KOMIŽA, August 1, 2020 — Komiža, on the remote Croatia island of Vis, has become a big hit tourist destination this season. Guest visits are nearing last year’s numbers.
Several remote destinations in Dalmatia are becoming more appealing due to COVID-19 concerns, and Komiža is one of them. The island’s peaceful oasis offers guests exactly what they are looking for in the context of the current pandemic.
Earlier this year the Croatia tourist season forecasts were anything but positive. Then, July marked a turning point for many destinations on the Adriatic. In fact, the second half of July revealed surprising results.The typical guest profile evolves year after year, but this year tourists are prolonging their stay in Komiža.
Tourism forecasts are now optimistic for the end of this summer and post-season. Rada Popadić/Dalmacija danas sat down with Tonka Ivković, Mayor of Komiža, to discuss her town’s strong visitor numbers and plans for the future.
Komiža Mayor: High Guest Numbers Surprised Us
“This season is above expectations and we are happy with the number of guests we have right now. July was a turning point. Sailors discovered this destination long ago and the current COVID-19 situation does not bother them. So, nautical tourists are showing up in full force, as they have in recent years. Even then, the number of arrivals and overnight stays in accommodation facilities surprised us, especially since we began the month with a 40 percent occupancy. Now we are close to 80 percent. Visits to the Blue Cave have increased. Only guests from Komiža were visiting at the start of the season. When more visitors began arriving in Split and Hvar; the number of guests on Biševo also grew.”
“In this COVID-19 situation, people want to be alone in a more intimate environment to avoid risk, so our private accommodations are full. However, hotels are currently at half-occupancy. Nevertheless, they report that they are booked at the end of August through September, which is great because it suggests the season will extend into September and October.”
“Numbers of domestic guests, Slovenes, and tourists from other EU countries are on the rise. Poles are especially well-represented as they enjoy diving. We have three great diving centers and a lot of attractive underwater locations, which serves as a ‘magnet’ for these guests. Diving centers are working at full capacity. There are German, Austrian and Czech visitors as well. However, we are missing the English, French, and American guests this year as they have been frequent guests in the past. There are also hardly any Scandinavians this year.”
How is COVID-19 affecting public events in Komiža this summer?
“We are offering our guests a Summer in Komiža program. However, we are limiting ourselves to smaller events where we can comply with epidemiological measures. Therefore, all events are outdoors. This year we had to cancel or postpone big events like the Big game and Komiža night. Everything else will take place, like Rota Palagruzona, which is held in August. There will be a boat show in Komiža as we would like to maintain that tradition.”
How about the prices for private accommodations?
“The city of Komiža started their tourism promotional campaign in May. In May, we also lowered the price for Blue Cave visits to 2017 prices. We are offering free parking for cars in all city parking lots. Today’s guests arrive almost exclusively in their cars as more are avoiding public transportation, which is understandable.”
“We put together a package of incentive measures for business people in the hospitality industry and lowered the prices of terraces and public areas. We are also offering payment deferrals with installments.”
“There are minor discounts in private accommodations, and prices have essentially stayed the same.”
What do you expect for the rest of the season?
“There are only two factors. It would be nice for Komiža to remain a COVID-19 free destination and the other is to have nice weather. Everyone would be happy if both would happen.”
You mentioned weather. Like other parts of Dalmatia, Vis got hit by the worst drought in 100 years. How has it affected life on the island?
“Absolutely. We have had only 140 liters of rain since the beginning of the year. The island of Vis has its own water sources and a limited underground capacity. Therefore, we pump less water because we simply have no capacity. Since May, we have been making public appeals to save water. We also introduced rations for boaters, cancelled showers on beaches and placed advertisements throughout Komiža to ask citizens to conserve water.”
As for Biševo, they don’t even have underground water, and depend solely on water tanks and rainwater. About 20 days ago, the situation was critical. Residents ran out of water so we sought subsidized water through the ministry. However, during the election cycle no one was available to approve our request. Then, we turned to the Ministry of Defense as the military responds to calls for help from the local population. In just two days, the Krka carrier arrived and brought in water with fire hoses. It was an emergency measure, and we are worried about what will happen if the drought continues. The firefighters of DVD Komiža were a big help. The army used dinghies to stretch the fire hoses to the shore, which they connected to our firefighters’ hoses from the shore to the cistern.”
How are Komiža city projects progressing during this difficult year?
“We decided not to stop construction work and stimulate the economy instead. The EU is largely financing these important projects. So we decided not to stop working even during peak tourist season. We are renovating a kindergarten in Komiža. This is a 9.5 million HRK (1,276,802 EUR) project with an anticipated March 2021 completion. We would like to make kindergarten a full-day because most of the local population work full-time during the season, so there is a need. We realized that this was one of the decisive factors which would allow parents to stay on the island.”
“Another significant project is the Blue Cave Visitor Center in Biševo, which began two years ago. We are rebuilding the old school, which has not been used in 50 years. It is located near the church of Sv. Selvester and has a view of all the islands. The center will primarily present the natural and cultural heritage of the island. There will also be a souvenir shop and a small restaurant. Furthermore, we are working on a trail and will procure two electric vehicles, which will operate between the center and the Blue Cave, two kilometers away.”
You are at the end of your fourth term. Will you run for a fifth?
“I believe that I will run for another term and thus ‘complete’ 20 years of service. Particularly, because I’d like to see the projects we are working on to completion. I think that continuity is important and that it will be much easier for me than for someone new. Of course, it is up to the citizens to decide.”
How do the SDP (Social Democatic Party) mayor of Komiža and HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) mayor of Vis get along?
“We have a lot of common interests and projects and have a joint plumbing and drainage company. If we hadn’t gotten along so well ten years ago and made large investments, we wouldn’t have such a good water situation now. We are also collaborating on a future landfill project. Komiža closed its landfill at the beginning of the year and we are currently working on a rehabilitation project. Vis is working on a project to renovate the transshipment station. We hope to implement both projects. We also have the Vis Archipelago Geopark where we work together. In a way, we had to cooperate, but that is what we want.”