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.
Croatia’s path towards adopting the Euro as the official currency is growing pace with the European Central bank revealing that they would carry out stress tests of five leading Croatian banks. This is basically the next step for the country’s aim to join the euro zone after the letter of intent to join the euro zone was sent from Zagreb to Brussels last months.
According to an article on Reuters the five Croatian banks that will be unfžder the magnifiying glass are Zagrebacka banka, Privredna banka Zagreb, Erste & Steiermärkische Bank, OTP banka Hrvatska and Hrvatska postanska banka. It is expected that the full results of these stress tests will be known by May of next year. Interestingly only one of these five banks is actually Croatian owned, Hrvatska postanska banka.
Reuters reported that “Croatia last month submitted a formal bid to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-2), an early stage on the path to membership of the euro currency."
Croatia sent a letter of intent to join the euro zone, and therefore adopt the Euro as the official currency, on the 4th of July.
And it seems that the public will not be asked their opinion in the form of a public referendum. The Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, has already made his feelings clear on this point when he stated that the public have already decided when they voted to join the European family back in 2012 when almost 67 percent voted to enter.
In fact, Croatia's EU membership does oblige it to eventually join the euro zone, as such the country plans to join the European Monetary System, the pathway to euro adoption. It is rumoured that the earliest date that Croatians could be paying in Euros rather than Kunas is 2023.
The most popular car brands in Croatia so far this year are Volkswagen, Opel and Renault, although Audis, BMWS and even Porches are on the wanted list.
From the beginning of the year until the end of July 44,368 new cars were sold in Croatia, which is a small growth of almost 1 percent when compared with last year. And the most popular brands are Volkswagen, who have sold 5,440 new vehicles have been sold this year, followed by Opel with 4,519, Renault with 4,309, Skoda with 4.014 and Dacia with 2,789.
And also at the high-end of the car market 68 new Porsches have been sold, 1,130 Audis, 987 BMWs and 863 Mercedes were sold.
The best-selling model this year has been the Skoda Octavia, followed by the Renault Clio, the Volkswagen Golf, the Opel Corsa and the Suzuki Vitara.
And diesel models are much less popular than last year, 61 percent of all vehicles sold this year have been petrol models, 35.5 percent diesel, hybrids just over 2 percent and only 0.2 percent electric cars.
The days of a classic fortnight package holiday on the beach seem a long distant memory, travellers today aren’t seeking sun, sand and the sea but a much more active vacation. And Croatia has found itself on a list of the top 50 most adventurous countries in the world.
From white water rafting to zip-lining travellers are today looking for thrills and spills and according to recent research Croatia is a good location.
The website Just Traveller has analysed Google search trends to find the most adventurous countries in the world, based on search volume around adventure travel phrases including sky diving, skiing, scuba diving and more. Coming out in the top spot with the highest adrenaline seeking population is Australia, where people displayed the highest search volume across these phrases.
And Croatia ranked in the top 50 countries in 45th place. Somewhat surprisingly Croatia placed sixth in the world for Google searches for sky diving, and even more odd ninth in the world for skiing.
The USA, UK, New Zealand and Germany also made the top 5. At the bottom end of the scale, Tajikistan was named the least adventurous country in the world.
Whereas the rest of Croatia saw a drop in tourist numbers in July Dubrovnik is clearly on the top of many travellers lists and bucked the national trend by recording a growth in tourist numbers. In July Dubrovnik recorded a 5 percent growth in tourism numbers compared to the same month from last year with 227,905 travellers enjoying the pearl of the Adriatic.
The majority of the guests in July came from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Norway, Australia, Spain, Canada, Finland and Sweden.
And according to figures just released by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board more tourists decided on booking their Dubrovnik break in private apartments and villas than in the city’s hotels. Almost 97,000 tourists stayed at one of the 51 hotels in the city, whereas just over 102,000 jumped online and booked an Airbnb or Booking.com accommodation in the city. In fact since the beginning of this year until the end of July stays in private accommodation is up by a massive 13 percent compared to the same period from last year.
Dubrovnik fared much better than the rest of the country as a whole, according to data from the Croatian National Tourist Board there were 32,038 less tourist in Croatia in July and 402,439 fewer overnight stays.
Since the beginning of this year and up until the end of July an impressive 813,340 tourists stayed in Dubrovnik, an increase of 17 percent over last year and 2.4 million overnight stays were achieved. 2019 certainly looks like being another record breaking tourist year in Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik Airport is having a year to remember, with more passengers than ever before and more international flight connections as well. Figures just released by the airport show that July was yet another impressive month for the airport.
Out of all the airports in Croatia the southernmost one in Dubrovnik had the biggest increase in passenger numbers in July. 514,723 passengers passed through the airport in July this year, only the second time in the airport’s history that the half million mark has been broken. Last July 474,643 passengers travelled through the airport.
In the first seven months of this year a total of 1.57 million travellers have used the airport, which is over 200,000 more passengers when compared with the same period from last year.
The Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, has given an indication that she will once again run for the presidency. At a press conference in Knin after a ceremony to mark one oif the most important dates on the Croatian calendar, the Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and the Day of Croatian Defenders, the President said to waiting journalists “I am here in my capacity as the president of the Republic of Croatia, we will see each other in the next five years.”
The next elections for the President of Croatia are due to take place on a date between the 21st of December this year and the 20th of January 2020. They will be the seventh presidential elections since the first direct ones were held in 1992.
So far Grabar-Kitarovic has yet to officially declare her candidacy, although it is strongly believed that she will stand again. When she was elected in 2015 she became the first female President of the Republic of Croatia. Eleven other candidates have thrown their hats into the ring already and openly stated that they will run. Although she has yet to declare the polls have Grabar-Kitarovic in first place, followed by the former SDP Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, and the independent candidate Miroslav Škoro.
With the opening of two exhibitions in the Homeland War Museum in the Imperial Fort on the top of the Srđ Mountain the two-day commemoration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving and the Day of Croatian Veterans began.
These new exhibitions were opened on yesterday, Sunday the 4th of August, and both feature numerous interesting objects. "Orlando War Years 1991-1995", exhibiting artifacts from the museums fund and created by Varina Jurica Turk and the exhibition "Prisioners”, a guest exhibition by authors Josip Ivan, Ivan Ivan and Gordana Čep. Both exhibitions marked different occasions but both were intertwined, celebrating 600 years of Orlando in Dubrovnik and 11 years since the museum on the top of the Srđ Mountain was opened.
The Orlando exhibition highlights what this iconic landmark of Dubrovnik passed through during the Homeland War and includes many original photos and images.
Whilst the "Prisoners" exhibition touches on a painful topic in a different way - with sculptures wrapped in bandages of wounded people, who are broken as they are in the prisoner camps during the war.
A joint exhibition that shows the suffering of war and informs visitors of the hardships that Croatia passed through, certainly well worth a visit.
One of the leading lights of the largest humanitarian organisations in the world recently visited Dubrovnik. Dr. Miguel Villarroel, one of the four vice-presidents of the Red Cross visited Dubrovnik as part of a family holiday.
The Director of the Dubrovnik Red Cross, Živko Šimunović, hosted the Villarroel and took the opportunity to brief him on the situation on the activities of the Red Cross in the city.
They also visited the sites where the project "Red Cross in the City" is being implemented as well as the volunteers who act as life-guards on the city’s beaches. “This is Miguel’s first visit to Dubrovnik and he is here with his family, he is very satisfied and impressed with the city,” added Šimunović.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 17 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide.
“For me it is a great honour to be here in Dubrovnik,” commented Villarroel, adding that “I have had the chance to speak to some volunteers in the city and it always makes me proud to see and to talk to these wonderful people.”