Sunday, 28 May 2017

Concrete doesn’t make tourism. Bricks and tiles can keep you dry, an air-conditioning unit can keep you cool, a comfortable bed will make sure you sleep like a baby and a restaurant will stop you from being hungry – but put them all together and you don’t have a five-star hotel. Well, sorry, if you are in Croatia then that’s exactly what you have.

“There is a huge difference between a five star hotel in London and New York and in Croatia, it is almost nonsensical to group them in the same category,” explained a friend to me over coffee a few weeks back. I was intrigued. “You mean in terms of price, service or quality?” I asked. “In the most basic of all things, the way in which the stars are earned,” he answered. I was even more intrigued.

The hotel category system works pretty much the same way in America and the UK, no great surprises there, and is based on three conditions – the object, the amenities and the service. Basically all these must reach a certain standard that then ranks from one star to five. Now this friend that I was drinking coffee with used to work in the States in this industry, he was an inspector for the service part. “It isn’t brain surgery, we have a long checklist of things to look for and inspect when we visit a hotel, and as we visit each hotel as a secret guest none of the staff know that we are inspectors,” he said with a wry smile.

As he could see I was interested he started going through the checklist in more detail. “For example when a guest enters a hotel somebody must greet him/her within 30 seconds, anything more than 30 seconds and the hotel could lose a star. Then as a guests walks around the hotel he/she must be greeted by every member of staff he/she meets, whether a cleaner or the director of the hotel. If a member of staff fails to greet a guest then again the hotel could lose a star,” he continued. As he started to go into more detail it all made sense, there was nothing that was too demanding and after all high-paying guests expect a certain level of service. And it seemed that this independent way of judging whether a hotel meets these high standards was the best way to keep an overall standard.

It would also make sense if every country in the world followed the same standards, a universal star system; however that is not the case. A five-star hotel in Dubrovnik and Denver could be miles apart, and not just geographically.

Yes, hotels here are checked for room size, reception size, amenities and other technical requirements but the service side of the hotel is completely ignored. As long as you meet all the technical demands required by the Ministry of Tourism you can pretty much have lepers staffing the hotel. This is one of the main reasons why many hotels in the city have been reconstructing their rooms over the past ten years, to keep their five-star status.

“Let’s be honest Dubrovnik might have the highest number of five-star hotels in Croatia but how many of these would be able to proudly display five stars if they were in the UK or the US, not many, maybe two,” added another friend in the tourism business. If you are simply judging the star category of a hotel by the size of the room then we have no future. People are the key to tourism, always have been and always will be. Concrete and plaster board will never make you smile or give you memories to last a lifetime. We should be selling experiences not bloody real estate!

This again is the reason that Dubrovnik can “import” cheap labour from poorer regions, staff who whilst good meaning have no training or experience in the hotel industry. We are filling five-star hotels with two-star staff! The only thing that “saves the day” is that these staff are generally friendly by nature and therefore cover over the cracks in their knowledge with a warm smile. I am not blaming the staff; don’t get me wrong, I am blaming the system that allows this to happen. A system that judges tourism in terms of metres squared and not with a human touch. “I agree it is madness but the Ministry don’t seem willing or indeed interested to change,” concluded the friend. It would be like buying the most expensive computer in the world, one that could run NASA on its own, and then using the Windows 95 operating system.

So when you are sitting in a “so called” five-star hotel and have been waiting for ten minutes to get your coffee just remember – at least the toilets are the right dimensions – does that make you feel better (no, doesn’t help me either).

At the 12th edition of the South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) in Los Angeles on 27th of April, the Croatian film ‘’The Constitution’’ was awarded the Grand Jury Prize ‘’Bridging the Borders Award’’ for Best Feature Film.

The Constitution (Ustav Republike Hrvatske) is a 2016 drama film directed by Rajko Grlic, starring Nebojša Glogovac, Ksenija Marinkovic, Dejan Acimovic, and Bozidar Smiljanic.

During the eight-day of the festival which was held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, this remarkable and very comic ‘’love story about hate’’ was screened among 12 feature-length films, 8 documentaries and 36 short films. 

The film had its world premiere at the 2016 Montreal World Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Grand Prize of the Americas for the Best film.

Apart from winning the Grand Prize of the Americas in Montreal, and Best International Feature Film Award of the Santa Barbara Film Festival in January 2017, among other awards, ‘’The Constitution’’ has enjoyed critical and commercial success wherever it was shown.

Tourists always try to find new ways to enjoy Dubrovnik. Since it’s a popular destination, most of them are trying to find less mainstream places and views.

Sometimes they get a bit adventurous, like this group of tourists that decided to sit back and relax on the top of Lovrijenac Fortress. Brave and risky with a spectacular view for sure – but a bit too dangerous for our taste.


According to a press release from the President’s office, the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic will be visiting Malta from the 8th to the 10th of May 2017.

The three-day official visit of the Croatian president is the first such visit to this European country, which is presiding over the EU for the first six months of this year.

During her visit, Grabar-Kitarovic is to meet with her Maltese counterpart Marie-Loise Coleiro Preca in the Maltese capital of La Valleta. In addition, Grabar-Kitarovic will hold several working meetings; with the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Malta Angelo Farrugia, as well as with other people from the political and cultural life of Malta.

The visit of the Croatian president to Malta coincides with the celebration of Europe Day on the 9th of May.

The latest research of the Croatian book market, conducted by the agency GfK Croatia in March 2017, on a sample of thousand of people over the age of 15 using the method of personal interviewing in households showed that in the past year 53 percent of the population read at least one book, compared to last year's 47 percent– Novi List reported.

In the first months more than 908 thousand of citizens bought at least one book, or every fourth, or 25 percent – which is an increase compared to the last year's 19 percent. We are still mostly buying books for ourselves or for children (59 percent). Most of the books that are read are in Croatian (82 percent), while 15 percent of the books are read in English. Zagreb (64 percent) and Istria and Primorje (62 percent) are the regions where people read more than average. Books are mostly borrowed from libraries (46 percent).

When it comes to buying, Croatians mostly buy books at bookstores (53 percent), mostly with a discount (56 percent). The most commonly read is belles letters (58 percent), professional literature (30 percent) and fiction (29 percent), while the share of children's books is 15 percent. Reading of e-books increased from 8 to 12 percent.

The results of this survey showed that majority of readers are the citizens in the larger cities (70 percent), highly educated (69 percent), women (65 percent) and young people up to 24 years (62 percent).

Meteoalarm issued a yellow warning for the Dubrovnik area. We can expect periods of hard rain and strong south wind that will turn into very strong north-west wind.  It’s expected that wind will blow around 75 kilometres per hour.

The warning is also valid for Monday, May 8th, when thunderstorms and strong winds are also possible.

According to the website Accuweather, spring will be back with plenty of sunshine on Wednesday, May 10th.

French speleologist and diver Frederic Swierczynski is the first man in history who went to the bottom of Red Lake near Imotski and succeeded. The dive was done yesterday and lasted for four hours.

Swierczynski hit the bottom at 245 meters. It was expected that the dive would take around nine hours, but Frederic managed to get to the bottom considerably earlier. He also took sediment samples for the scientific part of this spectacular dive.

Red Lake is a famous Croatian attraction. It’s a sinkhole, containing a karst lake.  It is known for its numerous caves and remarkably high cliffs, reaching over 241 metres above normal water level and continuing below the water level. The total explored depth of this sinkhole is approximately 530 metres with a volume of roughly 25–30 million cubic meters, which makes it the third largest sinkhole in the world. The sinkhole is named after the reddish-brown color of the surrounding cliffs, colored by iron oxides.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the ship "Aurora" in port of Gruz wreaths were lowered into the sea, as a tribute to all those that died in the accident.

Ten people lost their lives, including three underage children. The accident happened near the port of Gruz on May 6th 1992, at 4:43 pm and is the biggest maritime tragedy in the recent Dubrovnik history. Two passenger ships crashed – Ilirija ferry and ship Aurora. During this tragedy 18 people were injured and 10 passed away.

Crash happened as they sailed into the port of Gruz: Ilirija came from Rijeka and Aurora from then occupied Cavtat.

Exactly 1557 people live in Dubrovnik historic centre. In five years, since the last census of population in 2011, the number of inhabitants and the number of households fell by a quarter, it’s clear from the latest census made from October to December 2016.

Of the 1557 inhabitants, there are only 10.5 percent of children aged up to 14, while 29.6 percent of the population is older than 65 years. There are 568 private households, half of which are single and double households.

In 2011 there was 2116 inhabitants in the so called ‘’Old City’’ of Dubrovnik and it seems that in last 20 years there was a huge decrease of 40 percent of inhabitants.

The latest census was made in order to make a plan to improve the quality of living in the historic centre. After all, people are those that make the city alive.

After two very successful sales in Lapad and Gruz, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board in collaboration with the City of Dubrovnik organized third occasional sale of flowers and plants in the Luj Soletic Park in Gruz.

All of the flowers and plants at this sale were offered at promotional prices. Gruz was full of people and color, which went perfect with this sunny Saturday.




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The Voice of Dubrovnik


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