Croatia's Domestic Tourism Vouchers Accepted At Two Businesses In Whole Country

By 10 July 2020
Zadar is home to one of two businesses which accept "Cro Cards", the government's domestic tourism program.
Zadar is home to one of two businesses which accept "Cro Cards", the government's domestic tourism program.

July 10, 2020 — Croatia’s domestic tourism voucher program has officially launched, with only two businesses offering discounts to “Cro Card” holders.

The Croatian Ministry of Tourism’s long-awaited “Cro Card” program launched with little fanfare and limited participation.

The government created a promotional site for the domestic tourism voucher program, even after it claimed to have nothing to do with the Cro Card program weeks ago. The new site lists the benefits of signing up, as well as participating businesses offering discounts. So far, there are only two.

The “Cro Kartica”, or “Cro Card” program was designed to incentivize domestic tourism by letting employers give workers a HRK2,500 bonus in the form of a voucher which would bypass payroll taxes. 

So far, only Hrvatska Poštanska Banka issues the card, with 40,000 already ordered.

Participating businesses would give Cro Card holders an undefined discount for using the voucher.

So far, only Burgers and More in Zadar and Hotel Božikovina in Podstrana, south of Split, offer 20 percent discounts to Cro Card participants.

The site divides Croatia into Continental Croatia, Lika and Gorski Kotar, Istria and Kvarner and Dalmatia. The two Dalmatian businesses are the only ones offering discounts so far. Links to the other regions lead to an info page about the Cro Card itself.

“Unlike other non-taxable rewards and fees, the fee for covering the costs of catering, tourist, and other services intended for employees' holidays up to HRK 2,500 per year can be paid only to a special account related to the Croatian tourist card. Employers do not order cards, but the employee independently chooses the bank in which he will open an account related to the card,” the Tourism Ministry’s site says.

The small number of participating businesses at the onset reflects a reception that has, by all accounts, been tepid at best.

Early on, the program only applied to hotels and eateries, leaving out travel agencies, charters, and many other common tourism expenditures.

Those early restrictions have disappeared, yet the Cro Card remains a confection which, for now, dates back to the year it was conceived — 2016, before a pandemic and global recession made travel a luxury few could enjoy.

The vouchers have been publicly lambasted by employers who question the timing of a voucher incentive in the middle of a global economic recession. The program also met headwinds from businesses who would ostensibly benefit, claiming stringent requirements and a haphazard rollout have stymied mass adoption.

"Cro Visa card is a debit card, which can be chosen by all employers, craftsmen or self-employed persons and pay their employees a fee of up to HRK2,500 per year intended to cover the costs of catering and tourist services anywhere in Croatia. Users whose employers choose to pay holiday pay via CRO Visa cards can request the opening of a special purpose transaction account and the issuance of a card at any HPB branch,” HPB’s website says about the card.

Glas Poduzetnika released a poll showing employers will skip the Cro Cards program; 12 percent didn’t even know what the cards were.

Users who use up all available funds can top-up the card with their own money — presumably to keep getting discounts, though the ministry’s site doesn’t explicitly state whether the lower prices only apply to the initial HRK2,500. 

The Tourism Ministry has rebuffed repeated inquiries from local press about the program’s popularity, claiming it has very little to do with its adoption or use.

"Cards are issued, and where exactly - we have nothing to do with it,” the ministry reportedly told Index. “We have no information about how many cards were issued, and we have nothing to do with it. The Ministry of Tourism did not spend a single kuna on the CRO card project. We only have the information that they have begun. HPB is the first bank to go with this, so contact them with these questions. Banks are the ones who bear the costs of making the CRO cards. We only had a public invitation for all banks to apply for card issuance.”

It admitted it does not expect the program to be a hit at the onset, but that over time it will likely be adopted by Croats looking to travel throughout the year.

Tagged under: cro cards