Could Rapid Tests Save Summer Music Festival Season in Croatia?

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:


Jutarnji List reports that Boris Johnson’s opening plan could save Croatia’s entertainment industry from bankruptcy this summer, that is, if Croatia implements rapid antigen tests.

Summer is at the door, and, unfortunately, “the next two weeks are still crucial.” It is still uncertain whether there will be any parties during the warmer months and, if so, under what conditions and protocols. However, festival organizers in Croatia and the region are cautiously optimistic. A little over two weeks ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced lifting all anti-pandemic measures as early as June, so a wave of festival announcements began.

There is still no vote from the Croatian government, but representatives of some of the most important regional and Croatian festival events had their say. 

“We are in the dark. We still do not have official conditions under which we could work,” says Ivan Bušljeta from the Papaya group, which works on the popular Zrće beach.

They have five festivals on hold as part of the summer music festival season in Croatia, including Sonus, Hideout, and Fresh Island.

“These are festivals that would be held in five clubs and would accommodate about three to four thousand people. These are events with a long tradition and good tourists, but we still cannot answer a few key questions. Among them is whether we will be allowed to work all night. It is also important, for example, how much space will have to be provided for each visitor. We are proposing two square meters per person, which would certainly be more in the end, given that Zrće beach has one hundred thousand square meters,” says Bušljeta, who has been involved in the work of the Voice of Entrepreneurs since the pandemic, fighting for the rights of employees in the event industry.

Bušljeta says that this year they plan to adhere to measures such as measuring guests’ temperature, keeping records of visitors, minimizing the dance floor with bar stools and the like.

“But it is challenging for us to plan anything. We only hear speculations that our work will be banned, which we are appalled by! Our costs are there every day for production, marketing, and the like, and our future is uncertain. Someone from the economic and financial sector of the Government must urgently invite us for a discussion. Without help and instructions, we will all go bankrupt,” says Bušljeta, who also says that the practice in other European countries is completely different: Britain, he says, published a timetable for easing measures two weeks ago, and countries like the Netherlands are conducting experiments to determine the behavior of the virus at music events.

When you consider the fact that vaccination is very slow, it is clear that the situation is not great.

“One of the potential solutions is for the state to provide rapid antigen tests for important tourist destinations so that those who arrive are tested already at the station, at the entrance to Zrće, or similar. Also, it would be essential for us to enable the vaccination of our staff,” he says, emphasizing once again that without the help of the state, it will be difficult to achieve anything.

Last summer, Vedran Meniga of Positive Rhythm led Martinska in Šibenik, which was the only festival location in Croatia and Europe in the first pandemic summer. Five festivals and one concert were held there, and in 11 working days, i.e., six weekends, about 10,000 festivalgoers attended. The number of infected was – zero.

“We are planning and announcing a new festival season as if everything will take place, similar to last year. Dimensions and Outlook were not held last year because we couldn’t welcome foreign tourists, but this time we predict that everything will go according to plan. If the situation remains similar to last year, we predict an increase of about 20 percent of visitors to those ten thousand people from last year,” says Meniga. 

“For each weekend, i.e., festival, we asked for a special permit from the Headquarters. We are told that we have the green light for festivals as long as there is no infection at them. We complied with all measures and worked on additional innovations. We set up disinfection points next to each place where transactions occur, paying special attention to the toilets. After the end of all the festivals, we waited another 14 days before submitting the press release. When that incubation period ended, it turned out that there were no infected people either. Also, none of the visitors to the festivals came with a fever,” he says.

Outlook, Dimensions, and Seasplash have already been announced, and additional information about Regius, Kanal Fest, Blast, and Slurp! will be released soon. Outlook and Dimensions are being held this year at The Garden Resort in Tisno, and the rest will be held at Martinska in Šibenik. Meniga hopes that the summer Seasplash club in Pula will work and that another version of Slurp! could take place in Istria.

“No one can predict anything, and we all work as if everything will happen. This causes a huge amount of frustration. So many working hours are invested, and everything is uncertain. Planning in our business takes longer than realization. We spend money on salaries and promotions. We invest,” says Meniga.

He points out Šibenik as a positive diameter of the city in which more than 50 cultural events were held last year.

“From the International Children’s Festival at the beginning of summer to the Festival of Dalmatian Chanson at the end, the number of tourists that passed through Šibenik is approximately equal to the number of inhabitants. And everything went well,” he says and adds that in almost all cases, these are events that take place outdoors.

“And those aren’t hotspots,” he points out.

The epidemiological situation needs to be monitored every day until the summer music festival season in Croatia

“To that extent, there is understanding towards the Headquarters. But most people from the event industry are on the verge of nervous breakdowns and bankruptcy. What is most terrifying are the double standards. While we were under restrictions last year, we witnessed no tourist facilities and that the beaches and supermarkets are full. There are, of course, also religious facilities. These things leave a lump in my throat, especially since risk groups mostly gather in those places,” says Meniga and adds that he should be responsible and smart when working, which the festival organizers and their visitors are aware of.

And yet, he is optimistic.

“Until two weeks ago, we did not plan to announce Outlook and Dimensions, but as the British government announced the opening, the Brits began to buy tickets en masse. Both festivals are almost sold out. It still doesn’t guarantee anything, but it instills hope. More than a third of the nation has been vaccinated there, and they expect to reach half the population by summer, covering all vulnerable groups. All in all, we have a whole series of unknowns ahead of us, including covid passports and questions about how performers will travel concerning Brexit. But everything can be agreed upon and resolved. If we succeeded last year when the panic was much greater, we would succeed now,” concludes Meniga.

When Boris Johnson announced his plan, the announcements of seven festivals that will take place this year at The Garden Resort in Tisno began.

“People waited patiently for a year to come out and socialize, so Johnson’s statements definitely gave hope. Of course, everything can change, but we are convinced that with the right health and safety protocols we can ensure a safe environment in which people can enjoy the sun, sea, and music,” says Nick Colgan from The Garden Resort and notes that “people need it for their souls.” He mentions that in Britain, the Love Saves The Day festival, organized by the same people from Love International, sold 19,000 tickets in nine minutes. Colgan believes the music industry will be stronger than ever after opening.

They have already started pre-production for the summer music festival season in Croatia, although they usually start earlier, even in January or February.

“What we need at the moment are instructions and a response from the authorities. We work closely with the local municipality and the tourist board, and we have agreed on assistance with the British Consulate. We need directions because we have more than 20,000 people waiting for their musical vacation,” Colgan says.

They are also waiting for an answer as to whether proof of vaccination will be required to enter the festival.

“That’s what governments have to say. Most of our visitors come from the UK and have a great chance of getting vaccinated by July. Combined with negative PCR tests before the trip and possible rapid tests at the festival we will be fine. Also, all of our outdoor events are small in capacity, up to 3,500 people,” says Colgan.

Will Brexit affect the summer music festival season in Croatia?

“To be honest, for me, it is a mistake of the century, which means complications with bureaucracy and higher travel costs. It’s like we’re traveling back in time. I’m not sure what the new protocols will look like, but I hope they can be processed online,” he says.

What more can the Government do to help festivals?

“It is not only about festivals but also about hotels, private accommodation, taxis, restaurants, cafes … Our events have a huge impact on the economy. We need to allow ourselves to plan. We need a specific timeline to get out of action, which would prevent at least part of our financial risk if we have to cancel the season again. We need the details of this moment! We, for example, plan to employ 120 people over the summer. We should hire them now,” Colgan concludes.

Could rapid antigen tests save the summer music festival season in Croatia?  We will have to wait and see. 

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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