Croatian Tourism 2021 Preparations v Competition: The View from London

By 6 March 2021
The latest 7 day Google Trends data for Travel - Croatia and Greece, midday March 6
The latest 7 day Google Trends data for Travel - Croatia and Greece, midday March 6

March 6, 2021 - How are preparations for the Croatian tourism 2021 season going compared to the competition? The view from London-based tourism professionals.  

With lots of other exciting things happening in Croatia and elsewhere, and with more writers joining the expanding TCN team, I find myself writing less about tourism these days than in years gone by. My fascination with a country which generates more than 20% of its GDP from tourism, yet does almost nothing noteworthy (unless by noteworthy, you mean all the dumb stuff - there is PLENTY of that) to promote continues. And I wonder what this country could achieve - not only in tourism but in every sector of the economy - if it had more competent officials working more for the greater good and with genuine expertise. 

I can't think of a clearer current example than an article I wrote last week comparing the efforts - and results - of one volunteer expat and the global promotion he achieved with zero kuna compared to the lack of presence of the state body with 70-80 employees and a budget of up to 400 million kuna annually, whose sole purpose is to promote Croatian tourism. Read more in Dutchman Promotes Croatia Globally: Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism...


There is still no information about the new digital nomad permit on the Croatian National Tourist Board that I can find. This is what you get when you search 'digital nomad'. There is also no information on the Ministry of Tourism website either. Indeed, much like last year and dealing with tourism during the pandemic, the only officials who have any information are the Croatian police and Ministry of the Interior.

CNN, Lonely Planet, Forbes and the Washington Post might be busy telling the world about new initiatives in Croatian tourism, but it seems that the bodies responsible for doing that have yet to figure it out. I guess it is only March, the season is so far away. Pomalo... 

As I say, it fascinates me. But, as my business is not dependent on tourism, it doesn't bother me very much these days. 


But it does bother those whose livelihoods are directly linked to tourism. I have received about 10 emails and messages from the UK from tourism businesses connected to Croatia in recent days, emails such as this:

Hi Paul, hope you are well. Do you think Croatia will be publishing any news to let the UK know they are open for business this summer? It’s been a few days now and we’ve still not seen anything here reassuring potential visitors they will be welcome. Unlike Greece which have featured in most news outlets recently. I got an email yesterday about the new Stay Safe Croatia campaign but I think there is a need for an Invite to be sent out for the summer as folks are not sure they will be welcome. Anything you can do to help?

Much more indepth was the following, which I received from a UK-based representative of a company that specialises in tourism to this region. I received it on March 1 (been a little busy here...) and I will publish it in full.

We want to remind everyone in the sector of the potential that Croatia has by sharing the latest trends. Things are starting to move in the travel sector, especially in the UK, and we should take this opportunity to attract more bookings from the active markets.

We attach the most recent surveys, ABTA reports, headlines from UK news and screenshots of Google trends we referred to in the text below.

About us:

Laura Milos Sanchez - In the travel industry for over 10 years, experienced in inbound and outbound travel, focused on the Croatian market for the past five years. She was born in Colombia and came to Croatia at an early age. She lives in London for the past 2 years and works in a well-known UK travel company specialized in luxury travel, looking after Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia, for 5 years, together with Sanja Stanisic. Sanja works remotely from Rijeka for the same UK travel company for the past 3 years, Sanja is a travel expert with extensive experience in Croatian tourism working in international DMC and travel companies for more than 8 years. We are both sales managers for the Balkans region (mainly Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro) within the Mediterranean cluster of the company. 

Travel reports show Brits are getting ready to travel, with a high number of travellers booking summer. Marketing promotions are coming from travel companies, tour-operator, newspapers, travel magazines and articles listing best travel destinations for summer 2021.

With 19.6 million people vaccinated, one in three adults in the UK (source BBC) and the PM announcing travel should be possible after the 18th of May, the UK market is getting very active and travellers are looking for their next destinations. 

Though Croatia has been a desirable and popular destination for the last couple of years, in recent weeks we haven't seen much about Croatia in travel campaigns, articles, and news. At the moment we don't see Croatia appearing on the front page of travel companies, and it is rather appearing on the second or third page. Considering we are asked to stay at home, is difficult to notice the usual £49 Dubrovnik flight add on a London double-decker. Nonetheless compared to last years we feel there is less marketing around flights to Croatia and less news talking about summer in Croatia.  

This could be because we still have the feeling is quite early, and everyone expects last-minute bookings. But reports show this is not the case. After a couple of calls to Croatian hoteliers, we noticed most of them were not aware things have started moving here in the UK. Lots of Brits will have both vaccines by summer and they may be looking into destinations that could have the best approach and rules for them to enter the country.

By Googling Croatia or travel to Croatia, in the UK, you won't see much. Other Mediterranean destinations are having lots of media coverage, mentioning specific outlines for the new covid season.

This type of information has been heavily followed by the news and reflect on the booking itself. Tour-operators have been focusing strongly on flights to Greece and Spain by offering them as top destinations. 

Marketing campaigns showing how safe Croatia is, including the Stay Safe in Croatia, though WTTC is a very good starting point. Being labelled as a safe country that follows the principles of the WTTC should lead to a safe movement of tourist in 2021. 

As important it will be to the vaccine as many people as possible and maintaining the good COVID numbers and by that making the guests feel safe in our destination, this year it will not be a deal maker as it was last year. Although this year the big focus is still on safe stay, for a very large number of guests logistics will be the most important part of their holidays and it will be equally important to establish a plan of safe movement and entry of tourists to the country. 

Establishing these kinds of plans and announcing them through strong marketing campaigns while travel companies actively offering Croatia on their top destinations should create different momentum.

Labelling hotels, restaurants, museums etc. as safe is a reassuring thing for the guests to see, but that guest is already here where we want him to be. We should focus more on those guests who are yet indecisive, who weigh on where to escape this year on their so long-awaited and overdue holidays. That is also why we need to be present not only on official channels but should direct marketing to travel companies, OTA's, travel review sites, push much more towards those who are on the front line in bringing booking to our destination as in this covid "new world" everyone is holding on to the digital world more than before covid. 

The race for early bird bookings has already started. Greece has seen very positive booking trends in the past 7 days since the UK has announced lifting the restrictions in the second half of May.


We have a very good covid trend now, comparing to other Mediterranean countries. 

We all know that numbers are very relative and can shift very quickly. The past season has thought us how rapidly we can go from bliss to despair, and we couldn't do anything to prevent it, it was by far too late to react, it caught us very much off guard and we cannot allow ourselves to have last year repeat itself. 

Every country has been affected this past year with covid, and we cannot rely upon or delude ourselves that because of the good geographical position and good "covid reputation" we will continue to see booking increase in "neutral driving mode". We have all heard how Spain, Italy, lately Portugal and Turkey have been hit by a coronavirus, but they all continue to be ahead. Following the trends and statistics by ETC follow:


We need to catch that pace before the German government lift the restrictions and starts actively booking their next holiday. 

If the German government persists with the idea of opening borders and lifting travel restrictions only for countries that maintain under 35 infected people on 1000 residents, what is the best way to respond? Maybe the answer lies in the Greek model, where they have split the country into many regions, each island is a region for itself, giving them a lot of manoeuvre space in preparation for the season.

The surveys constantly show and remind us that flexibility, no-prepayment and safe coming in and going out of the country, knowing under what conditions and from what date they can enter the country with clear information easily accessible online is what will define this season.


We believe that reminding not only driving distance markets but as well flying guest, of all the secluded places they can visit,  from small quaint villages around Dubrovnik and Split to Islands where there are barely any cases at all, we could see a different booking pace from flying guest predominately British travellers, but that needs to be advertised.

Let's not forget we have the best of both world, the driving distance German travellers and British travellers getting ready to fly, let's keep reminding these countries how safe and beautiful Croatia is and help our tourist discover different places they can enjoy in Croatia (countryside< secluded, nature, Islands...) With so much diversity to offer, we should be setting the trends, not continuously trying to keep us with them.

We believe through strong marketing campaigns and good media coverage emphasizing how beautiful and safe Croatia is, presenting a set of protocols Croatia will be following and enabling a safe, quick and smooth entry for travellers (perhaps through vaccine passports or providing PCR tests at airports, hotels, etc), we may see a different booking peace similar to the one other Mediterranean countries are currently experiencing.

Interesting stuff. Anyone else have information and insights from where they are outside Croatia in key tourism markets. If you have expert comment you would like to share, backed up by links and data, please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 2021 season.