momentous occasion, attended by local dignitaries, aviation officials, and representatives of the scientific community.

The decision to rename the airport reflects Dubrovnik's commitment to honouring its historical figures and promoting its cultural and scientific identity on the global stage.

United Media proudly announces the launch of five licensed digital editions of the renowned global business magazine FORBES starting from November 14th. The new portals will be launched in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

FORBES, as a global authority in the field of business and economic information, has a deeply rooted tradition of informing business leaders worldwide. The new platforms will serve as a source of relevant information and inspiration for decision-makers shaping the economic reality in the Adriatic region.

Readers will have the opportunity to follow original FORBES content in their language, along with exclusive stories about individuals in the region who initiate change, transform businesses, and have a significant impact on society.

Experienced editors and journalists will lead the portals, striving to make local content unique and tailored to the audience's needs. They will play a crucial role in presenting regional achievements, exploring innovations, and giving a voice to leaders and entrepreneurs shaping the future of these markets.

Present in more than 70 countries, FORBES is synonymous with top-notch economic journalism and an exceptional understanding of the global business environment.

The launch of digital editions in Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina represents a significant step in bringing this prestigious global source of information closer to the local business context.

For over a century, FORBES has been a brand that inspires, educates, and encourages action. It provides in-depth insights into the world of business, economy, investments, and innovations. It explores successful entrepreneurs, analyzes global and local trends, and creates stories that motivate and shape leaders worldwide.

By partnering with FORBES, the company United Media, operating within the United Group, solidifies its position as a media leader in Southeast Europe. The company's portfolio includes over 120 media outlets: 60 television channels, 40 portals, as well as radio stations and printed editions. It operates in eight countries and employs 4,200 people.

The City of Dubrovnik has allocated funds within its 2024 budget proposal to provide free bus passes to primary and secondary school students who do not qualify for free travel cards from other funding sources. The annual budget allocation for this purpose amounts to €160,000, with the possibility of increasing funds through budget revisions if the number of user requests exceeds the initial estimate.

Until now, the City of Dubrovnik's budget has covered the cost of monthly free travel cards for 7,815 residents. Starting in January 2024, when elementary and high school students are included in the free public transportation program, the total number of users enjoying free travel on Libertas buses will reach 10,875 or 78 percent of all monthly pass holders will ride for free.

In the coming months, Libertas is expected to introduce contactless payment with cards on buses, for which the Libertas payment system has been completely revamped and prepared for the next step in modernizing the city’s public transportation system.


The Voice of Dubrovnik


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