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.
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays have revealed a significant expansion plan for Summer 2024, unveiling additional flights and holiday packages for late summer across popular destinations in Mainland Spain, the Canaries, the Balearics, Portugal, Turkey and Croatia. This expansion encompasses services from eight key UK airports.
To accommodate customers and independent travel agents seeking to book or travel later in the summer season, the new flights are scheduled between late September and early November 2024. This expansion aims to offer an even wider array of choices for those looking to embrace the warmth of late summer.
And many of these offers will have a positive effect on the southernmost airport in Croatia, Dubrovnik Airport. The airport traditionally struggles to attract international flights out of the main summer season, that’s why the news that one of the largest low-cost airlines in the UK is planning to expand its flight schedule to Dubrovnik to the late autumn will come as a relief.
Jet2.com have announced that they will add extra capacity on flights to Dubrovnik from Birmingham in October, which is one of the more popular flights services from Jet2 to Dubrovnik. And will also add extra services from Edinburgh to Dubrovnik in October, another post-season tourism boost for the city.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “We are seeing strong and sustained demand for Summer 24 across the board, with the late summer season proving very popular. As the UK’s largest tour operator, we have reacted quickly to that demand by adding extra capacity from September through to November for Summer 24. With even more choice and flexibility to 24 sun destinations, we are giving holidaymakers plenty of opportunity to get away on our award-winning flights and holidays. By adding additional services to a host of destinations for the late summer season, we are giving customers exactly what they want, and we know just how much they will be jumping at the chance to get away and enjoy a last slice of summer sun.”
We’re on the road again! Is there anything so enjoyable, so fulfilling and so indeed so educational as travelling? As we bumped through a rain swept forest in the northwest corner of Slovenia in the Alps with its brilliant autumn colours I couldn’t think of a better place to be.
So my wife and I have tried hiking, covering around 1,500 KM on foot in England last year, this year it was time to cover the same distance but in a camper. This time it didn’t take us 63 days but 6! It was our pioneering trip in a camper, very much a test road trip to see if we (and I am including our dogs in that we) would enjoy being camper nomads.
We picked up our rental in Split and headed north. Having not driven such a large vehicle we took it slowly and spent the first night in the middle of the wilds of the Lika region in a campsite named Big Bear (the name says it all). Yes, we were the only ones in the site.
We had a sharp learning curve. There is much more to camping in a van than I had imagined. This meant that the first night, in minus temperatures, we spent without heating! We awoke with ice all over the van and two dogs under the blankets with us, our two furry hot water bottles. “So how are you enjoying camping?” I asked my wife with a grin as our eyes peered over the blankets and our warm breath was like steam from a boiling kettle. She laughed. In fact, we did a lot of laughing, even when things went wrong.
So onto Slovenia, a country that I have driven through many times but never really stopped for a longer period of time. First impressions, well organised, very European and had the feeling of an Austrian colony. First problem, language. It sounded like someone from the Alps and the Balkans had fallen into a blender and come up with this strangely melodic language.
“When does your tourist season end?” I asked a tourism worker in Lake Bled. “It doesn’t really ever stop,” he smiled. “And we don’t have to deal with the problem of cruise ships like you guys in Dubrovnik,” he added.
Yes, the major advantage of being located so close to millions of potential tourists who can hop in their car and drive for the weekend to the ski slopes, the forests and even the coast of Slovenia was apparent at every turn. Not having to rely on international airlines to fuel your tourism industry was clearly a massive boost. The lakes of Bled and Bohinj were both spectacular in their own ways.
“Everything seems to be in its place, things work and I haven’t seen a building without a façade,” said my wife as we drove through a tiny village in the mountains. She was right. Comparing the outskirts of Split were we had started our journey and Slovenia was like comparing oil and water. It has a western European feel in more ways than one. On the flip side the vast majority of our contact with locals was, well let’s just say not over friendly. I’m not saying cold but just slightly reserved.
The National Park of Triglav is a gem and with the autumn colours looked like New England in the Alps. The clear advantage of being in a camper is freedom, that was by far our biggest conclusion. We stopped in six different places in six days. I am not sure if we were lucky but all of them were stunning in their own way. Having a toilet, shower, cooker, fridge and electricity and of course a bed on board means that you are completely independent. We didn’t really have a plan on where to go, but we were rather like a golden leaf in the autumn floating around wherever the wind took us.
Are we now hooked on camping? Well we would certainly go again. And having discovered Slovenia in detail we would absolutely visit our northern neighbours again. Remember that happiness is a way of travel — not a destination. And this way of travel clearly suits our nomadic souls.
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
Christmas is just around the corner and Dubrovnik is gearing up for the festive season and the traditional Dubrovnik Winter Festival.
And whilst this annual festival is always popular with locals it is also a great time of the year to visit Dubrovnik as a tourist. Yes, actually getting to the far south of Croatia in the winter months can prove challenging, but for those that are determined the rewards are well worth it. Away from the hustle and bustle of the UNESCO city in the summer the winter feel is one of calm and culture.
And this is a fact that has been picked up by a UK publication, who have recommended to their readers to visit Dubrovnik Winter Festival.
In a text entitled “The best sunny Christmas markets around 2 hours from London to enjoy mulled wine on a beach,” the popular news website MyLondon.news has added Dubrovnik to that list.
“Dubrovnik Christmas market is one of the best in the country and is set to celebrate the uniqueness of the city. The fair will be held in the beautiful atrium of the Convent of St. Claire and will feature traditional craftsmen who will display their handicrafts, Christmas ornaments, candles, toys, glassworks, embroidery, ceramics and porcelain,” writes the website.
And adds “There will also be Christmas cookies and sweets and savoury snacks available. These include traditional Dubrovnik sweets like the quince cheese ˝kontonjata˝, that are prepared for this festive time. The fair will open on December 6 and run for a whole month.”
Luka Modric's agent, Borja Couce, has revealed details about offers for the captain of the Croatian national team, reports SportKlub.
Modric extended his contract with Real Madrid this summer until next year. However, the situation for Modric with the Royal Club is far from ideal.
At 39, he is getting less playing time, but he remains an essential part of the Real Madrid team. And it is reported that his agent, Borja Couce, is currently in Saudi Arabia.
For the local media outlet Shoot, Couce confirmed that Modric has received offers from clubs in Saudi Arabia, and the doors are open for a possible transfer to the league.
"This summer, there was interest in Modric with the goal of signing him. The player has several offers, from a club in the capital and another club," said Couce.
And he added “Modric is currently thinking about Real Madrid, but the idea of his move to the Saudi Pro League is possible if the offer is suitable.”
All airports in Croatia had more passengers in the first nine months and in September 2023 compared to the same periods in 2022, with Split Airport having the highest number of passengers in September, according to data from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (DZS).
The airports with the most passengers – Split, Zagreb, and Dubrovnik – recorded between 5.5 and 15 percent more passengers than in September of the previous year, with Split Airport welcoming significantly more passengers than the other two.
With 507 thousand passengers, Split Airport achieved a 15 percent increase in September 2023 compared to September 2022, accounting for one-third of the total passengers at all airports in September.
With 367.7 thousand passengers in September, a 14 percent increase follows Zagreb Airport, and Dubrovnik Airport with 353 thousand passengers, a 5.5 percent increase. Zadar Airport had 199.2 thousand passengers in September, marking a 9 percent increase compared to the previous year.
In September, Pula and Rijeka airports experienced increases of 12.3 and 7 percent, with 67 thousand and nearly 30 thousand passengers, respectively.
Osijek Airport recorded a significant increase in September with just over 5,400 passengers, ranking seventh among the nine airports in Croatia, with Brač and Mali Lošinj being smaller island airports behind it.
Overall, in September 2023, there were 1.5 million passengers at all airports in Croatia, an 11.5 percent increase compared to the same month in 2022. The cumulative increase for the first nine months was even higher, at 16.6 percent, with 9.6 million passengers.
There were also more aircraft operations – in September, with just over 15.1 thousand, an increase of 6.2 percent, and in the first nine months, an increase of 5.5 percent with just over 103 thousand of these operations.
On the other hand, cargo traffic was slightly lower than last year, with a slight decrease of 0.7 percent in September, totalling 893 tons. In the first nine months of 2023, all airports in Croatia handled 6,899 tons of cargo, a 5.6 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2022.
As part of the Travel News Market, the most significant business tourism event in Stockholm, Croatia has been named the best destination for weeklong trips in 2024. This recognition is based on research conducted by the professional magazine Travel News and Nordic Bench, which declared the top destinations in several categories.
"Another in a series of awards for Croatia confirms that we have had a very successful tourist year, achieving excellent results in many markets. These positive outcomes and trends provide the best foundation and introduction to the upcoming year, which will be very challenging. However, awards like these confirm that Croatia will remain a significant player on the tourism map of Europe in the coming years," said Kristjan Staničić, director of the Croatian Tourist Board.
The research surveyed 1,500 Swedes across the country to discover what is most important to them when choosing vacation destinations. Three categories of travellers were identified: those seeking value for money, those prioritizing safety, and those preferring luxury travel. In the "Affordable Week" category, awards were given for the weekend destination of the year, the weeklong destination of the year, and the long-haul destination of the year (distant markets). Croatia won the title of the most accessible weeklong destination for 2024, competing against countries and destinations such as Mallorca, the Canary Islands, Cyprus, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Albania.
"This recognition, coming after another successful season, is an indicator that we are still recognized in this market and in people's focus, giving us hope for another successful season. It is especially gratifying that this result comes directly from potential guests we count on in the future, and that we have managed to position ourselves as a desirable destination in the minds of the Swedes," emphasized Vedran Sušić, director of the Croatian Tourist Board Representation for Scandinavia.
Croatia was represented at the Travel News Market by the Croatian Tourist Board Representation for Scandinavia, which participated in numerous meetings with partners and media. The Travel News Market Event brought together tour operators, airlines, travel agencies, travel planners, MICE experts, and providers of various services from around the world. More than 150 exhibitors participated, over 1,000 meetings were booked, and numerous seminars were held.
According to the eVisitor tourist check-in and check-out system, this past weekend in Dubrovnik, there were two and a half thousand tourists - five percent more than this time last year.
Alongside domestic tourists, the most numerous guests come from Germany, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States, and France.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been nearly 1,206,000 arrivals and just over 3,811,000 overnight stays, which marks a nine percent increase compared to the same period last year.