Airline Destination Dubrovnik Only at 50% of 2019 Tourism Numbers for July

Daniela Rogulj

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While many Croatian destinations are recording tourist figures significantly closer to those from 2019, southern Croatia is still lagging behind. Thus, Dubrovnik realized only 50 percent of tourist arrivals in July compared to the record 2019, reports 

“According to the eVisitor tourist check-in and check-out system, there were 115,323 arrivals, and 422,679 overnight stays in Dubrovnik in July 2021, i.e., 152 percent more arrivals and 131 percent more overnight stays than in the same period last year. At the same time, foreign tourists realized 107,729 arrivals and 396,215 overnight stays, while domestic tourists realized 7,594 arrivals and 26,464 overnight stays. Compared to the record 2019, 50 percent of tourist traffic in arrivals and 53 percent of tourist traffic in overnight stays were realized in July,” the Dubrovnik Tourist Board announced.

Such figures in the south are not really surprising. During the COVID-19 crisis, many guests decide to travel with their vehicles for safety. Dubrovnik is the southernmost destination that is not connected well by car, and it is necessary to pass the corridor through Neum. The Adriatic pearl thus remains an air destination. 

According to the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, most guests who stayed in Dubrovnik during July were from the USA, France, Germany, Croatia, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Austria. It is also worth mentioning that direct lines from the USA to Dubrovnik were introduced at the beginning of July, which probably influenced the guests from the USA to take first place on the list of those who visit Dubrovnik the most.

According to the Dubrovnik Tourist Board data, the current tourist turnover is at 72 percent concerning the same period of the record 2019, which best describes the tourist situation in Dubrovnik. Namely, the beginning of July did not look particularly promising. Still, the situation improved sharply after the planes started flying from the USA and the opening of the British market, which is extremely important for southern Croatia. Namely, the British are Dubrovnik’s most loyal guests.

But when looking at the situation in the first seven months of this year, it doesn’t look particularly satisfying. In the first seven months of 2021, Dubrovnik-Neretva County realized only 31 percent of arrivals and 43 percent of overnight stays compared to the same period in 2019. Such results are conditioned by the poor tourist performance of Dubrovnik, which achieved 23 percent of arrivals and 27 percent of overnight stays compared to 2019, but also the surrounding area, which predominantly affects the tourist results of the county. The President of the Dubrovnik County Chamber, Nikolina Trojić, believes that the reason for these figures lies in guests’ structure and the destination’s character.

“Dubrovnik and its surroundings are a dominant airline destination, and we know that this market segment is more difficult to recover. The main market for the Dubrovnik area for years was the United Kingdom, which participated with 30 percent in overnight stays. It will be significant in improving tourist numbers, but it is not easy to make up for the absence of the British with any other market overnight. Also in the top ten destinations are three overseas, which were also more or less absent due to the pandemic,” Trojic explains.

However, this year’s results indicate a slightly better season than last year, where the number of arrivals in Dubrovnik in the first seven months of 2021 was higher by 65 percent and the number of overnight stays by 78 percent.

“The basic question is how long it will last. It has been known that September has been the month with the best occupancy and financial results in Dubrovnik for years. However, there is still concern whether the fourth wave of the pandemic will stop such good bookings and announcements. If that happens, Dubrovnik will have to seek state support again to preserve employment, to preserve the core of the economy,” Trojic says.

The owner of a travel agency and an occasional transport company, Vesna Lukić, believes that the decline also occurred due to the absence of cruiser arrivals, at least in the number in which it was common.

“Whether we consider cruisers desirable or not, it is obvious how much they had an impact on the percentage of visitors to Dubrovnik. Even ships coming to Dubrovnik do not sail at full capacity again, so with the decline in arrivals and reduced passenger capacity, bubble groups have played a role,” says Lukic, who notes that the number of flights to Dubrovnik is also negligible compared to other airports in Croatia.

“The fact that a direct flight connects Dubrovnik with the USA is great for the promotion of the city, but unfortunately, one swallow does not make spring, so even those few flights do not make a season,” Lukić believes.

He also notes that Minister Brnjac stated that we could not compete with Malta because they are primarily an air destination, and we are a car destination with which she disagrees. He says the issue is not well resolved either.

“In the last few days, we have witnessed abnormal crowds at the border crossings that surround us, so this statement is even more incredible. Guests who wait for hours in traffic at extremely high temperatures will certainly not take with them from vacation what we would like but will return indignant and with recommendations not to go to Dubrovnik,” Lukić notes.

As he says, the number of entities that depend on tourism in Dubrovnik-Neretva County is huge; the number of visitors is not enough for everyone to find ‘their place under the sun,’ and without the expected (and desired) income another difficult winter is coming. Therefore, her predictions are not at all optimistic.

“We are a destination that is still guided by the policy that we are beautiful, and that is why our guests come, and that still works on the principle of tourism as we had in the early ’80s, so this scenario is expected,” Lukić said and believes that southern Croatia needs strong changes in terms of tourism and radical changes. Otherwise, it could easily happen that the 2022 season will not be much better.

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