Even without direct flights from Dubrovnik to the USA the city has seen an explosion of American tourists this year. In fact there are no direct flights to Croatia at all, and yet 68,000 Americans have found their way to our city. It seems that the dollar rising in value against the Euro, the popular Game of Thrones based in Dubrovnik and the promotion carried out by the tourist board have all created the perfect storm.
The most numerous guests to Dubrovnik this year, as in the past few years, have been from the UK. With the most flights than any other country it is hardly surprising that around a fifth of all guests in Dubrovnik have arrived from Great Britain. This year has also seen Dubrovnik act as the “home port” for the Thomson Celebration cruise ship which has also added to the increase in guests from the UK. From the beginning of the year until the end of September the number of British tourists has increased by 2 percent. One of the biggest surprises of the year is the fact that tourists from the USA are the second most numerous in Dubrovnik this year. Bearing in mind that there are no direct flights to Dubrovnik, or even to the rest of Croatia, from any US airport, the fact that almost 68,000 Americans have arrived in Dubrovnik is surprising. Even more when you bear in mind that the third and fourth places on the list were taken up by our European colleagues, France and Germany, who have daily flights to Dubrovnik. In fact number of tourists from America is on the rise, there have been 25 percent more American guests than last year and the same rise in the number of overnight stays, just over 210,000 achieved since the beginning of the year. What has caused this tidal wave of interest from America? Whilst the Euro has continued to fall in value against the dollar the whole of Europe has become more affordable. The fact that a European vacation is now about 25% cheaper than it was last year has not escaped the attention of US holidaymakers. Is Dubrovnik simply riding on the wave of European interest, or has the popular serial Game of Thrones serial helped raise our profile?
“I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the Game of Thrones that I wouldn’t have come to Croatia. The country was off the radar but watching the stunning scenes on the serial I decided that this was a country and a city I needed to see,” commented Peterson Lim a tourist from the US. He added that “we are actually from California so it was a long journey here. From the moment we left out home to the moment we landed in Venice, which was our first stop in Europe, it took 24 hours.” Without a direct flight from the US to Croatia American guests are forced to travel to a European hub, such as London, Frankfurt or Paris, before travelling onto Croatia. Although there are proposals to introduce a direct flight for next season so far this is only a dream. “For some period of time the amount of USA arrivals has been increasing and last year there were 250,000 US guests in Croatia,” said the director of Dubrovnik Airport, Roko Tolic. “If this trend continues hopefully an airline will recognise the potential of this interest and start a direct line,” he concluded. Adding that from the 19th to the 21st of October there will be a major conference of airport directors and this will be an opportunity to discuss the matter further with colleagues from US airports.
With over 250,000 American tourists arriving in Croatia without any direct flights we can only speculate how much more impressive this number would be with direct lines. Richard Gruica, and American living in Dubrovnik and owner of the travel agency Captivating Croatia, stated that “as an American that just recently moved to Dubrovnik, I can tell you that Croatia has hit the radar in a big way. If you asked the average American about Croatia even just 5 years ago, you would have gotten a blank stare.” When asked what he believed were the factors for Croatia’s explosion he said that “the growth of Electronic Dance Music and the loads of summer festivals here has helped. The emergence of the amazing food and wine scene here with TV shows from Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman showing Croatia's best. The Game of Thrones, having Dubrovnik as the host city for King's Landing has helped for sure...in a HUGE way. And finally the Croatian Tourist Board had done a stellar job with their marketing efforts. All these things and more have led to an over 2,000 % increase in searches about Croatia on the Web. Imagine 2,000!” And it isn’t only the Croatian National Tourist Board who have been working hard on attracting American guests to our shores, the Dubrovnik Tourist Board has been extremely active in the States for some time. “Dubrovnik is one of the biggest brands in the US and we have been working hard to further promote our city and its tourist offer in America,” commented the director of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, Romana Vlasic. She added that the tourist board, along with major hotel chains and travel agencies in Dubrovnik, are always present at all the important travel exhibitions in the US. One of these hotel chains to see an increase is the Sun Gardens, Dubrovnik. Perica Andric, the director of sales & marketing, commented that the US is a market of very high importance for the resort, primarily because Americans visit all year round, and not only in high season. “We see the growing interest from American agencies, and we believe that what we’re seeing now in terms of number of travellers is only the tip of the iceberg, and that it will grow even more in the near future.”
The director of the Croatian National Tourist Office in New York, Ina Rodin, commented that Dubrovnik is the number one destination for US visitors to Croatia and believes that the HBO series Game of Thrones is one of the biggest motivators of interest. “One of the reasons Dubrovnik has gained the attention among US travelers is the popularity with the Emmy-award winning Game of Thrones series on HBO. Just recently, the show nabbed 12-record breaking Emmy Awards! The backdrop for King’s Landing is set in Dubrovnik, as well as other parts of Croatia,” commented Rodin. She added that the tourist office has been “proactive” in their approach to PR and that “Croatia’s diverse offering from gastronomy, landscape, culture, architecture, soft activities has attracted those who may have visited other destinations in the region and were looking for a new destinations.”
With so many American tourists discovering Dubrovnik over the past few years and Dubrovnik being heralded as a key Game of Thrones destination, it only opens the question how many more tourists the city could attract if direct flights were available. And with the city searching for an answer on to how to extend the tourist season through the winter months it seems that one solution could be to find a flight partner, the interest is there and the Game of Thrones effect will not last indefinitely.