Croatia Thrilled at Summer Season Success Despite COVID-19

DUBROVNIK, Croatia  — Beaches along Croatia's Adriatic Sea coastline are swarming with people. Guided tours are fully booked, restaurants are packed and sailboats were chartered well in advance.

Summer tourism has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations in Croatia this year. Once fearful that the coronavirus pandemic would discourage people from traveling, Croatia’s tourism industry was caught by surprise.

“It's much better — it’s almost like 2020 never happened,” said Josip Crncevic, a tour guide in Dubrovnik, a southern city known for its Old Town and nightlife that is Croatia's most popular destination.

The Balkan country experienced four years of war in the 1990s, but before the pandemic had become a top vacation spot for European and American visitors who appreciated its small towns and scores of islands offering natural beauty, local seafood and recreation in comparatively uncrowded settings.

The success of the summer season carries strong implications for Croatia’s economy, which is among the weakest in the European Union. Tourism accounts for up to 20% of gross domestic product, and visitor spending is essential to the incomes of locals who rent lodging or run other tourism-linked businesses.

While people here prepared for this year to be better than last because of the advent of COVID-19 vaccines, the tourism minister described the July and August demand for getaways in Croatia as “remarkable.” As of Aug. 10, overnight stays were at 69% of the record number seen in the 2019 season, tourism minister Nikolina Brnjac said.

The tourism revival is clearly visible in Dubrovnik, known as the “pearl” of the coastline, famous for its fortified, walled medieval city that is a UNESCO protected area and which served as a set for the popular “Game of Thrones” series. The main street in Old Town buzzes with people as tour groups mill along the outer walls.

As a reminder of the continuing risk of COVID-19, a huge sign on one of the stone walls warns people to keep their distance from others, to wash their hands and to wear masks. Wearing a mask is required in enclosed spaces in Croatia, but not outdoors.

Toni Dugandzic, a waiter at the restaurant Gusta Me, said the influx of tourists surprised many town residents and business people following last year's poor season. Restaurant owners didn't expect it and therefore didn't hire enough staff in time, he said.

“We work a little bit more because we were not prepared regarding human resources,” Dugandzic said.

Health officials organized vaccination drives for people with jobs in tourism and kept some crowd limits in place. About 40% of the adult population in the country of 4.2 million has been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Daily reported cases have increased in recent weeks, reaching nearly 600 late this week. Croatia has reported about 370,000 cases and more than 8,000 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Some visitors decided the best way to stay safe while on vacation was by renting a sailboat to tour Croatia's islands and isolated bays. Most of the sailboats in the crammed marina in the central Adriatic town of Biograd were already booked.

“Everybody is looking to have a boat!” exclaimed Marin Katicin, the CEO of charter company Pitter Yachting. “We have no boats anymore!”

Kate Redder, a visitor from Germany, chartered a boat with her friends. Sailing around Croatia provides a feeling of independence, a better view of the country's stunning scenery and a way to self-isolate on the water, she explained.

“I think it is just safer than going to a hotel where you meet different people all the time,” Redder said. “So you are safe. We are only here as a family and with our skipper.”


While Greece’s New Democracy government is fervently pursuing foreign investors, luxury resorts need no persuasion, the sector growing rapidly and now a London-based real asset merchant bank, CBE Capital, financing another.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


Zelensky outcries to world from Kharkiv (VIDEO)

KHARKIV - Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has released a video plea calling on world leaders to attend a “peace summit” next month in Switzerland after a deadly Russian attack on a DIY hypermarket in Kharkiv on Saturday.

ATHENS - Greece should follow Spain, Ireland and Norway in accepting a Palestinian state and not back Israel in its hunt for Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, which caused thousands of civilian deaths, major opposition SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselakis said.

ATHENS - Despite an accelerating economic recovery, many Greeks and households are finding it next to impossible to save money, caught between some of the European Union’s lowest salaries and highest tax rates.

Spain, Ireland and Norway are moving to formally recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday, a step toward a long-held Palestinian aspiration that was fueled by international outrage over the civilian deaths and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s offensive.

NEW YORK  — Americans who spend Memorial Day scouting sales online and in stores may find more reasons to celebrate the return of warmer weather.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.