Monday, 06 July 2020
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

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.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

According to today's announcement of the County Civil Protection Headquarters, a new case of coronavirus infection has been recorded in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County. This is the first new case of Covid-19 in the county since the 8th of May.

This is a person who resides in the area of the city of Dubrovnik, and who became infected during a stay in Zagreb. It is a young man who is in good general condition, but with mild symptoms. His personal contacts are being processed.

Out of a total of 54 analysed samples on Friday, one is being repeated and the remaining 52 are negative. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,395 samples have been sent for analysis.

The Civil Protection Headquarters of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County continues to appeal to the citizens to adhere to all measures prescribed by the Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia.

 

It took years to build and only a few weeks to destroy. I think the real story starts in around the year 2003, yes I am pretty sure it was 2003, four years before the global financial crisis. Tourism and indeed the real estate market started to boom in Dubrovnik. Half of the Old City was sold as the exodus to Lapad began. Cruise ships had discovered Dubrovnik. The pearl of the Adriatic soon became the emerald of the world’s media.

You could smell the expectation in the air. That was when it all began. Yes, 2003, when the tsunami of tourism rose on the Adriatic and crashed into those iconic ancient walls. We didn’t know what was coming. What was about to hit us. There were no plans. Dubrovnik was passive. There was only one active force and that was tourism. Tourism happened to Dubrovnik. And 2003 was a full five years before Airbnb had even started business. Record year followed record year. Revenues were booming. I remember one restaurateur telling me at the time “I managed to buy an apartment in Zagreb after my first year, and I paid in cash.”

The city could do no wrong. The City of Dubrovnik had so much cash they didn’t know what to do. Extra staff were hired, projects started, events planned, in spite of being the thirteenth city in terms of population Dubrovnik had the fourth biggest annual budget. And then from a clear blue sky dropped a marketing bomb. In 2013 the second season of Game of Thrones landed right in our laps. With no lobbying and no persuasion Dubrovnik was handed a golden goose that would lay more golden eggs Viktor Vekselberg has Faberge eggs.

All the money in the world couldn’t buy the marketing and interest that Dubrovnik was receiving thanks to a bunch of dragons. Ironically (or maybe symbolically) those same dragons destroyed Dubrovnik at the end of the serial. Dedicated souvenir shops, tours, cocktails and everything else in between opened up. Game of Thrones brought with them Star Wars, Bollywood and an utterly awful version of Robin Hood. Yes, in a few years the city had been a galaxy, far, far away and Sherwood Forest.

The tide of tourism was rising. Airbnb brought competition and suddenly everyone with a garage had a “luxury apartment in King’s Landing.” Apartment owners grew like mushrooms after the rain. What should have been an extra form of income, a bonus, soon turned into the main source of income for many. 7,000. 9,000. 12,000. 14,000. The number of apartments climbed like a soaring seagull. Hotels pumped prices like a bodybuilder pumping steroids. Monaco looked like a cheap hotel option. Airlines were queuing up. Euros, pounds, dollars, yen. Money flowed into the city from all angles. And records continued to fall. Most people on the city walls ever. Most number of overnight stays in history. Record profits. Highest ever revenues. We were living in a time of superlatives. Sailing freely on the calm Adriatic with the wind of tourism easing us towards the horizon. It was plain sailing.

The government even tried to handcuff businesses in 2013 with the introduction of the fiscal cash register. Like the Sheriff of Nottingham demanding more gold from his subjects. But even this electronic inconvenience was circumnavigated like a pothole in Gruž. Capitalism was alive and well, and was an unstoppable force. Or was it?

After almost two decades of raking in the cash, like salt in the pans of Ston, we hit a bump in the road that couldn’t be avoided. Five letters, and two numbers, that people would remember for the rest of their lives - Covid-19. Two decades of business destroyed by two months of closure. Business scurry to the city for bailouts and help, the City scurries to the bank for a 60 million overdraft, the banks scurry to the government for support, the government scurries to the EU for cash and the EU runs to the World Bank for a loan!

Again two decades of record profits, that saw apartments paid for in cash, destroyed by two months. And don’t forget “Winter is Coming” very soon.     

     

The Interior Minister and head of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, Davor Bozinovic, said on Friday that the police had already begun more intensive controls on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia after the first new cases of infection related to neighbouring countries.

Bozinovic told Jutarnji List that more intensive controls began on Thursday after new cases of the infection related to those countries emerged.

"Anyone who wants to enter Croatia must state the reason for the trip and present documentation that supports it, such as the economic interest in our country," Bozinovic said.

He stressed that Croatia has never fully opened its borders to Serbia and BiH, as they have done to ten European countries that have a good epidemiological situation.

Jutarnji list states that passengers from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina who tried to enter Croatia during the last two days without having a valid reason supported by documentation, were returned to their country from the border. This is the result of stricter measures at border crossings with these countries, with which most of the new patients in Croatia have been connected in the last week.

Minister Božinović believes that the situation in Croatia will not escalate because epidemiologists have "traced the majority of patients", meaning the manner and origin of the infection.

 

Almost the last major attraction in Dubrovnik that had yet to reopen after the Covid-19 safety restrictions were introduced, will indeed open its doors to the public this coming Monday. The Dubrovnik Cable Car, which directly after the iconic Dubrovnik City Walls, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, has announced that from Monday the 22nd of June they will once again start operations.

In a press release the owners and operators, Excelsa nekretnine, stated that “We are pleased to inform the public that the Dubrovnik Cable Car will continue operating on Monday, June 22, 2020. We will mark the continuation of our work with special promotional prices that will be valid for a short period.”

And added that “In order to ensure an adequate level of protection in the conditions of danger of infection with the COVID-19 virus, we have introduced a number of preventive measures. Some of the most important are a significant reduction in the number of passengers in the cabins compared to regular capacity, temperature measurement of staff and passengers, mandatory protective equipment for staff, free protective equipment provided for passengers, the lower and upper stations are equipped with numerous disinfectants and all public areas are often cleaned and disinfected.”

Clearly, due to the nature of their business, and the small cabins that whisk passengers up to the top of the Srđ Mountain overlooking Dubrovnik the Cable Car has had to introduce extra special measures. And the company concluded that “We regularly monitor the spread of the virus and we will adjust the protective measures to the development of the situation.”

 

The total value of real estate sold in Croatia in 2019 amounted to 39.8 billion Kuna, which represented 10 percent of gross domestic product, and that value is 23.7 percent higher than in 2018,” stated the expert panel “Real Estate Market of the Republic of Croatia,” on Friday.

The meeting was organized by the Institute of Economics Zagreb and the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning, and presented the publication "Real Estate Market Review of the Republic of Croatia in 2019", which analysed the main trends in the markets of apartments, family houses, business premises, agricultural, construction and forest land.

The analysis showed that 111,673 transactions were realized on the real estate market last year, which was a 6.5 percent growth on an annual level. The largest number of transactions related to agricultural land, 34.3 percent, with 23.7 percent or almost 25 thousand followed by flats or apartments, construction land transactions was 17.1 thousand, and family houses 14 thousand transactions.

According to the number of purchase and sale transactions, the City of Zagreb stands out, with more than 13.5 thousand, followed by Split with two thousand, Zadar 1,480, Rijeka with 1,304 and Osijek, with 1,775 transactions.

Ivana Rašić from the Zagreb Institute of Economics pointed out that the analysis shows that the growth of real estate prices is related to the intensity of tourist activity, so where there are more tourist overnight stays, so real estate prices are higher.

This meant, of course, that Dubrovnik had in 2019 the highest price per square meter of real estate in Croatia, around 18 thousand Kuna. Whilst the average price per metre squared in other coastal destinations was between 10 and 15 thousand Kunas, and the price in Zagreb was 9,641 Kuna.

The lowest price of apartments was recorded in Vukovar-Srijem County, 3,577, and as Rašić points out, the difference in the purchase price of a square meter of an apartment between Vukovar-Srijem and Dubrovnik-Neretva County is 10,013, which means that the price of one square meter in the southernmost Croatian county buy 3.8 square meters in the easternmost.

 

After 11 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Croatia yesterday, in the last 24 hours, 12 new cases of coronavirus infection were recorded, so far a total of 2,281 people across Croatia have contracted Covid-19.

Today’s new cases of Covid-19 in Croatia are from the City of Zagreb, the Zagreb County, and the Split-Dalmatia County.

The Director of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases Dr. Fran Mihaljević, Alemka Markotić, told Večernji list that citizens have relaxed a little too much and that it was necessary to remain responsible.

“Distance is important, more and more people are not keeping their distance, even in stores, face masks have to be worn and hand hygiene. We want to be well, to rest, to have tourism. If we spoil it all, we will have to impose restrictions," Markotic said.

 

There are no new cases of coronavirus infection in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County over the past 24-hour period, and the remaining samples sent to Zagreb for testing on Thursday are all negative.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,341 samples have been sent for analysis to Zagreb.

There is not a single person in self-isolation in the area of the county, and there isn’t one Covid-19 patient in the Dubrovnik general Hospital.

The last case of Covid-19 in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County was back on the 8th of May this year.

 

The president of the National Civil Protection Headquarters and Interior Minister, Davor Bozinovic, said on Thursday that currently, despite 11 new coronavirus infections, there are no indications that some measures should be tightened. However, the possibility always remains that some restrictions could be brought back in.

"We will see in which direction this new virus centre we have goes," Bozinovic told Nova TV, noting that the headquarters always said that they were balancing measures between economic activities and protection of life.

He noted that they are constantly discussing and analysing the situation and will, depending on that, decide on some measures and recommendations and inform the public about it, but, as he said, they are not at that stage yet.

"If you travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and other countries in the region, there really must be a reason for going, and not go for something you can do without," Bozinovic said, adding that they had long ago stated that cross-border movement carries risks with it.

As for tourism, he said that the Headquarters were clearly attempting to save this tourist season as much as possible, adding that Croatia has a favourable epidemiological situation. However, he added that tourist arrivals of citizens from third countries will not be allowed to arrive any time soon. "We will certainly not go into full liberalization in the foreseeable future. The European Commission has issued recommendations, we will see the epidemiological situation", concluded Božinović.

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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