Thursday, 15 November 2018
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

This year's rich New Year's Eve program will close out the year in Dubrovnik in true New Year's fashion with famous stars that will hold concerts you can enjoy with your closest ones on the most stunning stage in the Old City – the main street of Stradun.

The first day of the New Year's program is December 30th when the Croatian rock group Opća Opasnost will hold a concert in front of the Church of St. Blaise at 9 pm.

On the 31st of December, the traditional Children’s New Year's Eve party will be held beginning at 10:30 am and will feature a performance by the popular young singer Mia Negovetić & Super Cover Band.

On December 31st, leading Croatian performers Nina Badrić and Toni Cetinski will bring in the New Year for Dubrovnik. Top musicians on the world's most beautiful stage and impressive fireworks right at midnight will provide an unforgettable start to the New Year on the main street of Stradun.

On the first day of the New Year, enjoy the abundance of oysters and sparkling wine accompanied with the sounds of the most famous opera arias of the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra at noon on Stradun, and on the first evening of 2019, once again on Stradun, enjoy the songs of one of the most popular Croatian multipart singing groups – Klapa Rišpet.

The Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, attended the tributes to the tens of millions of people killed in World War I today in Paris. In a ceremony in the French capital world leaders paid their respects exactly a century from the end of World War I.

leaders in paris world war 1

On her social media channels the Croatian President wrote “Let's remember! Do not forget! The First World War ended exactly 100 years ago, November 11, 1918.”

The commemoration marked the centrepiece of tributes to honour those who died during the 1914 to 1918 war and to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that brought the fighting to an end at exactly 11 a.m. on Nov 11, 1918.

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, addressed the leaders and warned of the risk of nationalism.

paris world war I macron

The capital’s airport is having another bumper year and October saw yet another increase in passenger numbers. Zagreb airport have reported that they handled 318,074 passengers in October which is a growth of 6.9 percent when compared with the same month from last year.

From the beginning of the year until the end of October Zagreb Airport handled 2.88 million passengers, an increase of 8.4 percent on the same period form 2017. And by the end of 2018 Zagreb Airport expects to have welcomed 3.4 million passengers, meaning an impressive increase of 10 percent over last year.

The National Park Mljet, the only national park in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County and Croatia’s first marine protected area in the Mediterranean, is today celebrating its 58th birthday. The National Park Mljet was founded on this day, the 11th of November 1960.

"The National Park Mljet has become a target of numerous visitors in search of pure nature rich in life and culture and this year we have seen a record number of visitors to the park,” commented the Mljet National Park.

They added that this year was significant due to the arrival of three electric catamarans that are used to transport guests around the lakes inside the National Park.

Retail sales in Croatia in September 2018 increased by 3.9 percent compared to September 2017, which marked a year-on-year increase for the 49th month in a row, the state statistics bureau reported on Thursday.

Retail sales went up by 0.4 percent from August 2018, when they rose by 3.1 percent on the year.

This is the first time on record that retail spending has grown for the 49th consecutive month, continuing the upwards trend which began in September 2014.

Over the first nine months of 2018, retail sales increased by 3.6 percent in real terms compared to the same period last year.

If the current real growth dynamic continues, retail spending could reach the levels from 2008 next year, and surpass them in 2020.

Is it too early? We are still in November, let’s face it we are still in short sleeves and shorts, and the Christmas decorations are going up in the ancient Old City of Dubrovnik.

The main street through the city, the Stradun, had its festive lights installed on Friday in preparation for the Dubrovnik Winter Festival.

It might seem strange but the man hanging the Xmas lights is wearing sunglasses and the passers-by are in T-Shirts and summer clothes, clearly not festive weather in Dubrovnik yet.

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xmas lights in croatia 2018

christmas lights being installed in dubrovnik

The challenges facing the cruise industry in Dubrovnik have been a hot topic for the past decade. These very challenges were the main topic at the Tourism and Strategy congress held in Dubrovnik, in the Hotel Valamar President this week. An international panel discussed best practises in the cruise ship industry and one of the participants was the President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Cindy D’Aoust.

The Dubrovnik Times caught up with D’Aoust to discover her opinions on the route that Dubrovnik is taking and how the cruise ship business views the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” Established in 1975, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, providing a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community. CLIA supports policies and practices that foster a safe, secure, healthy and sustainable cruise ship environment and is dedicated to promoting the cruise travel experience.

Dubrovnik has faced problems with tourism overcrowding and one important factor is the cruise ships that arrive in the city. Do you welcome the measures that the Mayor of Dubrovnik has introduced to restrict the number of cruise ships in the coming years?

I would answer that differently. We respect the goal that he had to help create a sustainable tourism environment. I don’t think the answer in tourism is ever stopping, let’s say by putting caps, because we all have a role to play in this. It isn’t a cruise ship problem. We are part of tourism and we are part of the solution.

cindy na dmark in dubrovnik clia

CLIA is an organisation that primarily looks after the needs and concerns of cruise ship companies. Why then has the City of Dubrovnik been invited to become a member? Is this not a conflict of interests?

Absolutely not, we all need to collaborate as partners. It isn’t an “either/or” situation we all need to be together and try to figure out the long term solutions. The City of Dubrovnik are a partner of CLIA and not a member, our members are cruise ship companies.

One of the problems is that cruise ships are concentrated in one part of the year. Can you foresee a time when Dubrovnik is seen as an all-year round cruise destination?

The reality is that cruising is always going to be driven by the demand of the passengers. More and more passengers are interested in travelling off-season or finding new seasons. So to answer your question I think we will see that in the future.

cindy daoust in croatia clia

In 2020 the Mayor of Dubrovnik has announced a reduction of cruise ships to no more than two per day. How do you respond to this measure?

Again I think the answer is for us all to work together on finding a solution. I am hoping that at this festival we can really talk about developing better infrastructure and we can develop better tour opportunities and how we can extend the season. One solution will not be the best solution.

Generally, are your members, the cruise ship companies, satisfied with Dubrovnik as a destination? What feedback do you receive?

Dubrovnik is a very, very popular destination. People love coming here and that is why there are so many tourists. So I am also sure that with the popularity we need to figure out ways to be able to increase visitors to come to this great destination.

How has the cruise ship industry changed over the past twenty years?

What is so unique to the cruise ship industry is their ability to listen to their passengers and make changes. The cruise ship industry listens to their passengers and respond immediately.

I believe that you will step down at the end of this year. How would you sum up your mandate?

Yes, I am stepping down at the end of this year. I think my greatest legacy will be that we have a great community that are all working together for future goals. Some of the best leaders in the industry are involved in CLIA so that’s my legacy it that we have built a good team.

daoust clia seo dubrovnik

If you read the headlines it would seem that the end is near for Croatia. Young professional people leaving the country in a mass exodus leading to a huge shortfall of workers to service the one shining light, the tourism sector. Everyone is of course blaming everyone else for the tragic situation.

One of the arguments that constantly appears is “well if you paid workers more then they wouldn’t leave the country.” Laying the blame at entrepreneurs is missing the mark by miles. The problem is rightly the low salaries but this has very little to do with the business owners and everything to do with the greed, or should I say disorganisation of the government.

Maths has never been my strongest characteristic so I going to keep these calculations as straightforward as possible. If you pay your worker a salary of 10,000 Kuna net per month then you as the employer will have to pay around 18,000 Kuna gross. So in other words for almost every Kuna you reward your worker you’ll also reward the state another Kuna, give or take a few Lipa. If you pay slightly less, let’s say 7,000 Kuna, then you’ll be hit with a gross amount just over 12,000 Kuna. Of course the more you pay the more tax you pay. So much so that if you pay your workers 15,000 Kuna you pay the state exactly the same amount.

To give you some perspective on these figures I contact a UK employment agency to find how much employers had to pay in taxes in contributions. The results gave the exact answer why Croatian companies are struggling, why people are leaving due to low salaries and to what good organisation and a solid system bring. Again these figures are a rough calculation but you’ll get the point. The same salary of 10,000 Kuna, which converts to around £1,200, would mean that the employer would have to pay around 12,000 Kunas a month!

Even with my terrible maths that’s a clear difference of 6,000 Kunas a month. Or if you like it is 10,000 Euros a year more expensive to pay a worker in Croatia. Or if you like an employer could buy a new small every year in the UK. But quite possibly the Croatian employer, if they had the same financial benefits as a UK employer, would actually invest more into their workers and indeed products and business.

Private companies are becoming an endangered species in Croatia and when we delve into the brutal tax system it is easy to see why. There are around 150,000 active private entities and these few private companies actually employ people, pay taxes to keep the country’s budget flowing, create exports and earn money. These are the risk takers and they need to be rewarded not squashed like tomatoes in a spaghetti Bolognese.

And I have yet to mention all the other crazy taxes that are piled onto the shoulders of entrepreneurs, such as taxes for the Tourist Boards, forests, water and God only knows what else.

Private business is being slowly strangled to death. And why – simply because of the greed of the state. Greed and the inability to actually see the bigger picture. To actually realise that the future lies in the hands of up and coming young Croatian born businessmen and women who will take a risk by using their own money to start a business. Make the tax system more accommodating and not so restrictive and these seeds of business grow.

And in case you were wondering how much an employee with a salary of 7,000 Kuna in the UK would cost you, and hide your eyes if you are a Croatian business owner, a total of 7,600 Kuna in total. This is the root of the problem. As Shakespeare would say “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Add this to the slow court system, corruption, snail’s speed of reforms and illogical state decisions and it is easy to see why the rolling hills of Bavaria and enticing for our workforce. Give private business half a chance to breathe, the results will be repaid ten times over.     

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Friday
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