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End of Tourist Season Looms in Dubrovnik: Winter Tourism Challenges Ahead

Written by  Oct 09, 2023

And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain. The tourist season is slowly, but surely, coming to a conclusion. This fact was really brought home to me after a long weekend on the magnificent island of Mljet, by far my favourite destination in Croatia.

My mother is currently visiting us from the UK and it seemed like an ideal excuse to all go to an island paradise.

As September turned into October the weather clearly didn’t realise and the contrast between the evergreen trees and the shades of blues was like a massage for the soul. “I expect this National Park is full all year round,” commented a couple from the US that we bumped into whilst walking around the lakes.

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Justifying why our tourist season slams shut for the winter period to someone from a hard-core capitalist country is always a long and challenging discussion. So instead I answered “Yes, lovely to walk in this nature at all times of the year.”

The truth was different. The hotel where we were staying, you know the “vintage” hotel on Mljet, was closing its doors in ten days. And this pretty much sounded the end of tourism on the island for 2023. I am not blaming the hotel, indeed the staff looked like they needed (and probably deserved) a break.

Winter tourism is pretty much impossible in the south of Croatia.

Sorry, let me clarify that statement. It isn’t impossible, it’s just not possible with the mind-set we have. It’s like we are hoping that it will happen and at the same time praying that it doesn’t.

In a few weeks, or less than that, the last international airlines will reschedule to another destination and we can hang a huge “Closed Until April” sign on the town. I remember a long time ago a renowned travel journalist saying to me that our tourism industry is basically to foreign companies. He really meant the airlines. They decide when we will earn, how much we will earn and from what markets we will earn. It is true.

No flights equal no money. If tourist can’t get here, then they can’t spend money.

Of course, we aren’t the only destination facing the challenges of winter tourism. I studied Malta a few years ago, and although they have a similar situation they have also been successful in attracting guests in the cooler months.

It really isn’t brain surgery.

I read a 70-page report on how they improved winter tourism, and to be honest it could have been written on the back of a cigarette box. Step 1 – get more flights Step 2 – offer some events. End of story.

It didn’t happen overnight. But it did happen.

However, I have been banging on the winter tourism drum for so long, I am close to giving up. For success means a lot of organisations need to be reading off the same page, and the vast majority look forward to a winter break from work.

I began to feel like Sisyphus and just knew that the rock would never reach the top of the mountain.

So I answered, “Yes, the green forests are just as green in winter and the lakes just as stunning whatever the weather,” to the smiling couple from Detroit. It would be like their city deciding that they had produced enough car for this years and it was time to put the feet up on the desk and knot your hands behind your head.

“Oh, maybe we’ll come in the off-season next time,” smiled Chuck. Sorry, Chuck but firstly you’ll end up flying half way around the globe to get here and when you arrive it will look like a pandemic lockdown. Is what I should have said. Instead I just nodded my head.

Chuck will find out for himself.

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


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