The Dubrovnik Times caught up with one of the leading American tour operators, Wanda Radetti, who specialises in tours to Croatia. She was born in Rijeka in northern Croatia, grew up in Italy and now is a resident of New York. “My journeys are about creating bridges of cultures, friendships, as well as expansion of the heart and mind,” comments Radetti. Well known throughout the whole region she is also recognised as one of the leading specialists for Croatia and was awarded "The World Top Travel Specialist for Croatia" by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine since 2006. We discovered why she believes that Croatia is so popular on the US market.
Were you aware that American tourists are the second most numerous in Dubrovnik last year? Does this surprise you?
No, not really surprised, as the recognized Conde Nast Travellers specialist for Croatia, I have seen the numbers of our travellers steadily increase in the last several years and Dubrovnik has been, and remains, the centrepiece of everyone’s interest when considering a visit to Croatia. Dubrovnik is a “brand” and is extremely well recognized as a desired “must see and experience” destination for the travellers that reach out to Tasteful Croatian Journeys from around the world. So much so, that until very recently, I ceased to be surprised to learn that Dubrovnik is often considered as a most attractive destination independent and separate from a visit to Croatia as if it was still the Republic of Ragusa. Although Dubrovnik, historically is not a “new” attraction/destination, I think that the National Tourist Board of Croatia has very cleverly used the visual seductions of Dubrovnik in photos, brochures, film and posters as the “pearl” of most international marketing campaigns intended to illuminate Croatia as a tourist destination. It may not be a coincidence that for many years the National Tourist Board was managed and run by some of the most brilliant minds that just happened to have roots in Dubrovnik.
Why do you think Dubrovnik is such a magnet for US tourists?
Dubrovnik is a complete, self-contained destination, it reflects the grandeur and magnificence of a city state, the glory of one of the most respected and acknowledged Republics that ruled the Mediterranean, and yet, today, it is still a city that is measurable by a human’s foot-steps. A most attractive curiosity that entertains and seduces the world traveller, especially the American traveller. The American, well informed, sophisticated traveller that we serve, enjoys every beautiful facet that is Dubrovnik as a wonderful collection of art, history, culture, wrapped in one extraordinary wonder of world architecture. To the citizens of the “New World”, Dubrovnik speaks to the individual’s soul because it is a place where dreams, fantasy and fairy tales happen to become and experienced reality.
What more can we do to attract even more tourists from the USA?
I have been working on developing the interest of travellers, in cooperation with the desired results of the Croatia National Tourist Board, on bringing travellers to Croatia year round. Although it is not a simple feat, I think that Dubrovnik will develop as the focal point for a seven- eight days, tailor designed itinerary that can be organized during the late fall, winter and early spring for our US travellers. Dubrovnik to be used as the base from which the traveller explores, via organized daily excursions, the surrounding points of interest, such as the perfect island of Korcula, the wine, truffles and fruits of the sea pleasures, of the Pelješac Peninsula, the silk culture of the Neretva Valley, where I believe the tastiest mandarins of the world can be found, and, of course an overview of the adjacent country of Montenegro. Personally, I hope that Dubrovnik is not looking to attract “more” US tourist, but would invest in developing a year round “season” for the most sophisticated discerning travellers of the world. We are already seeing, with concern, that the success of huge numbers of visitors that are already arriving in the city cannot be classified as sustainable and we are hearing comments that are not in contrast with what travellers have been reporting about the inconvenience of visiting Venice. Although I am in the business of tourism, whereas increasing numbers of visitors to a location is the goal that can lead to success, I have learned that destinations that continue to well serve the needs and life style of their citizens as paramount considerations of their government, retain and, predictably remain, the most valuable and attractive destinations for travellers that are ever more looking for that local, authentic experience. So, it is with pleasure that I expresses sincere gratitude to one of the most valid local tourist boards that is equal to Zagreb and Istria, to all our extraordinary partners that contribute to our success by presenting Dubrovnik as the beautiful jewel that travellers enjoy, I cautiously ring the bell of admonishment for Dubrovnik that it is not always about numbers, but it is always about quality.
Do you know what the most popular profession in Dubrovnik this season is? The answer can be found on every step of your day as you walk around the city. Villas, houses, cellars, shops, flats in high-rise buildings, all with blue signs outside with yellow stars and the inevitable mark of Wi-Fi. The rooms and apartments of private renters from April to October are the most sought after commodity among tourists with both deep and shallow pockets.
Every metre, no centimetre, of usable space is used with renters counting on a quick summer profit with which they will safely enjoy the colder part of the year. Following this philosophy, in 2015 the number of beds in private accommodation in Dubrovnik increased to at least 15 thousand, while analysts have also calculated that the private rental business in Dubrovnik makes up a third of every household.
Some people of Dubrovnik have left their well-paid jobs to jump into the private accommodation business, others are renovated the family estate with swimming pools, others have opened rural ranches with traditional local food...while hotel companies are looking for ways to respond to the unfair competition from the private rental business, tourism experts warn of potential hazards. The economic crisis is still ongoing. A wave of refugees is circulating in the Western Balkans. The threat of global terrorism is omnipresent. And tourism is sensitive to even small shocks. It would be enough that someone threw a firecracker on the Stradun and the resulting panic would see the tourist season perish. Although tourism professionals praise the rise of private accommodation as a positive indicator, it is true that it says a lot about the lack of a strategy which could easily backfire.
I am one of the very few citizens of Dubrovnik who is still resisting the temptation of renting privately. I live in an old mansion overlooking the Old City, and many friends and acquaintances have urged me to renovate it and rent it out to guests. I respond with “maybe one day.” And then, of course, take no action. It seems that I am not "genetically predetermined" to rent. I don’t even like staying in private accommodation when I travel. I always prefer to choose a little more expensive hotel than a cheaper warehouse three days ride away from the historic centre. The unfortunate thing is that I feel like a minority in my own city. Just like Tom Cruise in the sci-fi movie Minority Report. Dubrovnik is running out of balance in the accommodation offer. But that's a problem for another film script.
Text - Gabrijela Bijelic
Preparations for the Chinese New Year are underway with the main square in the capital lined with eighty terracotta Chinese warriors. The sculptures caused people passing by to reach for their mobile phones and snap the Terracotta Army in the Ban Josip Jelacic Square in the heart of Zagreb.
Of course the Zagreb warriors are inspired by the world famous Terracotta Army representing the armies of Qin Shi Huang.
Chinese New Year is celebrated throughout the world on the 3rd of February and with these warriors in the main square Zagreb is also ready for the celebrations.
Photos - Davor Pongracic / CROPIX
A photo is worth a thousand words, so the half a dozen photos of Dubrovnik in this promo video should be worth 6,000 words. Dubrovnik is considered so beautiful that one can throw a camera in the air and capture a great photo, that may be true, but the concept behind this Dubrovnik promo video shows that a little creativity goes a long way.
The HD video has been produced by the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and recently uploaded to their YouTube account.
Great promotion for Dubrovnik, we think you’ll all agree.
Night of the museum is again coming to Croatia and no it’s not the Ben Stiller Hollywood movie. For the eleventh time the night of the museums in Croatia will be held on the 29th of January.
On the 29th of January museums all across Croatia will open their doors for free for visitors. Back in 2005, in only one city and including just six museums, the event was born when the Croatian Museum Association came up with the concept to attract more people to their museums. The “Night at the Museum” is traditionally held on the last Friday of January and has now grown to include 100 Croatian cities and 210 museums, including museums and galleries in Dubrovnik.
In 2005 around 10,000 visitors attended this night of culture and last year this number had grown to 360,000.
During the night of museums 2016 museums throughout the country will be open from 18:00 hours to 01:00 hour after midnight. In Dubrovnik six institutions are included in the night of the museums, including the Home of Marin Drzic, the Archaeological Museum and the Natural History Museum.
The most popular budget airline in the world, Ryanair, will fly more frequently to Croatia this year. The Irish airline has announced that they will step up their operations between Stansted Airport and Osijek in eastern Croatia. Until now the airline had only operated summer flights but this service will be upgraded to a year round service, meaning that this region of Croatia will have its first winter connection to London.
Not only is Osijek the first city in eastern Croatian to have winter connections to London but it also become the first airport in Croatia to be served by Ryanair on a year round basis. According to the specialised website EX-YU Aviation the budget airline is also considering introducing flights from Dublin to Osijek.
Osijek Airport handled around 30,000 passengers in 2015, which was an increase of 7 percent when compared with 2014.
If you are looking for the perfect honeymoon destination for 2016 then look no further than Croatia. The American fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar has featured Croatia as the third most romantic place to spend your honeymoon, in their list “the New Places to Honeymoon in 2016.”
- Beyoncé and Jay-Z travelled here before it was cool, and we know why: it's by far one of the most romantic destinations out there – opens the article in Harper's Bazaar about Croatia. Adding that - July and August are high-season on the Adriatic Coast, but extending your dates to sometime between June-September will allow you to experience the country when it's less crowded and temperatures are milder.
The top of the list was the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, followed by Lagos in Portugal and Australia, Israel and Canada also featured on the list.
Croatia is ranked in 46th position in a list of the best countries to do business in. The Forbes annual worldwide ranking of the best countries to run a business in last year and out of the 144 countries Croatia was positioned in 46th place.
Every year Forbes magazine produces their list “The Best Countries For Business” and last year European countries dominated. Denmark was ranked, once again, as the most competitive country and of the top 25 two-thirds were European countries. The list is complied by measuring many factors including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance.
Croatia ranked very well in the investor protection section, at 29th in the world, whilst in the innovation section came in at a disastrous 91st place. “Zagreb has cut spending since 2012, and the government also raised additional revenues through more stringent tax collection and by raising the Value Added Tax. The government has also sought to accelerate privatization of non-strategic assets, with mixed success,” writes Forbes on the situation in Croatia.