Novalja on Pag island is one of Croatia’s biggest hotspots to visit over summer. Zrće Beach is a world-renowned synonym for partying and all the crazy fun things that come with sipping cocktails on the beach next to the clear Adriatic Sea at any time of the day while some of the biggest names of the international DJ and music scene are in their finest element.
Still, as the Croatian tourist offer, in general, tries to break out of the perception that Croatia is great „only for summer“ and also tries to popularise other parts of the country that are a bit further from the coastline, Novalja is on a mission of its own – to break the stereotype that „it’s just for partying“.
As Večernji List reports, Ante Dabo, the mayor of Novalja for two the past two terms, is more than aware that Zrće is vital to Novalja’s tourism, but the town is heavily working to offer more content to visitors.
„From 2017 to 2019, we invested 48 million kuna in capital projects and despite the coronavirus pandemic, we invested 51 million kuna in 2020 alone“, said Dabo for Večernji List.
One of such projects is using the town’s own funds for the Grozdenica culture centre. This new centre is imagined to be the core of cultural events in Novalja, and given it’s a multifunctional hall with 210 seats and a stage with the most modern equipment, there is no doubt it will spot on for hosting cinema screenings, conferences, concerts, and theatre plays.
The new port and Marina are also part of the branding scheme to further position Novalja by attracting nautical tourism.
„We reduced taxes so new hotels could be easily opened, but we will allow building hotels that have less than four stars. We want quality hotels that will accept guests in the winter months to extend the season. We relied more on private accommodations but we also have hotel capacities of high standards and 600 more beds in comparison to 2019“, said Dabo commenting on changes in urban planning that forbids building hotels that have less than four stars.
The mayor also adds how Pag has rich cultural and archaeological findings along with heritage, natural wonders tracking, and bike tracks for recreational tourism.
Ante Dabo screenshot / LIKA CLUB
Caring for locals and not just for visitors
Zrće brings money, Zrće is a party hotspot, and Zrće is also loud and a threat to the peace of locals who don’t visit clubs and events themselves. As Večernji List reminds, Dabo became known to the broader public in Croatia for introducing rules of conduct for tourists and for reducing the noise from Zrće.
„Zrće is too big of a brand to say it’s not needed for Novalja, but everyday activity on Zrće needs to be reduced. That’s the solution to compromise for party people and for other guests who are interested in a more peaceful vacation“, said Dabo referring to Novalja’s need to escape from the monoculture of partying.
Locals are happy too as Novalja has the biggest budget when counted by the number of residents in all of Croatia, according to the Institute of Public Finance. A lot is also done for young families. By further rebuilding the kindergarten, Novalja will have more significant capacities to take care of the kids while parents are working. A low-energy building was built with the partial help of the EU funds, and the firefighter station is being reconstructed (also by EU funds) to ensure every service for protection and rescue can be in one place. The EU project of developing an entrepreneur zone Čiponjac worth 10 million kuna is also done, an entrepreneur incubator Ragan worth 12.5 million kuna, and a design to boost local-level entrepreneurship recently started, too. Business spaces are offered to new and young entrepreneurs at affordable prices.
The biggest project for Novalja, however, is Aglomeracija Novalja, which enhances agglomeration and water infrastructure with a new biological purifier for wastewater. Fifty kilometers of pipes are incorporated in the new sewer system that stretches through Metajna, Barbat, and Stara Novalja to the new purifier in the Vrtić district. Aglomeracija Novalja, worth 72 million kuna, and financed by EU funds up to 72%, makes Novalja a small town that is revitalizing, despite the corona crisis.
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