Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona – Part 6

Total Croatia News

May 12, 2020 – Part 6 of Ivica Profaca’s Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona – you can start at the beginning here.

There is not so much normal in “the New Normal”. Following the stage three of softening anti-COVID measures (Total Croatia News extensively updates all info on the pandemic in Croatia), I wrote a blog for the Tourist Board of Split with the hope that opening things might really move the whole society up, especially the economy. In some ways it does. Among other things, it’s possible to travel around Croatia, in some cases even crossing the national border without a two-week quarantine. You can now have a drink, or a meal in bars and restaurants, with some restrictions, and get together with up to 40 people. There are flights, buses and trains in Croatia, hopefully there will be some international ones soon, too. British Airways and Ryanair already announced their flights from June, easyJet never took their flights off their website. Hotel openings were announced, although not on a very big scale. Maybe it’s not great, but it looks good, at least as a start. The situation with the virus is also promising, even with the latest outbreak on the island of Brač.

All this brought hope for different segments of the tourism industry that there might be something out of this year’s season. Shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, etc. might really have some traffic. It’s miles away from what they all got used to, and if you ask people in these segments they will tell you that the future is not really bright, maybe just black turned into grey.

On the other hand, what does all this mean for guides? Much less than to those in the previous paragraph. Along with some other fellow guides, I was asked by T-portal reporter about prospects of this season, and the verdict is pretty much unanimous. We can’t hope for anything serious before September. A wild guess is that most tourists will be those from other parts of Croatia. They will bring some work to accommodations, or to those selling drinks and food. Guides? In years of doing this I can hardly remember if I ever had a request from Croatian tourists for a tour. Maybe it’s about saving money for other stuff, or maybe people coming on vacation usually do sightseeing on their own. This is not an objection, just a fact. After all, even when I travel abroad I do the same; do my homework, and then research on my own. It can’t be compared with guidance by an experienced local guide, and I enjoyed those few times when I hired someone, but those are the usual habits.

In the last few days there were also some events which make relying on September and October too optimistic. Firstly, all the main tourism markets are still COVID-active, some of them extremely active. On a day when I write this, the number of confirmed cases in Germany tripled, the UK passed over Italy and France in both cases and deaths, plus they have more deaths than Spain. As expected, the epidemic in the USA is still raging. Border openings? Only two days after Croatia announced that passengers coming from other EU countries will not need a quarantine, a plane from Frankfurt brought at least a dozen new cases, possibly more still waiting to be confirmed. With the regime softening in most European countries in the last week or so, we still need to wait for some time before it will be proven that everything went well.

Almost at the same time when some airlines announced re-launching of their flights (with others giving up their plans), bad news came from cruise companies, which bring many clients to guides. There are no ships cruising around at least till the end of June, some companies berthed their vessels till the end of July. Holland American Line made a step forward, or backwards, and made a move that might become a faith for the whole industry; they simply cancelled their operation for the whole of 2020.

On the home front, it means that the number of cancelled jobs for this year is now officially bigger than those still alive, even with included bookings already postponed to 2021. On this date in 2019 I had a few dozen jobs already done, this year it’s five since the New Year. Of those five, three were brought in by friends who wanted to do a favour to someone. Now even big September hopes look more and more like a bubble with few new cancelations in that month. Months before September are already almost empty. State support called Program of saving jobs affected by COVID ends next month, and the situation won’t be better than when we all applied for it two months ago. Actually, it’s even worse. Not to mention that the danger of COVID is still present, and safety must come first. I’m not sure I would be delighted with the prospect of passing through possible crowds created by further regime softening, not to mention ideas of huge events like Ultra Europe, with people coming mostly from those countries I mentioned before in this writing.

So, to conclude – the possibility of putting big X across 2020 is bigger and bigger.

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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