Will Russia-Ukraine Crisis Hurt 2022 Tourist Season? Dubrovnik Tourism Experts Weigh In

Daniela Rogulj

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Slobodna Dalmacija asked Dubrovnik tourism experts if the tense situation between Russia and Ukraine could shake up the upcoming Croatian tourist season, from which we all expect a lot.

“My first impression is that it can and will, but I hope that it will not to a large extent,” says Đuro Market, a tourism expert with many years of experience.

“In addition to COVID-19, which is here now and will be here for a long time, we have this situation with Ukraine and Russia. The question is how things will turn out. Certainly, this crisis will shake the wider area, not just Europe. In general, it will affect the results of tourist countries, and since we are still where we are, maybe a little more on us,” says Market, who remembers other events that threw Dubrovnik tourism off track.

“When was the standstill? In 1995, the war in Croatia ended, and tourism began immediately. But NATO’s bombing in the region in 1999, from March to June, is a stalemate. This significantly slowed down the sudden rise of tourism in Croatia after the war, and in 2000 everything started again.

When the Cypriots went to a part of the country that is still Turkish today, there was turmoil in tourism at the time. Tourism was also affected by diseases, such as smallpox. So it was a health situation, like today’s corona, with the smallpox being controlled quite quickly,” Market added.

Asked whether Americans and Russians will still travel as tourists despite tensions over Ukraine, he said:

“If there is an escalation, we are all in trouble. And as for travel, they will both travel. If it stops at this, life and tourism will go. But, in any case, the greater torment and pain is the pandemic. 

The other day I spoke to an agent who works in Germany and told me that guests booking the Adriatic, the Croatian coast, ask first about the vaccination rate, indicating what could affect this season’s tourist achievements, which will be certainly better than last year. However, they will not be close to 2019.”

Successful tourism entrepreneur Goran Hrnić believes that “this situation is quite problematic and critical for us, given that both Ukraine and Russia were our significant markets.”

“Maybe not so much in Dubrovnik as in other parts of Croatia, but it also has an impact on the American market because Americans will find it difficult to decide to travel across the ocean to Europe if this is already the case. So if that conflict escalates, I’m not exactly optimistic. The whole of Europe is too close; people will not travel if that is the case. I still believe it won’t happen, but if it does, then I’m not very optimistic. It would certainly affect the season,” Hrnić says. 

Can something be done to mitigate the possible consequences?

“I don’t have a formula. To do additional promotion and throw money at it, and the result depends on the political situation, not on us? Tourism will be bad in Greece, Spain, and Croatia. One should pray to God that reason prevails,” Hrnić answered.

Tourism expert Filip Marinko Žaja, the mayor’s tourism adviser, says that the situation with Ukraine is “a bit more serious,” and it is difficult to predict whether it will affect our tourist expectations.

“If they don’t start fighting each other, it’s good; it doesn’t matter, it’s far away. However, tourism is strange and sensitive. A long time ago, in the 1970s, something happened to the mussels down in Venice – they were poisoned. At that time, tourists didn’t even come here because we also had Ston and mussels. God forbid there is war because in that case it will be felt in our country as well,” says Žaja and continues:

“Istria and Kvarner will not be hurt, again they have the advantage because they have car guests. It takes them a four-hour drive from Munich to Poreč, and it takes at least 10, 11 hours to reach us.”

Last year’s tourist season was marked by the launch of direct lines between Dubrovnik and the United States, flying over the ocean eight times a week. In addition, we were connected to Moscow by Aeroflot, which opened a massive market for Russia. Can we expect Russians and Americans this season as well?

“If there is a conflict, it will be difficult for Russians and Americans to travel as tourists. They need to come by plane and cross the ocean. It’s back to the same thing – if! And that “if” is trouble,” says Žaja.

What kind of season can we expect if the Russia-Ukraine crisis remains calm?

“I hope it will be better; there is no fear of corona. They aren’t shouting “put on a mask” in the store. So maybe only Spain, Portugal, and Greece will take a little bit of traffic, which they didn’t have last year.”

Nino Dubretić from Direct Booker, another experienced connoisseur of tourist opportunities, especially in private accommodation, believes that the tension in Ukraine has no impact on our tourism at this time.

“If the situation changes for the worse, it would be safe. It depends on what kind of escalation there is; if NATO is against Russia, then we all have a problem because practically the whole world is interfering. It is not seen in the numbers, but God forbid it escalates, as it would undoubtedly be noticed. But again, the question is in what number? I don’t see that guests would give up traveling if there were some problems up there unless it was World War III,” says Dubretić and adds that the pandemic is still our greatest danger.

He mentions that we are objectively entering a better season for everyone, the congress industry is alive, cruisers are returning, and announcements from the airport are optimistic.

“When we look at private accommodation, the numbers show that in the worst case, we will work 80 percent of 2019. I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach or overtake 2019. A lot depends on how you enter the season and how active the pre-season is. If it fails, there could be a lack of those 10, 15 percent of 2019 figures, but June, July through October should be repeated or even jump 2019,” Dubretić is optimistic, concluding that “tourism will happen in April, especially bearing in mind the ‘last minute’ booings, which have been vital in the pandemic era. 

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.



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