Tuesday, 9 February 2021

London to Zagreb COVID-19 Trip Report, February 8, 2021

February the 9th, 2021 - Just how does a trip from London to Zagreb look during pandemic-dominated times? I got to experience it yesterday as I made the journey and it was a mixed bag. 

At the end of December, I went to the UK to spend Christmas there and deal with some urgent and pressing matters which unfortunately couldn't wait. I had a bad feeling about it, but went ahead anyway as for some things, time wasn't on my side.

I left on the 20th of December on what turned out to be the very last flight (Zagreb-London) which Croatia allowed to operate between the two countries as an initial 48 hour flight ban was introduced impulsively and suddenly as the news of the new ''British variant'' of the novel coronavirus, referred to as VOC-202012/01 (also known as lineage B.1.1.7, 20I/501Y.V1), had been discovered circulating in southern Britain. 

The new variant, a mutated strain, was believed to spread more quickly and efficiently, but not to cause a more severe clinical picture than the ''older version'' of the novel coronavirus. Of course, a rapidly spreading pathogen causes issues even if the symptoms remain more or less the same, as hospital capacities fill even more quickly and the strain on the healthcare system becomes even more difficult to cope with. The need for extra caution was understood.

As soon as I landed at an empty Heathrow Terminal 5, which was all but devoid of life with the exception of me, a few other stragglers and some rather bored looking staff, my phone pinged, letting me know that Croatia had joined what was then a handful of other countries to place a sudden and temporary ban on passenger transport from the United Kingdom. It was initially for a mere 48 hours. Brilliant, I thought, as I stood waiting for my case breathing in the eye-watering smell of bleach which managed to penetrate my mask.

I read Plenkovic's tweet, UK and Croatia flag emojis thrown in for good measure, and combed through the comments of disgruntled and angry people stuck on both sides of the English channel as they tore into the decision as my case and I wandered through the empty baggage reclaim area to the exit.

''Given the new findings about the more rapid spread of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom, we're going to temporarily end passenger transport from the UK out of caution for 48 hours, until we find out more precise information about this possible new variant of the virus. Our priority is the health of citizens''

I arrived to where I was meant to be following a journey through an empty, silent and eerie London, began my ten days of self-isolation and on the tenth day, the area I was in went into Tier 4, the then highest tier of the UK's restriction system. A few days later, the entire country went into lockdown as cases rose, with over 1000 deaths recorded per day for a while. The country with the highest death toll in Europe was continuing down a deeply unwanted path.

Fast forward a few weeks and I begin planning to return from London to Zagreb as the situation calmed in Croatia, hoping to quickly make the journey before anything else altered within the blink of an eye, as has become so commonplace since the virus emerged.

I booked a Croatia Airlines flight for the 8th of February, leaving London for Zagreb at around 17:00. At that time, people entering Croatia with a reason or those with residence or Croatian citizenship (which applied in my case) could technically enter without presenting a negative PCR test which was no older than 48 hours as long as they tested immediately upon crossing the border, went into isolation and emailed their (hopefully) negative result to the border police, an email address which was provided to such passengers upon arrival.

Of course, having a negative PCR test in hand already was the more desirable situation, and back then, no self-isolation of any kind was needed if you could present that negative result upon arrival. Still, it was pleasant to see that the Croatian authorities recognised that this demand was difficult to achieve (other countries typically ask for 72 hours), and that they were willing to cut people some slack.

That quickly altered.

The new ''British variant'' was gaining traction in southern England and forcing infection numbers to soar and the Croatian Institute of Public Health created a new list of countries. No longer was it just EEA and non EEA, but a list of countries with ''special epidemiological measures'' applied to them. On the list back then were the United Kingdom and South Africa, which had its ''own'' concerning variant, with the later addition of Brazil. 

For those countries, a PCR test no older than 48 hours was needed, accompanied by self-isolation for a period of 14 days with ''test to release'' measures in place to cut the period of self-isolation short after seven days if, on the seventh day at the earliest, the person tests negative again at their own expense. This isn't obligatory and you can just end your self-isolation without any more tests after 14 days if you so wish.

The 6th of February arrived and I called to book a PCR test for that evening. I arrived to the facility and underwent the test for the fourth time since the pandemic began. I had contracted coronavirus only several months before and was aware I'd more than likely return a negative result, but I did have some doubts as I saw the swab taken out of my throat and nose and pushed into the red liquid in the test tube and sent away to the lab. Just 18 or so hours later on the 7th, my negative result arrived in the form of a text and an email. 

Obstacle one was dealt with.

I went to check in online on Croatia Airlines' website, only to be hit with what is obviously an outdated and very, very poorly thought out message that ''flights are banned'' until the 15th of February from the UK to Croatia. This of course isn't true at all for essential travel and I immediately realised that it simply meant I'd have to go to the check-in desk in person upon arrival as they'd need to see a reason as to why I was travelling, and if I had a right to do so as the UK remained in lockdown with a ''stay at home'' order in place. Although I understood that, I'm not sure others who are less observant of the situation would.

Paying the price Croatia Airlines wants for a very, very basic less than two hour flight from London to Zagreb (and the same is indeed true in the other direction, which is thankfully a trip I only make twice per year) and then being hit with a ''flight ban'' message isn't really ideal. Would it be so hard to issue a message stating that online check-in simply isn't currently available rather than inciting yet more confusion? Obviously.

On the 8th, I made the journey to Heathrow and prepared myself mentally for some more potential issues. Here's where things were impressive and I have to take my hat off to Britain (which is something I do seldomly). Both its rate of vaccination (there were over 10 million people vaccinated at the time of writing this, more than twice Croatia's entire population) and its proper and efficient checks on travel seem to be second to none.

I saw a few people told they couldn't fly from London to Zagreb due to having incorrect documentation, which must have been devastating, as a staff member called me to a check-in desk.

I presented a British passport and a Croatian ID card and he went to have it checked, 2 minutes later he returned saying that it was fine, sending my suitcase off to the plane as I went to the empty security. Passing through in 3 minutes (which is unheard of at Heathrow) and entering the empty departure lounge to await my flight.

As the gate for Zagreb was announced and the handful of people boarding the plane gathered, passports, ID cards and PCR test documents in hand, staff demanded negative tests before anyone could board the flight. Each person appeared to have an issue or two as boarding staff rushed back and forth from passenger to phone, calling the authorities to ask questions which were obviously not made properly clear. Some people were convinced they didn't need a test to enter, referencing the previous rule which stated that a PCR test could instead be obtained upon arrival, which now no longer applied to anyone (regardless of their status or citizenship) coming directly from the UK. Others had expired test results as 48 hours is difficult to achieve in many places across the UK due to demand.

The boarding staff kept calling the authorities, heading back to passengers, back to the phone, and looking very flushed. They then asked for ''Enter Croatia'' forms which don't need to be filled in if you're a citizen or a legal resident, but the staff had to take passengers' words for that as it was indeed as clear as mud. Ah, Croatia.

The process was very long, one woman was nearly denied boarding until a phone call from the authorities allowed her to enter Croatia despite some sort of issue with her PCR test. The phone kept on ringing and Heathrow's poor staff continued to look more and more confused as rules seemed to be interpreted differently by each and every person. Ah, Croatia. Again.

The plane took off after de-icing as it was snowing in England, air stewards handed out and then took back Passenger Locator Forms, and we landed in Zagreb just under two hours later. Usually, the border procedure is fast at Zagreb Airport, regardless of how busy it is. This time, despite the relatively few people travelling, we were stuck there for an hour. Frustrated people called taxis, family and friends waiting to pick them up to apologise repeatedly as only two border police were (very slowly) facilitating entry to passengers, with the occasional appearance of one or two others who came and went of their own accord.

One policewoman struck up a conversation with me because an apparently ''fast-track smart border'' device had broken, that very device was supposed to be used by precisely those people coming from London to Zagreb that day. We spoke in Croatian as she used my passports to try to see if it would work. It didn't. She was pleasant and it passed the time a bit quicker as she complained about the new technology and joked light-heartedly about the self-isolation measures. Each and every person arriving experienced issues because of their PCR tests, but were let in following repeated documentation checks as their mandatory self-isolation was on the cards anyway.

Upon finally arriving to the competent border guard, the surprisingly smiley and cheerful man took my documents and asked for my PCR test. He appeared confused by it, despite being well intentioned, and I had to explain in Croatian what each part meant. He appeared surprised by my willingness to explain and joked that this was all so difficult to follow. His exhaustion with the rules he must keep up with showed for a second or two before his cheerfulness returned, telling me that was all fine with a slight Dalmatian twang, copying the papers I gave him and asking me if I wanted my instructions for the removal of my self-isolation measure in Croatian or English. 

''Svejedno mi je'' I said. (Either of them, it doesn't matter to me), to which he provided both versions and waved me through, looking happy that his day dealing with often confused arrivals from countries with ''special epidemiological measures'' applied to them was almost over.

The 5 or 6 people left by that point in time in Zagreb Airport took their bags, sitting rather sadly on the now motionless carousel and exited, happy to remove their masks and breathe in the fresh, cold winter air outside after hours stuck in oxygen-poor queues and on planes.

All in all, the process was pleasant given the amount of stress actually involved. Heathrow did excellently, but Croatia and Croatia Airlines could improve on several things. Simply say that online check-in isn't available during lockdown rather than selling basic one-way flights at what truly are often extortionate prices and then issuing a very wrong message when people naturally attempt to check in online.

Croatia is continuing to deal with the pandemic excellently, dragging the infection and death rate down enormously in just a matter of weeks, and it is more than obvious that this 48 hour PCR test requirement (48 hours from the swab having been taken, not from the result!) is in place to make it as difficult as possible and to make even essential travel for citizens and residents problematic. The majority of other comparable countries ask for that time window to be 72 hours, which is much more reasonable and attainable.

Some institutions which do PCR tests in the UK do not expilicitly state that the test which has been done is a PCR test as this is typically implied. If you have a rapid antigen test or a lateral flow test, it will state in your result what that test is, but a ''coronavirus test'' in the UK implies that it is PCR in the vast majority of cases. Of course, some places which do them will write much more on the result, but others won't, and it's impossible for you to know that beforehand.

It would be beneficial for Croatia, people making essential journeys between the two countries and indeed airport staff who have been swept up into this to look more into what the procedures the country they're placing further restrictions on actually look like so as to avoid such confusion.

The 48 hour window is, as stated, a bit of a challenge most of the time. I spoke to a man standing near me at the border who had to travel from Wales to London two days before and pay for a hotel in order to obtain his PCR test at Heathrow on time for his flight, costing him far more time and money than is needed. His test more than likely expired during the border procedure as most of ours had done. Surely it would be better to ask for a window of time a little bit longer rather than to demand something you actually do not allow to be fulfilled because the queues are too long, the rules are too easily misunderstood and there are only two guards working?

It is quite typical of Croatia to ask for something that either doesn't exist, is difficult to acheive or is actually prevented from being fulfilled by Croatia itself. 

To end this London to Zagreb saga on a positive note, it was nice to see that there was a level of understanding and flexibility from the border police, and even real friendliness, which offered the message that they are as fed up as we all are with this seemingly endless situation. It's difficult to imagine that for the last seven years I have caught God knows how many flights from London to Zagreb and back again for next to no money and with zero issues (I miss you, British Airways!). Let's hope that if and when that ease of travel returns we'll learn to appreciate it that much more.

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Monday, 14 December 2020

Brexit Brits in Croatia: Withdrawal Agreement Residence Explainer

December the 14th, 2020 - A clear and concise guide for Brexit Brits in Croatia wanting to make sure they retain all of the rights they have afforded to them being nationals of the EEA as the UK withdraws from the bloc. I want to apologise in advance for the sheer length of this article, but in order to set out everything needed, there was no way to make it shorter.

The UK's transition period is quickly coming to an end. The UK might have formally left the European Union on the 1st of February, 2020, but all EU law will continue to apply to the Northern European island nation until the 1st of January, 2021. After that, the laws of the bloc's instutions will cease to apply. The Withdrawal Agreement sets out the rights of citizens, both those of the EU living in the UK and those of the UK living in the EU, providing clarity in the very heart of the mother of all messes. Here is the Ministry of the Interior's latest advice to Brexit Brits in Croatia.


As stated, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ceased to be a member state of the EU in an orderly manner upon entry into force of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (the Withdrawal Agreement).

The aforementioned Agreement determines a transition period until the 31st of December 2020, during which time British nationals and their third country family members continue to remain subject to current European Union law.

The Croatian Act on amendments to the Act on EEA nationals and their family members, which has been forwarded to the Croatian Parliament to face legislative procedure, will legally lay down the implementation of the part of the Withdrawal Agreement related to regulating the residence status of British nationals and their third country family members after the transition period ends at midnight on the 31st of December, 2020.

The aforementioned amendments will lay down clear rules for the procedure of applying for temporary or permanent residence for British nationals and the issuance of their subsequent residence permits, as well as the issuance of the necessary documents to frontier workers who will need special permits.


The residence status of British nationals and their family members will be regulated pursuant to Article 18, paragraph 4 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which sets out a declaratory scheme only. This is extremely important to emphasise. You can freely find the corresponding article (PDF form) within the Withdrawal Agreement here, but to save you the bother of scrolling, I have included the most relevant information below in italic font:

4. Where a host State has chosen not to require Union citizens or United Kingdom nationals, their family members, and other persons, residing in its territory in accordance with the conditions set out in this Title, to apply for the new residence status referred to in paragraph 1 as a condition for legal residence, those eligible for residence rights under this Title shall have the right to receive, in accordance with the conditions set out in Directive 2004/38/EC, a residence document, which may be in a digital form, that includes a statement that it has been issued in accordance with this Agreement.

I need to quickly state that there is more information to be accessed under this Article which details more specific circumstances, but putting it all here isn't necessary, I provided a link to the Withdrawal Agreement in PDF form above should you wish to read further and in more detail.

Accordingly, British nationals and their third country family members who are subject to the Withdrawal Agreement will not be obligated to apply for a new residence status as a requirement for their legal stay in Croatia. Rather, a declaratory system will be applied on the basis of which British nationals and their family members will have a residence status on the basis of the very fact that they meet the conditions laid down in the Agreement and will continue to have the said status for as long as they meet these conditions. This means that their residence status is not subject to the constitutive decision of the competent authority.


All the beneficiaries of the Agreement (Articles 9 and 10 of the Withdrawal Agreement) will have the possibility of registering their residence status given to them. After the procedure is concluded, they will be issued with residence permits confirming their new status. The registration procedure will apply to all persons regardless of whether they have regulated their residence status in the past on the basis of their EU-given right to the freedom of movement at a competent police administration/police station before the 31st of December 2020.

In addition to the relevant documents submitted for registration (depending on whether the British nationals and their family members in question held temporary or permanent residence in Croatia before the 31st of December 2020), the continuity of residence (Articles 11 and 15 (2) of the Withdrawal Agreement) and the condition of further stay in the Republic of Croatia will need to be determined as well.

The procedure for the registration of a new residence status will be simpler for the beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement who already hold either temporary or permanent residence before the end of the transition period, as opposed to those persons who fail to do so by the said date.


It will be possible to submit applications at the competent police administrations/police stations according to the location of residence starting from the 1st of January 2021. The current deadline by which all beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement will be able to apply is the 30th of June 2021. It will still be possible to submit applications after this deadline, however, the beneficiaries of the Agreement who do so might be fined for committing an administrative offense.

During the technical issuance of new residence permits, all beneficiaries will have to provide their biometric data. In accordance with the Proposal for the Act, previously issued residence permits will cease to be valid on the 1st of January 2021.


For the purposes of the Withdrawal Agreement, a frontier worker is a British national who has pursued an economic activity as a frontier worker in one or several EU member states in which they don't reside, and who continues to pursue this economic activity even after the 31st of December 2020. Frontier workers will be able to apply for the issuance of a document confirming their rights as a frontier worker. Much like with residence permits, it will be possible to submit applications at the competent police administrations/police stations according to the location of work starting from the 1st of January 2021.


British citizens who already hold temporary or permanent residence in Croatia (those who hold the status or will be granted it under EU law before the 31st of December, 2020) will continue to be able to exercise that right.

Although all Brexit Brits in Croatia can legally remain and must register for a new document, differences will be made between existing permanent residents and temporary residents.

The new system is of a declaratory nature, it is not a brand new application for a new residence status. It is identity confirmation to prove that you are entitled to these acquired rights and nothing more.

You must register for your new status before the 30th of June, 2021 if you are within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement (if you held residence in Croatia before the end of the transition period), if you fail to do so, you could face a fine.

The new residence document/card/permit Brexit Brits in Croatia who are within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement will receive will state ''Nositelj prava čl. 75. st. 1. Zakona EGP'' (Holder of the right of Article 75 point 1 of the Law on the EEA) as opposed to the current EGP (Europski Gospodarski Prostor/European Economic Area).

The Withdrawal Agreement stipulates that those who hold permanent residence in an EU country can leave for up to five consecutive years without losing any of their rights in their host state. This includes Croatia.

This is a detailed article on residence for Brexit Brits in Croatia only, for more on driving licenses, healthcare and crossing the EU's external border, click here for the British Embassy's advice. Sign up for email alerts from the British Government's Living in Croatia page, follow the British Embassy on Facebook here, and keep up with MUP in English language here.

With due thanks to MUP, Zakon.hr and Europa.eu

Thursday, 20 August 2020

HTZ Says German And UK Decisions Will Impact Tourism In Croatia

ZAGREB, Aug 20, 2020 - The Croatian National Tourism Board director, Kristjan Stanicic on Thursday said that decisions to put Croatia on lists of unsafe countries for travel would certainly affect tourism turnover.

The German foreign ministry on Thursday issued a warning against travelling to Sibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia counties because of the increasing number of new coronavirus infections. "Unnecessary travel such as for tourism to these areas is not recommended," the ministry said.

Commenting on the decision to Hina, Stanicic said that the fact that Germany had not declared all of Croatia as unsafe was "a mitigating circumstance."

"We know how important the German market is for Croatia's tourism from which we have generated 3.6 million bed nights in August thus far, which in the current circumstances is an excellent 93% of last year's results. As such, I once again appeal for everyone to adhere to the prescribed epidemiological measures because at the moment that is the fundamental precondition to continue achieving tourism turnover in the country," Stanicic said.

Putting Croatia on the red list in the UK will change travel plans to Croatia

Commenting on the latest announcement from the United Kingdom that Croatia could be put on the red list of countries due to allegedly imported cases of the infection, Stanicic said that it could potentially mean British tourists leaving earlier or changing their plans to travel to Croatia.

"The United Kingdom is one of the more important markets for Croatia's tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected arrivals. In circumstances when until mid-June it was almost impossible to travel anywhere in Europe and with the exceptionally strong contraction of air transport, the British market did not result in any strong activation. Hence, since the start of the year until now we have had about 97,000 arrivals and 483,000 bed nights from that market, which is about 16% of last year's turnover and the arrivals from the UK rank 12th among foreign tourists," Stanicic explained.

The director of the HTZ branch in Great Britain, Daria Reic, has informed that interest by British visitors for Croatia is still strong and partners are informing of good occupancy rates in planes.

"We are receiving a lot of calls from potential passengers enquiring about the current situation in Croatia and our partners are informing us of very good bookings for the remainder of August and September," Reic revealed.

She said that Brits are by no means happy with their government's decision, adding that the general opinion in public is that no one wants to go into 14-day quarantine.

Currently, 17,000 Brits are spending holidays in Croatia

If the government does indeed make such a decision there could be a drastic drop in tourists while Stanicic said that currently there are about 17,000 Brits in Croatia with about 56% in rooms and apartments, 29% in hotels, 7% in nautical accommodation, 5% in camps and 3% in non-commercial facilities.

Most of them are vacationing in Dubrovnik, Split, Konavle, Hvar, and Pula.

We are doing our utmost to precisely inform foreigners in the UK and elsewhere

Both Reic and Stanicic underscore that the HTZ is cooperating with diplomatic representations in the UK and elsewhere in the world to provide accurate information based on which they can then decide on including countries on the list of risky or safe countries.

"Unfortunately, we cannot impact a final decision and apart from the epidemiological situation, their decisions take into account the economic interests of each individual country. That is particularly obvious in the fact that some countries have declared us to be a risky destination (Slovenia, Austria, Italy) while others consider us to be a safe tourist destination and their tourists are enjoying their vacation in Croatia (Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and so on)," said Stanicic.

"We will continue to promote Croatia as a safe and stable tourist destination, particularly through online channels and we have launched an initiative for some local tourism boards and companies to organise testing in their areas for all interested tourists so they can continue their vacation undisturbed," he concluded.

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Thursday, 30 July 2020

Will Britain Place Croatia Back on Coronavirus Quarantine List?

Update, August 12: For the latest developments regarding the UK's coronavirus travel restrictions, please follow this article, which is being regularly updated

July the 30th, 2020 - When it comes to Croatia's most important tourist markets, Western European nations such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany are of enormous significance. Nationals of these rich European countries have been coming to spend their holidays in Croatia in their droves for many years and often have deep pockets. Coronavirus, however, has flipped all of that on its head.

The appearance of the new coronavirus has wreaked havoc in the travel and tourism industry across the globe. For countries like Croatia, which relies heavily on tourism as it makes up as much as 20 percent of the country's GDP, 2020 has been somewhat of an economic disaster so far, with some fearing that the worst is yet to come. With lockdown over and with travel restrictions easing all the time, the disease has begun to take hold again, and now the United Kingdom, one of the most powerful countries in Europe, is looking at the possibility of reintroducing mandatory self-isolation measures for British tourists returning to the UK from Croatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 29th of July, 2020, there is now a possibility that mandatory quarantine measures could be reintroduced for travellers returning to the United Kingdom from nearby Belgium, Luxembourg and the Republic of Croatia. It is a decision that will be made over the next two days by the British authorities, according to a report from The Guardian.

As stated, British authorities are currently keeping a very close eye on the jump in the number of infected people in Belgium, Luxembourg and Croatia, which is an extremely popular destination for British tourists. This could deliver a major shock to the Croatian economy which was hanging onto making up for as much losses as possible during August, and with the British market being among the most important in all of Europe.

Knowing its level of significance, the Croatian National Tourist Board threw itself at the British market, but for Croatia, the biggest problem is still the decisions of other European countries.

A mandatory fourteen-day quarantine was rapidly introduced last weekend for British tourists returning to the United Kingdom from Spain, which is perhaps traditionally the most popular destination for British tourists on the hunt for some summer sunshine, and which, much like the UK, was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

A decision on whether the British will need quarantine upon return from Croatia could be made on Thursday the 30th of July when a government committee dealing with issues surrounding the new coronavirus is due to meet.

For more on travel to, from and within Croatia during the coronavirus pandemic, follow our travel section.

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Friday, 3 July 2020

England Announces Official Non-Quarantine Countries - Croatia On List

July the 3rd, 2020 - Up until now there has been a lot of confusion and even more speculation on the rules and regulations introduced by the European Union and indeed respective European countries. England has just made something a lot clearer. And that is that Croatia is officially on the list of countries from which you can arrive and not need to go into self-isolation when entering Great Britain.

While Slovenia might have a few bones to pick with Croatia by putting it on its ''green list'' and then quickly removing it in a matter of days, one powerful European country has given Croatia the green light it truly deserves for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its favourable epidemiological picture, which ironically is the polar opposite of the UK's unfortunate situation at the moment.

Regardless of that, England has officially stated that those coming from Croatia officially do not need to go into self-isolation when arriving on British territory as of the 10th of July, 2020.

Links for more information on this as well as the other countries on the ''self-isolation free'' list the United Kingdom has put together can be found by clicking on the British Government's official website.

A write up on the matter (which is currently live) by the Guardian can be found here.

For more on travel in the coronavirus era, follow our dedicated travel page.


Monday, 29 June 2020

Croatian Tourism: United Kingdom Creates Incredible Promotion for Croatia

As Filip Pavic/Novac writes on the 28th of June, 2020, the "green light" for the Croatian tourism industry arrived recently from the British market, which was assessed as a safe destination for receiving British tourists.

The British authorities have now announced the introduction of the so-called "traffic light" system which, according to the risk of coronavirus infection, will rank popular tourist destinations across the rest of Europe and the world with red, yellow and green labels.

The green label, which represents a minimal risk of infection, in addition to Croatia, as things stand now, should be given to Greece, Germany and Austria, among others. Greece, by the way, has already announced 70 percent discounts trying to lure Britons to its beaches.

According to that decision, which comes into force on July the 6th, when all air traffic opens, British tourists will not have to go into two-week quarantine when returning home from their holiday in Croatia, as has been the case so far.

In the yellow category, which represents a moderate risk, there were also some of Croatian tourism's competitors - Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Austria. In their case, the quarantine obligation has also now been rendered invalid, but can be introduced if the epidemiological situation escalates in the meantime. On the other hand, countries like Argentina, Brazil and Egypt, all marked in red, carry with them the obligation of two weeks of self-isolation upon return to Britain.

''This is the news we expected, given that Croatia has shown the highest level of security and epidemiological preparedness throughout this time. The British market is important to us, one of the top ten, and it is also extremely important for air traffic,'' said Kristjan Stanicic, the director of the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ/CNTB).

As expected, British tourists mostly travel to Croatia by plane, and the CNTB, says Stanicic, has already started negotiations with British tour operators and airlines, such as EasyJet, Jet2 and British Airways, and is conducting two marketing campaigns on the British market.

''We can expect an increase in air traffic to Split and Dubrovnik in July, which is certainly a good thing. I'd like to mention once again that the fact that we're talking about tourist traffic in general is a clear sign that we have managed the epidemiological situation well. And the current figures of 300 thousand guests in Croatia confirm this,'' underlined Stanicic.

After the British authorities officially confirm the opening of borders to summer destinations in the coming days, tourists from the UK can be expected here in Croatia in mid-July. Since 800,000 of them stayed in Croatia last year, and they also realised 4.2 million overnight stays, and Stanicic didn't want to speculate on how many British tourists the Croatian tourism sector could expect this year. He says that he is continuing to adhere to the general expectations of 30 percent when compared to last year.

A slightly more modest figure of 25 percent of tourist arrivals was stated by Boris Zgomba, the president of the management board of Uniline and the president of the Association of Travel Agencies of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK(. However, he noted that placing Croatia in the green category is a great promotion that we might never have been able to perform on our own without a helping hand from a powerful European country such as Britain.

''This is a status that no one has given us, but we've earned it by our own efforts, but this "traffic light" system is not something that is set in stone, it can always change,'' he warned.

Namely, although Croatian tourism's main European competitors are mostly, figuratively speaking, at the yellow light in terms of the UK's traffic light system, the British will correct these labels in accordance with the epidemiological situation of each country. This could mean that Italy, for example, ends up in the green category in July, as well as that Croatia falls one step below if the epidemiological situation worsens.

''Although at the moment we have a kind of growth in the number of positives, it isn't related to Croatian tourism, but rather to the relaxation of Croatian citizens. If, of course, we stay within the existing numbers I think we don’t have to worry about losing the green label. We still have a solid number of tourists in Croatia, without any of them being positive so far, and the situation hasn't escalated in that segment,'' Zgomba pointed out.

Asked if data on the number of Britons who booked accommodation might be available, or for those who hadn't cancelled their previous reservations, which would give us an insight into how much we can expect, the leader of Uniline answered that it is difficult to discuss such matters as this moment in time.

''At the moment, a very small number of Britons have booked accommodation through our agency, but the reason is that they didn't even know whether they would be able to travel or not, the rule of mandatory quarantine was valid. They're not guests who can just sit in their cars and come, they have to get organised, they need to know in advance how many airlines they will have available,'' he explained.

Calm and cool-headed, Veljko Ostojic, director of the Croatian Tourism Association (HUT), said we should be aware of everything that is happening and, as before, carefully balance things between opening borders and receiving guests.

''The British market is an extremely important market for us and, of course, every guest is important to us, but I think we should carefully weigh things up and keep in mind the epidemiological situation in the countries we're opening to, and we have done so successfully,'' said Ostojic. He added that there are other important markets for Croatian tourism that we shouldn't ignore. In Europe, it isn't only the Brits who realise many arrivals and overnight stays, there are other Northern European countries to think of, such as the Netherlands, whose guests in realised 2.6 million overnight stays back in 2018.

According to the BBC, the United Kingdom had just over 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and about 180 deaths on Friday. They are recording a declining trend compared to April when they had more than a thousand deaths due to coronavirus per day.

For more on Croatian tourism in the coronavirus era, follow our dedicated travel page.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Croatian Tourism: Air Bridge Talks Between Britain and Croatia Arise Again

Brits, much like other sun deprived Northern Europeans, are getting itchy feet in their desperation for a getaway and a bit of vitamin D. As Croatia's epidemiological picture is so favourable, more talks are underway which could provide a much needed boost to Croatian tourism this year.

Media updates from UK (June 27)

Summer holiday air bridges: Government confirms ‘traffic light system’ to make international travel easier for Britons in July

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 24th of June, 2020, British ministers are in talks with the leaders of six other European countries to establish ''air bridges'' for British tourists looking to spend their holidays abroad, the Guardian has learned. The British, among others, are negotiating with Croatia.

The key to the story is to allow tourists from the United Kingdom to come to countries with a low prevalence of coronavirus infections and be able to return home without having to go into self-isolation or quarantine.

In addition to Croatia, British ministers are negotiating with Spain, Italy, Greece, France and Turkey, and the possibility of an agreement with Germany and Austria is being discussed. In Britain, they hope that the negotiations will be completed by Monday, when the United Kingdom, otherwise the worst affected country in Europe, is set to announce a new set of mitigation measures.

A source from the British Government told the Guardian that when they were compiling the list of countries, they only looked at the percentage of infection per 100,000 inhabitants. Australia, for example, was also considered, but in the end the choice fell only on the Mediterranean countries which have always been a traditional favourite for British holiday makers due to their close proximity and being on the same continent.

''Air bridges will be strictly monitored and this plan is a priority for the British Government at the moment, there's no doubt about it,'' a source from the British Government told the Guardian.

However, the popular British newspaper warns that the European Commission (EC) said a few months ago that the opening of such corridors could be subject to discrimination and that the rules must be the same for all countries that have a similar epidemiological situation.

In any case, the British choice eventually fell on the Mediterranean countries, and the reason is more than clear - overseas destinations require transfers in countries where the epidemiological situation is much more serious.

''There was talk about Singapore and Bermuda, but in the end the decision was made to focus on here in Europe,'' it was claimed.

For now, it is known that this idea is strongly supported by Transport Minister Grant Shapps, who spoke extensively about passenger corridors last week.

''We've been working for some time on establishing 'air bridges' or, more precisely, passenger corridors,'' he said at a press conference held in Downing Street, and his deputy, Jim McMahon, publicly said that the rule of 14 days quarantine upon return must be abolished, according to Jutarnji list.

For more on Croatian tourism, follow our travel page.

Friday, 13 March 2020

COVID-19: UK Government Publishes Updated Coronavirus Travel Advice for Croatia

March the 13th, 2020 - As COVID-19 continues to put pressure on public health and the global economy, the British Embassy in Zagreb and the British Government has updated its Croatia travel advice section on the official website GOV.UK to alert travellers to the following:

''The Croatian Government has introduced with immediate effect a compulsory fourteen day self-isolation for all foreign nationals arriving from the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, Netherlands, China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Sweden.

Visitors with no residence in Croatia will be asked for proof of an accommodation booking. Those refusing self-isolation will be denied entry into Croatia and be instructed to return to their point of origin. Failure to comply with public health decisions may result in fines or even criminal charges.''

What does this mean if I am coming from one of the above countries/am a national of one of the above countries and have legal residence in the Republic of Croatia?

If you have legal residence in Croatia which is evidenced by a national ID card/residence card proving your status as a temporary or permanent resident in the Republic of Croatia, it will already have your biometric information and your current address in Croatia written on it.

In this case, you will be allowed to enter your country of residence but you will still need to place yourself in the prescribed mandatory fourteen day isolation if you have travelled from one of the aforementioned countries.

We recently wrote an article on the introduction of fines for people who break the rules on self-isolation. That article can be read here.

For more on COVID-19 and its effects on Croatian public health, tourism, the economy and much more, follow our dedicated section on the matter.

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