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.
Dubrovnik Airport is on the verge of having one of its best years of record. Croatia’s southernmost airport received their millionth passenger a few weeks ago and is expecting to handle around 1.6 million by the end of 2015. However the airport isn’t resting on its laurels, far from it, the construction of a new terminal, terminal C, is underway. Dubrovnik Airport is looking forward to a busy 2016. The new investment into Dubrovnik Airport is valued at around 220 million Euros and apart from the construction of the new terminal the project also includes the works on the runway, storage facilities and car parks. With completion of terminal C Dubrovnik Airport will be in the position to handle 3.5 million passengers annually. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2019.
The Croatian National Tourist Board has held negotiations with various airlines ahead of the 2016 season and many carriers have shown interest in introducing or increasing flights to Dubrovnik. Norwegian Air, Germanwings, British Airways, SAS and EasyJet have all held talks with the Croatian National Tourist Board about their plans for 2016. Croatia is a rising tourist destination. In fact so far this year the country has experienced the highest increase in tourists in the whole of the Mediterranean region, with an 8 percent increase in 2015 compared to 2014. Political turmoil in Greece and Turkey and social unrest in northern Africa have all influenced more tourists to travel to Croatia on holiday. And the world’s airlines have been quick to recognise this opportunity, with many looking to expand in 2016.
According to an article by the specialised website EX-YU aviation many airlines are reaping the rewards of connecting Croatia to the rest of Europe. Thomson Airways commented that Croatia was their fastest growing market. They have also announced that they will continue to fly their Boeing 787 Dreamliners to Dubrovnik in 2016. Scandinavian Airlines commented that “this summer we had 51 weekly frequencies from Scandinavia to Croatia and over fourteen different routes. We plan to continue serving Split, Dubrovnik and Pula". And one of the largest budget airlines in the world, EasyJet, has stated that they will increase the number of flights to Dubrovnik next summer season. The airline has announced that they will move forward the starting date of flights to Dubrovnik, meaning that the summer season for 2016 could be extended into early spring. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation the British based airline said that “Croatia is an important market for EasyJet. We carried nearly half a million passengers to and from Croatia last year.” There is no doubt that the summer season in 2016 will be even better than this year, however there are still serious question marks over the winter season in Dubrovnik. The city has virtually no international links throughout the winter months and most flights go through Zagreb. There is also news from British Airways that they will lower the number of flights through this winter and not fly at all through January. The problem of attracting airlines to fly to Dubrovnik in the off-season is one that the airport, or the tourist organisations in the city, hasn’t been able to solve so far. There is a possibility that Dubrovnik will have a direct connection with Frankfurt this winter, with Croatia Airlines, although this is still only in the negotiation phase.
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.
Despite announcements that the HBO series Game of Thrones was not planning to film in Dubrovnik this season it seems that the mega popular series can’t do without Dubrovnik. HBO have been filming in Dubrovnik, which plays the part of Kings Landing in the serial, since season two.
Early Thursday morning, a camera crew under heavy security, gathered at the Pile entrance into the historic Old City of Dubrovnik. Whereas is previous seasons, when the crews spent upwards of three weeks in the city, Dubrovnik was being used as a daytrip destination for HBO this sixth season. Our cameras were on the scene as one of the leading ladies of the Game of Thrones, the British actress Lena Headey, arrived in the early morning. Queen Cersei Lannister almost had a problem reaching the set as she raced in front of a coach full of surprised cruise ship passengers.
The beach underneath the ancient Dubrovnik City Walls on Pile was the backdrop for the express filming as Lena Headey gazed out towards the St. Lawrence Fortress and the Adriatic Sea. And Lena’s hairstyle has changed since the last episode of season five when Queen Cersei Lannister walked the “Walk of Shame” with a shaved head. Along with Headey on the set was the Icelandic giant Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who plays Gregor Clegane in the serial. Dubrovnik has been the location for King's Landing, the centre of the seven Kingdoms, since the second season of Game of Thrones. However this year HBO officially stated that they would not be filming in Dubrovnik, but rather the whole production team had moved to the Catalan city of Girona.
The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra opened up 2016 with a spectacular concert in the heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik. After last night’s wild party on the Stradun the music continued this morning with a more classical note.
Guests to the city and locals gathered in the square in front of the St. Blaise Church and enjoyed a concert on the first day of 2016. The Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra were joined on stage by the soloist soprano Marijana Prohaska from Rijeka.
The director of the orchestra, Damir Milat, wished the audience a happy new year.
2016 was brought in with style in Dubrovnik with an impressive fireworks display.
As the main bell tower in the historic Old City of Dubrovnik struck midnight fireworks lit up the night sky...2016 is here!
After emerging from the recession in 2015, Croatia's economy is likely to continue rising in 2016, with analysts projecting growth rates between 0.5% and 1.8% as well as a rise in the country's public debt.
In 2016 Croatia's economic growth will pick up to 1.8% on the back of rising exports of goods and services as well as on the back of a continued rise in personal consumption and investments, according to a recent statement issued by the Croatian National Bank (HNB).
Apart from the central bank, other institutions project growth in Croatia's GDP as well.
The European Commission forecasts a rise of 1.4%, while the International Monetary Fund is less optimistic, putting the forecast at 1%. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) projects Croatia's growth at the rate of 0.5%, and the Institute of Economics in Zagreb believes the rise will be around 1%.
Similar projections have been given by analysts in major banks operating in Croatia. For instance, Alen Kovac of Erste Bank believes that the growth rate in 2016 would be similar to 2015, namely between 1% and 1.2%.
The HNB, however, has been warning against a snowball effect on public finances, namely a situation when GDP growth rates are lower than the average interest rate on the country's public debt, thus causing an increase in the public debt.
"In order to halt this effect, it is crucial to ensure a stronger fiscal adjustment," HNB Governor Boris Vujcic said recently. He said that this adjustment should not be dramatic compared to what some EU countries had had to do in that regard during the crisis.
Croatian Employers Association Director-General Davor Majetic expects a feeble growth due to the non-performance of structural reforms and weakening external positive effects.
Analysts of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce say that developments in 2016 will depend on the expertise in pursuing the country's economic and development policies and on regional and global trends.
We are in the middle of the festive season in Dubrovnik and there is no end to the glorious sunshine. Yesterday in Dubrovnik temperatures reached 20 degrees and sunshine bathed down over the historic Old City. Locals and tourists took the opportunity to walk and explore the city and to have a meal and a coffee al fresco.
The weather forecast in Dubrovnik until the New Year is for more mild temperatures and blue skies. It is expected that Dubrovnik will start 2016 in relatively settled weather with the long-term forecast showing a colder chill coming in the middle of January.
Check out our photo gallery by Tonci Plazibat
The renowned British newspaper, The Telegraph, has included Dubrovnik on a list of the top ten European city breaks for 2016. Great Britain is the most important market for the Dubrovnik travel industry, so this article released at a time of the year when the Brits think about booking their summer holidays will help make 2016 another bumper tourism year.
There are some very popular and familiar city break destinations in the top ten: Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul and London. The inclusion of Dubrovnik on such a prestigious directory will boost the number of British tourists travelling to the city.
“Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities,” opens the article. Adding that “now a UNESCO world heritage site and Croatia’s most up-market destination, it was once the capital of the wealthy sea-faring Republic of Ragusa.”
Read the full article here