Dubrovnik is certainly no stranger to the front covers of the world’s glossy magazines, and this week we caught up with one of the journalists who regularly fills column inches and helps put Croatia on the travel radar. Mary Novakovich, yes the surname gives away her Croatian heritage, is an award winning British journalist who has just finished a trip to Dubrovnik to compile an article for The Telegraph. Her portfolio reads like a who’s who of brand name media, The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, The Independent, the list goes on. And the pearl of the Adriatic wasn’t her only stop, the stunning island of Mljet was also on her itinerary. “Unbelievably beautiful Mljet. Very tempting to stay here and quarantine,” commented Novakovich.
You have visited Dubrovnik and the wider region on many previous occasions. In your opinion how has the destination changed over the years?
The main thing I’ve noticed was the huge growth in the number of visitors, especially from cruise ships. I know there has been a slight reduction in the number of cruise ships allowed at any one time, but the crowds seemed to be as thick as ever – before coronavirus, of course. It made it harder to enjoy the old town when it was so full of people, but it also made you want to explore other parts of the city and the region.
How is Croatia, and in particular Dubrovnik, viewed in the UK? Is it an exotic destination, an unknown destination or on the top of the travel list?
Perceptions vary quite a lot – to the extent where it’s hard to generalise. I have friends who visit Croatia often and know the country quite well, and others who have always wanted to visit but never quite got round to it.
Usually when I mention Croatia to people who haven’t visited, their first reaction is: “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there. It looks so beautiful. What’s it like?” So there’s a huge amount of interest.
Meeting the Mayor of Dubrovnik and getting the Covid-19 lowdown - Photo Grad Dubrovnik
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of travel. What more changes do you see coming in the future and can we expect some normalisation of travel in 2021?
I think people will still need to adapt their behaviour even more, and keep up with the wearing of masks and try to maintain social distance. That’s been hard for many young people to do, not just in Croatia but everywhere. We have to get used to the virus being around us all the time until a vaccine is developed. As far as 2021 is concerned, I’m not convinced we will have anything approaching normality. The travel industry has suffered such an enormous blow, and so many businesses have gone under, that it will take quite a while to recover from this.
As the UK has now taken Croatia off the safe corridor list how will this affect the number of Brits planning to come here on holidays. And how safe do you feel in Dubrovnik?
It’s a shame the UK has taken this decision, as it will affect numbers of UK visitors – particularly because airlines will be reducing their flights. I’ve felt much safer in Dubrovnik than in the UK. The number of Covid cases in my small region of Britain is about three times the number of cases in Dubrovnik-Neretva county.
Talking tourism with the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board
What are your top three tips/highlights for travellers to see or do in Dubrovnik?
My top three echo the classic choices: a walk around the city walls, a ride on the cable car and a visit to Lokrum. I know it’s been economically devastating having so few tourists, but from a visitor’s point of view, it’s been wonderful to explore the city when the atmosphere has been so relaxed and there’s so much space.
You have been staying on the beautiful island of Mljet. What are your impressions of the island?
Mljet is enchanting. I’ve loved everything about it: exploring the national park and swimming in the lakes, finding little coves to swim in, eating some superb seafood, meeting warm and friendly people. It’s been utterly blissful.