"Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying." - Neil Armstrong
Where did Dubrovnik disappear to?
Written by Nenad Sredojević.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the whole world without exception.
In Croatia, the strongest branch of industry, tourism, has been affected. However, not equally in every region. There are still a number of tourists in Istria and Kvarner, in northern and central Dalmatia as well, but the far south of the country these days looks like a movie scene. Which it was many times before, but this time, the movie is apocalyptic.
Dubrovnik has not been as empty in July since the 1990s. Hotels, restaurants, cultural sights ... have never been so eerily empty as this year. Or even closed.
Only a year earlier, Dubrovnik had problems with a shortage of labor for the tourist season, so workers were imported from other countries as well. This year, there is not even a need for a local workforce.
Dubrovnik is an air destination: there is no railway, and it is not adequately connected by road with the rest of the world.
In March, at the start of the epidemic, Dubrovnik Airport was closed to civil air traffic and everything stopped in one day. The fight against coronavirus has started globally and it was clear that the 2020 season will not be. After a relatively successful fight, the measures were relaxed and there was a glimmer of hope for at least a somewhat successful season in Croatia.
Istria and Kvarner started getting their first guests. The islands of Split-Dalmatia County as well. But Dubrovnik has disappeared from the map of tourist destinations.
Articles appeared daily in the media about the Tourist Board, the City of Dubrovnik and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce throwing themselves into the "fight for every guest". June 15 was the day everyone was waiting for as the borders opened. After June 15, everybody was focusing on July 1. Nothing again. We are now awaiting July 15 when the UK opens its borders to its citizens...
Of course, all the above-mentioned entities have continuously called on Airport Dubrovnik to bring airlines because tourists want to come, but there are no flights.
Dubrovnik Airport really threw itself into business, contacts were made with carriers, and the incentive policy was changed.
Every day, the media was full of statements such as yesterday's statement of the director of HGK Dubrovnik, Nikolina Trojić: "Without flights, there are no tourists who will come to Dubrovnik, an air destination," which she gave for Dubrovački Vjesnik.
These statements led us to check how much guilt Dubrovnik Airport has for the empty City.
So we took the period from 1-12 July and counted flights, available seats, and flight occupancy.
The numbers largely deny the Tourist Board and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, as well as the City of Dubrovnik and others.
We counted 19 carriers, 30 destinations and 130 flights in that period. Yes, these are one-day numbers in the 2019 season, but we must not forget the fact that we are in a coronavirus crisis, when the number of flights globally is still low, and when the industry is only slowly trying to recover.
The numbers (period 1-12 July 2020) are as follows:
Number of passengers: 16.029 Seat capacity: 34.708 Seat occupancy : 46,18%
So there are flights, destinations and seats available, but there is no demand. Dubrovnik Airport definitely cannot be responsible for the demand.
We wondered why there were no tourists then. Okay, there is still a crisis, but the crisis is also in Istria, Hvar, and in Spain, which is very interesting and attractive to tourists, as we have already written.
We did not ask the Tourist Board, Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the City of Dubrovnik or tourist entities why this is so, because their views can be seen every day in the media.
We asked citizens in those countries. In today's age of social networks and the internet, this is not at all difficult.
What we have heard is frightening.
The average citizen of a European country has not seen Dubrovnik advertised anywhere since the beginning of the year. That same citizen did not see that Dubrovnik had lowered prices. He did not even see that Dubrovnik has an extremely small number of infected people. That same citizen (if he goes anywhere) plans to go to Palma de Mallorca because he sees low prices and the offer that the destination advertises on TV and the Internet, as well as on posters. He will go to Greece or Turkey, who made a brand out of its Coronavirus free islands.
He will not go to Dubrovnik because he does not know about it or about what is happening in it. After all, even the author of the article, who has been in that city all his life, has no idea what prices have been lowered. What do we offer?
So, the planes are there, they fly half empty, which will be very short-lived because the planes don't fly pro bono. And with <50% occupancy ... in short, they don't fly.
Do you remember the self-praise of various tourist boards in Croatia when an Airport brings a new company or destination? It is only their merit. Airports are not mentioned.
No debacle is their fault.
Air traffic from the UK will also start next weekend. We'll see what happens.
Who is to blame for the disappearance of Dubrovnik?