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.
While fuel prices in Croatia are breaking records, owners of petrol stations across the border in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and rubbing their hands in glee. One man’s loss is another man’s profit. And as petrol prices started to soar in Croatia many drivers made their way across the border to make the most of cheaper fuel prices. Of course, petrol prices in neighbouring BiH are slowly rising but they are still considerably lower than in Croatia. Figures suggest that a litre of petrol is on average two and a half Kuna cheaper in BiH, which if you are filling the tank is a considerable saving.
As the world market fluctuates like a bucking bronco so fuel prices around the globe rise. This week diesel prices in Croatia broke the 11 Kuna a litre mark, the most expensive a litre has been in the past seven years. The Croatian government also decided to react, and to stabilize prices for a period of 30 days, which limits the price of gasoline to about 11 Kuna per litre. And in reaction to this the main oil company INA stated that they will only sell premium fuel until stocks run out. The government passed a decree according to which traders in petroleum products can sell petrol for a maximum of 11.10 per litre for the next 30 days, and diesel for 11 Kuna. "I believe that in the next 30 days there will be a stabilization of prices on the market and that after that period we will continue to function normally as an economy," said the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Tomislav Ćorić.
So whilst the government locks horns with the main fuel company many citizens have decided to take their business elsewhere and save some hard-earned cash. And it isn’t only petrol companies in BiH that are enjoying the windfall, supermarkets and restaurants have also seen a jump in customer numbers. As drivers go to fill up their tanks so they stop off to do some shopping or have a meal, the knock-on effect of rising petrol prices. And as winter comes drivers are also stocking up on anti-freeze, winter tyres and de-icer across the border.
This could be in a strange but true section, or even in a pub quiz. Even though the German Mark (DM) has not been in circulation since 1 January 2002, it is still accepted as payment for misdemeanour fines in the Republic of Croatia.
Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, a currency that has been out of circulation for almost 20 two decades can still be used to pay fines in Croatia. Or at least it could be. Due to the introduction of the euro, the Ministry of the Interior has planned to change almost 30 regulations for next year, and one of them is the law on misdemeanour fines.
"Amendments to these laws will mean converting from German marks to kuna will no longer be used, and when the entire package enters into force, regarding of Croatia's expected entry into the EU monetary mechanism, all penalties will be set in euros," said the Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović.
Croatia’s path, however popular or unpopular it my be, to adopt the Euro as the official currency will at the very least change this out-of-date law.
We went from swimming to shivering! It is the same every year. It’s as if there somebody presses a light switch and we go from short sleeves to scarves. Dubrovnik doesn’t really do seasons. It’s either bright, sunny and hot or windy grey and cold. There is no middle ground, no happy medium. Those long colourful autumn days they have in New England, or even middle Croatia, are only something that we can see on screensavers.
So as October marches on the Indian Summer has been blasted out to sea by the whistling northerly wind our thoughts turn to the long winter ahead of us and looking back over our shoulders at what turned out to be a positive (no not that positive!) season.
So what will the winter bring? Well there will certainly be much fewer conferences than a usual season. I feel it will be a winter of planning, of rethinking and reorganisation. With two years of a pandemic behind us we are (or at least should be) wiser and more equipped to understand what we can and can’t do.
I am predicting that we will still be divided into two groups, the pro and anti-vaccine. If we can just get to a percentage that herd immunity kicks in, then I’d be happy and the anti-vaxxers can protest as much as they want. They are basically protesting about something that isn’t compulsory. It’s a bit like protesting that you don’t want to eat ice-cream. The rest of society is silently screaming “Don’t eat f***ing ice-cream then you imbeciles.”
As we slowly start the hibernation process, the central heating gets turned on and the winter wardrobe is uncovered we should really pat ourselves on the back for a successful tourist season. In spite of the flood of pessimism at the start of the year the season, or more importantly the earnings from tourism, were much higher than anyone expected.
How can Dubrovnik learn from Split?
Although some people were calling to “shut down the country” and to lock ourselves away in a New Zealand approach to fighting Covid they were proved wrong. From around the middle of July to the end of September we were full, completely full.
I do have one question though. How is it that Split Airport has so many more flights and passengers than Dubrovnik? I have actually heard this same sentence amongst business meetings all year. In fact, Split Airport set to be the most frequented airport in Croatia in 2021, taking the title away from Zagreb. For a coastal destination to have more passengers than the capital is unusual.
So what are Split doing than we aren’t? 330,000 passengers used Split in September, Dubrovnik came in at around 208,000. And this winter Zagreb will be connected to a whole range of destinations with the budget airline Ryanair. We, on the other hand, will be in our long winter sleep, busy congratulating ourselves on how clever and how lucky we were that the season ended up being positive.
I gave up on the idea of winter tourism in Dubrovnik a long time ago. It’s just not possible. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the conditions or the offer, the problem is that in our heads we really don’t want to work in the winter.
It isn’t so much a lack of creativity more a lack of need. Earnings in the summer more than cover our winter needs, well in most cases, and we just can’t be bothered, we’re lazy. We won’t have flights in the winter because no airline wants to fly here, we’ll have no flights because we don’t want them to fly here and spoil our sleep.
Do you think that the airport would be empty if it were named Hamburg, Belfast or Manchester, no! But that “all work no play” attitude isn’t our style. It’s a characteristic that starts at school when a pass is seen as all you need, rather than striving for excellent.
We seem all happy with a pass, to be average. But being average in a world-class destination seems a little ironic. “Most people are happy being average. Most are happy being faceless in a sea of faces,” wrote Robert Kiyosaki.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
The Tourist Board of Orebić have reported that they are satisfied with the number of tourists in the first half of October, and stated that there are around 650 guests are still staying on the Pelješac Riviera.
It is also encouraging that as of October 15, the number of 800,000 overnight stays this year was reached and exceeded. This number means that there were more than 270,000 more overnight stays over that period than the same period from 2020. And even more encouraging is the fact that tourism numbers reached an impressive 86 percent of the record breaking year of 2019.
The majority of guests in Orebić are staying in the larger hotels, such as Aminess Grand Azur. Several camps are still open as well as a large number of private apartments and villas.
One of the loudest complaints from holidaymakers in Croatia is the price, or rather the high prices. In fact, it isn’t really the price that is the main gripe but the value for money. However, according to a recent article and survey in the renowned UK publication “Which” it seems that Croatia is in fact the cheapest of the most sought after Mediterranean destinations.
The Which article states that a “A three-star package holiday in Croatia could cost you an average of £350 less than a similar trip to Malta – and it was the cheapest location to visit across the board, including Greece, Portugal and Spain.”
It must be empathised that the price surveys included the whole of Croatia, if it had concentrated on Dubrovnik, which along with Hvar is the most expensive destination in Croatia, then the results could have been much different.
“Which? carried out snapshot research across a number of popular European short-haul destinations to determine which is the cheapest for October package holidays, including flights from London,” states the article.
Hotel Excelsior overlooking the Old City of Dubrovnik - Photo ALH
And here is what they uncovered about Croatia. “Out of all the destinations we looked into, Croatia was the cheapest to visit for a package holiday. At an average of £485pp, a three-star holiday in Croatia is more than £350 cheaper than a three-star holiday to Malta. Even when comparing the average price across three, four and five-star holidays, Croatia remained the cheapest destination, at £520 per head. That’s a difference of £347,” wrote Which. They also added that in October the weather can be changeable, and this October is a perfect example of that autumnal weather.
And with half-term in England a week away this publicity could certainly help boost the number of Brits who arrive on the Dalmatian coast. British Airways are still operating up to 11 flights a week between London and Dubrovnik and other carriers, such as EasyJet are also still flying until at least the end of this month. British Airways are offing return flights to Dubrovnik from around £240 and as an example of a package deal are offering seven-nights with breakfast in the five-star Hotel Croatia in Cavtat including flights for around £740pp. Or is you want to take a step up to the most iconic hotel in Dubrovnik, the Hotel Excelsior, with views directly over the Old City of Dubrovnik you can get a similar deal for £1,363pp.
1.25 million passengers passed through Croatian airports in August, an increase of 113.8 percent compared to the same month last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic meant that only 585 thousand passengers used airports across Croatia.
According to new data from the Central Bureau of Statistics the number of passengers that used Croatian airports in the height of the summer season was just over 64 percent of the number from 2019. It must be emphasized that 2019 was a record breaking year for Croatian tourism.
Over the first eight months of this year, 2.8 million passengers have travelled through all airports, which is 65.2 percent more than in the same period from last year. Highlighting the bounce back from the pandemic that Croatian tourism has seen, in a year that was well above expectations.
Split is the absolute leader and in August alone 491,000 passengers used the airport, a massive 81 percent more than last year. And Split airport is on course to be the busiest airport in Croatia this year, taking the title from Zagreb.
Even Dubrovnik airport beat the capital’s airport in August, with 288,000 passengers passing through Croatia’s southernmost airport, with Zagreb airport lagging behind with 193,000 passengers. However, with Ryanair creating a mini-hub in Zagreb airport this winter and operating to a number of European destinations the capital’s airport should have a strong end to the season.
Zadar Airport was in fourth place with just over 163 thousand, which is the largest increase among all airports.
The largest international passenger traffic in August was realized with German airports, 242 thousand passengers, which is an increase of 92.2 percent compared to the same last year.
Statistics show that airports, despite the growth in traffic compared to August last year, are still lagging behind the same month of pre-pandemic 2019.
For example, passenger traffic through Split Airport was 27 percent lower than in August 2019, through Dubrovnik Airport 45 percent lower, and through Zagreb Airport 48 percent lower.
In the last 24 hours, 1,947 new cases of Covid-19 virus infection were recorded, and the number of active cases in Croatia today is a total of 10,331.
Among them, 871 people are in hospital, of which 114 are on ventilators.
Unfortunately, a further 15 people passed away in Croatia in the past 24 hours.
Since February 25, 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, a total of 426,613 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, of which 8,877 have died, a total of 407,405 people have recovered, of which 1,412 recovered in the last 24 hours.
There are currently 20,531 people in self-isolation.
To date, a total of 2,963,298 people have been tested, of which 9,410 were tested in the last 24 hours.
As of October 15, 2021, 3,516,613 doses of vaccine have been used, and 46.04 percent of the total population and 55.19 percent of the adult population have been vaccinated. On 15.10.2021, 6,349 doses of vaccine were used, of which 2,962 people were vaccinated with the first dose.
Good news for Dubrovnik’s winter tourism scene comes in the news that the Russian airline, Ural Airlines, will continue to fly to Dubrovnik through the off season.
Ural Airlines will connect Dubrovnik with Moscow (Domodedovo Airport) once a week through the winter months in what is the first direct winter connection to Moscow from Dubrovnik.
Flights were planned to operate on a seasonal basis and were scheduled to end at the end of October. However, Ural Airline has included flights to Dubrovnik on their recently published winter flights schedule. This means that once a week, until the end of March, Dubrovnik will have a direct flight from Moscow every Saturday. Prices for a single ticket start at around 149 Euros.