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.
Never has the north-south divide in tourism in Croatia been so highlighted than during these Covid-19 times. Whilst many destinations in Istria and the north of Dalmatia are reporting almost the same figures, in terms of tourist arrivals, as last year, the same can’t be said for Dubrovnik. Numbers have been banded around, will Dubrovnik reach 20 or 30 percent of last year’s totals, but one thing is clear 50 percent is only wishful thinking.
So why is it that Dubrovnik is seriously lagging behind the rest of the country? How can it be that in a city that earns around 70 percent of its GDP the hotels are empty? There is no magic answer. There are however a number of cold, hard facts that go some way to offering a solution.
Clearly the first is a simple one – geography. Dubrovnik is the southernmost city in Croatia. Now this would be a positive thing if the majority of tourists were coming from the south, but they aren’t, quite the opposite. Driving to Dubrovnik from Zagreb is hard enough, but driving from Austria, Germany, France or the UK, well that’s not for the faint-hearted. The much publicised motorway, A1, that was supposed to connect Dubrovnik to the rest of Croatia, and indeed the rest of Europe, is still only lines on a piece of paper. Here is one reason why the north of Croatia is doing a roaring trade, a big percentage of their tourists arrive by car.
Hostage to airlines
This leads onto the second, and probably more vital point, air transport. Dubrovnik is almost exclusively an “air destination” with 2.9 million passengers passing through Dubrovnik Airport last year. With such a heavy reliance on international flights to fill the hotels, the restaurants and rent-a-cars any disruption of this link has catastrophic consequences. Of course, Dubrovnik isn’t unique, it is like any other island in the Mediterranean, expect it isn’t actually island. Or is it? With the spit of land at Neum separating Dubrovnik from the rest of the country then it seems more and more like an island.
Dubrovnik Airport on July 20 2020 - Photo Mark Thomas
In this sense Dubrovnik is very much a hostage to the airlines. Now, this was true before the Covid-19 pandemic, it is just that the pandemic has shone a spotlight on this relationship. No flight, no tourists. In June 2019 (and cover your eyes if you work in the tourism industry) a grand total of 416,000 passengers were handled by Dubrovnik Airport, in June this year that number was a less than grand 10,600. The maths is easy to see. In July, one of the busiest months in the city, there were 515,000 passengers in 2019 and 59,000 in 2020. In the three months of May, June and July 2019 a total of 1.24 million passengers passed through the southernmost airport in Croatia, in 2020 a mere 74,000. That is some shortfall to make up.
Demographic of guests to Dubrovnik a telling factor
The third factor making the north-south divide as wide as the Grand Canyon, is the demographics of guests to Dubrovnik. This factor is of course linked to the two above points. For the past decade the most numerous tourists in Dubrovnik have been from the UK. According to data from the Dubrovnik-Neretva County Tourist Board there were 53,000 UK tourists holidaying in the county through July 2019. This July that number has plummeted to 5,700, or almost 90 percent less. The second most numerous guests over the past few years, thanks mainly to the HBO serial Game of Thrones, has been Americans. And here’s where the numbers fall off the chart, throughout July 2019 33,400, a year and a global pandemic later and July 2020 saw only 1,600 US guests, or 4.7 percent. Just the loss of these two major travel markets is enough to cripple the city’s tourism industry. Then throw into the mix that Dubrovnik was also popular with South Koreans, Australians, Chinese and Swedish and the true reality of life in the south is revealed. And that’s before you factor in the massive loss due to the 800,000 cruise ship passengers that will not by docking in the port this year.
Starting from zero, and that’s pretty much where the city’s tourism started as there were zero passengers through Dubrovnik Airport in April as it was closed all month, is a long climb to get back to some normality. British Airways have actually stated that they don’t see a normalisation of passenger number s and flights before 2023. And whilst that has undoubtedly been an increase in flights, especially from the UK, it is only the very beginning of a very, very, long road to recovery.
In the past 24 hours, 28 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the Republic of Croatia and unfortunately one person has passed away, commented the National Civil Protection Headquarters today.
The number of currently active cases is 561. Among them, 110 patients are in hospital, of which seven are on a ventilator.
Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, a total of 5,404 people have been infected with the new coronavirus to date, of which 155 have died and 4,688 have recovered. There are currently 2,171 people in self-isolation.
To date, a total of 125,317 people have been tested, of which 934 in the last 24 hours.
In the last 24 hours, no new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, meaning that over first six days of August there have been two new cases of Covid-19 in the county.
A total of 6,598 samples have been analysed since the beginning of the pandemic. And there is currently only person positive for Covid-19 hospitalized in the Dubrovnik General Hospital.
There are 164 people in self-isolation across the county, and in the last 24 hours there were no violations of self-isolation measures.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 47 cases of self-isolation violations have been identified.
The headquarters of the Civil Protection of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County continues to appeal to citizens to adhere to all prescribed measures by the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia, including wearing a protective face mask whilst in shops and on public transport.
This has got to be the good news story of the week so far. After getting entangled in buoys in Cavtat this sea turtle was lucky to have a team of young boys who saved her, quite possibly saved her life. The sea turtle had become stuck in the ropes of the buoys on the beach of Hotel Croatia in Cavtat, luckily her story ended well.
“Despite the strong south, we immediately jumped in to help the turtles. We untied the turtle, but it was difficult to get on the rocks because of the big waves, so we called the team from the Water Sports Center Cavtat to pick us up with a speedboat,” commented Bartol Braica, one of the three lifeguards on the scene.
He added for Dubrovacki Vjesnik that, “When we pulled out the turtle, we saw that she had swallowed a hook and line. We called the Animal Welfare Association, they told us to tear off the line and that the turtle would break down the hook over time. So we did and let her back into the sea.”
Well done to all involved in this Cavtat turtle rescue mission!
In reports on Wednesday celebrating the 25th anniversary of Croatia's decisive victory in the 1991-95 independence war, world agencies highlighted the fact that a high-ranking Serb minority was present for the first time at the Storm military operation.
The annual gathering, according to Reuters, of state and military officials and war veterans is being held in Knin, a former stronghold of rebel Serbs who opposed Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia, and was attended today by Boris Milosevic, one of the four deputy prime ministers member of the Serb minority party SDSS, reports HINA.
"Going to Knin is not easy for me because of my personal tragedy and because of all the Serbs who lost someone in Operation Storm. But after 25 years, it is necessary to stop hatred," said Milosevic, the first official representative of the Serb minority ever at the official Storm celebration.
Reuters recalls that in the period after the offensive, Serb property was set on fire and looted, and a large number of Serb civilians, mostly the elderly, were killed, including Boris Milosevic's grandmother.
The AFP also highlights the participation of representatives of the Serb minority in the Victory Day celebrations, which welcomed the "message of peace and reconciliation".
"I am convinced that this is only the first step," AFP quoted Milosevic as saying.
The agency also writes about the second symbolic gesture that will follow at the end of August, when the Minister of Defence, Tomo Medved, will attend the ceremony in memory of the six killed Serb civilians in Grubori, after the end of the Storm.
The agencies also report the words of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who expressed regret over "all the victims, especially civilians and not only Croats but Serbs and others".
"The legitimate right to defence is not and cannot be an excuse for inaction - and any such act is painful for all the families of the victims and an ugly scar on the just face and defensive character of the Homeland War," AFP quoted the prime minister as saying.
The AP agency writes that the participation of the Serbian politician in the celebration of the Storm in Knin is seen as an "important step towards reconciliation".
In the last 24 hours, no new cases of Covid-19 infection have been recorded in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County.
A total of 6,548 samples have been analysed since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of today there is only one person, positive for Covid-19, hospitalised in the Dubrovnik general Hospital.
There are 171 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours there were no violations of self-isolation measures.
Over the past 24 hours, 58 new cases of infection of Covid-19 have been recorded in the Republic of Croatia meaning that the total number of active cases has now reached 633, reported the Civil Protection Directorate today.
From the active number of cases there are currently 111 people in hospital across the country and 7 patients on a ventilator.
On a positive note there have been no fatalities due to the virus in the past 24 hours.
Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of Covid-19 in Croatia was recorded, a total of 5,376 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, of which 154 have died and 4,589 have recovered.
There are 2,314 people in self-isolation. To date, 124,383 people have been tested, of which 1,167 were tested in the last 24 hours.
From Mission Impossible, Harry Potter, Batman Begins, Snatch and Downtown Abbey, Rade Šerbedžija is without doubt one of the most successful Croatian actors of all time. With almost 200 appearances on screen, from Hollywood blockbusters to popular TV series, Šerbedžija (74) is also one of the hardest working actors, and quite possibly his greatest passion is the stage.
Šerbedžija, along with co-star Lenka Udovički, will star in a performance of the classic Edward Albee play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as part of the 71st Dubrovnik Summer Festival. And the pair of actors took a stroll in the historic Old City of Dubrovnik this morning. The play premieres tomorrow in the festival, however this first performance is sold out, in fact both nights are completely sold out.