Croatian Tourism In the Age of Corona? Czech Agencies Have A Plan

Total Croatia News

April 19, 2020 — Czechs, who colloquially consider the Adriatic “our sea”, are trying to salvage their summer plans — and Croatia’s tourism season in the process.

Travel associations in the Czech Republic proposed a model for a “corona corridor” straight to the Adriatic Coast, letting foreign visitors bypass a 14-day mandatory self-isolation period. The plan targets countries with a much lower infection rate that the Czech Republic itself.

“We have asked ministries to find a solution to save the summer tourist season or travel agencies,” Jan Papez, president of the Association of Czech Travel Agencies, told Jutarnji List. Croatia was among the first chosen because of its low rate of infection and deaths.

The association suggested the Czech government sign a treaty with countries successfully keeping COVID-19 at bay such as Croatia, Slovakia, but also some distant countries. The deal would allow mutual travel for citizens in both directions.

The proposal comes at a precarious time, as governments gently dip their toes into something resembling normal life, often reintroducing restrictive measures again.

The latest cautionary tale comes from Singapore, which brought the virus’s spread under control weeks before Croatia. It reopened its borders, only to have its caseload double as migrant laborers returned.

The Czech proposal calls for epidemiological oversight and health certifications, though health officials seemed skeptical.

Some epidemiologists warn the proposal may hurt current efforts to keep COVID-19 from overwhelming healthcare systems. Krunoslav Capak, the Head of the Croatian Institute for Public Health, downplayed the health certificate idea at a press conference.

“Health certificates do not mean much because a person may be ill 24 hours later,” he said. “In our view, tourists arriving in Croatia should either be quarantined for 14 days or should come from countries where the epidemiological situation is better than ours.”

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenković jumped all over the plan, reaching out to Czech Premier Andrei Babis to discuss the idea. 

Tourism Minister Gary Cappelli on Friday promised to discuss the proposal with his Czech counterpart Klara Dostalov.

“We are determined to find opportunities to realize this, and with similar practices, we would work with other interested markets,” Cappelli said.

The minister will lead a conference of tourism ministries around the continent on April 27, where the Czech plan will be discussed, among others.

The Czech Tour Operators Association found fertile ground for the plan with their Croatian counterparts.

“This Czech initiative for us is a great signal of what this year’s tourism season may resemble,” said the director of the Croatian Tourism Association, Veljko Ostojic, according to Jutarnji List. “But when and under what conditions, the National Directorate has to determine.” 

Ministers in both countries warned against getting too excited, pointing to a long list of variables that haven’t been settled, including transportation, health and epidemiological measures, healthcare capacity and, of course, the virus itself. Cappelli himself tamped down initial optimism.

“Neither [the Czech travel agencies] nor others have much space for work and travel now,” he said. “They are looking for somewhere to go to sea. They somehow find it easiest to get to Croatia. Will they succeed in doing so or not? We will see. It depends not only on us but also on other countries.”

The plan calls for state-verified health certificates declaring travelers COVID-free, allowing trips to other less-infected countries and bypassing mandatory self-isolation measures. Special air and road corridors would allow the speedy transfer to a tourist’s destination. Early plans include direct connections from Prague to Dubrovnik and Split.

Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković considers the idea fantastic, according to Jutarnji, but emphasized the need to reconnect the Pearl of the Adriatic to airline passengers in other major European hubs.

Prominent members of Croatia’s tourism industry welcomed the Czech proposal.

“The Czechs are exactly the market we counted on the most,” the director of the Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board Joško Stella, according to Jutarnji List. “It was clear to us that they might be the first to show a tendency to come to the Adriatic, which is why we are in constant contact with them.”

Ostojić and others worry that the Croatian knack for drowning everything in bureaucracy may kill any plans to salvage the season.

“It is important to know what the procedures will be like at the borders,” Ostojić told Jutarnji. “Whether passengers will stand in columns and fill in paperwork, which means that we should not expect much tourist activity.”

Czech tourists often carry the unfortunate stereotype of low-spending, high maintenance guests, eliciting eye-rolls among certain older members of Dalmatia’s hospitality industry.

But that doesn’t stop them from vacationing on the Dalmatian coast, which remains one of the most popular destinations for Czech tourists. Over 800,000 spent holiday in Croatia last year for 5.4 million overnight stays. 

The Dalmatian coast is so synonymous with Czech vacations, the nation’s vacationers call it “our sea.”


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