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Optimism turns a corner as England lines up to play Croatia, a country conflicted about its status as a tourism hotspot for Game of Thrones fans


Kirsten Hastings




Score prediction: ENGLAND 1 – CROATIA 1


We were neutral on the UK for much of last year but started to move overweight in November on the back of growing vaccine optimism, as well as increasing exposure to small caps as we approached the end of the Brexit transition period.

We felt positive because many of the factors which led to us having such a poor 2020 – the structure of the UK market being heavily weighted towards financial services and commodities, uncertainty over Brexit, and the prime minister’s lacklustre response to the crisis – were in the rear-view mirror and it felt like most of the negative surprises were known and priced in, bar any lull in vaccine rollouts or further mutations in the virus.

And so it was: predictions released in April claimed that in 2021 the UK’s economy would grow at the fastest rate since World War II, based on a cocktail of the successful vaccine rollout, pent-up demand being released, and ongoing fiscal and monetary support. The EY ITEM Club (standing for Independent Treasury Economic Model) expects GDP to grow by 6.8% in 2021, which would be the fastest surge since 1941. After the 9.9% contraction in 2020, the worst in the G7, this growth would pull the country back to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of next year.

But we’re not getting too carried away; while the Bank of England is predicting 7.25% growth, which effectively gets the country back to where it was before covid, later analysis revealed this was based entirely on better-than-expected growth in the first quarter, with a downgrade to the outlook for the subsequent nine months.




Score prediction: ENGLAND 1 – CROATIA 1


In 2011, a television series based on books by author George RR Martin first aired. Game of Thrones introduced the world to the fictional realm of Westeros, and the very real city of Dubrovnik; its stunning old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, doubling for King’s Landing.

The ending may have deeply split opinion, but one thing many avid watchers can agree on is that the Croatian city is now firmly on the map. But there really is too much of a good thing – just ask the people of Florence and Venice.

Five years after it hit TV screens, tourism numbers in Dubrovnik had grown rapidly. In 2016, the country received around 16 million visitors – which is nearly four times the population of Croatia.

Initially, the timing could not have been better, as the Balkan country had been in recession for several years. But, before the pandemic struck, it had gotten to the stage where the throng of tourists were becoming as much of a burden as a blessing.

The absence of camera-totting Game of Thrones fans will have initially been something of a relief for those not working in the tourism industry. But when the country’s economy is so heavily dependent on the sector, previously discussed plans to control access to the old city of Dubrovnik will probably not be high on the priority list once international travel resumes.

Pent up demand and boredom-induced binge watching of all eight series will mean Croatia features on a lot of dream destination lists, which is great news for companies in the hospitality and leisure sectors. The residents of Dubrovnik, however, may just need to take up meditation or find another way to cope with an invasion of wannabe Westermen.