Could Zrmanja River Cruises Bring Tourism and Life to Obrovac Area?

By 17 August 2021

August the 17th, 2021 - Could Zrmanja river cruises be the ideal way to draw foreign visitors to this beautiful but deeply neglected part of Dalmatia, and even provide jobs to the native population and encourage them to stay?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes, RiverZ could breathe life into this part of Dalmatia with Zrmanja river cruises. Marko Dobric is a professor of geography at a local school in Obrovac and he has been thinking for years about bringing untouched nature closer to tourists, and this year, in collaboration with a former student, that very idea was put into practice.

"A couple of years ago, a promenade was built along the Zrmanja, and as we passed it, we wondered - why just walk along this, and not take a boat? The Zrmanja river is a real beauty and although everything we've got going on here is still very much in its infancy, this destination has potential.

My former student, Joso Bogatic, is the owner of RiverZ and with him I realised the idea of ​​boats and excursions on the Zrmanja, including Zrmanja river cruises. I've been a teacher at the school here for 18 years, and Obrovac and the Zrmanja are insufficiently commercialised. It's has untapped potential and we saw an opportunity in that. The starting point of our route is Obrovac, it is six kilometres to the waterfall and 11 kilometres to the mouth,'' pointed out Dobric, noting that he believes that projects and ideas like this can revive the local area.

Local government support

This is supported by the fact that Obrovac is slowly moving forward with apartments, private camps have been opened, the offer is expanding, and the local government welcomes entrepreneurial projects, especially those that aim to keep young people in the area and help develop the general destination.

RiverZ has linked up with travel agencies and their guests are mostly European guests - from Brits and Czechs to Poles. Interest in riding along the Zrmanja river is growing every day, and Dobric revealed that they have announcements of Croatian guests and teambuilding activities for September and October.

“Gliding isn't allowed by law on the Zrmanja, so we decided on another form of sailing along it so that tourists can enjoy the beauty of the river. If you rent a boat for the whole day, you can take it to the sea and to hidden beaches that aren't easily accessible from the coast. Our boats are made of bioplastics, we also wanted them to be electrically powered, but we'll still have to wait two years for that,'' explained Marko Dobric.

In addition to Bogatic and Dobric, some other former and current students are included in the Zrmanja river cruises story, and they've all passed their ship management exams. They currently have four skippers available to hire as needed, and boats can be chartered for three hours or all day.

Obrovac and Zrmanja started with this tourist story and the development of adventure tourism back in June and invested 110,000 kuna into it, more precisely 55,000 kuna per boat. Although the original plan was four ships, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they decided to play it safe, but as interest grows, they're already spreading their story in time for next season, and they plan to apply for EU funds.

Sustainability as an imperative

"We want to keep young people in this area and that is one of our main goals. If the season continues and the interest is as before, we'll be at 70 percent of our investment. We have two more boats planned for next season, and our final target is eight boats.

Our goal isn't mass tourism, we prefer an individual approach and we want the story of Zrmanja to remain in focus and be in harmony with nature and sustainable development,'' claimed Dobric. By the way, for years he has been organising an action of cleaning the Zrmanja river, so in this tourist story he wants ecology to be the foundation.

"When they come, all visitors are positively surprised because it's rare to have a river and a mountain and the sea, and all the major cities on the coast are just an hour by car away. This is what we need to take advantage of this and offer young people a job. This isn't just about tourism, but also the development of entrepreneurship, agriculture and the whole of Obrovac,'' concluded Marko Dobric.

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