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.
Two major organizations representing airlines and airport associations sharply criticized “inconsistent” travel restrictions in Europe on Friday that undermine passenger confidence.
"The European aviation sector is asking the EU Member States and Schengen as well as the UK to review travel restrictions, especially quarantine," writes the International Air Transport Association (IATA, 290 companies) and Airlines for Europe (A4E), as well as ACI Europe, which represents more than 500 airports in 45 European countries.
They sent a letter to the leaders and ministers of transport, health and interior of EU countries, the Schengen area and the United Kingdom.
"Many of these restrictions are not in line with the principles of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)," the three organizations said.
“Some of these national unilateral measures run counter to expert advice and further undermine clients trust,” they warn.
Several European countries have announced quarantines for travelers from other EU countries and regions.
The British government hastily ordered the measure on July 26 towards Spain and surprised thousands of tourists who found themselves there on holiday.
The three associations are asking authorities for better coordination and harmonization at the European level. They also demand that restrictive measures be made as localized as possible, and that quarantine be applied only as a last resort.
In the Dubrovnik-Neretva County one new case of Covid-19 was recorded in the last 24 hours. It is a younger male person from Ploče, who had a close contact with a previously ill person.
On a positive note two people have made a full recovery, one from Dubrovnik and one from Ploče.
A total of 6,129 samples have been analyzed since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of today, there are no hospitalized people positive for Covid-19 in the Dubrovnik General Hospital.
There are 172 people in self-isolation, and in the last 24 hours there were no violations of self-isolation measures.
Over the past 24 hours in Croatia there have been 86 new cases of Covid-19 recorded with the capital Zagreb seeing a spike with 31 new cases detected. The total number of active cases in Croatia is now 738, and among them 127 patients are hospitalized and nine people are on a ventilator. Over the past 24 hours no new fatalities due to the virus have been recorded.
Since 25 February 2020, when the first case of infection was recorded in Croatia, a total of 5,224 people have been infected with Covid-19 to date, of whom 145 have died and 4,341 have recovered.
There are currently 2,695 people in self-isolation. To date, a total of 120,336 people have been tested, of which 1,381 were tested in the last 24 hours.
Zagreb has seen the most case over the past 24 hours, with 31 new cases recorded, and this follows 14 new cases from the previous day. The Croatian capital is followed by the Split-Dalmatian County with 10 new Covid-19 cases.
Not only has the Covid-19 pandemic caused havoc with the Dubrovnik tourism industry but it has also decimated the event calendar in the city. The latest victim of the virus is the popular Dubrovnik Half Marathon and the surrounding events in the Du Motion – Runner’s Days Dubrovnik.
The organizers announced this morning that the already postponed marathon has been cancelled for this year completely. “Due to the uncertainty surrounding the development of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures currently in force in Croatia, but also globally, the sixth edition of Du Motion - Runners' Days Dubrovnik is postponed to 2021,” stated the organizers this morning.
Adding that “Given the existing limitations in the organization of major events and the continuous adoption of new measures aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus, Du Motion, even with the highest organizational standards, in these circumstances cannot guarantee a top racing event and safe environment for all participants. Consequently, in agreement with the City of Dubrovnik, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and partners, as well as based on the recommendations of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, it made a decision on the postponement.”
Safety first as Dubrovnik half marathon cancelled
The Du Motion director, Alen Bošković, commented that “This is an extremely difficult situation for us because we have already postponed the whole event once and invested a lot of energy, effort and financial resources in order to finally hold this year's races. We have been closely monitoring the situation over the past months and hoping for improvement, but given the current circumstances as well as the fact that more than 85 percent of our runners come from abroad, such a decision is simply inevitable. Postponing Du Motion for 2021 is our duty to all of them, as well as to our entire team, volunteers, citizens of Dubrovnik and society in general, because their safety and health always come first.”
The organizers hope that the runners will understand and support their decision because everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation in which the whole world currently finds itself, as well as the fact that only through common responsible behavior can we contribute to stopping the pandemic and returning to normal life. If circumstances permit, the sixth Du Motion will take place in its traditional spring term, April 24 and 25, 2021.
When the Covid-19 pandemic started to play havoc with the travel industry all those months ago the forecast for Croatian tourism was doom and gloom. Predictions of no tourist season whatsoever were banded around and with most Croatian airports closed and the European Union closing all borders these depressing expectations were likely. However, Croatia has proved resilient, well at least the northern destinations, and found a way to attract guests in these challenging times. Tourism figures for July, which is traditionally the peak of the tourist season in Croatia, show that 2.4 million tourists arrived in Croatia and 18.6 million overnight stays were recorded. This might sound like a lot of arrivals, especially in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, but compared to the same month from last year it’s actually only around 53 percent.
Croatia still a safe destination
Still the black predictions seem to have been partially banished. It’s certainly not going to be a tourist season to break records, but in light of the overall situation it’s not going to be a disaster either. "These are, given the circumstances, excellent results and a good announcement for the August ahead. Intensified promotional activities, both invitational advertising campaigns and those of an informative nature, will be carried out until the end of August on the markets in Germany, Austria, Great Britain and Italy, given that these are very important markets for our tourism, where Croatia is on the list of safe countries. It is important to continue responsible behavior and adherence to the prescribed epidemiological measures in order to maintain the status of our country as a safe tourist destination and get the most out of this tourist season, "said the director of the Croatian Tourist Board Kristjan Stanicic.
Almost single-handedly the Germans have saved the 2020 tourist season in Croatia. In July alone 4.43 million of the overnight stays recorded up and down the country came from Germany, incredibly this figure represents 87 percent of the number from last July. And at the moment of the 780,000 tourists who are holidaying on the beaches of the Adriatic a massive 200,000 are from Germany. The most popular destinations are Istria and Dalmatia, which is mainly due to the fact that both are within comfortable driving distance from Germany. And this highlights the problems that more southern destinations, such as Dubrovnik are having this summer. Whereas many Istrian cities are seeing up to 70 percent of the tourists from last year Dubrovnik is still scrapping to reach 30 percent. And as the two most numerous tourists in Dubrovnik normally come from the UK and the USA the outlook doesn’t look quite as positive as the rest of the country.
“There is work enough for everyone, if you really want to work,” puffed a young neighbour of mine. I was just entering the Old City when I spotted a younger boy who seemed to be drowning under a packets of bottled water. He placed them on the floor to catch his breath and with sweat pouring he smiled at me. “I agree…and do you need a hand,” I answered. With a grin he said, “I go this far on my own and I’ll finish on my own.” Now that’s the spirit we need. He could have been on the beach moaning that Covid-19 has ruined his chances of finding a seasonal job, whilst begging from his parents, but no he was lugging packets of water in the midday sun.
As a skipped down the stone stairs I couldn’t stop thinking of him and what a great example he is and that someone brought him up to value hard work. And then the water got me thinking. He was carrying bottles of water from France. I remember a long, long time ago when the ill-fated golf project on Srđ was making presentations. One fact stuck in my head.
The City of Dubrovnik is supplied with fresh drinking water by the River Ombla, and on average uses 400 litres of water a second. That might seem a lot. However, the River Ombla actually produces around 4,000 litres of water a second. These figures might have changed due to the new water intake plant, but you get the rough idea. So that means that roughly 90 percent of the water produced at Ombla flows right out into the sea. You can probably see where I’m going with this, just join the dots.
The one overriding thing that this pandemic has shown us is the fragility of our incomes. The tourism industry is like a crystal vase on top of a washing machine in spin cycle. At some point it is going to crash to the floor and be smashed into a thousand pieces. It’s time to break that complete and utter reliance on such a delicate form of revenue. Bottled water!
Rather than letting 3,600 litres fill the Adriatic every second why not take a small proportion of that and bottle it? Half of the infrastructure is already in place. There is a large empty building on site already that could act as a bottling plant. And the City already uses the water as drinking water anyway. Filter it a few more times, pour it into an ecologically friendly bottle (yes, no plastic please) and slap a funky Dubrovnik inspired label on the front and hey presto! If the production and factory where made in the right way, then they themselves would become tourist attractions in the future. I once went on a tour of the Guinness factory in Dublin, so why not a fresh water source in Dubrovnik.
The whole surroundings look impressive enough just to start with, add some creativity and you have a Dubrovnik success story. In an ideal world this project would be funded and run as a public company. Mainly because I hate the idea of privatising water, a natural resource that should be owned by states and not private corporations. However, a better solution would be a private/public project.
Let’s face it the public sector in Croatia doesn’t have a glorious past of successful projects. It would create jobs, bring in a revenue to the city that isn’t connected to tourism, act as a great marketing tool, clean up an area of the city that is in dire need of refreshment, a percentage of the income could be used to fund environmental causes and create a whole range of spin-off ideas. Did you know that Croatia has the fourth most natural water resources in Europe per capita? Only the Scandinavians beat Croatia. And yet the vast majority fills the Adriatic. The term “a drop in the ocean” has never been more relevant.
In the first six months of 2020 a total of 113 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in Croatia, stated the Croatian Police ahead of the first weekend in August, a traditionally busy period on the roads.
The first half of this year, police added, was marked by accidents in which motorcyclists, young drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and drunk drivers were killed, while the most common cause of accidents in Croatia was speeding and non-use of seat belts. In fact, over half of the traffic fatalities in the first half of 2020 were due to speeding drivers.
On a positive note the figure of 113 fatalities was 14 less than the same period from 2019.
Drunk drivers caused 25 fatal traffic accidents in which 28 people passed away and of the 56 drivers and passengers killed 22 were not wearing a seat belt.
During the first six months of 2020, 26 motorcyclists were unfortunately killed in traffic accidents, while in the period from 1 to 23 July, eight motorcyclists and one moped rider were killed. Since the beginning of the year, every fourth person who has died in traffic accidents has been on two wheels, the Croatian Police added.
Due to frequent accidents, the police will continue during the coming weekend with intensified activities aimed at violations of scooter and motorcycle riders, the prevention and sanctioning of the most serious violations, especially the so-called “four main killers in traffic” (alcohol, speed, seat belt and mobile phone).
Police have announced they will monitor traffic at a large number of locations that will include the maximum number of police officers available. When monitoring traffic on motorways, in addition to sanctioning other offenses, special attention will be paid to unreasonable driving in the left lane.
The Croatian National Bank has published the latest data on government debt, which for the first time in Croatian history, at the end of April, amounted to more than 300 billion Kuna, more precisely 304.9 billion Kuna.
Croatia's debt rose in the midst of the economy's closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, when the state was forced to bail out and support companies and institutions due to the decline in economic activities and measures introduced to save jobs and the overall economy. In April, the government debt increased by more than 6 billion Kuna, from 298.8 billion to 304.9 billion Kuna.
Croatia's government debt was last below 290 billion in May last year. In the second half of 2019, it took off to 297 billion to fall again in early 2020 to 291 billion in January and February. Then came the Covid-19 crisis and at the end of March it amounted to 298.8 billion, and in April it exceeded the mark of 300 billion Kuna.
At the beginning of the first term of the government of Andrej Plenković, in November 2016, the debt amounted to 283.4 billion Kuna.