Adriatic Festivals to Return With Higher Prices Following Stagnation

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, although they still have some reservations about the continuation of the global coronavirus pandemic and the issue of limits being placed on things such as international travel, and there are even more worries about inflation, the organisers of music festivals in Croatia seem to be relieved after two seasons of pure stagnation.

Adriatic festivals are set to return, and the famous Zrce already has a record booking with the return of some old and some new projects, Ultra is preparing for this year in Split and on the Dalmatian islands, Sibenik’s Martinska, which last year showed impressive resilience to dire circumstances, is preparing for the summer and some new cooperation, and some Garden Resort festivals are already sold out.

Although only time will tell if the party business will return to the tracks off which the pandemic forced it back in 2020, optimism is currently high when it comes to Adriatic festivals in 2022.

Ivan Busljeta, the owner of the Papaya club on Zrce, is making no attempt to hide his sense of optimism. The most famous location of the entertainment industry in the entire country has been alive for the last two years with guests from across Croatia and the country’s immediate region, without the usual international audience and the festivals that used to put this place firmly and at the very top of the Adriatic festival map.

Everyone missed the British market in the first place, which is crucial for the entire festival scene whether it be regarding guests or business partners, and the opening policy for travel now announced from the United Kingdom for the coming summer is an important stimulus.

“All of the old festivals are returning to Zrce this year, we start on May the 15th and the season will last until September the 15th. We’ll start with the Zrce Spring Break festival, which brings 5,000 people to Novalja, the English festival Hideout with 15,000 visitors, then Sonus, the largest techno festival with 15,000 guests. At the end of June, the Fresh Island will return, and we have new partners from England who will also bring us several thousand people.

So, the numbers are phenomenal at the moment and I hope that the current narrative will be maintained, that all of the epidemiological measures will cease in the spring and that the novel coronavirus will be treated as a cold or flu and we will live a normal life again,” Ivan Busljeta hopes.

In that light, Ryanair’s announcements are good, and reservations continue to be record-breaking for the low cost Irish airline. At the same time, enterprises working on Zrce are happy with Novalja’s plans to invest more cash in local infrastructure, from a new marina and reception port to more roads, which is the basis for further investments in other facilities.

“There are new investments in 4 and 5 star accommodation, camps, a lot of private villas are being announced and realised, which could encourage the development of new segments of tourism on the island of Pag, for which there is a lot of potential. Just as Zrce still has a lot of potential for development, in which we have great support from the local community, the whole destination has the potential for the development of sports, adrenaline, gastronomy and even family tourism,” said Busljeta.

What is worrying is the situation surrounding inflation and the rising prices of just about everything, which will spill over into the prices charged for varying services in all segments of tourism, from accommodation to catering and hospitality to basics like transport.

Although ticket sales are currently in the early bird phase, final festival ticket prices as well as other ancillary services are likely to rise, in order to maintain the viability of the business, especially after two years of stagnation.

Vedran Meniga, the co-owner and director of the company Positive Rhythm, one of the pioneers of the festival business in Croatia, is still looking forward to the next season and for Adriatic festivals to hopefully make at least a semi-normal return.

In addition to the famed Martinska location in Sibenik, Positive Rhythm, in partnership with Garden Resort, organises festivals in Tisno, and this year important anniversaries of their events are being prepared. The current state of reservations looks good, but Meniga also cautiously remembers last year’s relaxation just before the summer.

“Although we strive to maintain the same standard at this early stage of ticket sales, we’re part of the rest of the world as well and it’s logical that we;ll have to adjust to prices as time goes on. We’re also continuing to work in uncertain circumstances, although at the moment the situation looks better than it did last year. Still, let’s remember that at the beginning of last summer there was an optimistic announcement from the British market, and later that all changed. In addition, the policy of adopting anti-pandemic measures in Croatia last summer worked against event organisers, we had to cope with the adoption of measures overnight, there were double standards, which is why last year was more stressful for event organisation than 2020.

Due to all of the above, we still have valid reservations, because we’re aware that for sustainability, in addition to the local audience, we need foreign guests,who buy tickets in advance and plan a full trip. That said, we’re currently working on Plan A, as if everything was normal, but we’re ready for Plan B, depending on the situation as it unfolds,” explained Vedran Meniga.

It’s worth noting that Positive Rhythm was declared a possible world record holder in the number of festival and club events held in the two pandemic years behind us, with more than 10 thousand visitors in 2020 alone.

All six Adriatic festivals will be held on Martinska again this year at about 50 percent of the capacity from back in pre-pandemic, record 2019, with the 20th edition of their festival Seasplash and the tenth edition of Regius set to take place. The Slurp Festival will host a small overseas collaboration, for which the campaign will start in a couple of weeks, in addition to which the punk festival Kanal Fest, Membrain and Blast Fest are expected.

On top of the above, the Garden Resort in Tisno will be hosting the Outlook Festival, for which the first performing names have been announced this week, with tickets starting to be sold this Friday, while Dimensions is due to take place as ”normal” in September.

Due to cost-effectiveness, Brexit and even the coronavirus pandemic, these Adriatic festivals eventually transformed into smaller ones, but apart from the local audience and the expected return of the British tourists and business partners, guests from distant, non-European markets such as America and Canada also showed interest.

For more on Adriatic festivals up and down Croatia, check out our travel section.


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