Croatian Events Industry Asks Headquarters: Is Entire Summer Season Canceled?

May 3, 2020 - The biggest Croatian companies in events, sporting events, concerts, and festivals have sent a letter to Economy Minister Darko Horvat, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli and Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek asking if they can expect measures to be loosened this summer or to forget about Croatian events entirely this season.

Slobodna Dalmacija writes that one entrepreneur said that he and his colleagues are aware of the situation, do not want to endanger the health of visitors and their employees, but also add that waiting and uncertainty are the worst possible option.

Namely, they cannot plan anything, do not know whether they should hire or fire employees, and that their situation is unsustainable. They have to pay their debts and their current income is zero. The uncertainty is also shared by the thousands of workers permanently or seasonally employed by this industry.

Therefore, they want an answer as soon as possible: Is the upcoming summer season of festivals, sports, cultural and other events canceled or is there still a chance that smaller and larger gatherings will be allowed?

If it is not canceled, they ask for a guideline of loosening the measures, as soon as possible, because events are also being prepared several weeks/months away. If everything is canceled, then they will try to survive and somehow save their jobs.

"Within the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association, an Event Committee has been set up to bring together all entrepreneurs, craftspeople and sole traders living from the event industry, or all of whom have been unable to work due to the ban on public gatherings, without any indication of when relaxed measures will occur. The Croatian event industry has about 2000 entities, employing 10,000 people and making more than HRK 4.5 billion annually. In the crisis caused by the coronavirus, the entire event industry is the first to be disabled when public gatherings are banned, and will be the last industry to start operating.

The ban on public gatherings directly threatens all culture, festivals, theaters, conferences, concerts, performances, clubs, performers, DJs, congresses, sporting events, and weddings, but also related businesses such as equipment rental companies, hall and venue owners, photographers, and everyone else who lives in the event industry, whose gradual opening will be the last in a row," say the group of entrepreneurs, including those organizing festivals and events such as Ultra Europe, SeaStar, Fresh Island Festival, Weekend Media Festival, ATP Umag, Seasplash, Outlook, Ferragosto JAM Festival, Garden and more.

The owners of various objects and companies are also included: Papaya Zrće, Aquarius Zrće, Nomad Zrće, Noa Zrće, Kalypso Zrće, Dallas, RTL music, Scardona music production, Aquarius Records, Tvornica Kulture, Boogaloo Event and many others.

Therefore, Slobodna Dalmacija has asked the National Civil Protection Headquarters, the Croatian Institute for Public Health, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture, and the Tourist Board to address them at the request of entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry.

The Headquarters replied:

"We believe that it is extremely important for the organizers of major events to know whether these events can be organized or not, but unfortunately, at this time, it is impossible to predict the epidemiological situation in Croatia this summer and what measures will then be in force."

So, nothing is known yet.

However, this response did not satisfy the entrepreneurs, who sent their requests to the Government and ministries.

"We consider these emergency measures crucial for the survival of the Croatian event industry:

1. Urgent Adoption of a Plan - a guideline for loosening the measures for banning public gatherings, especially for events of up to 100, 300, 500 and 1000 or more visitors. We believe it is important that smaller events of up to 100 people start their work as soon as possible, since they are not riskier than i.e., large shops, religious gatherings, etc. In addition, it is necessary to define the expected protection measures at public gatherings in event industries so that we could begin to prepare adequately. We ask the Government to urgently announce the date before which major events (over 1000 people) will certainly not be allowed, so that the organizers have a legal basis for postponing or canceling the event and minimizing costs.

2. Extension of HZZ measures for companies most affected by the corona crisis, which particularly applies to companies from the event industry that will be most disabled for work, for an additional 3 + 3 months or a total of 3 + 3 + 3 + 3. Companies that continue to have a turnover drop of more than 70% over the same quarter last year may qualify as extended measures, that is, those who are extremely affected.

3. Extend the voucher system to event tickets - We ask that changes already integrated in Art. 38a of the Law on Provision of Tourism Services, which relates to issuing vouchers, i.e., deferring money for package arrangements, including tickets for events (concerts, festivals, conferences), because the organizers of eventss are similarly endangered and are essential to the same illiquidity problem. We suggest that the voucher issued can be redeemed within 365 days of the event being delayed for the same or another event by that organizer. If the buyer does not match it, he/she may receive a refund within 30 days after the expiration of 365 days from the date of the delayed event.

4. Relaxing the terms of HAMAG's COVID-19 loans for smaller companies by extending the loan period from 6 to 12 months, so that smaller companies can survive the extended period with the loan obtained. In addition, it is extremely important to increase HBOR's COVID-19 loan pool and relax the conditions so that it includes all the businesses at risk, so that the companies that live from the event can apply," the entrepreneurs say.

Slobodna Dalmacija also requested a comment from the Croatian National Tourist Board.

"The Croatian National Tourist Board is primarily responsible for the promotion of tourism in the country and the world, and so far we have supported a number of music festivals in the country, which enrich the Croatian tourist offer and result in the arrival and overnight stay of more tourists in the destination.

Whether major events, festivals and events will take place this year, the epidemiologists and the National Headquarters will say, because the health of all domestic and foreign guests remains a priority.

At the same time, at this moment, it is not known yet when and under what conditions tourists will be able to enter our country. What is important to emphasize is that such a decision will not only depend on Croatia, but also on when other countries will decide to open their borders for the entry and exit of tourists from the country.

There will certainly be specific security protocols that we will all need to abide by," said Kristina Mamic, the Director of the Office.

Tomo in der Mühlen, President of the Creative and Cultural Industries Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), is aware of the gravity of the situation in the Croatian event industry.

"The HGK's Creative and Cultural Community brings together more than 7000 companies. Creative industries have been hit hard by this crisis, and it is evident that no measures have been devised to date to address the adverse effects of the music industry, media, cultural events and many other areas of the creative industries," quotes in der Mühlen.

The filming of all television formats that cannot meet the rules of social distance has been suspended. Because these are expensive productions, losses are measured in millions of dollars, and it is evident that the only thing that works right now is purely informational formats in which there is almost no marketing.

The same is the case with the production of radio programs - namely, radio stations are mostly financed through local marketing, which is almost non-existent at these times. The music industry is affected because there are no public appearances and clubs and festivals are left without 100% of income, and it should be emphasized that festival tourism, which involves music artists, is a significant segment in Croatia's overall tourism offer," says in der Mühlen, noting that government measures have not covered these specific areas, especially businesses that employ a significant number of seasons engaged in clubs and festivals, which they bring in a considerable number of tourists from around the world under normal circumstances.

These crises will have a long-term adverse impact on the creative industries, especially considering that copyright royalties will only go into crisis next year, as payment is made now, and this year's royalties will only be paid next year, when there are likely to be no measures," states in der Mühlen, noting that it is possible to allow further TV and radio productions to proceed immediately, while respecting social distance measures. Namely, according to him, these are not large groups of people, and since they come from a relatively closed circle, they can be easily controlled.

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