Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona - Part 5

April 28, 2020 - Part 5 of Ivica Profaca's Diary of a Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona - you can start at the beginning here.

Why would any guide wait to see what some European Union body would say? If you are not a news junkie (I confess, I am one), political decisions like those rarely influence our job, except in cases when they regulate some segment of guiding work, such as the licensing issue or something similar. And yet, Coronavirus has brought even those under the spotlight.

A video conference of the EU ministers of tourism was expected to give some answers as to whether or not there would be any tourism this year, and if yes what it would look like. The prospects are bad. Borders are closed, and will stay closed for some time ahead. Big markets such as Germany or the United Kingdom (and some others) don't plan to ease regulations any time soon. In the meantime, new regulations were introduced everywhere for hotels, restaurants and other venues, in some cases strict, in some others a little bit more doable. Tourist boards everywhere are trying to give a message of hope, I was proud to take part in a campaign launched by the Tourist Board of Split. However, all efforts might be limited only to domestic travel, because of that magic word - borders. It's not just about the date some of them might re-open. It's also about the psychology. Let's say borders re-open sometime in June, would you really travel only because of that, even with all precautions taken? I'm not sure, at least not before late August or September.

Here's an example from my calendar. In previous articles, I told you how bookings - those that survived without being cancelled - moved to later dates. Little by little, months that are otherwise extremely busy for guides emptied almost completely. April is gone, May is getting close to that, and now it's June and even July getting empty. Completely understandable, when we know all that I wrote before. The last birds that are still marked are the few cruisers which were scheduled to come to Split, but it's actually just a note on certain dates with almost no chance of happening. Cruising companies which operate those ships just extended their closure period, Holland American Lines till June 30, and P&O Cruises all the way to July 31. The situation is pretty much the same with others. It's not only about cruisers, but a very similar situation is also with airlines. Some encouraging news from Germany or Austria where the media said that Croatia might be a big magnet for travellers went adrift with the extension of anti-Corona measures. The Czech Republic announced borders opening, but with all other countries still locked, where they will travel? Again, maybe later. Plus, not really encouraging for guides licensed for languages other than German or Czech. My regular clients, for example, are Americans, Australians, or Canadians, and they will most likely stay home this year or at least in the next few months. It's just too complicated for them to travel that far. Plus, with a terrible situation still raging in the USA, for example, who will plan a vacation? And yes, we still don't know what will happen with the virus, when the vaccine will arrive, will there be a second wave later this year, etc. I usually don't whine, but in this case, I'm just being realistic.

Some of my fellow guides have even bigger problems. If they are registered for seasonal business, they can't count on state help for March, April and May, so will be left almost completely without any income this year. Since they have their businesses open hoping for some aid in the following months, or any kind of job, they can apply for unemployment help. Even us with year-round businesses might be left dry after three months we received or will receive aid aiming to preserve jobs. There are no signs those three months will be extended after May, and most of us will not have a single kuna of income in June and July, probably August too.  

So, what's left? Let's try with some optimism. Hopes for September and later months are still open, for now. And yes, domestic travels within Croatian borders. Fortunately, we live in a country which has so much to offer to enjoy. I wrote already about my initial traveling plans (yes, guides do travel during summer) of walking along the Hadrian's Wall in England. It's most likely not going to happen, but if I will be able to afford it, why not do some long walking on island Brač? Not to mention discovering other islands, or equally attractive hinterland.

Counting on changing of habits, recently I translated my AirBnB tours description to Croatian, there is always a chance someone might be interested in some of those tours, although Croatian tourists traveling in their home country rarely hire a guide. This might be their chance, too.

Svi ste dobrodošli.

We will be following Ivica Profaca's journey through the rocky weeks ahead.

If you find yourself in Split, or are planning a post-corona visit, check out his range of tours on his website - families, look out for the kids tour of Diocletian Palace. It will not only entertain your kids while allowing you to absorb this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it will bring out the inner child in you too. Learn more about it here

You can read other parts of Ivica's Split Tour Guide in the Age of Corona series here.

(To be continued)