“I have a group and we would like to visit Dubrovnik for the day, is that possible and what are the Covid-19 regulations,” popped up a message through Facebook this week. It has to be said that these kind of messages aren’t unusual, that would in fact be an understatement. “We are in Montenegro at the moment and would like to come tomorrow,” continued the message.
Now whilst it was a little “last-minute” I can understand the need for information. And that has been the biggest mistake, the lack of information. In general terms Croatia can be proud of how it handled, and is still handling, the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course there have been mistakes, but fortunately the positives have far outweighed the negatives. And this has led to Croatia having a relatively good situation and one that was able to welcome in tourists from certain nations. But that’s where the problems began.
I would say that I have received at least ten messages every day since the beginning of May from potential tourists desperate to find out information. Knowledge is power. And these questions range from – is Croatia/Dubrovnik safe – what do I need to have with me to cross the borders – do I have to be in self-isolation – what is the medical support if I get the virus whilst on holiday. I could go on and on. And each of these questions comes from a potential tourist.
It weighs heavy on my mind that the answer I give them could affect whether they decide to come to Dubrovnik on holiday or not. That’s a big responsibility. And quite frankly not one that should involve me. I have spent hours sifting through government regulations, contacting embassies and generally trying to keep informed, and it hasn’t been easy. The flow, or rather lack of flow, of information has meant that even I, as a journalist, have had challenges finding a clear answer. Imagine if you are a potential tourist from London, imagine how difficult it has been for them.
For a country that pretty much relies on tourism to fill the budget this lack of easy to understand and easy to find up-to-date data has been shocking, truly incredible. Whilst this clearly should have been handled on a country level, and clearly it wasn’t, why then didn’t individual cities and destinations step up and provide a solution. Three quarters of Dubrovnik’s GDP comes from tourism.
A small office with staff who speak multiple languages, that have a solid and easy to navigate website, a free telephone hotline, active social media and a channel to the media, now that would have been a start. I would guess that with such an office the tourism numbers would have been up by ten percent. That’s a huge difference. Why hasn’t somebody insisted on this?
Information also gives a feeling of safety, that a destination cares for its guests and is on top of the situation. We have nothing to hide. And to be honest even if the Covid-19 figures were terrible they should still be announced publically. Thankfully that isn’t the case, especially in Dubrovnik. Rather than concentrating energy, and indeed not a small amount of finances, of promotion and lobbying. In these times, when all the tools are at the ends of our fingers and a mouse click away, the task of keeping people knowledgeable has never been easier.
A “Dubrovnik-corona” office could have been set up for a year (let’s pray that we don’t need it longer) and would have been the central point. Need info flights, borders, regulations or even the adaptation of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, you can find it all in one centre. Now quite frankly all this info is all over the place and it’s a labyrinth that will lose most people. Which is I guess why I am being bombarded. “Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders,” once said Ronald Regan. Let’s give our tourism industry a blast of oxygen. We need a deep breath in these challenging times.