Sunday, 13 January 2008

Croatia Cruising Companion News

In 2008 we will be settling into a pattern of regular updates and news as they occur. Today's posting is just a catch up on what's been happening in the last few weeks.

1. London Boat Show, January 2008

Having just returned to Croatia from Christmas in England we won't be visiting the London Boat show but for those who are on the lookout for the book, you'll find it on the Kelvin Hughes stand, B005. The Croatia Tourist Board also has a stand at the show and we're hoping they might help spread the word so if you have a spare five minutes, please ask them if they have any information on it. We've done our best to bring the delights of Cruising Dalmatia to a wider audience and endeavoured to "tell it like it is". Hopefully that means those who read the Croatia Cruising Companion will enjoy a sailing holiday that exceeds their already high expectations and will have a safe and informed trip exploring the best of what Dalmatia has to offer.

2. Earl's Court Boat Show, November 2007

As regular readers will know, the Croatia Cruising Companion was launched at the Earl's Court Boat Show, a new boat show reviving the location of the original once a year show before it went to Docklands. Certainly Earl's Court has a special place in the hearts of London Boat Show lovers and there was a varied and extensive mix of exhibitors to fill the venue. However, by all accounts, attendance was disappointing and we certainly wonder whether the marketing process for visitors was as powerful as that aimed at exhibitors. The Croatian charter companies, marinas and its tourist board are normally very willing to attend overseas boat shows but very few of our contacts in the Croatian nautical tourism industry knew much, if anything, about the new Earls Court Boat Show before we mentioned it to them. For us, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the two London shows next year though our sympathies are with exhibitors in having to choose whether to attend two London boat shows in the same number of months next year.

We had the time to talk to a number of charter operators and get some feel for how they viewed Croatia as a cruising ground compared to other areas such as Greece and Turkey. As with any general comparison it's a balance of a number of factors and anecdotal evidence is as follows:

a) Mooring at marinas in Croatia can be more expensive than eg Greece and Turkey but the flights and now much cheaper and therefore the overall costs tend to even out.

b) The Croatian network of marinas is generally superior to those in other European cruising areas in terms of location, "spacing" and availability

c) There is a certain nervousness about increasing prices in Croatia, regular changes in regulations, potential restrictions on anchorages, or charges for anchoring when previously it was free. We deal with pricing in a little more detail below but feel that a lot of the concern is down to the Croatian Government and Tourist Board failing to get its message across properly. Also, to a certain extent, it's the price of Croatia's relatively new found fame and the need to try and ensure nautical tourism is ecologically friendly and well managed for everyone's benefit - short and long term. In the early post war years you could anchor or moor for free in the majority of destinations (but of course only the pioneers came). Now Croatia has been discovered, it's had to get its act together, manage nautical tourism properly and ensure it earns an honest buck from it. The transition involved means that there has been a fairly steep increase in marina and mooring costs in the past few years but it's all relative and started from a low base. So, in our view, and those of many others who know Croatia well, it still competes more than favourably with the competition and remains very good value for money, if a little less of the snip it was a few years ago.

d) The cruising ground itself is spectacular, varied and generally safe, onland and at sea. The locals are hospitable and friendly if occasionally reserved. There are a wide variety of charter companies to choose from and most are reliable and reputable.

On the whole, Croatia still seems to rank very high amongst the professionals who make all or some of their living from nautial tourism there. So, when making your sailing holiday choices, an informed one should lead you to having Croatia high on the shortlist and Dalmatia as the best sailing area within Croatia.

3. Marina Prices in 2008

Clearly the charter companies and early holiday bookers need to know what marina prices will be as far ahead as possible. Traditionally 2008 prices are only announced as the New Year starts and everyone waits for state owned ACI, who own 21 of the 50 plus marinas in Croatia, to announce their tariffs. This year a couple of marinas we spoke to announced their new prices early and regretted it - their increases were between 10 and 15 per cent and, with only 2007 comparisons available elsewhere, existing berth holders were up in arms. ACI have now announced their new prices, brief details as follows taking Split ACI marina as an example:

a) Daily berth rental 10 metre boat - up 8% from €38 to €41

b) Daily berth rental 20 metre boat - up 15% from €87 to €100

Last year ACI announced a programme of upgrades for many of their marinas and are aiming to cater better for larger yachts so we have to assume that some of the rise takes into account an improvement in services.

Some of the independents still have their 2007 price rises listed so we'll be reviewing prices again in a few weeks. We've included full website details for all the marinas in our Cruising Companion so if you can't wait until the next posting on this subject, check out the individual websites yourself.

4. Port Improvements

We've been made aware that Supetar and Sumartin, on the popular island of Bra─Ź, are planning major improvements to their port facilities in 2008. We'll pass on more details as available.

Today's photo is of the Kornati Islands, a scenic and mostly deserted cruising area off the mainland coast between Zadar and Biograd. Read all about them in Chapter Two of the Croatia Cruising Companion.

As always, don't forget to check out our sister blog, for more general news on Croatia.

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