Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.
The challenges facing the cruise industry in Dubrovnik have been a hot topic for the past decade. These very challenges were the main topic at the Tourism and Strategy congress held in Dubrovnik, in the Hotel Valamar President this week. An international panel discussed best practises in the cruise ship industry and one of the participants was the President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Cindy D’Aoust.
The Dubrovnik Times caught up with D’Aoust to discover her opinions on the route that Dubrovnik is taking and how the cruise ship business views the “Pearl of the Adriatic.” Established in 1975, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, providing a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community. CLIA supports policies and practices that foster a safe, secure, healthy and sustainable cruise ship environment and is dedicated to promoting the cruise travel experience.
Dubrovnik has faced problems with tourism overcrowding and one important factor is the cruise ships that arrive in the city. Do you welcome the measures that the Mayor of Dubrovnik has introduced to restrict the number of cruise ships in the coming years?
I would answer that differently. We respect the goal that he had to help create a sustainable tourism environment. I don’t think the answer in tourism is ever stopping, let’s say by putting caps, because we all have a role to play in this. It isn’t a cruise ship problem. We are part of tourism and we are part of the solution.
CLIA is an organisation that primarily looks after the needs and concerns of cruise ship companies. Why then has the City of Dubrovnik been invited to become a member? Is this not a conflict of interests?
Absolutely not, we all need to collaborate as partners. It isn’t an “either/or” situation we all need to be together and try to figure out the long term solutions. The City of Dubrovnik are a partner of CLIA and not a member, our members are cruise ship companies.
One of the problems is that cruise ships are concentrated in one part of the year. Can you foresee a time when Dubrovnik is seen as an all-year round cruise destination?
The reality is that cruising is always going to be driven by the demand of the passengers. More and more passengers are interested in travelling off-season or finding new seasons. So to answer your question I think we will see that in the future.
In 2020 the Mayor of Dubrovnik has announced a reduction of cruise ships to no more than two per day. How do you respond to this measure?
Again I think the answer is for us all to work together on finding a solution. I am hoping that at this festival we can really talk about developing better infrastructure and we can develop better tour opportunities and how we can extend the season. One solution will not be the best solution.
Generally, are your members, the cruise ship companies, satisfied with Dubrovnik as a destination? What feedback do you receive?
Dubrovnik is a very, very popular destination. People love coming here and that is why there are so many tourists. So I am also sure that with the popularity we need to figure out ways to be able to increase visitors to come to this great destination.
How has the cruise ship industry changed over the past twenty years?
What is so unique to the cruise ship industry is their ability to listen to their passengers and make changes. The cruise ship industry listens to their passengers and respond immediately.
I believe that you will step down at the end of this year. How would you sum up your mandate?
Yes, I am stepping down at the end of this year. I think my greatest legacy will be that we have a great community that are all working together for future goals. Some of the best leaders in the industry are involved in CLIA so that’s my legacy it that we have built a good team.
If you read the headlines it would seem that the end is near for Croatia. Young professional people leaving the country in a mass exodus leading to a huge shortfall of workers to service the one shining light, the tourism sector. Everyone is of course blaming everyone else for the tragic situation.
One of the arguments that constantly appears is “well if you paid workers more then they wouldn’t leave the country.” Laying the blame at entrepreneurs is missing the mark by miles. The problem is rightly the low salaries but this has very little to do with the business owners and everything to do with the greed, or should I say disorganisation of the government.
Maths has never been my strongest characteristic so I going to keep these calculations as straightforward as possible. If you pay your worker a salary of 10,000 Kuna net per month then you as the employer will have to pay around 18,000 Kuna gross. So in other words for almost every Kuna you reward your worker you’ll also reward the state another Kuna, give or take a few Lipa. If you pay slightly less, let’s say 7,000 Kuna, then you’ll be hit with a gross amount just over 12,000 Kuna. Of course the more you pay the more tax you pay. So much so that if you pay your workers 15,000 Kuna you pay the state exactly the same amount.
To give you some perspective on these figures I contact a UK employment agency to find how much employers had to pay in taxes in contributions. The results gave the exact answer why Croatian companies are struggling, why people are leaving due to low salaries and to what good organisation and a solid system bring. Again these figures are a rough calculation but you’ll get the point. The same salary of 10,000 Kuna, which converts to around £1,200, would mean that the employer would have to pay around 12,000 Kunas a month!
Even with my terrible maths that’s a clear difference of 6,000 Kunas a month. Or if you like it is 10,000 Euros a year more expensive to pay a worker in Croatia. Or if you like an employer could buy a new small every year in the UK. But quite possibly the Croatian employer, if they had the same financial benefits as a UK employer, would actually invest more into their workers and indeed products and business.
Private companies are becoming an endangered species in Croatia and when we delve into the brutal tax system it is easy to see why. There are around 150,000 active private entities and these few private companies actually employ people, pay taxes to keep the country’s budget flowing, create exports and earn money. These are the risk takers and they need to be rewarded not squashed like tomatoes in a spaghetti Bolognese.
And I have yet to mention all the other crazy taxes that are piled onto the shoulders of entrepreneurs, such as taxes for the Tourist Boards, forests, water and God only knows what else.
Private business is being slowly strangled to death. And why – simply because of the greed of the state. Greed and the inability to actually see the bigger picture. To actually realise that the future lies in the hands of up and coming young Croatian born businessmen and women who will take a risk by using their own money to start a business. Make the tax system more accommodating and not so restrictive and these seeds of business grow.
And in case you were wondering how much an employee with a salary of 7,000 Kuna in the UK would cost you, and hide your eyes if you are a Croatian business owner, a total of 7,600 Kuna in total. This is the root of the problem. As Shakespeare would say “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Add this to the slow court system, corruption, snail’s speed of reforms and illogical state decisions and it is easy to see why the rolling hills of Bavaria and enticing for our workforce. Give private business half a chance to breathe, the results will be repaid ten times over.
The budget proposal was presented by the Minister of Finance on Friday at a government meeting and all of the ministries can expect an increase in funds in 2019 apart from the Ministry of Tourism.
In 2019 the total budget revenues are around 136.1 billion Kuna, which is up by 5.5 percent on the 2018 budget. And budget spending is planned at 140.3 billion Kuna, or 6.9 billion Kuna more than last year.
Of all the ministries in the government only the Ministry of Tourism will see a reduction in the budget from 2018. In fact, the Ministry of Tourism has a hefty decrease of by 16.8 percent to 192.1 million Kuna (€25.8 million).
The highest increase in budget goes to the Ministry of Finance which will see its budget allocation rise by 7.5 billion Kuna, or 21 percent more than last year, to 41.9 billion Kuna.
Zagreb's Croatian History Museum will mark the centennial of the 1918 end of World War I by staging an exhibition titled "1918 - A Turning Point for Croatia", which will symbolically open at 11:00am on Sunday, November 11, exactly 100 years after the armistice that ended the fighting between the Allies and Germany took effect.
The exhibition, that will run through May 19, includes more than 500 exhibits in addition to archive and library material, curated from the museum's own holdings, as well as other institutions' collections.
Museum director Mate Brstilo-Resetar told a news conference on Thursday that the exhibition would focus on political decisions that eventually had far-reaching influence on the course of Croatia's history.
For Croatian historians, the year 1918 is seen as a turning point in terms of the country's political and social history. Towards the end of that year, Croatia ceased to be part of Austria-Hungary, before joining a new country of South Slavs which eventually became Yugoslavia.
If you want to be alone in your thoughts with only the whisper of the Adriatic and the flutter of pigeons around you then now is the time to visit Dubrovnik.
The normally packed Banje beach just a stone’s throw from the ancient Old City of Dubrovnik was a picture of peace and tranquillity today and two lucky visitors enjoyed nature’s own spa centre on the beach.
This isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last time, that a summer image of Dubrovnik has been confused with another destination.
Newspapers, magazines and even airlines have used Dubrovnik to advertise Mostar, Italy and Malta and the latest sees the iconic Banje beach in Dubrovnik advertising Cyprus.
Triangle Travel, an Indian based travel operator, has advertised holidays in Cyprus with a beautiful photo of the Banje beach with the ancient city of Dubrovnik in the background.
The UK based low cost airline easyJet is continuing its growth in Croatia with the announcement of yet another new connection for 2019. easyJet will launch seasonal flights between Pula and Amsterdam for the summer season of 2019.
The low cost airline already flies to multiple destinations to Croatia, with Dubrovnik acting as a mini-hub for the popular airline. In fact, easyJet carried the second most number of passengers to Dubrovnik this year after the Croatian national airline, Croatia Airlines.
And now easyjet is expanding in Pula and plans to carry around 57,000 passengers to the Adriatic destination next year with flights from London Southend, Milan, Basel, Liverpool and now Amsterdam.
The James Brown classic seems to be true in Croatia – it is a man’s world. According to a recent survey men earn much more than women on an annual basis. The European Project – Equal Rights Equal Pay Equal Pensions, whose goals are to achieve gender equality and fight poverty in Croatia, was presented in Zagreb this week and one of the shocking statistics was the gap in pay equality.
In 2015 men in Croatia earned on average €1,550 a year than women. The average gross monthly wage in Croatia in 2015 was some 7,500 kuna (€1,000) for women and 8,400 (€1,130) for men, which means that women received on average 88.7 percent of the wages men received that year.
Of course the fact that men receive larger salaries in general than women also means that women receive lower pensions, this can quite easily lead to financial dependence on husbands.
As part of the project, an in-depth study of the situation will be carried out at national level, educational programmes will be designed, workshops will be held in four cities and a national legislative framework for equal pay and pensions is expected to be drawn up.