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.
Over the past 24 hours in the Republic of Croatia there have been no new cases of Covid-19, meaning that the total number of people who have contracted the virus since the pandemic began remains at 2,246.
So far, 67,297 people have been tested, of which 602 were tested in the past 24 hours.
There are 17 people in hospital and out of that number 4 patients are on a ventilator.
The total number of people who have recovered has increased by 11 to 2,088. And the total number of people who have passed away is 103.
The Health Minister, Vili Beros, reported on Tuesday that in Croatia the current epidemiological situation as "more than satisfactory".
And commenting on the overall positive situation across Croatia Beros commented, "It did not happen by accident, the National Staff gave faith to the experts and in the synergy of all," emphasizing that the good results were achieved thanks to the citizens, the experts, the politicians, the government and the media.
And there can be no doubt that Croatia has handled the Covid-19 pandemic impressively. Football has returned, cafes and restaurants are open, travel across the country is possible, hairdressers have been working for weeks, the list goes on. Life is almost back to normal, it could be argued that 90 percent back to pre-Covid-19 times, with one of the final pieces of the jigsaw being the hardest to solve, the tourism industry.
Even though Croatia is geographically located near to Italy, the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe, and has land borders with several other countries it has managed, through ultra-strict measures, discipline and an apolitical approach to be weeks ahead of many more developed countries in the world. And this very fact is now proving a barrier on the road to tourism. In many ways Croatia is waiting for some of its most important travel partners to catch up.
The Croatian National Tourist Board is conducting a large promotional campaign "The Vacation You Deserve Is Closer Than You Think" in seven European markets, in Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.
The campaign will be active during June and July, and is carried out by intensive advertising on social networks Facebook and Instagram, advertising on YouTube, placing ads through the most watched TV channels, the most read portals and newspapers in each market and through outdoor advertising on billboards and digital panels. Promotional materials and ads created for advertising are adapted to all six language variants and include tourist products that are best accepted in certain markets and are the motive for the arrival of guests at this time of year, namely sun and sea, nautical, natural beauty, active tourism through cycling, camping, but also the cultural offer. As part of the campaign, a new promotional video of 30 and 15 seconds was created, which will be used for advertising on online and offline channels in these markets.
"The first reactions to the launched campaign are extremely positive and we believe that they will encourage our traditionally loyal guests from the surrounding markets to spend their holidays in our country. Along with the campaign we are communicating, on a daily basis, to numerous partners, tour operators, agents and tourists through the network of our representative offices the latest information on the possibilities of crossing the Croatian border, readiness of accommodation facilities to receive guests, epidemiological guidelines on beaches, swimming pools and restaurants. With each new day, optimism is slowly awakening and I believe that ultimately our tourist traffic during June, July and August will be much better than we hoped a month ago at the height of the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” commented the director of the Croatian national Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, noting that when good epidemiological conditions and a positive atmosphere for travel are created, the same campaign will be launched in the markets of Italy, France and the Netherlands.
We remind you that in the markets that are primarily air destinations for Croatian tourism, such as Great Britain, Scandinavia, USA, Canada, China, South Korea, the campaign is conducted through the online platform Enjoy The View From Croatia.
The Czech Republic on Monday, after presenting a system for classifying countries by coronavirus risk, announced it would allow travel to and from abroad from June 15.
The threshold puts 19 European countries, mostly central, eastern and south-eastern, in the lowest risk category, under the new system of color-coding countries, while placing travel to and from the UK and Sweden in the riskiest category.
The Czechs have lifted most measures against the spread of Covid-19, while restaurants and hotels will open in full on May 25. But tourism is suffering, and quarantine measures have hit the economy, and only business travellers from the European Union, people in transit or students have been allowed to enter the country.
The Czechs will be able to travel without restrictions to neighbouring countries, Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia, and Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria are also on the "green" list. Other safe countries include Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Switzerland, the Baltic countries, Finland, Norway and Iceland.
Citizens of these countries will be able to enter the country without showing a negative test for Covid-19, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Twitter.
The government has placed France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, as well as Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium on its orange list, allowing Czechs to travel to those countries without restrictions. However, the citizens of these countries will have to show a test for Covid-19.
The UK and Sweden have been placed in the most risky red category, meaning both Czechs returning from travel and citizens of those countries will have to be tested for the virus.
The Czech Republic had less than 100 new cases of coronavirus daily for most of May. So far, 9,286 cases of coronavirus infection have been reported, 6,642 people have recovered. The number of deaths is 321, which is a small number compared to Western European countries.
The number of new cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Croatia over the past 24 hours is zero! This means that the number of people in Croatia who have been infected with the virus since the pandemic began remains at 2,246. In fact, there have only been three new cases of Covid-19 in Croatia in the past week.
So far, 66,695 people have been tested, of which 290 people were tested in the last 24 hours.
There are 22 people in hospital. Out of that, 4 patients are on a ventilator.
The total number of people who have made a full recovery is 2,077, which is 5 more than yesterday’s total.
The total death toll since the Covid-19 pandemic began is 103.
There have been no new cases of Covid-19 in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County in the past 24 hours.
Of the 8 samples taken yesterday, all are negative.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, 3,084 samples have been sent to Zagreb for analysis.
At the Dubrovnik General Hospital, the number of hospitalized patients positive for Covid-19 hasn’t changed and 2 people are in the Infectious Diseases Department of the hospital.
There are 3 people in the self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours no violation of the self-isolation measure was found.
The headquarters of the Civil Protection Directorate of the Dubrovnik – Neretva County continues to appeal to citizens to adhere to all prescribed measures from the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia.
Aegean Airlines has been expected to connect Dubrovnik with the Greek capital from early July, but now comes news that the airline has postponed flights until September. In what is yet another body blow for Dubrovnik’s tourism industry, and with direct international air connections difficult to attract, Aegean Airlines has stated that they will postpone flights operations between Dubrovnik and Athens until September 3, reports EX-YU Aviation.
The airline had planned flights not only to Dubrovnik but also Zagreb and Split, but now these have all been pushed back until the beginning of September, making for a very short tourist season.
The completion of the Peljesac Bridge will be at least three months late, and Croatian Roads has a bigger problem than the delay in the construction of the bridge on the section of the Doli-Sparagovic road built by the Greek company Avax, Jutarnji list writes on Monday.
The project to build the Peljesac Bridge and the new connecting Peljesac road faces two major problems. Completion of the bridge construction will be delayed by at least three months because IGH and Invest Inženjering, the construction supervision companies, cannot perform quality control in China on the quality of the steel span structure of the bridge, without which the elements cannot be sent to Croatia.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the employees of these companies cannot physically go to China, so now they are looking for the possibility of hiring a foreign company to do the job in China, and are in talks with an American and German company. The solution must be reached as soon as possible because otherwise the production of steel elements could be stopped, which in turn would lead to a much longer delay in the completion of the bridge. At the beginning of the year, only 29 construction elements had arrived in Croatia, out of the 165 which were supposed to be delivered.
But the delay in completing the construction of the bridge is not such a big problem. Croatian Roads as an investor have a far bigger problem with the delay of works on the 18-kilometer-long section of the Pelješac road from Sparagović to Doli, which is being built by the Greek company Avax. The Greeks were introduced to the construction site in December 2019, and in these six months, only the clearing of the terrain on the route has been completed.
The deadline for the construction of the section is 28 months, and this looks even more impossible. So far, they have justified the delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although this fact, for example, has not stopped Strabag, whose workers are making great progress on the first section of this road from the Adriatic Highway to Sparagović.
Europe’s tourism and travel industry is waiting patiently for the 15th of June when the EU travel ban is lifted and once again borders many borders will be reopened. It will also give a green light for the skies of Europe to open to air transport. But what does all this mean for Dubrovnik’s tourism industry? Will the reopening of EU borders mean a wave of tourists to the pearl of the Adriatic or will the city still feel like it is in lock-down?
Easter is traditionally the start of the tourist season in Dubrovnik. Although the main summer season has spread into the autumn and winter months, meaning that the city usually has roughly a six to seven-month long season, the winter months have always been a time of hibernation. For the past few years Dubrovnik has been breaking records in numbers of tourism and revenue from the tourist industry. Roughly 2 million tourists visit every year and that number can pretty much be cut in half, 1 million tourists and 1 million cruise ship passengers. The city has found itself as an example of “over tourism” often grouped in with Venice and Barcelona as prime examples of what too much tourism can do to a historic destination. And it is absolutely true. Dubrovnik simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle such a large number of people, especially as they tend to come in squeezed time periods. The City of Dubrovnik spent time, money and effort to devise a plan to better organise the flow of tourists and their behaviour, entitled Respect the City. And then came Covid-19 and Respect the City was null and void. It could have quite easily been renamed to Protect the City.
And now that the Covid-19 pandemic is under control in Dubrovnik, and indeed Croatia, with no new cases for more than 3 weeks, there is some hope that some kind of tourism season will emerge. The forecasts and the indicators don’t make for promising reading though. Even though Dubrovnik is the pearl of Croatia’s tourism industry and without doubt one of the iconic brands it has a tourism Achilles heel, well in terms of Covid-19 it has a few heels. Firstly, and quite possibly most importantly, around 90 percent of its tourists’ land at Dubrovnik Airport, it is almost exclusively an air destination. Whereas tourists from Austria, Slovenia and Germany have already returned to Istria and to a certain extent northern Dalmatia, Dubrovnik is around is a good day’s drive (at least) from these countries. And as tourists are clearly looking for a destination within easy reach, in case they need to get back home quickly, Dubrovnik isn’t on their radar. With Dubrovnik Airport already stating that they expect a drop in plane traffic of up to 70 percent, and the director stating that “In June we could see ten percent of last year’s number and in July maybe 20 percent,” the outlook is bleak. Which leads into the second Achilles heel, the make-up of tourists in Dubrovnik.
Tourism across Croatia, in terms of which nationality is the most numerous, is very different to the breakdown of nationalities that visit Dubrovnik. By far the most numerous tourists in Croatia in 2019 were Germans, followed by Austrians, Slovenians, Italians and Polish. This isn’t the case in Dubrovnik. For the past decade British tourists have been the most numerous, with American tourists the second most numerous. Now clearly these two countries are still right in the middle of the fights against Covid-19. Add into the mix that American Airlines have cancelled their planned daily flights to Dubrovnik from Philadelphia this year and the fact that from the 8th of June British tourists who come travel outside the UK will need to spend 14-days in quarantine and the potential hit to the city’s tourism industry gets larger. This is a fact that is clearly not lost on Frano Luetic, the director of Dubrovnik Airport, who in a recent interview for Dubrovacki Vjesnik stated that “In some countries, such as Great Britain, citizens have to go into a two-week quarantine after returning home from abroad. Who is going to want to go on holiday and then go into quarantine when coming home?” He even added that he believes that there will be more tourists in Dubrovnik this year who have arrived with their own car than through the airport, and I have already made it clear that Dubrovnik has never been an auto destination. And to make matters even more challenging the breakdown of tourists to Dubrovnik by nationality also includes South Korea and Australia. Will any tourists from these countries be willing to spend a full day on a plane to get to Dubrovnik? And these are just two of the more distant countries that Dubrovnik attracts guests from.
And the third Achilles heel is the cruise ship industry. Now it could be argued that this particular branch of tourism in Dubrovnik has always been an Achilles heel. However, and putting that to one side, with all its problems the cruise ship industry certainly helped to bolster the coffers of the city, and indeed the country. Seeing the shock when an American cruise company announced it would restart cruises in August it is probably safe to say that we are unlikely to see many cruise ships at all this year in the Gruz harbour. This trilogy of Achilles’ heels doesn’t make for pleasant reading for the city’s tourism businesses. And when, as icing on the cake, you throw into the mix that the vast majority of countries are pleading with their citizens to vacation at home, or staycation, then the tourist season looks even more depressing.
2020 looks like being a year to forget for the tourism industry in Dubrovnik, or in a more positive vein, a year to plan, create and contemplate a brighter and different future. Rather like a boxer taking an 8-count to catch his breath Dubrovnik can use this time to not only move away from mass and commercial tourism but even start moving in a greener more sustainable future. There will no doubt be losses, not every business will survive, especially when the long winter arrives and the funds dry up like rain drops in the Sahara. Revenues across the whole sector will drop by as much as 70 percent. And how long could you survive with a 70 percent cut in your salary? Would you be able to pay your mortgage? Unprecedented times can often bring unprecedented solutions. And tourism in Dubrovnik needs to think long-term. Covid-19 might just have given the city the wake-up call it so badly needed.