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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

What will life look like on the other side for Dubrovnik's tourism industry

By  May 09, 2020

It feels like we are all slowly emerging from our bubbles, rubbing our eyes like moles, and learning to live in a new COVID-19 altered future. As Doctor Spock would say to Captain Kirk “It’s life Jim but not as we know it.” As business slowly gets to back to so kind of normal, with Istria declaring itself as “corona-free” and opening their hotels and airlines washing down planes in preparedness, one thing that will certainly have to change is prices.

What’s something worth? As much as someone is willing to pay for it. Well that willingness to pay just got halved. “Over the past few days we have received a lot of bookings for July and August for our villa,” explained one owner to me just the other day. “They are mostly from Austria and Slovenia, and of course we had to drop our prices considerably,” she added. Yes, people are actually booking holidays in Dubrovnik and more importantly she had almost halved her price per night. COVID-19 will lead to a huge price correction, and quite frankly that isn’t a bad thing.

For far too long we have had a mass of apartments and hotels offering Fiats at Ferrari prices. And it isn’t only accommodation, but restaurants, cafes, well pretty much everything. Market forces is all about supply and demand. In 2020 and probably 2021 we will have a supply far greater than the demand. Leading to a price competition for heads on pillows and bums on seats, in basic terms a price war. And a war that will last. Almost every day I am bombarded with offers from airlines to fly across Europe for the price of a coffee on the Stradun. They are even offering 2021 holiday packages in Dubrovnik for the price of a good meal. The war has started. And just as any war there will inevitably be casualties. Business will close, apartments will be sold and agencies will collapse.

If we are to believe a statement from the Dubrovnik Airport, and we have no reason not to, then passenger numbers this year will be down 70 percent on the year. Being an almost exclusive air destination then we can assume that tourism earnings will drop by the same margin. Surviving on 30 percent of your normal salary will be tough and will drive businesses to get creative on extending the season and attract guests by dumping prices.

In fact, this summer could be one of the best years to visit Dubrovnik. The main complaints from tourists are – it’s too busy and too expensive. Well forget those two complaints this summer. It will be half empty, quite possibly no cruise ships and you won’t have to break the bank or sell a kidney for a week in the sun. But, and it is a pretty big but, you’ll have to be prepared for a rather different experience, a new masked and disinfected experience will await you. Clearly this new altered future isn’t putting everyone off coming, just ask that villa owner who has managed to “Completely sell-out September in a few days.”

But many will decide against it, even though they are probably living in a country with a far greater risk than Dubrovnik. Of course our problem will be handling tourists from badly affected countries. COVID-19 started in Croatia because we managed to import it. We don’t want to import any more thank you!