We recently reported that Jadrolinija, the biggest shipping company in Croatia, went back to its winter ferry schedule on October 2. In the last couple of days, reactions of the public started rolling in, and people aren’t taking the company’s move very lightly.
The tourist season on the islands isn’t managed by major hotel groups, thousands of private accommodation owners, various tourist boards or even the local authorities – no, it’s controlled by a single shipping company, as stated in the article published in Slobodna Dalmacija on October 4, 2017.
Jadrolinija thus decided that winter came around on Monday, October 2, a day when Dalmatia and its islands were still bathing in the late summer sun, and the sea was even warmer than the land. The winter schedule entails cutting down on the number of ferry and catamaran lines available in summer by almost 50%. Not only did winter on the Adriatic start a couple of months earlier than it should have, but according to Jadrolinija’s standards, it will last longer than winter in Syberia – until June 1, 2018.
For the next eight months, thanks to the national shipping company that’s entirely owned by the state, our islands can only dream about the longer-lasting tourist season or its earlier start in spring. Jadrolinija’s winter schedule simply won’t allow it.
For years, people working in tourism have been angry about the decreased number of lines negatively affecting the quality of connection of islands with the mainland. Their business partners and foreign tour operators keep complaining about it, so they tend to avoid Croatian islands in the pre-season and the post-season. This, naturally, takes away a large part of potential revenue in tourism, and the most tragic part is that there is constant interest for the islands, but the great results remain unachievable due to a scarce number of ferry connections. We shouldn’t even have to mention what this means for the island residents and their ability to get to the mainland.
Renata Lichtberger, director of sales and marketing at Sunčani Hvar (Sunny Hvar), shared her frustration with the reporters. “The Croatian tourism sector, both public and private, makes immense efforts to prolong the summer season. This is an important strategic project on the state level and we all take part in it with considerable funds to enrich and promote the tourist offer. However, such a project cannot come to life, nor can we all contribute equally if the key subjects don’t support our shared goal. The tourism economy of Hvar town is suffering due to Jadrolinija’s schedule, one that put an end to the season on Hvar at the beginning of October when the winter timetable was introduced. Hvar needs and has the right to adequate connections with the mainland, and until such a situation is achieved, it will be the shipping company that controls tourism, not the people of Hvar. On Saturday afternoon, Jadrolinija allowed for the season on Hvar to last for another week – on their website, they published a notice that catamarans to Hvar will continue to operate until October 8 due to large interest. The guests organised their arrivals and itineraries two or three months ago, not yesterday. It’s good the season got ‘prolonged’, but why do they make such decisions a day in advance? How do they think tourism works? It’s not like someone from Scandinavia, Australia or Thailand planned their visit to Hvar yesterday. I mean, we have already made business plans for the whole of 2018”, Lichtberger concluded.
The Ministry of Tourism shares her opinion: they aren’t pleased with such a bureaucratic introduction of winter, as one of their strategic goals is to expand the season so it can start in April and last through the end of October. The shipping company’s winter schedule hasn’t changed for the last thirty years; while tourism in Croatia is transforming and growing, one of the key elements remains frozen in time.
Asked about the peculiar choice of date, Jadrolinija stated it wasn’t them who have decided for October 2, but that it’s stated in the concession contract for the lines they operate. “Jadrolinija, just like any other shipping company, operates lines on a schedule defined by the Agency for the Coastal Maritime Traffic Lines and according to the concession contracts that are in effect. In certain cases, if the traffic situation calls for it, Jadrolinija will introduce additional trips on lines where that is possible. Sailing schedules are discussed with representatives of the local authorities and the Agency for the Coastal Maritime Traffic Lines each year. Of course, this is an opportunity for the representatives of island communities to state their demands and for us to agree to them, if said demands are rational and justified”, stated the PR department of Jadrolinija.
On the other hand, the Agency for the Coastal Maritime Traffic Lines stated they are willing to meet any shipping company halfway, and that if Jadrolinija proposed a different sailing schedule, they would have agreed to it. Responsibility is thus transferred from one state office to another, while the island population has to face a long, sad winter that’s about to last until June.
Translation of excerpts from Slobodna Dalmacija.