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.
It isn’t summer yet and already luxury mega yachts are docking in Dubrovnik. Golden Odyssey, the plaything of the Saudi Prince Khaled al Saud, dropped anchor in the Port of Dubrovnik yesterday.
Sailing under the flag of Bermuda the yacht is an impressive 124 metres long and set the Prince back a massive $300 million, which is a drop in the ocean compared to his estimated net wealth of $10 billion. In fact, this huge yacht is just one of the four that the Prince owns, although it is the largest.
Launched in 2015 the yacht has 16 luxurious cabins and has a crew of 60. Presumably the Saudi Prince isn’t on-board, and the yacht is on route to a warmer destination.
Golden Odyssey under the Dubrovnik Bridge - Photo Zeljko Tutnjevic
Another international airline has announced new flights to Dubrovnik for this summer season. The German airline Germania will connect Dresden with Dubrovnik this summer with one flight a week, on Wednesdays, until the 10th of October.
Germania is a privately owned German airline with its headquarters in Berlin. Germania operates scheduled and charter flights to destinations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East from several German bases.
Speculation about the latest James Bond movie has been rife over the past week, with release dates, cast members and plot details beginning to become apparent. Daniel Craig has confirmed that he will return to the role, for the fifth time, after previous announcements that he would not continue as 007.
The 25th movie in the long-running franchise will be released in the US on the 8th of November 2019 and it is believed that the UK release date will be earlier than that, possibly a week before the US. The last Bond film, Spectre, which was released in 2015 took a massive 100 million Euros at box offices.
Dubrovnik is still believed to be one of the many locations in the future Bond movie, which officially has the name as James Bond 25, although the name Shatterhand has been rumoured. Rumours suggest that Daniel Craig will film the 25th Bond movie in Dubrovnik with a host of expensive cars, encounters with old acquaintances from previous films and a near escape from drowning in the Adriatic Sea. Sources have suggested that the producers will apply to the City of Dubrovnik for filming permits before the end of March, with possible filming dates in April. However, this is still speculation as the producers are keeping their cards close to their chest and were particularly annoyed that the former Mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahusic, broke the news of filming in the city before them.
And these filming dates in Dubrovnik tie in with Daniel Craig’s answer to an interviewer in the US when he said that he would be playing 007 again in a “couple of months.”
There are also rumours that the 25th movie will see Bond take on a new lifestyle, with one American website suggesting that Bond will “Quit the secret service, fall in love and get married.”
Will James Bond join the long list of productions in Dubrovnik, such as Game of Thrones, Robin Hood and Star Wars, will become clearer this spring.
The future of the golf course in Dubrovnik took another turn for the worse as the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, commented that “this project will not happen.”
Speaking at a press conference the Mayor of Dubrovnik brought up the Dubrovnik Golf course project on the Srđ Mountain.
“In my opinion this project will not happen. The City of Dubrovnik, in the future, will be the owners of this area on Srđ and we will plan what will be up there,” commented the mayor adding that the legal process that is currently taking place will offer the final solution.
The developer of the Dubrovnik Golf course has sued the Croatian Government in the arbitral tribunal in Washington and is seeking 500 million Euros in compensation.
One Suite Hotel in Župa has won yet another international award. The hotel, which opened in June 2017, has already picked up a number of recognitions and now, in Kiev, it has won the International Hospitality Award for the best newly opened hotel in Eastern and Central Europe.
The International Hospitality Awards have been awarding leading hotels since 2011 and recognising the best hotels according to their annual results. The nominees were judged by a specialized jury, as well as guest ratings on Booking.com and Trust.You.com. Out of a total of 315 hotels in 21 countries, One Suite Hotel, won the best newly opened hotel.
One Suite Hotel was an investment of 34.5 million Kuna, of which 9.38 million came through EU funds. The hotel has 18 accommodation units, 16 apartments and two premium rooms with a total capacity of 64 people, and unlike many hotels in Dubrovnik is open all year round.
The President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, marks the third year of her four-year mandate today. And she has taken to her official Facebook profile to commemorate the day and to promise more work to solve one of the main problems that faces Croatia today.
“On this day three years ago I started the mandate of the President of the Republic of Croatia. In this honourable duty I work in the interest of all Croatian citizens, both at home and overseas,” started the President on her Facebook profile.
She then went onto tackle the problem of Croatians leaving the country to find a brighter future in other European Union members. “By the end of the mandate, in cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Croatia, we will do all we can to stop the emigration of the youth and reverse the negative demographic trends. We will also work to allow the citizens with blocked bank accounts to start with a new beginning and the divisions of the past turn into a togetherness for a better future,” commented the President.
The future of the former military resort of Kupari is under question as the State Property Minister, Goran Maric, has expressed doubts as to the seriousness of the investor.
The state owned resort, which includes a number of hotels, has been looking for fresh investment since the Homeland War. Two and a half years ago a Russian investor, Sergej Gljadelkin, the owner of the Avenue Group won the concession to redevelop the tourism properties, however no actual construction work had even been started and now the minister believes the whole project has stopped.
"It is hard to expect a continuation of the project," commented the minister disappointed with the Russian investor Avenue Group. “The investor has not carried out the conditions or fulfilled any of the obligations. We'll do the analysis, but I think it's hard to expect a continuation of the project to continue,” added the minister.
"It is hard to expect a continuation of the project," - Minister Maric
Avenue Group had announced big plans for the Kupari project, with 100 million Euros expected to be spent and brand name hotel chains mentioned as possible partners. However, movement has been extremely slow with only some clean-up of the site and documentation carried out. And this slow process has annoyed the minister, “If we break contracts it will be due to the investor not fulfilling obligations, they have proposed changes to the conditions that we don’t agree with.”
The majority owner of Avenue Group is the Russian billionaire Sergej Gljadelkin, the owner of more than twenty companies worldwide. Avenue Holdings operates in France, Austria and Switzerland and the main activity if construction and recycling. It is estimated that the annual revenues of the umbrella company are around $500 million.
Sergej Gljadelkin started his business career in Russia where his company built commercial and residential properties. Although he was connected to a few construction scandals in Russia he successfully managed to stay out of the press limelight. He is generally a private person and the early parts of his career, and how he amassed his first millions, are almost impossible to uncover. Over the years he has continued this shadowy relationship with the media and hardly ever gives interviews or even statements.
The digital revolution has been shaping the face of tourism in Croatia for a few years, travel apps, online flight reservations, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, the list goes on and on. And last year was the first year ever that individual tourist outnumbered tourists in organised travel arrangements.
In 2017 the share of tourists who came under their own organisation, and not with the assistance of a travel agency, was almost 64 percent, whilst out of the 86 million overnight stays recorded last year 66 percent were made by individuals.
Travel agencies around the world have been feeling the pinch for years as they basically only cater for older travellers, with the younger generations preferring to book their vacations in a more digital way.
According to evidence from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) the number of tourists who booked their accommodation on an individual basis was 11.1 million in 2017. This figure is an increase of 17.4 percent over 2016 as the digital revolution picks up speed and classic travel agencies become rarer.
And this revolution has also meant that the hoteliers and accommodations owners are better off financially, instead of paying travel agencies a commission they are paying “micropayments” to online booking agencies.