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.
One of the leading hotel groups in Croatia, Maistra, is one of the only hotel chains that has opened its doors to more than one hotel, in fact Maistra have opened three hotels. Maistra currently has three hotels open to accommodate domestic and foreign guests - Westin in Zagreb, Adriatic in Rovinj and Hilton Imperial in Dubrovnik.
After the reopening of the borders, they plan to open camps, and then hotels and resorts in Rovinj and Vrsar. In total, Maistra, which operates within the Adris Group, manages 20 hotels, 11 tourist resorts and six campsites, in which 3.6 million overnight stays were realized last year.
The company does not make predictions on how many overnight stays it will make this year, and when asked by Hina, they state that they are currently recording inquiries and reservations for the second half of this year, mostly from neighbouring markets.
They also state that the prices of overnight stays have not and will not change significantly this year, because they believe that such 'actions' have very questionable short-term effects, and in the long run they are generally very harmful.
“We will complete all planned and started investments in 2020, and we will continue with the development of projects for 2021. Concrete investments this year in Istria include the continuation of renovations in Hotel Eden, while the most important is in raising the quality of offer in Rovinj and Vrsar camps," stated Masitra.
When asked how many employees they will have this year, they point out that it depends on the number of accommodation capacities they will open, and that in turn depends on booking.
"We are organizing business in accordance with the new circumstances and so far we have not considered the possibility of laying off employees. We are a stable company and regardless of the situation caused by coronavirus we have provided funds for smooth payment of salaries." Emphasized the company. But for now, they have stopped the planned seasonal employment.
Stressing that tourism has been hit like never before, Maistra expects the public sector to continue measures to help tourism to bridge the period without or reduced business activity until the start of the 2021 season.
Tourism after the Pandemic
As new cases of COVID 19 are being discovered in more countries around the globe, many industries have taken a hit, but the major impact can be seen and felt in the travel and tourism industry. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a loss of $29.3 billion is expected by airlines due to the coronavirus outbreak. This loss is not only limited to airline companies, but hotels, car rental firms, and even cruise lines have been affected. Ports have refused ships to dock, travelers have canceled their cruise holidays, and almost all cruise companies in the world have suspended operations.
But after the pandemic, how will the travel and tourism sector bounce back? Will travelers feel comfortable taking airplanes, staying in hotels, or taking cruise ships? Most people will still have traveling plans, but they will continue practicing social distancing as well as avoiding crowds. This means they will resort to slow tourism.
Slow tourism refers to traveling that allows travelers to get the most out of a destination by taking a holiday at a leisurely pace. It is all about taking the time to get to the destination and taking the time to explore that destination. Slow tourism pays attention to the quality of travel and life by eliminating fast means of traveling and trips offered in bulk. Slow tourism includes small groups of people.
It’s about making a connection. Slow tourism rejects the idea of visiting as many places as possible in a short period. It lets you enjoy a destination, feel the atmosphere, and get to interact with the locals.
Explore Croatia - Photo Pixabay
Why and how to enjoy slow tourism
There are so many advantages of taking your time to see the world. First, it is so relaxing as you do not have a checklist of must-see attractions, running from one place to another. You can have unplanned adventures and take in everything that’s in front of you slowly. All you have to do is breathe, slow down, and let the experiences happen.
Slow travel is also peaceful as you move at a gentle pace with no planes or fast cars. For slow traveling, take a bike, simply walk or rent a sailboat with Zizoo. Taking a boat with a few of your friends or family members is one of the best slow travel options as it lets you fully experience the journey, gives you more opportunities to connect with nature and people on the boat. Boats are also far better for the environment, as they emit shallow volumes of carbon.
Destinations for slow tourism
If looking for a more profound travel experience with stronger emotional involvement and relaxation, head to Croatia, for a breathtaking sailing vacation. Croatia is an ideal destination for slow tourism because of its natural beauties such as spectacular islands, great beaches, and tranquil waters. The main Islands that fascinate with pure and unspoiled nature are Hvar, Brac and Pag.
Hvar Island treats its guests a picturesque landscape made up of rolling hills, colorful flowers, olive groves, lush vineyards, and fresh air since it is located far away from polluted civilization. Hvar also offers nature lovers with remote harbors and wonderful beaches including Dubovica Beach. This sand white beach features turquoise blue water while there enjoy some scuba diving, snorkeling, and more water sports at Aqualis Diving Center.
Other Croatia’s beautiful places can be found on Brac Island. It is easily reachable by a private boat. Once there, take your time to explore the whole Brac island, from the lovely Zlatni Rat beach to historic towns and villages, like Pucisca or Milna, and the rolling hills, pine, and fig woodlands.
Every now and again something jumps out of you from the plethora of posts and pictures on social media, that’s how we got to know Anita. Clearly a fan of Dubrovnik, Anita has an eye and a skill for sketching, and the pearl of the Adriatic features heavily in her work. Although she lives in Hungary she says “it is not a secret if I say someday I wish to live in Dubrovnik.” Her love affair with Dubrovnik started back in 2018 when she treated herself to a birthday present trip to the city, it was love at first sight. In fact, she had such a great time that she has been back six times since. We caught up with Anita to discover more on her art.
How does Dubrovnik inspire you to sketch?
At my former job I had the possibility and good fortune to travel a lot, but I can say that nowhere have I felt that what I feel in Dubrovnik. I mean there wasn’t any other city I wanted to sketch, or paint. Some kind of homesick for the town inspired this sketching journal. I bought this book last year, but just realized I like making sketches more, than the written word. Then lockdown just happened and I made one sketch per day. Now there are 52 sketches in the journal.
What is your technique? Do you work from photos?
Yes, I work from photos. I mostly use my own pictures, but sometimes I just see great pictures on Instagram, and work around those. I start with a pen, then use watercolour paint and finish with a black marker. I read a lot about "urban sketches", watch pictures, I follow the pros then I broke some rules and found my own style.
What part of Dubrovnik is the most inspiring for you?
I have some especially nice places in Dubrovnik, like sitting at Porporela, walking on the Walls, the Botanic garden in Lokrum (well Lokrum completely), but the most inspiring place is the walking path on Babin Kuk, where you can go down to the sea, and watch the rocks with Lighthouse Grebeni. Love that landscape, just rocks, sea, sky and sailboats, this is the most relaxing place I know.
Do you have any formal training in art? Or is this purely a hobby?
This is a hobby; I really surprised myself when I started. Now I do something every day, like a form of meditation. I not only make these sketches, but I paint on canvas, too.
It seems that there are no people in your sketches. Is that a COVID-19 message?
Well, that is true I made these sketches during the COVID-19 era, but not this is the reason there are no people. As I said I broke some rules, this is one of them. If you are a "real" urban sketcher you take a look at the surroundings, with few colours and with people moving. What do I do? I use photos, lots of colours and no people. It's just my kind of sketch.
How long does it take you to create a sketch?
If I remember well the quickest was 30 minutes and the longest 2 hours. The majority of them take me around one hour.
What would you like to sketch in the future?
I have no special plans for the future regarding the theme, I just wish to get back to Dubrovnik as soon as possible, until then I will use this little journal I created as a vision board.
According to currently available data in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, there are no new cases of Covid-19 infection recorded in the last 24 hours. The remaining findings from Monday are all negative, and 48 samples sent for analysis on Tuesday are being processed.
A total of 118 have been infected since the Covid-19 outbreak began in the county and 84 people have made a full recovery and unfortunately 8 people have died. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 2,451 samples have been sent to Zagreb for analysis.
As of today, 5 positive patients are hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital with 1 in the Intensive Care Unit.
A total of 38 citizens are in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours no violation of the self-isolation measure has been established.
Travel in 2020 to Croatia, or indeed most of the globe, will be markedly different to any other year in our lifetimes so far. Travellers have just got used to hopping online and creating their own carefree weekend in the sunshine. From booking a low-cost flight, trawling though Airbnb to find a special deal and even reserving restaurants, tours and events in advance. Short break was the new fashion. In fact, the average length of stay in Dubrovnik for the last couple of years has been under 3 nights. All that has changed in a COVID-19 present.
And Dubrovnik is at the front line of feeling the financial pinch. And it isn’t only large travel agencies or even the City of Dubrovnik who are under economic pressure, the thousands of families who had opened their doors to Airbnb guests are also scratching their heads this year. Whilst many used this as an opportunity to make a little money on the side and pump up their household budget, there is also a large group who relied on guest bookings as their main source of income.
And although there are some green shots of tourism recovery it isn’t going to be a tourist season to write home about, with the experts stating up to a 70 percent drop in numbers. And figure direct from Airbnb’s analytics platform AirDNA seem to back this up.
Across Croatia there are around 166,000 active properties listed on Airbnb, and whilst that number might seem impressive the site has actually seen a drop in listings, by around a 1,000 active properties, since the end of March. And bearing in mind that the summer season is on the doorstep that figure would normally be going the other way.
Expect a slower year in Dubrovnik - Photo CROPIX
Digging deeper it appears that bookings are falling as fast as a pebble in the Adriatic. AirDNA told The Dubrovnik Times that “In terms of weekly reservations for Dubrovnik for any of the dates in future, there has been a 76% decline from the week starting 1 March 2020 to the week starting 22 March 2020. This sudden change in booking behaviour is indicative of market uncertainty as the coronavirus crisis hit Europe and travellers were no longer willing to commit to making any travel arrangements.”
And they added that “In terms of weekly revenue for Airbnb, there has been a drop of 43% in Dubrovnik when comparing the first week of March 2020, to the last week of April 2020. In comparison there has been a 26% decline in weekly revenue in all of Croatia for the same time period.”
It isn’t all doom and gloom, in fact a slight upturn in bookings in recent days might lift hosts spirits. From the 13th of April to the 19th of April there were around 29,000 new bookings through Airbnb for vacation accommodation in Croatia. The daily rate might be a little down on 2019, but in an uncertain year that is to be expected. And looking into the future, the further into the year you delve the better the figures look, at least for now, with the middle of July already indicating a similar occupancy rate as 2019.
2020 is not by any stretch of the imagination going to be a great year for tourism, more a year of survival. And it also seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on the future of tourism for Dubrovnik. An unprecedented time to reshape a better and brighter tomorrow.
Leading German tour operators, including the one of the world’s largest TUI, are interested in realizing part of the season in Croatia, which in Germany is among the destinations for which it is possible to renew sales for the summer, including airline arrangements, states the Croatian National Tourist Board.
The director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, told HINA, that “The National Tourist Board and its German representative office are constantly and proactively communicating with the German market and partners about the possibility of cooperation and arrivals of German tourists in Croatia this summer.”
Croatia is being mentioned in various German media outlets as a possible destination for this summer, primarily due to the very good results in preventing the spread of coronavirus, and it is also a destination that can be reached quickly by car. And the possibility of air bridges is also being brought up with dates as an early as the 10th of June this year mentioned, but it will all depend on the epidemiological picture in Germany and the countries where their tourist will travel.
"Interest from TUI and other German tour operators for the arrival of German tourists in Croatia certainly exists, as well as to realize part of the season and minimize their own losses. Interest is also present among individual German tourists, with whom we also constantly communicating through networks and offices,” added Stanicic.
However, how, when and with which transport these summer holidays will be realized is still being negotiated, and as certain destinations will certainly be out of the reach of organized tourist traffic through agencies and tour operators, Staničić believes that there will be enough air capacity to provide charter flights or regular airlines to individual destinations.
As well as interest in Croatia, TUI and other major German tour operators are currently showing interest for Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Austria, whose governments, according to information from German tourist circles, are negotiating with the German government on the possibility of establishing air tourist bridges after Germans are once again allowed to travel.
We are trying to keep your spirits up with some beautiful Dubrovnik photos from Instagram this week.
Check out our top five spirit lifting Dubrovnik Instagram photos from last week and keep sending us your own photos and videos of the region.
The number of cases in Croatia continues to fall and today the National Civil Protection Headquarters stated that over the past 24 hours 11 new cases of COVID-19 have been detected.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Croatia a total of 2,207 people have been infected and 1,808 people have made a full recovery, and unfortunately 91 people have passed away.