Croatia seeks to save vital holiday season from Covid-19 pandemic

Czechs eye ‘corona corridor’ to Adriatic coast as lockdown controls ease

A square in the medieval old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP

A square in the medieval old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Photograph: Darko Bandic/AP

 

Croatia is leading efforts in southeastern Europe to salvage something of the summer holiday season for countries that fear the coronavirus crisis will devastate their vital tourist trade.

Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenkovic discussed ways to help the tourism sector bounce back from the pandemic and Europe-wide travel restrictions with the leaders of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia on Wednesday evening, having talked to his Czech counterpart about the issue last Friday.

Millions of people from those countries travel to Croatia each summer and their citizens are among the main foreign owners of holiday homes and boats in the country, which relies on tourism for about 20 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Croatia’s tourism minister Gari Cappelli said the first stage of the tourist season could involve reopening campsites, marinas and hotels in more secluded areas.

“A modest recovery could start with these three targeted areas that could offer some isolation and privacy,” he said. “We are also looking to allow foreigners who have properties or yachts in Croatia to come here.”

After his talks with Czech prime minister Andrej Babis, Mr Plenkovic said that in light of their countries’ “excellent relations” they were seeking “an acceptable model for Czech tourists to come to Croatia for this year’s holiday season”.

The Czech Republic is easing its strict lockdown after declaring the virus to be “under control”, and its travel associations have now proposed creating a “corona corridor” to allow holidaymakers to reach Croatia. About 800,000 Czechs took holidays in Croatia last year, most of them on the country’s spectacular Adriatic coast and islands.

Outlines of the plan suggest holidaymakers would need to test negative for the Covid-19 virus and travel directly along a prescribed route to their destinations, where certain health and hygiene measures would have to be observed. Travel would be allowed only between countries where the virus was similarly prevalent.

Exceptions

Czech president Milos Zeman has called for borders to be closed for one year and for his compatriots to holiday at home, but the country’s deputy health minister Roman Prymula said there could be “exceptions” to such a rule.

“If there is interest in travel to a specific country and [the coronavirus risk] is the same there as it is here – by this I mean Croatia – then I do believe that travel would be possible under some conditions,” Mr Prymula said.

Veljko Ostojic, the director of Croatia’s tourism association, said hotels had been told that changes would be needed everywhere from bedrooms to reception areas to swimming pools and restaurants “to avoid risks as much as possible”.

“I have no doubt that, working with our epidemiologists, we will find a compromise so that a guest still feels like he’s in a hotel and not a hospital,” he told Croatia’s HRT public broadcaster.

Croatia now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and its push for some international tourism to be allowed this summer is being closely watched further down the coast in Montenegro, Albania and Greece, where tourist revenue accounts for at least a fifth of each country’s GDP.