November the 24th, 2023 – Could Šibenik Airport become a reality after forty years of consideration? Potentially.
As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, this particular idea is more than forty years old now, and to many people it sounds irrational at first, but in and around Šibenik and Vodice, they explain with many good reasons why an international airport should be built in their area. Any future Šibenik Airport would be constructed in Pokrovnik.
Srce Dalmacije – The Heart of Dalmatia
These reasons and arguments of the people of Šibenik and others in the wider area of that county are apparently accepted by the Croatian Government, which recently adopted the decision on the establishment of the company “Heart of Dalmatia/Srce Dalmacije” Airport. That company has been founded as a limited liability company with a minimum share capital (2,500 euros), in which the largest share is currently held by the state (55%), followed by Šibenik-Knin County (20%), and the other participants are the cities of Šibenik, Vodice, Drniš, Knin and Skradin.
This, as pointed out by the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, is the first necessary step in order to start the implementation of the project, the realisation of which requires a lot of preparation of documentation and permits for construction, so, therefore, a lot of time.
However, the plan of the people of Šibenik and others involved is to build an airport with a large runway, 2,800 thousand metres long in total, capable of receiving the largest aircraft.
It can be seen from the above that their ambitions are great, regardless of the fact that after its construction, as many as three large Croatian airports would be “squeezed” into a stretch of only 100 kilometres of air line, the one in Zemunik near Zadar, their new one in Pokrovnik and the large Split Airport in Resnik.
Because of this, even before this decision, the idea was readily met with objections and protests from the neighbouring counties. Outside of the peak of the summer tourist season, their airports very much struggle to fill their capacities, so for them, the idea of Šibenik Airport implies even less traffic and income from the existing Dalmatian airports.
“The Šibenik Airport project shouldn’t be seen as competition”
“No one should be looking at this project as competition. It’s a long-term project and should be viewed in the context of everything that is happening in our general area. The Šibenik Airport project will follow the other development and capital economic projects that are being launched and which aren’t just an idea. It also follows the change in the tourist profile that Croatia has decided on pursuing, that is, a move away from mass tourism and attracting more demanding tourists who will stay here longer,” explained Šibenik’s mayor Željko Burić.
He stated that at the session of the City Council of Šibenik in December, important decisions will be being made which will open up space for large and valuable investments. In addition to Šibenik, large investments will follow in other cities that are involved in the project, and in short, over the decade to come, as they see it, a story will play out which will desperately require much more infrastructure. The new Šibenik Airport, the passenger terminal capacity of which would be the tenth in air traffic in Croatia, certainly fits into it.
Some of the biggest investments in Croatia are underway in Šibenik already
In Šibenik, some of the largest investments in Croatia are underway or getting started, primarily regarding the new city district of Batižele. There, on 22 hectares of fully prepared area for investors, the construction of a completely new city quarter with two high-category hotels with 390 rooms, a residential construction zone with 790 apartments, and other accompanying facilities, is underway. As are investments in the Banj beach, and a large project in the Podi Industrial Zone in the area production of alternative energy sources, specifically green hydrogen.
Criticism doesn’t concern them
All of these are projects finally “waking” Šibenik up after a long period of stagnation, as is the idea of the Šibenik Airport, as Burić pointed out, is a logical thing. The fact that airports in other parts of Croatia are struggling with securing carriers, according to the people of Šibenik, should be looked at more deeply in the long run. Any assessments should definitely include the changes in the approach to tourism that are intended to be undertaken according to current Croatian strategic plans.
Šibenik, as well as other Dalmatian and Croatian tourist destinations with the exception of Dubrovnik, aren’t primarily air destinations. This generally brings higher quality guests who stay longer and, as a rule, have deeper pockets. However, Burić added, fast connectivity is very necessary today when choosing a destination, especially for their area, which is both nautically attractive and lively. That means that Šibenik and the neighbouring towns, which have worked hard on their offer in recent years, don’t want to miss any proverbial trains in tourism’s regard.
There has been dissatisfaction expressed with the Šibenik Airport project before, but locals aren’t afraid of criticism and questioning, according Burić. This is because the airport in considering the further development of the area of this county and as such enjoys support from across the political spectrum. After all, it has been discussed in the Šibenik area since it was part of the former Yugoslavia.
Constant increases in traffic means an airport is a wise decision
When it comes to the question of the perspective of the future airport, and where will it be placed among other airports in terms of traffic – concrete assessments are yet to be carried out formally. Last year, the revenues of all eight international airports located in Croatia amounted to around 217 million euros. Zagreb (EUR 81 million), Split (EUR 56 million), Dubrovnik (EUR 52 million) and Zadar (EUR 16 million) achieved the highest profits, and they respectively performed positively. This year too, they’ve been recording an increase in traffic.
After signing the founder’s contract on the establishment of “Heart of Dalmatia/Srce Dalmacije” company and appointing the management and “technical” preparation of numerous studies, from profitability to environmental impact, project documentation and permits for the construction of the airport, the next step is securing the financial structure.