Austria Leaves Croatia Off List of Travel-Ready Countries

By 28 May 2020
Austria's current border policy may slow down the flow of tourists into Croatia.
Austria's current border policy may slow down the flow of tourists into Croatia.

May 28, 2020 — Austria will open its borders to Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary in mid-June. Croatia, along with Italy, Spain, Greece and Slovenia, is not on the list yet, Jutarnji List reports.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg avoided explaining the conditions and criteria Austria uses when deciding which borders to open. Statements by the Austrian government, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, that "good coordination" and a "narrowly coordinated approach" would allow a border to open.

Austria’s measures make re-entry into the country difficult. Under the rules, tourists returning to Austria from a holiday in Croatia will have to have a negative test for COVID-19 that is not older than four days or will have to self-isolate which can be interrupted if a taken test in Austria comes back negative.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.

Since in Croatia, as in Slovenia, the epidemiological picture is one of the best in Europe, Croats dependent on Austrian guests suspect alternative motives.

Danilo Volmut, owner of the Istriaselect booking site, believes Austrian authorities are deliberately opening borders to some and not others, pursuing a discriminatory policy under the guise preventing a second wave of coronavirus infections.
“When you look at which countries Austria opens to, those are the countries from which they have the largest influx of tourists,” he said. "It is clear that they are trying to attract the largest number of tourists, and at the same time prevent domestic tourists from going to countries where they usually spend their holidays.”

Volmut studied in Austria and knows the language. He has targeted the German and Austrian markets with his booking platform. The Austrian government’s decision will lead to canceled reservations, he said.

“At the moment, they seem to be trying to literally create a barrier towards holiday countries,” Volmut added. “The German tourists we hope for arrive in Croatia mainly via Austria, and could be discouraged if the current measures remain in force, which provides for the quarantine of anyone who comes from, according to them, problematic countries.”

All this could be enough to discourage foreign tourists from even making the trip, especially Austrians and Germans who make up a bulk of Croatia’s visitors.

Last year, Austrians accounted for as much as 10.6 percent of all visitors. The director of the Croatian Tourism Association, Veljko Ostojić, said they represent one of the most important emitting markets, especially now due to the epidemiological situation.

“Austrians are our frequent guests, many of them have real estate here, and we represent the closest Mediterranean to them,” Ostojić said, lambasting Austria’s still-closed border to Croatia. “We believe that there is no reason why traffic between these two countries would not start again as soon as possible.”

The European Commission itself may have preempted Austria’s plans. Its guidelines for reopening borders explicitly cut out room for nations with favorable epidemiological situations. 

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli is slated to talk to the Austrian Minister of Tourism Elisabeth Köstinger at the end of this week, most likely on Friday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, bearing in mind that Croatia opens its borders on May 29, told Jutarnji that Minister of Foreign Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman is in constant contact with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg.

According to the Croatian National Tourist Board, 12.7 percent of all Austrians who traveled abroad went to Croatia in 2018, making it their second most popular summer destination after Italy.
Given that a good part of them go on vacation by car, Austrians will be especially valuable guests this year, and Croatia could further capitalize on the fact that tourists, given the epidemiological situation, will prefer to choose countries with fewer patients, which gives Croatia an advantage over Italy.

The German government has postponed a debate on lifting travel warnings for European Union countries following protests by politicians from the Christian Social Union.
The parliament was supposed to discuss yesterday the abolition of warnings for travel to the EU, which were introduced in mid-March as a precautionary measure in stopping the spread of COVID-19. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has proposed lifting general warnings and introducing individual guidelines for each of the 31 countries (26 EU member states, the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). This would mean that the borders for countries that adhere to these guidelines would open from 15 June.

The debate was postponed until the next session on June 3, as the CSU fears that border openings and increasing travel opportunities for tourists will lead to a new wave of coronavirus.

All of which could stymie the few tourists Croatia anticipated visiting this year.