“Whilst there is a lot of optimism there is also fear,” opened a speech I attended over Zoom last week. “The vaccine could change the game but, and there are lots of buts, nothing is yet certain,” continued the opening. Many of the major UK travel and airline operators were present at this press conference, and as the Brits are the most numerous tourist to our city I was keen to hear their thoughts on the upcoming season.
The V-word was mentioned on numerous occasions, too many to count. I would love to be able to report that this year is going to be excellent, a return to our former greatness, and whilst undoubtedly there is interest in Dubrovnik, and Croatia in general, there is caution.
On the 25th of February, so in a few days’ time, Croatia will mark exactly one year since the first confirmed case of Covid-19.
Did you ever see the film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? Basically Murray finds himself inexplicably living the same day over and over again. We’ve just had a year of Groundhog Days! I can’t take another 12 months of this.
“The UK is rolling out the vaccine at an incredible rate, the target of 15 million was hit and we’re hopeful that March could see some easing of the Covid-19 measures,” continued the conference. Hope was another word that was used an awful lot. I had hoped to bring you an exclusive that British tourists will turn up enmasse from May, but that really isn’t the case. If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I’d say that mid-June might see a trickle of tourists from the UK.
There is absolutely no doubt that they are desperate to travel. Indeed, the busiest air route in the world in the early part of 2021 was London to Dubai. In fact, in the first week of January an incredible 190,000 tickets were sold for this route. However, this all change when new travel restrictions between England and the United Arab Emirates were introduced.
But it indicates that Brits are hungry to travel and in need of some sun. I could see the desperation on the faces of representatives of airlines at this online conference. They are searching for safe routes, or routes that they can make money on.
The budget airline, Ryanair, took things a little too far by producing a TV advert highlighting the fact that passengers could get the vaccine and then fly, it was called Jab and Go! However, the authorities received so many complaints about the advert that it was banned. Another indication on just how desperate airlines are.
All bets are placed firmly on the vaccine, and quite possibly so kind of “green passport” for travellers. And my family has now started the vaccine process.
My mother was the first to have a needle in her arm and it certainly has made her feel safer. “the number of questions they asked me took longer than the jab,” she told me. She was followed by my sister, who works for the National Health Service, so was higher up the queue. Does that mean that they will be able to come to visit me soon? I truly hope so!
So to roundup my feelings on the travel press conference I would say, fingers crossed, that by the middle of June we should see some Brits in Dubrovnik. Let’s face it without them our tourist season is pretty much non-existent, just look what happened last year when the travel ban came in.
I also feel that there will be bargains and that the season could last longer than normal. As long as we make sure that we have our situation under control and that enough people get the vaccination then October could be a bumper month. If, and it’s a big if, we could create some content outside of the normal summer months then we could be looking at a year-round season. But I’ve lost my voice talking about that problem before so I’m not banking on that happening any time soon.
If you were hoping for a good early start to the season to claw back some of those lost earnings, sorry. But hope dies last. And after a year of Groundhog Days it will huge relief to break the mould. At least I know of two Brits who’ll be safe to travel!
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to