Situated between two the two tourist magnets of Dubrovnik and Cavtat is a destination that many people just pass through on the way to and from the Dubrovnik Airport. But you’d be wrong to overlook Župa, with its numerous beaches, unspoilt nature and quant villages there are many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. This week we caught up with the director of the Župa Tourist Board, Anamarija Kusalo, to find out at first-hand what challenges Župa faces and how well it dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been very much an “in at the deep end” season for Kusalo as she only took on this position in July of last year.
2020 has certainly been a challenging year for tourism. How has Župa managed this year?
Yes, it was challenging year for all of us. When the lockdown started we thought that the tourist season this year wouldn’t happen at all. And then, firstly with tourists arriving by car and mostly from Poland, the season opened. Then when flights started we actually had good results, mostly from the UK and German markets.
Cleans seas and numerous beaches of Župa
Are guests from the UK usually the most numerous in Župa?
Yes, last year the most numerous guests in Župa were from the UK. In fact, this year in August the UK tourists were the most numerous. However, when you look at the 2020 tourist season in Župa tourists from Croatian helped saved the season.
Many hotels were closed in Župa this summer and this obviously had a negative effect on the number of guests actually staying in Župa. Should more hotels have opened this summer in Župa?
Due to the drop in reservations hotels most probably calculated the feasibility. One Suite Hotel was open all the way through the Covid-19 pandemic, even in lockdown. Other hotels clearly opened as and when the need arose. There were plans to open Hotel Mlini and Hotel Astarea, but although Astarea was open for a short time all the bookings for these hotels were moved to Hotel Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera. There were a lot of loyal guests to Župa, who year after year come back, and the majority of these stay in private accommodation.
Ideally located between Dubrovnik and the airport
What strategy did the Župa Tourist Board have for the Covid-19 pandemic?
Of course as far as a strategy is concerned we first followed the instructions and regulations of the Civil Protection Headquarters, and all the relevant government institutions. We had to follow all the advice and safety measures. We did manage to organise the Župa Summer events, of course by following all the Covid-19 regulations. We had questions from potential tourists via email and phone, but we also found that these regular guests to Župa were in direct contact with their hosts to find out more information. We are thankful that so many tourists arrived in Župa this summer and that guests felt safe whilst they were here.
The Borough of Župa has taken giant steps in both tourism and infrastructure over the past decade. However, there are still further steps that need to be taken, what developments can we expect in the future?
As far as infrastructure in the borough is concerned the most important point is a “fast road” connection from the Dubrovnik Airport to the City of Dubrovnik. This is required because the main road that leads to the airport is also a local road used by people in Župa. This creates a mixture of taxis, buses and coaches wanting to get to the airport and locals using the road to go about their business, leading to traffic jams. As this is a local road we need traffic lights, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings, but at the same time this slows down traffic. In the middle of the season we regularly have traffic jams in Župa. This isn’t just a problem for our borough but indeed at the County level, every authority should be included to help solve this problem.
And then as far as hotel capacity in Župa is concerned one of the hottest topics is the Kupari Resort project. When the Borough Council of Župa adopted the Urban Plan for the development of the Kupari site the investor then had the condition to request building permits. At the moment the investor is in the process of collecting all the required documentation. The law of the Republic of Croatia states that once conditions are met for building permits then the investor has a deadline of two years to hand in all the required papers. This process started in February this year, meaning that the investors have until February 2022 to file the documentation.
As far as we know Four Seasons will be the management company, everything is going towards that plan.
Given the situation of Covid-19 will Župa be organising any Christmas celebrations?
We haven’t yet given up on organising Advent in Župa this year. We started last year and hoped that this event would be traditional and popular with everyone, and indeed the reaction was great. On one hand is the safety measures and on the other the financial requirements, if we manage to find a solution for both of these points then we’ll hold Advent in Župa. I’m sure that we will find interest from restaurants to get involved in this project.
Župa seems to be very interesting for UK tourists. Why do you think that the Adriatic in Župa is such a magnet for Brits?
I think that tourists tend to prefer smaller destinations, within easy reach of Dubrovnik, to stay rather than the more built up suburbs. Župa is ideally located between the old City of Dubrovnik and the Dubrovnik Airport. Then when you look at the connections from Župa to either the tourist attractions in the Old City or to the airport there are many options, from buses to boats. Župa is also a destination with over twenty beaches, so that many guests spend a day in Dubrovnik and then return to the beaches of Župa. All this makes Župa an ideal location for a combination of a cultural and relaxing holiday.
Mlini for above
Apart from the beaches and clean seas do you think it’s possible to turn tourist’s heads and find some way to introduce them to the countryside of Župa?
Yes, the interior of Župa certainly has great potential, although we need to find a financial model that would motivate people to invest into the countryside. We have a lot of possibilities for paths and walkways in the borough, hiking and cycling are always popular. We have started to clear some of these paths and hope to make even more open for walkers next year. There are also plans to connect Župa and Cavtat with a promenade that would follow the shoreline.
What are the plans for 2021? Will the tourists return next year?
Yes, I believe that tourism will improve next season. As soon as the conditions are met for people to travel again I’m sure that Župa will have tourists. How many tourists will arrive, it’s hard to say. A lot depends of the Covid-19 situation. Unfortunately, Župa this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary of tourism, so the whole Covid-19 pandemic put a dampener on celebrations. We weren’t able to organise any special events, but we hope that next year we’ll have a party and some events. The first guests were from the Czech Republic and they stayed in Hotel Grand in Kupari.