As the light at the end of the tunnel slowly gets bigger and bigger, so the calls for a tourism season come louder and louder. I am not really a gambling man, a risk taker, but I am going to say on record that yes, we will have a tourist season this year and it will slowly start on the 15th of June.
There I have made my prediction. This isn’t a date just plucked out of the air. Without planes Dubrovnik has no tourism season. We are, will and always have been, hostages to the airlines. They decide when and how much we earn, not us. Dubrovnik’s two biggest markets are the UK and the US, two countries struggling with COVID-19. I have contacted all the UK airlines that fly to Dubrovnik to ask them when they plan on reopening flights to the southernmost airport in Croatia, all of them answered, and they all gave me the same date, the magical date of the 17th of June. Why had they all chosen a Wednesday in the middle of June?
And now calls from closer markets, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, are becoming louder. Interestingly we as an incoming destination often forget that there is a whole other business on the other side, the outgoing travel industry. And these foreign travel agencies are getting more and more restless. Tourism of some kind, and who knows what that will look like, will happen in Dubrovnik this year, of that I have no doubt.
Croatia’s fight against COVID-19 has been monumental, an example for the rest of the world, and it isn’t very often I get to say that. It has shown much more than just a battle to stop the spread of a virus, it has shown what could be, what kind of country we could be living in.
Another question is could Croatia actually survive financially without the tourist dollar? I guess we will find out if it can survive with a heavily reduced tourism income by the end of this year. And most of the business people I have been speaking to are more worried about this winter than this summer. In a seasonal business almost all businesses, from café bars to travel agencies, make their money in the summer, and then use this to finance themselves over the barren winter months. This will all change.
Whilst of course the health of the nation is paramount, the health of the economy is second. The knock on from this year will be felt for years to come, the domino effect. Estimates suggest that by the end of the year we could have 300,000 people registered as unemployed. Of course we are not in this alone, many other countries are busily printing money.
There are a few absolute key factors in the success of the combat of COVID-19. Firstly, first-class leadership. Secondly, a disciplined and determined population. These two elements combined are unstoppable. These last two months have been proof of that. And if you want proof of what happens when you have neither of these then just look at the situation in the States. (By the way please don’t inject disinfectant!)
The frustrating point for me is why we can’t have this winning combination during “peace time.” Why do we have to wait for a disaster of some description before getting our act together. How to change that mind-set? I just know, unfortunately, that everything will go back to normal, post COVID-19, and that is a little depressing. Although maybe not, maybe this shock has shown some future generations that there is another way.
We can save the planet, save ourselves and create a brighten tomorrow. As the inventor Charles Kettering once said “You can't have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.”
But first we must figure out the short-term and how to handle the tourists that are knocking on the door. Mark my words, we will have a tourist season this summer, so let’s not f*** it up!