Wednesday, 25 April 2018
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

Croatia’s economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, and according to latest figures tourism accounts for around 16 percent of the gross domestic product. The Croatian Institute of Tourism have released estimates showing that the tourist industry makes up between 14 and 16 percent of the country’s GDP, but that that figure in reality could be much higher.

Tourism is one of the most important industries in Croatia and directly and indirectly the county relies on the income from tourism. Putting an exact figure on the amount that tourism adds to the economy every year is “educated guesswork” as a number of factors, such as day trips, nautical tourism and domestic tourists are not included in the current tracking system. Also following the expenditure of tourists is generally made through average spending surveys, the real figure could be much higher.

In the presence of the Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, the contract with China Road and Bridge Corporation on the construction of the future Peljesac Bridge was signed today in Dubrovnik.

“This project is of strategic, long-term importance to the whole country. The project is meaningful not only for the long-term development of Peljesac, Korcula, Lastovo and southern Croatia. The project is also important for the supply of goods to southern Croatia which will become faster and more efficient - said the prime Minister at the signing.

The Prime Minister also added that the future bridge will also have a height of 55 metres and a range of 280 metres and therefore “allow our friends in Bosnia and Herzegovina safe passage into the port of Neum.”

Numerous ministers attended the signing ceremony, which was held in the Hotel Excelsior, as well as the Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia.

peljesac bridge 2018 oo9

Hello again summer, hello again parking nightmare. Somehow we all seem to forget about it. As the colder months approach the problem is pushed to the deep darkness of the back of our minds. Or is it that we are all just ostriches burying our heads in the sands and crossing our fingers that the problem will just go away.

“I’m sorry but I am still desperately searching for a parking space,” I apologised to a colleague who I was supposed to be meeting in the Old City. You could say that we were mad for arranging a meeting in the Old City, but we had no choice. I circled around and around the town. Every space full. No signs of hope. It is only the middle of April and already there is more space in a tin of sardines than in the public parking of Dubrovnik. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

Now when I first arrived in Dubrovnik I was a little shocked at the fact that many institutions and businesses have one price for locals and one for tourists. After twenty years I am not shocked anymore, in fact I would actively encourage it.

Of course there is a right way and a wrong way of pricing. It shouldn’t be more expensive for tourists, just cheaper for locals. If a steak normally costs 150 Kuna, it shouldn’t be 200 Kuna for tourists, but 100 for locals. Basically offering a discount and not pumping up the prices. And this is why I am not against parking privileges for locals.

How a foreign tourist can park his car within spitting distance of the Old City walls is beyond me? Try and park your car next to Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower or the Brandenburg Gate and see the response. The parking spaces directly around the Old City must be reserved for locals, full stop! Residents pay taxes here, live here and are of course entitled to some benefits. This isn’t being unfair to tourists; this is being fair to locals, the same as with the discounts on buses, restaurants and museums. You could even take this a step further.

Why not, from the 1st of May until the end of September, introduce a regulation that only DU number plates can park around the Old City, meaning local cars. The public garage, which is somewhat of a white elephant anyway, should be filled. Make all parking spaces on the road from the parking garage to Boninovo for DU number plates only. Is this discrimination? No, this happens all over the world and is a “residents only” style of parking. And there is already a similar system in use here anyway. Try to park on the promenade of Cavtat, you can’t. Ramps block the access and a sign reads residents only, without a card you can’t enter.

So on the road by the public garage you employ a few “security guards” to inform tourists that from this point there is no public parking and the best solution is to use the garage. It would be extremely easy to control. If the number plate isn’t DU then the car can’t be parked there.

Of course, it wouldn’t completely solve the problem of parking around the city, but it would certainly help. Tourists are basically here on holiday, they aren’t working, so for them to spend a few minutes walking to the Old City shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you live around the city and are carrying shopping, pushing a pram, taking children to school or struggling to carry a bottle of gas back home then parking near your home is absolutely important.

If you want to take it a step further, then introduce the “park and ride” system. Again this is not reinventing the wheel, this system is proven. So at the public garage you have a few small mini buses that are constantly driving from the garage to the Old City. You don’t need a timetable and the buses are free. Tourists could walk to the city and catch the bus back to their cars, or vice versa, and everyone is happy. The when the tourist season finishes you open the roads again and go back to normal.

It is an idea that needs ironing out, as I’m pretty sure there are some hitches that I haven’t considered, but at least it is an idea. Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change. It is clear to a blind man that we need a new solution, well we have needed one for the past ten years, and no solutions have been presented in a decade, the time to try is now.

The tourist offer of the Dubrovnik – Neretva County is currently being presented to the United Arab Emirates at one of the largest travel fairs in the Middle East. The Arabian Travel Market business and trade fair open yesterday in Dubai and the Dubrovnik – Neretva County tourist board is present on the main stand of the Croatian National Tourist Board.

The Arabian Travel Market, is the leading global tourism event in the Middle East, and from the 22nd to the 25th over 40,000 tourism professionals are expected to visit the fair in the Dubai World Trade Centre.

dubai at dubrovnik travel

This fair might be of particular importance to Dubrovnik as the airline FlyDubai has recently opened a new direct line from Dubai to Dubrovnik. And the tourist board commented that “With regard to the introduction of a direct flight from Dubai to Dubai, we expect a significant increase in traffic from this market this year.”

Could the Croatian national team captain be on his way to join Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the MLS. The midfield ace, Luka Modric, looks certain to leave Real Madrid at the end of this season after joining the Spanish giants in 2012 from Tottenham Hotspur.

Real Madrid are planning a reconstruction of their squad this summer and at 32 years-old Modric is being mentioned as one of the players that will need to look for a new club after six seasons and countless trophies. It had been rumoured that Modric would be coming back to the Premier League with a move to Liverpool possible. However, after a recent interview it Modric is keen to join Ibrahimovic at LA Galaxy.

“You never know what can happen. I still have two more years on my contract with Real Madrid. I'm happy. I always said that I would like to finish my career in Madrid if it’s possible. But if not, maybe I can see myself also," commented Modric.

Adding that “Ibrahimovic was such a big player in Europe the last 10 to 20 years. I would like him to play football a bit longer, to watch him, to see his magic like he did in past years.”

The Hotel Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik has officially been awarded a halal quality certificate for guests of Islamic religion, guaranteeing hotel accommodation, food and drinks according to strict Halal standards.

The certificate was presented to the Director of the Hotel Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik, Ivica Sabljić, by Aldin Dugonjić, the head of the Halal Quality Certification Centre in Zagreb, a specialized institution of the Islamic Community, whose primary activity is education of Halal, and the only authorized institution in Croatia to issue Halal Certificates.

"We are very pleased that we are the holders of Halal Quality Certificates and we can provide our customers with a full certified Halal Service. Valamar Riviera offers its guests the ultimate quality of service by continuously following the trends and developing a diverse range of tailor-made offerings. This is why we have recognized this certification as a model of even higher quality, multi-faceted guarantees that will provide added value to our offer, " commented Sabljić.

Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik has expanded its offer of products to which certified halal foods have been used. All halal dishes are clearly marked and separated so that guests can easily choose them. Rooms, designed for guests who want a halal service, are specially decorated and equipped.

The consolidated gross debt of Croatia at the end of 2017 amounted to 283,313 million Kuna, or 78.0 percent of gross domestic product, while in 2016 it amounted to 281,738 million Kuna, or 80.6 percent of GDP. In 2015, the debt amounted to 284,203 million Kuna, or 83.8 percent of GDP, while in 2014 it was 278,366 million Kuna, or 84.0 percent of GDP.

In 2017, the consolidated general government surplus amounted to 2,754 million Kuna, or 0.8% of GDP.

This was in fact the first time that Croatia has seen a general budget surplus since it started using European Union methodology and the final figure was better than the government’s aim of 0.6 percent.

This forward step in the economic forecast is important to Croatia as the country plans to adopt the Euro as the official currency within the next seven years.

croatian debt 2017 gross

Illustration - Croatian Office of Statistics 

The Croatian capital is growing slowly but surely as a tourist destination and last year welcomed 1.3 million tourists, a healthy increase of 17 percent compared to 2016.

The Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli, met with the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, Martina Bienenfeld, this week and discussed the positive results the city achieved. The majority of the tourists to the Croatian capital in 2017 came from South Korea, the United States, Germany, Italy, and China. Thanks to the Advent in Zagreb winter festival the city managed to achieve all year round tourism and the new airport saw a continuous flow of international flights.

"The Ministry supports all the activities by the Zagreb Tourist Board, our cooperation is aimed at common goals and interests, and how much the tourist industry means for the overall economy and gives impetus to all other industries is clearly seen from the data on tourist revenue. Zagreb is a positive example of a destination that lives tourism all year round,” commented Cappelli.

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The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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