May 16, 2020 — Plitvice Lakes National Park bet deep discounts would lure local tourists and help jumpstart its summer season. The gambit paid off. Croatians flooded the tourist magnet as soon as it opened.
About 5,000 guests visited Plitvice since the park opened on Monday, creating epidemiologically-sound lines. The initial weekend back sold out quickly, a 15,000-guest tally for the first week of life under the new coronavirus regime which limits visitors. Tickets for next weekend are about to sell out as well.
Call it a confluence of life in the coronavirus era: a full stop on international travel, study and work from home rules combined with low prices and isolation fatigue to create an unexpected boom in thousands of locals, many who never visited the park before.
The number of visitors falls short of normal traffic but exceeded expectations. By mid-May, Plitvice is on its way to its annual haul of over 1 million guests.
Croatia’s epidemiological measures prevent the sardine-like experience which became a hallmark of visiting Plitvice. It can only allow in 600 people an hour across two entrances.
The park’s employees report the dearth of human visitors over the last two months allowed other, hairier guests to arrive. Security footage reportedly showed wild animals descending into Plitvice during the shutdown.
The park is reportedly filled with Croatians from all around the country, especially families with children. It’s a rare departure from the mass tourism era, as most accommodations still shake off the cobwebs of a months-long closure.
Croatians haven’t made up a majority of guests at Plitvice Lakes in decades. The tour guides chattering away in foreign tongues to zombified self-stick operators are replaced by the chatter of Croatian kids ogling at the turquoise waters and fish.
One guest, Goran, told Jutarnji List he was visiting for the first time with his wife Slavica and children Eva and Marta. Their trip to the national park was sparked by a “combination of price, the fact that there are no foreign guests, no crowds and nice weather,” he said. The family even went for the full vacation experience and rented a house in Slunj.