Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona – Part 4

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April 12, 2020 – Part 4 of Ivica Profaca’s Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona – you can start at the beginning here.

Ever since I started working as a guide, this was going to be my sixth season, I was trying to be as meticulous as possible in running my assignment calendar. Or, in more recent times, calendars. It might be a professional disorder inherited from my daily journalism days, with my addiction to deadlines and article size precision. As soon as I would get a new booking, the whole series of administrating moves begins; write it in the excel table, sorted by dates. Then Google Calendar, which notifies me half an hour before the appointed hour. Then calendars in different online platforms or applications, where I need to delete tours I offer on different dates. For example, if I get a morning assignment from some agency, I block that date for morning tours which I have online, and usually leave those scheduled for afternoons. The last time when I counted, I was maintaining four different calendars, plus excel. I know, there are apps which can do it at once, but I just don’t trust them. I’m pretty sure I would end up with double bookings, or miss an important one.

When it comes to payments, I’m even worse. Minutes after I come home after any guiding job, I send an invoice. It’s not because I’m especially dedicated, I’m just afraid that if I wait until the next day, not to mention a longer period, I would just forget it. Even with clients who make me send an invoice once a month, I create it at the beginning of the month, and then update after every job. The last day of the month, it’s gone.

I described this because for the last two months of Corona, this whole procedure looks like an “undo” command in computer programs. I get a cancellation (because there are no new bookings) for, let’s say, some date in May. When I delete it from excel, I enter it in another excel table named Cancellations 2020. Of course I don’t really need that, but with self-diagnosed minor OCD of counting, and running statistics it’s there, don’t ask. You never know, says my little OCD ghost, maybe it will be useful someday. Then I turn to calendars. It’s easy to delete it (or change date) in Google Calendar. But, when it comes to online platforms, it gets more demanding. Now I re-schedule all those tours which were deleted or blocked when the original booking arrived, and it takes some time of careful going from one web site to another. Again, I’m completely aware that if, for example, guests cancelled a tour on April 25 due to the COVID-19 situation, no other booking will arrive for that same day. However, it gives the impression that I really am doing something about this season. Completely useless, but I do it. After all, the days are getting longer, and it takes more effort to make them pass while staying home, even with some other jobs I do, like writing or translating.

I learned to act that way when I was forced to start working at home ten years ago, after almost twenty years in different newsrooms. Unfortunately, many people are experiencing it in the Corona Age. You probably know that – how to force yourself to change from pyjamas into barely decent clothes, or comb your hair before work nobody sees you doing it. Well, to play with calendars and jobs which will never come is my way to create a new normality, no matter how abnormal it actually is. It’s like that even in more leisure parts of the day, with wine parties over Zoom or some other communication app. Until “all this” stops, and we begin turning back to normal normality. If possible. And it will stop, I’m still optimistic.

Those two excel spreadsheets I run – Bookings 2020 and Cancellations 2020 – go in opposite directions, the first one is still bigger, but the latter is approaching faster then I want. As I said before, bookings were poor anyway, because they stopped sometime in January or early February, but what is really worrying is the steady stream from one spreadsheet to another. The whole of April is now gone, May is emptying, only dates later in that month still stand, but it’s hard to count on those bookings will surviving. Later, prospects are a little bit better, but for now it’s in the hands of the virus and those trying to stop it.

Some countries have announced the possibility of softening their lockdowns, but it’s hard to say how that will work. Maybe more than ever before, countries will depend on each other in the post-Corona economy. That dependence is not whether they will help each other (I hope they will), but how to re-open any economy, if most others are still locked. What’s the use if Croatian airports, harbours, borders, museums, bars and restaurants open, if nobody can come? What’s the benefit for Croatian tourism (or most of other industries) if Croatia continues doing a good job (or at least it still looks like a good job) in stopping COVID-19, if it still ravages some of our main markets?  That’s why I believe that the dilemma of whether or not to concentrate on the economy, or on stopping the pandemic is mostly false. There is no economy if the pandemic is alive.  When it stops, my calendars await, I’m looking forward to filling them. So many things to do.

We will be following Ivica Profaca’s journey through the rocky weeks ahead.

If you find yourself in Split, or are planning a post-corona visit, check out his range of tours on his website – families, look out for the kids tour of Diocletian Palace. It will not only entertain your kids while allowing you to absorb this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it will bring out the inner child in you too. Learn more about it here

You can read other parts of Ivica’s Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona series here.

(To be continued)


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