The key to the recovery of tourism is certainly in the activation of air transport, both globally and in Croatia, especially for destinations that are extremely dependent on air transport such as the city of Dubrovnik. Also, before thinking about activating tourism and promoting a destination, today the focus is on the perception of security and communication.
The ability to test for Covid19 will play an important role. On the one hand, it’s great that we all had experience last year of how tourism works in covid times and how important it is to have clear protocols in the field, especially when it comes to testing on Covid19. So destinations need to provide tourist testing sites, ensure that everything is transparent and clearly communicated to each guest, ensure that test results are completed in a given time and most importantly, that the same system can withstand a lot of pressure testing requirements on a daily basis. Yes, all this should have been arranged in Croatia a long time ago and ready for this tourist season, but again we are late.
Also, it is one thing to have written protocols and regulations, and quite another how to implement the same in the field. Especially from destination to destination. However, we must be aware that Croatia is a destination and a brand, and that is how tourists perceive us.
An initiative to enable tourists to be tested at COVID at Croatian airports
Dubrovnik Mayor Mato Franković has launched an initiative to enable tourists at Croatian airports to be tested for COVID, following the example of other tourist countries that are thus preparing for the new tourist season.
"In order to provide security when traveling in arrivals and departures from Dubrovnik, I sent a proposal to the competent ministries to enable testing at COVID at Croatian airports, following the example of other tourist countries that are thus preparing for the new tourist season.", Franković points out and adds that he also informed the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about the said proposal during his recent stay in Dubrovnik.
Testing at airports is not new, on the contrary, it is certainly a logical sequence of the development of the situation, because it is at airports that we have a "bottleneck" and the first contact of tourists with the destination. Also, we have space to organize separate rooms and teams that do testing, and guests while waiting for the results can stay in "special" waiting rooms, as well as otherwise while waiting for the transfer of flights.
PCR and rapid antigen tests have been introduced by England, Italy, Spain, and many other European airports are going in that direction. Also, airlines are introduced testing of all passengers on their flights, to ensure "covid free" flights. She also introduced testing on some of her flights Zagreb International Airport, albeit only for trips to the Netherlands.
According to Franković, the protocol would be for a passenger to take a COVID test at the airport from which he is flying when flying to Croatia, and the Republic of Croatia should recognize these tests from those countries. Likewise, when that passenger returns, he would take a COVID test at our airport, and the country to which he is returning would recognize the results of that test by the same agreement. The passenger in that case would not need to be kept in quarantine. “In this way, they would enable the normal stay of all guests in the Republic of Croatia, and at the same time would not burden the health system of the Republic of Croatia by testing thousands of tourists in health institutions, but would also be entrusted to airports, which would have to be equipped with appropriate equipment", Concludes Franković.
How to define it between states is a matter of form, through a certain “agreement” on the recognition of testing between states or similar. In any case, it is necessary to ensure the recognition of tests in order to create a prerequisite for safe travel.
This is just another example of how the European Union has failed in the covid crisis. It has long been necessary to adopt clear and standardized protocols at the EU level, including the validation of recognized testing methods, in order to avoid the situation that each country makes its own decisions and thus creates chaos at the borders and prevents the activation of tourism. In a situation where safety plays the most important role, tourists just need to clearly communicate all the protocols to start thinking seriously about travel at all. And while there is noise in communication, protocols, border crossings, regulations, different approaches, tests… we cannot talk about a serious activation of tourism. Yes, there is a great desire to travel, but the perception of safety plays the most important role.
Unfortunately, the Covid crisis has shown great sluggishness and inefficiency of the EU. Instead of synergy, agreement and togetherness, we have just the opposite. This was also publicly acknowledged by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “The fact is that we are not where we would like to be in our fight against coronavirus. We were late in approving the vaccine, we were too optimistic about mass production and maybe a little too sure that what we ordered would be delivered on time. ”, pointed out Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament.
The aviation industry has proven to be the best prepared and proactive when it comes to responding to the whole crisis. Airlines for a long time seek the rapid adoption of a standard format for health passes and testing protocols for the purpose of reopening borders. They have organized themselves through IATA, set clear protocols and safety standards, reorganized their business and are ready to start tourism.
And throughout the story, we didn’t touch on one big issue - the issue of Covid19 testing prices. If we look through family trips and one family with four members, then we are talking about four tests, ie a total of eight. Both upon entering the country and upon returning. Mathematics does not go in favor of foreign travel. Definitely a big expense in the overall travel budget. Especially because the prices of testing are not standardized and vary from about 150 to 750 kuna.
Test prices must be public and available to tourists. As well as clear standardized protocols and all test sites across our coast. There are discussions about whether destinations (cities, counties, tourist boards) can subsidize part of the cost of testing for guests, in order to reduce the financial burden on guests, and thus provide a motive for coming to Croatia. The issue is cost benefit analysis and the balance between cost (personally I would look at it as an investment, not a cost), and return through the arrival of tourists at the destination and the generation of tourist spending. We need to know how tourism spending is dispensed to various entrepreneurs in the local economy, as well as that VAT is paid on consumption, so we cannot look at this paradigm only through the positive zero segment. The positive impact of tourism spending is much greater than a one-sided Excel spreadsheet, than retention or new employment, withdrawal of goods and services of various partners to deliver almost the product, etc.…
In conclusion, we certainly need to provide testing for all tourists at airports, which is imperative if we are seriously planning the preparation of the tourist season.