Friday, 22 February 2019
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

One of the last state owned hotel chains in Dubrovnik has finally found a buyer and yesterday contracts were signed. The Minister of State Property, Goran Marić, and the Managing Director of PND Strategy Ltd, Matea Mateković, signed a contract on the sale and transfer of shares from the Hotel Maestral group.

The hotel chain, Hotels Maestral, is the last major hotel resort in Croatia in the majority state ownership, and for the past five years they have operated with a net profit. This hotel chain has been offered for sale numerous times and had finally found a new owner. Hotels Maestral consists of five hotels in the Bay of Lapad in prime position and although the hotels have been recording a profit they are all in need of investment.

PND Strategy have just spent 153.5 million Kuna on just over 60 percent of the shares, making them the majority shareholder and new owners of the Dubrovnik hotel chain.

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At the signing of the contract, Minister Marić commented that "This is a great success, after eight unsuccessful bidding and ninth rounds, the final process has been successfully completed. The CERP Governing Council made the decision to accept the most favourable bid and ended the privatization of the last hotel complex in the Republic of Croatia. We expect the buyer to come up with investment plans and raise them to the highest level of hotel categorization as soon as possible because it is unacceptable for Dubrovnik to have one or two star hotels."

And there can be no doubt that these five Dubrovnik hotels, although in prime seafront locations, are in serious need of investment. However, as we have seen hundreds of times in the past when a publically owned company falls into private hands the aftereffects take years to recover from. State owned companies in Croatia generally suffer from massive overemployment, lack of modern technology and outdated working practises. The arrival of a private investor, actually looking to make money from his investment, normally leads to redundancies and reorganisation.

The Managing Director for PND Strategy Ltd, Matea Mateković, thanked Minister Marić for his co-operation and added: "Our plans are to start with the realization of the project as soon as possible, as we feel that hotels Maestral deserve to have a much better position than they have at this time. We will take business documentation as soon as possible and embark on the preparation of the hotel for the upcoming tourist season."

It’s no secret that Dubrovnik is one of the most photogenic and videogenic destinations in the world. But where are the best spots to marvel at the beauty of the pearl of the Adriatic? Most people would say just about anywhere, and to a certain extent they would be right, but there are some extra special places that give you a real feel of the terracotta beauty of Dubrovnik.

At The Dubrovnik Times we have selected our top five spots to enjoy the vistas over the ancient Old City. They are in no particular order but you have the chance to vote for your favourite view, just click on the arrow and your video will climb the list. And yes, we realise that choosing from five stunning videos isn’t easy when they are all just as glorious as each other.

 

The most well-known coffee shop chain in the world, Starbucks, could soon be opening their first ever outlet in Croatia. According to a report in novac.hr there are strong rumours that Starbucks could open their first Croatian café in Zagreb.

It is believed that the Seattle based coffee chain have plans, through their franchise owner in the region, to open a café in the centre of the Croatian capital in the popular Cvjetni Square shopping centre.

Starbucks will certainly open a café in the region shortly, but in the Serbian capital Belgrade, but it looks like they are planning to expand to the Croatian capital as well. According to the report a suitable space has opened up in the busy shopping centre after another restaurant closed. Speaking to the newspaper a representative for the shopping centre stated that they are currently talking with some major foreign gastronomic brand, and that they have a plan to “bring something that we do not yet have, something different.”

 

Although the “coffee to go” culture is a late developer with most Croatians, who generally prefer to sit and chat over their caffeine fix, the custom to drink and walk is slowly but surely gaining popularity, especially with the younger generations. In the past Costa Coffee, the British based coffee chain, had opened three cafes in Croatia in 2008, but quickly closed them due to a lack of interest. Starbucks, or at least the franchise owners, clearly consider that over ten years later the culture of coffee drinking has changed, with more cafes as well as petrol stations and newsagents now offering coffee to go, and that the location in the centre of Zagreb will prove successful. And in the capital city, especially in this busy shopping centre, the Seattle coffee giant certainly has more chance to succeed than in the tourist destinations along the Adriatic coastline.

The prestigious UK newspaper The Telegraph has published a list of their top ten seaside towns in Croatia and both Dubrovnik and Cavtat feature.

The article, entitled “Croatia's 10 most beautiful seaside towns,” features The Telegraph’s choice of the leading coastal destinations in Croatia. The top of the list is Rovinj in Istria which The Telegraph describes as “Venetian-era facades in yellow ochre, burnt sienna and terracotta red curve around a deep horse-shoe harbour, backed by a hilltop church with an elegant 17th-century bell-tower.”

The list of the top seaside town also features Mali Lošinj on the island of Lošinj, Rab and Zadar. And in night position is Dubrovnik and tenth the picturesque coastal town of Cavtat. In fact, Cavtat is having a great start to the year, finishing on the top ten best European destinations for 2019 in European Best Destinations awards. And The Telegraph also is keen to point out the values of Cavtat stating “The pace of life is slower here, with fewer crowds – dine at an open-air restaurant on the palm-lined seafront promenade, check out 19th-century oil paintings by Vlaho Bukovac in his former home, and see the elegant 1920s Račić Mausoleum, decorated with art nouveaux carvings by sculptor Ivan Meštrović.”

Read the full article here

In the upcoming European Parliament elections in May the ruling Croatian political party, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is projected to win 6 of the 12 seats on offer to Croatian MEPs.

In a poll carried out by the European parliament HDZ looks out course to win six seats whilst the other six MEP seats will be divided between the other opposition political parties. The poll predicts that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will win 3 seats, the conservative party Most one seat and the populist party Zivi Zid one seat.

According to the poll, which involved 1,300 Croatian voters, HDZ won 32.1 percent of votes, SDP almost 18 percent, Zivi Zid 12.3 percent and Most 7.4 percent.

If this prediction comes true then the leading political party would have the same amount of European Parliament seats, but the other six would be shared around differently, with a rise from Most and Zivi Zid, who both don’t have an MEP at the moment.

The number of MEPs that Croatia has increased from 11 to 12 thanks to the UK leaving the European Union and opening up extra seats for other nations.

A new tourism video and a hope that this year will be a record breaking one for the tourism industry in Vukovar. The video, which was presented last week, was funded by the City of Vukovar and the Vukovar Tourist Board and, as the Mayor of Vukovar Ivan Penava, stated “is aimed at attracting more tourist arrivals to the region.”

"All this is in line with efforts to make Vukovar more attractive for tourists, which is a long-standing process. The tourist trade in Vukovar is on the rise and the city's potential in that regard is developing year in and year out," commented Penava at the press conference in Vukovar on the launch of the new promotional video.

The City of Vukovar have reported that 125,000 Kuna was spent on the new video which features all of the highlights of the city in a 3-minute video.

According to the director of the Vukovar Tourist Board, Marina Sekulic, the number of bed nights in the city increased by 4 percent in 2018 compared to the year before, while the number of tourist arrivals remained at the same level.

Property prices in the Croatian capital could well increase after an article appeared in the prestigious Forbes magazine singing the praises of Zagreb. In an article entitled “The Best Emerging Real Estate Markets In Europe For 2019,” the Croatian capital was listed as the best place to invest in real estate this year.

Real estate prices in Zagreb have been steadily climbing in recent years, and although they are still considerably cheaper than the most expensive property prices in the country, in Dubrovnik, they are not as inexpensive as they were years ago. And this latest article in the popular Forbes magazine is sure to catch the eye of foreign investors meaning that as the demand rises so will the prices.


Forbes wrote that “There is something brewing in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and it has all the signs of reaching a tipping point in the next few years to see explosive growth. Recently the country saw it’s the first digital real estate company, A Nekretnine, open for business which is usually the strongest sign of a market’s potential. Asking prices for condos in this city increased by 20% in 2018 when the rest of the country only saw increases of 8.5%, according to data provided by A Nekretnine. Also, in just the past twelve months there has been a 30% increase in homes being advertised on Airbnb in Zagreb so the demand for vacation rentals is seeing its own surge as well. Nino Ćosić, founder of A Nekretnine, who estimates 20% of buyers come from outside the country, shared an insider's tip of significantly more inventory coming to market in the next year thanks to the completion of a number of new developments that were put on hold during the last real estate crisis.”

And the article adds that with the uncertainties of Brexit on the horizon many worldwide investors are looking to splash their cash in a European Union member state, with all the security that provides.

 

Roko Blažević hopes his Eurovision dream comes true as he will represent Croatia in May in Tel Aviv. The 18 year-old from Split has been selected to be Croatia’s entry into this year’s Eurovision Song Contest after winning last night with his song “The Dream.”

“I am beside myself with joy, thank you God,” said an emotional Roko after winning the contest and will now to Israel on the 14th of May.

The Split singer collected 42 percent of the votes and although a popular choice his performance raised some eyebrows on social media. Many of the comments criticized his choice of angel wings and the lyrics of the song, however there was lots of praise for his voice.

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