Wednesday, 29 November 2023
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

Croatian citizens have traveled more this year than in the previous one, and considering that more of them plan to travel in winter, especially abroad, the continuation of the upward trend in domestic travel is expected, according to a new MasterIndex survey, among other findings.

This research was reported by Mastercard. It is their regular travel habits survey conducted in October of this year on a sample of a thousand respondents, of which 60 percent are dominated by holiday travel.

Around 40 percent of those surveyed went on business trips in 2023, and on average, they traveled for business about three times during the year, while they went on vacation about five times a year.

In terms of frequency, Croatian citizens' travels in 2023 surpassed even 2019, with an average of about three trips per year within Croatia, compared to about 2.5 times last year. For international travel, mostly within the Eurozone, they also traveled more, from 0.7 in 2022 to 1.1 trips in 2023.

Increasing Winter Travel

Regardless of whether it is a one-day or multi-day trip, more Croatian citizens plan to travel this winter, 46 percent of them, which is nine percentage points more than last year.

When it comes to traveling abroad, young people aged 18 to 29, as well as women and individuals with incomes higher than 1,200 euros, plan to travel more often, especially those from Istria, Primorje and Gorski Kotar, and Dalmatia.

Advent trips to European cities are the most common choice for Croatian citizens in winter. Almost every respondent plans them, and every fourth plans to go skiing, while every fifth plans a trip to celebrate New Year's in one of the European cities.

In addition, more than half of the respondents plan to travel outside Europe for more than eight days.

The average spending amount abroad has also increased during trips, by 93 euros, from 664 euros in 2022 to 757 euros in 2023.

Men, on average, tend to spend more than women. Every fourth respondent mentions a cost of 501 to 1,000 euros for a vacation trip abroad, while almost half plan to pay for foreign travel with a debit card, and about 31 percent of those surveyed with cash.

 

According to the received registrations and de-registrations of tourists through the eVisitor system, there were nearly 2,500 visitors in Dubrovnik last weekend - eight percent more than at this time last year.

In addition to domestic tourists, the most numerous guests come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Germany, France, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 1,221,500 arrivals registered, and three million, 838,500 overnight stays, which is nine percent more than in the same period last year.

 

Nature in Dubrovnik in harmony! The cats of Dubrovnik and the pigeons seem to have a deal, close – but not too close.

Whilst waiting paitently for their daily midday feed the pigeons found shelter from the chilly north wind in front of the Sponza Palace in the very heart of the Old City.

Everyday at exactly 12 the pigeons of the city receive a bucket load of corn in the nearby Gundulić Square, and waiting with them this weekend was a charming black cat.

BRAVO Record Breaking Support Overwhelming Donations Pour in at Konoba Veranda Surpassing Expectations 4

Fairytales are a huge part of childhood, teaching the younger generation important morals with a theme of fantasy and imagination. With the continuous evolution of artificial intelligence, how well can AI image generation technology depict these iconic tales?

To find out more, Wicked Uncle has completed an investigation into AI capabilities, analysing the most popular fairytale in 62 different countries around the world.

They did this by using Ahrefs.com to determine the most popular fairytale in each country before turning to the popular image generation software, Midjourney, and entering the fairytale plot as the prompt.

In Croatia, Wicked Uncle discovered that the most popular fairy tale is Milutin which is a story about a young man who becomes king.

Therefore, the prompt they used when generating the AI image was; “A young man sets out on a journey to seek his fortune. Along the way, he helps various animals and receives magical gifts in return. With the help of these gifts, he overcomes challenges, wins the heart of a princess, and ultimately becomes a wise and king.”

Below is what the A.I. believes to be the accurate depiction of Milutin:

 BRAVO Record Breaking Support Overwhelming Donations Pour in at Konoba Veranda Surpassing Expectations 2

Overall, it was interesting to see how the software depicted the plot of Milutin, it’s safe to say the AI tool was unsure of how to display the fairytale in image form.

Midjourney did well to convey the sense of a journey, as the boy in all the images seems to be travelling through the forest and in the last image you see his kingdom in the background. In two of them you see he is wearing a crown. However, would the animals he meets really include lions? The first shows him with a glowing box that seems to hide a magical gift. The AI tool seems to struggle to capture stories that take place over a length of time - which makes sense, as it can only show one scene at a time.

 

"Thank you for your immense support during this campaign. We are delighted to inform you that a record-breaking amount has been collected in the donation box located in Konoba Veranda over the last 24 hours. This year's donation total is 12,400 euros, and this does not yet include the contributions from the Saudade association's account. This means the final amount will be even greater. To recall, last year, 40,000 kuna was collected through the donation box, and the final donation amount was 74,000 kuna, or nearly 10,000 euros."

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 6

Photo - Marijan Marinović

The threefold increase in donations this year at the tavern surprised the organizers themselves, who this morning couldn't hide their happiness, joy, and excitement.

"Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who participated in any way. We are speechless – so many posts, visits, calls, hugs, smiles, positive energy. You are our strength. Yesterday, you showed the heavens that you care for all the little angels up there and, even more, for our children who are with us. Together, we will once again do a good thing for our hospital." - Maja Andrić posted on the Veranda tavern's Facebook profile."

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 7

Photo - Marijan Marinović

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 8

Photo - Marijan Marinović

 Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 9

Photo - Marijan Marinović

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 10

Photo - Marijan Marinović

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 11

Photo - Marijan Marinović

BRAVO Record Breaking Support Overwhelming Donations Pour in at Konoba Veranda Surpassing Expectations

Photo - Marijan Marinović

 

“We work to live, and not live to work,” said an incredibly friendly local as we walked down the side of a mountain overlooking the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yes, last weekend was my inaugural visit to Sarajevo.

I have been around, through and close to Sarajevo in the past but never spent an extended period of time there. And my first real visit was truly in the style of Sarajevo as a group of six friends travelled together in a van from Dubrovnik. Song, laughter and fun marked our drive, basically a warm-up for the big weekend.

So first impressions. A cultural melting pot. I wouldn’t really describe it as a place where east meets the west, more like east, west, north and south are thrown into a centrifugal.

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 2

I can see why the locals call this pigeon square - Photo Mark Thomas 

It quickly became clear why this city was the hub of creative arts before the war. The combination of all these cultures into one relatively small place was a winning formula for music, art, film and of course comedy. The sense of humour is alive and well. Basically if you make a cake from only one ingredient than it’s going to be a pretty boring cake, but when you start mixing in ingredients of all different tastes and textures then you are going to have a delicious one.

As I said comedy is still close to the surface, it seemed that we couldn’t have an interaction with a local without a large dose of humour. As Charlie Chaplin said “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” We didn’t waste an hour let alone a day in Sarajevo.

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 3

High above the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina - Photo Mark Thomas 

I wanted to see a few important sites, such as where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated bringing the start of World War 1, to visit a Mosque, to see some of the 1984 Olympic sites, to ride the cable car and see the City Hall. We did all of these and much more.

With more luck than judgment our hotel was on the doorstep of the labyrinth of shops, cafés and restaurants that is Baščaršija. If Sarajevo is a volcano of cultures, then Baščaršija is the absolute epicentre.

The Ottoman Empire is alive and well in the heart of Europe. I am always fascinated by the effect that history has on the present and indeed the future. Over 570 years ago Mehmed II troops took control of this city and evidence of this invasion is served on plates, poured into cups and dominates the architecture. Fascinating.

Dubrovnik Establishes New Animal Shelter Resolving Long Standing Stray Animal Issue 4

Remains of the Ottoman rule in Sarajevo - Photo Mark Thomas 

Sarajevo is a complex city that showcases a varied and often tragic history. And yet they have this unbreakable lust to live life to the maximum and with laughter. They have this sarcastic blend of almost deadpan humour that greatly appeals to an Englishman. And of course “When in Rome…” so we ate, drunk, sang, danced and got very merry.

The night scene in Sarajevo is, to say the very least, lively. I didn’t know the words to any of the songs that bellowed from the instruments of the bands in the restaurants and breweries, but that didn’t matter at all. Our table mixed with the next and then the next and by the end of the night we were singing and dancing as one.

“Of course it has changed due to all the conflict but the spirit of the city seems unbreakable,” added my new friend. We had ridden the cable car to the top of Trebević mountain but due to strong winds it temporarily closed when we tried to go back down. Deciding to walk we set off and followed the old shell of the bobsleigh track from the 1984 Olympics. It was then that we bumped into this couple, an opposite mirror image of my wife and I, she was English and he a local.

“Walk down with us and we’ll drive you down to the city,” they offered. Interaction with true locals is for me priceless. And his positivity was infectious. Sarajevo will remain as a fond memory. Quality time with quality friends in a city with a soul that shines bright in spite of everything.

The author Ivo Andrić once famously wrote that Sarajevo is a city that is wearing out and dying, while at the same time being reborn and transformed.       

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to

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About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik

 

The Shelter for Abandoned Animals in Dubrovnik has this week received a Decision from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Croatia, determining that it meets all prescribed conditions for operation. With this, the City of Dubrovnik has fulfilled its legal obligation to establish a public institution of this type in its area and resolved the long-standing communal problem of stray animals.

The new city animal shelter in Grabovica has already received its first dogs; 34 of them were relocated from Žarkovica to appropriate conditions where they will receive comprehensive care. According to the Ministry's decision, the Shelter for Abandoned Animals in Dubrovnik can accommodate 74 dogs. In addition to spaces for housing dogs and cats in modular facilities, areas for isolation or quarantine for animals have been provided. Five modular facilities are designated for staff and administration, including an office, clinic, reception, examination and care of animals, food storage, and other ancillary spaces.

 

A year and a half ago, the City of Dubrovnik initiated the Adopt Žarkovica project with the aim of addressing the urgent and long-standing problem of stray dogs and other animals. In an unregistered shelter under inadequate conditions, more than 260 animals were living, many of which were sick and injured. With the significant commitment of project manager Ana Ivelja, the current temporary director of the shelter, and the assistance of the Pobjeda association, the Prijatelji shelter from Čakovec, the Friends of Animals association, as well as the support of the international organization Network for Animals, all dogs were treated and taken care of, and the project has been successfully completed.

In collaboration with municipal companies, the City of Dubrovnik will completely clean the space in Žarkovica, after which this valuable area in the buffer zone of the historic core will be landscaped with 6,000 new seedlings.

 

The increasing presence of an imported workforce in Croatia is evident in the regularly published Focus Week by HUP's chief economist, Hrvoje Stojić, through the clear indication of the number of residence and work permits. In the first ten months of this year, 147,301 permits were issued to foreign nationals, a staggering 39 percent increase compared to last year, with two-thirds related to work in the construction and tourism sectors. The total number of work permits for the entire year could reach 170-175 thousand.

Estimates suggest that currently, 80 to 100 thousand foreign workers are employed in Croatia, accounting for five to six percent of the total workforce this year. "Given the solid economic growth and continuous tension in the labour market, it is expected that the total number of work permits next year will exceed 200,000," notes Stojić.

HUP has concrete proposals to facilitate or "accelerate" the employment of an increasing number of foreign workers. At the top of the list is expanding the list of deficit occupations for which a labour market test is not required. Additionally, they propose extending the duration of residence and work permits from one to two or three years and from 6 to 9 months for seasonal workers. They also advocate for simplifying certain administrative procedures in issuing work permits. "We recommend eliminating the obligation to take double fingerprints from foreign workers, who extend the duration of residence and work permits, especially considering that this obligation is questionable from the standpoint of the EU Visa Code. Significant improvement would also be the digitization of the process of delivering residence and work permit decisions by the police station," the analysis states.

Demographic trends clearly indicate that in the coming years, the demand for foreign labour will inevitably increase, emphasizing the urgency of a quality immigration policy. Governor of the Bank of Croatia, Boris Vujčić recently estimated that Croatia could lose 400,000 people of working age over the next 20 years, calling for the need to devise both natal and immigration policies. "We need to agree on what we want," he said.

Thanks to stronger immigration and increased economic activity, HUP expects employment to grow by 2.7 percent this year. The analysis shows that in October, the highest growth rate was recorded in the IT sector, up 8.3 percent year-on-year, followed by tourism (+4.8 percent) and the real estate sector (+4.4 percent).

 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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