“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning,” once said the American author Louis L'Amour. I’m not going to shout or even get too excited but it seems that we’ve turned a corner. With pretty much all last week showing under double digits for new cases in Dubrovnik we at staring at the light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn’t an oncoming train this time.
New cases are falling vaccinations are increasing and almost on a daily basis new flight connections are announced. It is as clear as day when you walk around the Old City that something is happening. After every storm comes sunshine and the first beams of the sun are warming us.
Yes, there is cautious optimism. We have had more waves on corona than the Adriatic in a jugo storm, but the bura is slowly coming and blowing the south winds away.
“The first guests we had this morning for breakfast were from New York, and it was so nice to talk some English again,” explained a smiling waiter to me as the restaurant he worked at reopened after a long winter hibernation. And this was quickly followed by “We’ve just received our second booking of the season, guests from the US are coming for a week,” said the lady with me at breakfast. I was speaking to a hotel director last week and he seemed confident that his bookings would finish the year at “somewhere close to 60 percent of 2019.” Yes, the prediction I made that Americans could be our most numerous guests this summer could be coming true.
Selfies, shorts and sandals, it is as easy to spot a tourist in Dubrovnik as it is to count elephants in a room full of mice. And there are more and more “elephants” than I’ve seen for a long time.
Don’t get me wrong, it is going to be a long, long road to reach the levels of previous years, but that also opens the question – Do we really want the numbers of previous years? My answer would be a strong no!
Last year gave us all a chance, or rather a forced chance, to reflect and rethink. We spent years counting people, as if we were counting beans, and then patting ourselves on the back that more and more tourists were arriving. It was seen as a success if we had a record year of tourist numbers. Was it really? Again no! It’s the old story of the Fiat and Ferrari. You have to sell many times more Fiat’s to earn as much as selling one Ferrari. We’ve had a lot and lot of Fiat years. Can we turn the dark of last year into a brighter Ferrari future?
And exactly how much we were in control of guest numbers in past years would also be questionable. Did we have a strategy or were we just a passive object? I only hope that we just don’t easily forget the lessons from last year and sweep them under the carpet. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” said the great Albert Einstein.
But maybe now is a time for more optimism, more hope. Thinking back to the winter the general opinion was that this year’s tourist season would be a disaster.
This clearly seems not to be the case, far from it. In fact, walking around the tourist sites of the city over the past week or so I had to remind myself that we’ve all just lived through a pandemic. Terraces full, al fresco dining everywhere and brightly coloured towels on the beaches. I even had my first tourist ask me for directions last week, to which I replied with a smile, after I’d given him directions, to “send over your friends and cousins.”
Our season will of course be much shorter than usual, but again that might not be a bad thing. And again of course we’ll have to work five times harder than before to earn half the cash that we earned before, but again that might not be a bad thing either. Fingers crossed 2020 will put an end to the complacency that has grown like a cancer. Every cloud has a silver lining.
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