Wednesday, 20 October 2021
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Croatia is losing the vaccine war, along with the Battle for the Mediterranean!

Written by  Mar 27, 2021

I have to be honest I was more optimistic and positive about the summer tourist for this year back at the end of last year than I am today. Every day I am bombarded with mixed messages. I’ve spoken to people in Dubrovnik who have solid bookings already for the season and others, well the majority, who haven’t seen a guest since 2019.

It’s all vaccine, Covid-19 passports, travel bans and bankrupt travel agencies. It’s getting harder to sift the genuine facts from the opinion. And the few facts that are floating around don’t seem to be connected.

Are we actually sending tourists a clear message? As I’ve said a million times information is king. Give potential tourists all the info and then let them make up their own minds. We’ve got a slogan and to be honest that is about it. There are no bold steps, no creativity and seemingly no urgency.

To be honest Dubrovnik, and the rest of Croatia really, has always been extremely passive when it comes to tourism. Tourism basically happens to Dubrovnik; we aren’t the active factor in this industry. For years it’s been the same. We are always reactive and never proactive.

So whilst we are stuck in this never-ending game of waiting, waiting and more waiting, other countries, our competitors aren’t sitting on their hands and crossing their fingers. It’s been labelled as the “Battle of the Mediterranean.”

The PR campaign and organisation that our competitors are pushing forward. Greece has set a date, the 14th of May, as the day that tourism reopens, well the country reopens. Using the slogan “All you want is Greece” the Greeks have set clear guidelines for tourists wanting to enter the country.

Turkey have also set a date, more loosely than Greece, but as they are pushing forward with their vaccine process at an incredible rate, already 13 million people have been jabbed, they are confident that they’ll see a 100 percent increase in tourists this year compared to 2020. And by the end of May, 50 million people are expected to be vaccinated which will provide common immunity in society. 50 million! We have only vaccinated a fifth of the so called “at risk” groups and think about our population size.

The US is vaccinating around 2.5 million people a day. At that rate we could start the process on Monday and be finished by Tuesday afternoon.

I’ve spoken to people who are just fed up of waiting and have travelled to Belgrade to get vaccinated. I guess that’s kind of medical, or rather vaccine tourism. For 60 Euros you can get jabbed, it is all legal and no, they aren’t vaccinating you with water.

Croatia is losing the vaccine war, along with the Battle for the Mediterranean! Should we be turning to China and Russia?

Where would you rather go on holiday this year, to a country that’s already vaccinated 70 percent of its population or the second worst country in the EU in terms of vaccinations per size of population. There is much work to do and we’re already behind.

Just look around the Med and you’ll see a similar pattern. Tourism battles are occurring on every front. And yet we are waiting, just waiting, and probably hoping. Given that tourism accounts for such a large slice of the GDP this waiting policy is either extremely brave or extremely dangerous. Which one do you think it is?

For our fight to get tourists isn’t just with the global pandemic but with our neighbours. And as this rate it’s a fight we are going to lose. Over the past days I’ve received a number of emails from potential tourists, and indeed tourist agencies, to ask what the situation is and whether they can come this summer. We know the rules, we’ve known them for a long time, so we should be able to clearly communicate with tourists the behaviour expected and what they’ll need to come here.

Am I expecting a mass of tourists this year? No, indeed the days of mass tourism are probably behind us, and that’s a positive bonus of the pandemic. But I am expecting it’ll be better than last year, even though my optimism has been sinking like a pebble in the Adriatic recently.

I’m normally a “rose-tinted” glasses kind of person and hope dies last but I’m digging ever deeper into my optimism well. I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.

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