Croatia touts dazzling coast to rescue tourism

Renata Marevic, director of Marina Punat in Krk. Relaxation of travel restrictions within most EU nations has enabled the arrival of foreign guests to Croatia. (AFP)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Croatia touts dazzling coast to rescue tourism

  • The country’s coronavirus-battered travel industry is fighting back

PUNAT, Croatia: Croatia is touting boating and camping on its azure 1,800-km Adriatic coastline to woo back visitors and revive its coronavirus-battered tourism sector.

After travel restrictions across the EU were relaxed earlier this month, foreigners are now slowly returning as tourism operators try to salvage the season.

Boats and tents might be the cure, offering travelers built-in social distancing as they relax on the idyllic picture postcard coast. “Alone in a bay on your boat, there is no better distancing,” said Zeljko Cvetkovic, who owns a boat charter company on the northern island of Krk. “Camping is similar,” he adds.

The two sectors have traditionally accounted for an important but smaller slice of the tourism pie, which accounts for around a fifth of Croatia’s GDP.

Its tourism industry is expected to contract by 70 percent due to the pandemic. This economic pain will be the first challenge of the new government to be elected in on July 5.

As the polls approach, conservative PM Andrej Plenkovic is hoping to capitalize on his government’s relative success in combating the virus. With some 107 deaths and nearly 2,500 known infections in a population of 4.2 million, a fragile sense of normality is returning as borders reopen to the main markets, including Austria, Germany and Slovenia.

On the island of Krk, tourism operators such as Cvetkovic are finally seeing bookings replace cancelations, sparking hope that he can achieve up to half of last year’s figures. After months, the Marina Punat is coming back to life with sailors cleaning their boats and sunbathing on the decks.

Home to some 1,000 islands and islets, Croatia is a dream destination for those looking to island-hop, seek out secluded bays or sail from one restaurant to another to taste fresh seafood.

“Peace and silence,” is how Manfred Schwarz, 59, summed up his week on the sea with four other Austrian friends.

“At most places we were alone or there were only a few other boats,” his friend Johann Wagner, 61, said.

Some of their initial fears from catching COVID-19 have vanished after seeing the lack of crowds.

The men were also only a six-hour drive from home. Croatia hopes this proximity of its main markets, accessible by car in a few hours, will be another draw for tourists weary of airline travel.

“Despite initial pessimism . . . our expectations are slowly growing,” said Renata Marevic, who oversees Marina Punat.

Guests are also gradually filling the nearby five-star Krk Premium Camping Resort, which opened in late May. It is one of the 800 campsites in the country, most of which claim prime real estate on Croatia’s beaches.

Many offer visitors various options for their stay, from spaces for tents and camper vans to camping huts or “glamping” tents for a more high-end experience.

In the Krk resort, reminders of the pandemic are visible but subtle, with signs warning to “Please keep a distance” at the reception, while tables and sun chairs are arranged for the required 1.5-meter distance.

Yet experts warn that keeping the virus under control is key. After registering only a few or no cases daily since mid-May, numbers have now started to creep up again.

This week authorities re-imposed 14-day quarantines for visitors from neighboring Balkan states, which have logged rising infection rates.

Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

Updated 07 July 2020

Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

  • Policy recommendations to G20 aim to counter effects of pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as president of the G20 group of nations, has unveiled a six-point business plan to jump start the global economy out of the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yousef Al-Benyan, the chairman of the B20 business group within the G20, told a webinar from Riyadh that the response to the pandemic -— including the injection of $5 trillion into the global economy — had been “reassuring.”

But he warned that the leading economies of the world had to continue to work together to mitigate the effects of global lockdowns and to address the possibility of a “second wave” of the disease.

“Cooperation and collaboration between governments, global governance institutions and businesses is vital for an effective and timely resolution of this multi-dimensional contagion transcending borders,” Al-Benyan said.

“The B20 is strongly of the view there is no alternative to global cooperation, collaboration and consensus to tide over a multi-dimensional and systemic crisis,” he added.

The six-point plan, contained in a special report to the G20 leadership with input from 750 global business leaders, sets out a series of policy recommendations to counter the effects of the disease which threaten to spark the deepest economic recession in nearly a century.

The document advocates policies to build health resilience, safeguard human capital, and prevent financial instability.

It also promotes measures to free up global supply chains, revive productive economic sectors, and digitize the world economy “responsibly and inclusively.”

In a media question-and-answer session to launch the report, Al-Benyan said that among the top priorities for business leaders were the search for a vaccine against the virus that has killed more than half-a-million people around the world, and the need to reopen global trade routes slammed shut by economic lockdowns.

He said that the G20 response had been speedy and proactive, especially in comparison with the global financial crisis of 2009, but he said that more needed to be done, especially to face the possibility that the disease might surge again. “Now is not the time to celebrate,” he warned.

“Multilateral institutions and mechanisms must be positively leveraged by governments to serve their societies and must be enhanced wherever necessary during and after the pandemic,” he said, highlighting the role of the World Health Organization, the UN and the International Monetary Fund, which have come under attack from some world leaders during the pandemic.

Al-Benyan said that policy responses to the pandemic had been “designed according to each country’s requirements.”

Separately, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said that it was “too early” to say if the Kingdom’s economy would experience a sharp “V-shape” recovery from pandemic recession.