The aim of the round table was to gather relevant experts for an open discussion about the current state of accommodation in the city and county, focus on key issues, trends and their positive and negative sides, and provide guidance for further tourism development.
“The organization of this round table was encouraged by data on the growth of tourist accommodations in Split and our county. In the last five years, in the period from 2010 to 2015, Split-Dalmatia County saw a 41% overall increase in the number of beds. The increase in the number of beds in hotel accommodation facilities in that period was 48%, and the increase in beds in private accommodation was 42%. The data also shows that hotel accommodations with more categories proved to be one of the preconditions for a quality extension of the season. For the hotel capacity utilization for the county over last five years, the average was 124 days and this figure grows with the categorization of the hotel, while private accommodation is half the size,” said the HGK Vice President of Construction, Transport and Communications and Acting President of ŽK Split, Mirjana Čagalj at the opening speech of the round table.
President of the Professional Group of hoteliers ŽK Split, Jozo Tomaš, opened the debate with an article by journalist Ruzica Mikačić from 2014. The article points out all of the key issues of tourism in the region which are unfortunately still present today.
According to projections by Mario Šerić, director of consulting company MarCon, tourism in Split will grow by 60% over the next 15 years, and Split-Dalmatia County - with more than 20 hotel projects in planning and construction - has the greatest development potential.
Joško Stella, director of the Tourist Board of Split-Dalmatia County, announced the development of a study which shows the capacity of the county. “When we know our boundaries, we will know which direction to go. Our goal is not boundless tourism growth, but sustainable tourism, preservation of destinations, and the satisfaction of local people who must feel the benefit of tourism,” said Stella.
Alijana Vukšić, director of the Tourist Board of Split, said that she has practically completed the Strategic Marketing Plan for the destination of Split, in cooperation with the Faculty of Economics. In the last three years, accommodation in Split has grown to 10,000 new beds. A congress center, more hotels, and primarily putting into operation five city hotels (Marjan, Bellevue, Ambassador, Slavija and Central), would significantly extend the season. ''Last year during the season, 55% of the overnight stays were recorded in the private sector, while in the pre-season occupancy rates of hotels were 51%,” said Vukšić.
Smiljana Pivčević, head of the Department of National Economy at the Faculty of Economics in Split, said that there seems to be a change in perception of tourism in society and that it is changing for the better, with a growing interest in tourism school. “But we need to ask ourselves what we want from tourism, because with the analysis that we have carried out, local people pointed out that the city seized the residents and that tourism took too much, “ said Pivčević.
Aida Batarelo, Deputy Mayor of Split, emphasized that tourism should not be an end in itself, but that it would be necessary to develop the IT industry in cooperation with the University, and that we should certainly have a financial regional center in Split, like Splitska banka.
All the participants agreed that we need an increase in hotel accommodation facilities, but also that it is only one of the conditions for extending the season. There are many unresolved issues and problems which include: the labor force (“who will work in these hotels”), emigration out of the city center and turning it into a tourist town, the lack of synergy, better management of the town center, the lack of parking, traffic plugs, or, as Šerić said, solving the problems of Split with 4P’s - palace, market, beach, parking (palača, pazar, plaža, parking).
All of this requires working together on the attractiveness of the destination, observing not just Split as a whole but also the surrounding region (the growth of Split entails the growth of the surrounding area), better connections between destinations, and more flights (“more flights mean more guests!” could be heard in the debate).
Split is one of the few cities that does not have a strategy for tourism development, and there is no strategy for the development of the city. We currently have an unhealthy structure of accommodation facilities, and two thirds of them are private facilities - which in comparison to other cities it is the opposite ratio. Hotels will generate an extension of the season, but it is indispensable to have conference tourism, city breaks, events and manifestations; while creating products and branding the destination is the joint action of all stakeholders in the tourism industry.
Tourism definitely did not just “occur” in Split, and it took the hard work of all employees in the tourism industry and the Tourist Board of Split to grow the transit city into a landing destination. Guests come to visit the palace where the local population lives, so we should control apartments in the town center and enable local people to stay in the city center.
Participants at the round table expressed satisfaction with putting these issues on the agenda while bringing together people with merit. The group understood this as an opportunity to articulate the problems and common goals, while establishing dialogue as a way to initiate these processes.