Thursday, 12 January 2023

Croatian Winter Tourism 2022 at 96% of Pre-Pandemic 2019's Level

January the 12th, 2023 - Croatian winter tourism 2022 traffic has managed to reach an impressive 96% of what was realised back during the same period in the pre-pandemic (and record) year of 2019. While 2022 might be in the past, the Croatian winter tourism period is yet to end.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, eVisitor, Croatia's much-praised system for registering guests has returned the aforementioned encouraging data, and from December the 23rd, 2022 to January the 8th, 2023, there were 19 percent more tourist overnight stays realised in the country than there were last winter. On top of that, there were 28 percent more arrivals, and the strongest traffic was again recorded in Zagreb, whose Advent almost returned to the state it was in before the global coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 earthquake.

Almost 600,000 overnight stays were realised across Croatia, and in Zagreb alone, 92 percent of the overnight stays realised before the pandemic and the earthquake, or 31 percent compared to last winter, were realised. The number of overnight stays realised by foreigners had also grown by 35 percent.

Although this year hoteliers were doubtful that they would work over the New Year due to high energy costs, at the end of 2022, 394 hotels remained open across Croatia, which is still 49 less than were open back at the end of 2019. The sunny weather so far in January has also contributed to the biggest jump in visits in the first days of the new year.

"We've entered 2023 with better results than we did back at the beginning of 2019. At the moment, we're recording 32 percent more overnight stays, which includes a 10 percent increase in the continental part of the country, and this is an excellent indicator of continued growth in demand for Croatia and our further positioning as a year-round destination with a diversified, high-value offer.

According to the latest research by the European Travel Commission, Croatia is one of the most sought-after travel destinations in this part of the year, and we want to maintain that status. In our development and promotional activities, we emphasise the offers we have available throughout the year and the fact that by entering the Schengen area and the Eurozone, Croatia is an even easier to reach and safer destination," said Nikolina Brnjac, Minister of Tourism and Sport.

During the Christmas and New Year period, the most overnight stays were realised in Istria (133 thousand), in Kvarner (123 thousand) and in Zagreb (97 thousand).

Looking at the destinations individually when it comes to the Croatian winter tourism 2022 results, during the period of Christmas and New Year break, Zagreb has been recording the most overnight stays with the aforementioned figure of 97 thousand overnight stays, Opatija comes in second with more than 42 thousand, followed by Split with almost 36 thousand overnight stays. Then follows Dubrovnik with almost 35 thousand overnight stays, Rovinj with more than 31 thousand and Porec with almost 28 thousand overnight stays.

In addition to domestic guests who are responsible for the most overnight stays realised in the aforementioned winter period, more than 190,000 were foreign guests. The most overnight stays among foreign tourists were realised by Austrians, Slovenians, Germans and Italians. In Zagreb, the most overnight stays were from people visiting from elsewhere in Croatia, followed by those from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Serbia and Austria.

For more, make sure to check out our news section.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

8 Platforms Developed for Croatian Village Digitalisation Project

January the 12th, 2023 - Eight platforms have been developed for Croatian village digitalisation as the country hopes to help more rural areas catch up and transform as we go forward.

As Josipa Ban/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the CEKOM Food&Rural project, which will enable the Croatian village digitalisation and the overall digital transformation of more rural areas, was successfully completed recently. According to InfoDom, the company that developed as many as eight platforms as part of the wider project, all of them will be free for all of their users.

"Our experts and partners in the project have successfully realised the expected outcomes of the Nikola Tesla Innovation Centre. This is in relation to good practices for the application of digital technologies in agriculture and rural development that will be available to 170,000 OPGs (family farms) and small and medium-sized companies that will be able to digitise their business processes," said Boris Blumenschein, head of the CEKOM project, who is also a member of the InfoDom Management Board.

Cooperation to find a proper solution to Croatian village digitalisation and allowing rural areas to keep up

This project is worth a massive 13.14 million kuna and was co-financed from the European Regional Development Fund in the amount of 7.7 million kuna. It should contribute to greater competitiveness of entities based in the country's more rural areas, accelerate social development and work to preserve the populations living in rural areas. Villages and more rural parts of the country are the primary victims of the demographic crisis, and their local populations are increasingly emigrating due to worsening living conditions and difficulties finding secure jobs.

This project in which, together with InfoDom, the Institute for Informatics Activities of Croatia (ZIH), the Faculty of Organisation and Informatics (FOI) and the Nikola Tesla Innovation Centre all participated, resulted in the creation of eight brand new products, all of which form something unique and are available for free use.

An IoT platform, a decision support system, a food distribution platform, an ecosystem development portal, a checklist and self-check system, a knowledge base, a BigData platform and a healthcare and rural tourism portal have now all been successfully developed. Registration on these platforms, the aforementioned groups assure, is simple and quick.

Food processing and distribution

"Through the research and development activities carried out within the scope of this project, a digital ecosystem of agrotechnological solutions was created for the successful commercialisation of CEKOM results related to the development of mechanisms for the more efficient use of resources, the application of knowledge and innovation in food production, processing and distribution, and the system will continuously connect mutually complementary groups of companies, individuals or things that share standardised solutions,'' they explained from InfoDom.

All of the developed platforms should result in numerous positive outcomes when it comes to Croatian village digitalisation and allowing rural areas to keep up, from the advancement of technological development, commercialisation, the application of various innovations, the branding of the food industry and other local products through the application of innovative design and promotional activities.

Ultimately, all this should strengthen the competitiveness of the food industry in rural areas of Croatia. All that remains is for OPGs and small and medium-sized enterprises to start using all these solutions.

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

Austrian Best in Parking Takes Over 50% of Croatian Company Verso Altima

January the 12th, 2023 - The Croatian company Verso Altima, which deals with IT and software, has sold a 50 percent share of its ownership to the Austrian company Best in Parking (BIP).

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Josipa Ban writes, while this is now public information, the Croatian company Verso Altima's management don't want to reveal the amount of money involved. This domestic company otherwise designs, develops, implements and maintains advanced ICT solutions, and in 20 years of doing business, it has worked for more than 170 clients from 50 different countries.

As they stated, with this investment, they will try to strengthen their international presence and ensure the commercialisation of their own development solutions, especially those in the field of digital and green transition.

"The regional presence of the company, as well as twenty years of ICT experience in creating additional value for our users, was recognised by the Austrian group Best in Parking (BIP), with which we've entered into a strategic and ownership partnership," stated Mario Gerencir, the director of the Croatian company Verso Altima.

As he added, the sale of the 50 percent share was due to market needs and the search for additional specialisation within the scope of the wider digital and green transition. This is a company which, over recent years in Central and Eastern Europe, has primarily focused on the digital and green transition with an emphasis placed on Smart City solutions, and in 2021 they achieved 8.13 million euros in revenue. Gerencir is also not ready to disclose last year's business figures, instead pointing out that although 2022 was challenging, the company's planned activities were mostly realised.

The merger with the Austrian BIP, a company that is the leading owner and operator of parking and mobility infrastructure in the markets of Austria, Italy and Croatia, should give the Verso Altima a significant boost.

"By changing the ownership structure, we'll enable the rapid and high-quality development of our own resources, increase the visibility of reference products, and ensure new employment and investment in development and research. The change we initiated is aimed at the development and improvement of business, whereby we will continue to be maximally dedicated to our existing users and projects. Joint and future strategic decisions will be strongly focused on the development and expansion of production and development capacities, which represents the provision of new services for the digital and green transformation with an emphasis placed on Smart Connect solutions, and a continuous presence in network business, IoT and digital transformation," announced Gerencir.

The Austrians, on the other hand, expect that with this investment they will manage to upgrade the offer of their own digital services and thus become a pioneer of solutions for smart and climate-efficient cities. They began implementing this strategy back in 2021 by purchasing the company RAO, which offers software solutions for the management and control of public car parks and road space, as well as payment systems, solutions for access and ticket sales for national parks and nature parks, recreational facilities and marinas.

By purchasing this share of the Croatian company Verso Altima, they will further complete their offer of smart and green solutions to their own clients. "With our investment in Verso Altima, we're even going a step further. We aren't only deepening our digital competences, but also strengthening our position as an active partner of public administrations in order to increase quality of life, while acting in a way that saves resources,'' noted Johann Breiteneder, the CEO of Best in Parking.

The Croatian company Verso Altima is also developing digital and green solutions with the help of European Union (EU) money. Gerencir stated that Verso Altima was granted European co-financing last year from the Next GenerationEU recovery fund for the implementation of a project called "The Commercialisation of Innovative Citizen Engagement and Open Smart City platforms" worth 1.4 million euros in total.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 12 January 2023

2023 Brings New Challenges for Croatian Electric Car Owners

January the 12th, 2023 - Croatian electric car owners have had somewhat of a financial shock ever since we entered the new year. Just like with almost everything else, there has been a price increase for the use of public car chargers across the country, but there are ways around it if you have your wits about you...

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the previous price of 5/kWh kuna (or 0.66 euros) is no longer that price because one single kWh of electricity from public charging stations across Croatia has jumped to 8.59 kuna or 1.14 euros. The price refers to fast charging with a power of up to 150 kW, but the price is identical at charging stations that offer a power of 50 kW, according to a report from HAK.

Nevertheless, in some locations, Croatian electric car owners can still come across more favourable charging prices of 0.31 euros or 2.44 kuna, also for 50 kW DC charging. Please note that the high prices of 1.14 euros don't apply to chargers on motorways where the prices could be higher than in populated areas. An electric care was charged in the heart of Slavonski Brod the aforementioned price. At some locations here in Zagreb, one kW is charged at 0.53 euros or 4.00 kuna (for AC 22 kW charging). Driving over more recent days on Croatian roads and through various cities, DC 50 kW charging via CCS chargers for 0.44 euros per kWh, or 3.32 kuna, were also found. A kilowatt cost the same at one charger via the CHAdeMo charger.

It is extremely important for Croatian electric car owners/drivers to really check the charging price through several different mobile applications (if they work, that is). Croatian electric car owners also have at least five or six apps available to them on their smartphones, and sometimes using a service provider's app doesn't guarantee you'll get a cheaper charge somewhere. There are apps like Plugsurfing with which you can charge your vehicle at different charging stations.

At the same time, while the price of one kilowatt approaches the price of a litre of fuel, the question of the profitability of charging at public stations arises, that is, of travelling outside the place of your residence with an electric vehicle just to charge it up. If we take into account the average consumption of 15 kWh of electricity and 7 litres for thermal engines, we arrive at the following results:

Driving a section of 100 kilometres using petrol will cost you 9.31 euros or 70.15 kuna, while using a diesel-powered vehicle it will amount to 10.29 euros or 77.53 kuna. If you charge your battery at home, with the price of the night tariff standing at around 0.08 euros (about 0.60 kuna) per kWh, the 100 kilometres travelled will cost a mere 9 kuna or 1.19 euros. Charging your vehicle at a public charging station with a kilowatt price of 4 kuna (0.53 euros) will ultimately cost 60 kuna (7.96 euros). If Croatian electric car owners end up using a charger at a public station costing 8.59 kuna (1.14 euros), they'll pay 128.85 kuna (17.10 euros) for 100 kilometres travelled.

It should be noted that the majority of Croatian electric car owners typically charge their batteries at home or at work and use charging at public chargers only as a rare alternative. This is something that can be fairly clearly seen all over Croatia and has been visible for some time now - public charging stations are usually sitting empty and the current situation with charging prices doesn't suit anyone.

The solution is subscription models such as the Elli application, which for 7.99 euros per month (60.20 kuna) enables charging at a preferential price per kWh of 0.64 euros (on DC chargers) or 0.50 euros on AC chargers, while on Ionity chargers the price is 0.79 euros/kWh. A subscription with a price of 14.99 euros lowers the price of a kilowatt hour even more. Across Croatia, HEP and other electricity operators could offer a combined subscription that includes consumption of electricity at home and at public chargers.

For more, make sure to check out our news section.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Lidl Croatia Explain Why the Same Products are Cheaper in Slovenia

January 11, 2023 - Since the euro was introduced as the official currency in Croatia, there has been a series of price comparisons of products in Croatia and other countries, especially Slovenia. Lidl Croatia explained to Večernji why the prices are different. They point out that the formation of prices in a country is influenced by numerous factors, from the amount of the VAT rate, excise duties, and product analysis costs to logistics costs and the like.

Index compared Lidl prices in Slovenia and Croatia in detail.

"In the case of comparing prices in Slovenian and Croatian Lidl, the VAT rate on food in Slovenia is 9.5 percent, while in Croatia, the rate is 5 percent for some products (bread, fresh meat, and fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, edible fats and oils, baby food, pads, and tampons, which make up about 10% of our total assortment), and the rest is 25 percent," they state, as reported on Index.

"Regarding the comparative account from both Lidls, which was published in several Croatian media, 8 out of 10 products from the said account from the Slovenian Lidl have a tax rate of 9.5 percent, and in Croatia, 25 percent. This is a difference of 15.5 percentage points. Furthermore, Croatia pays a return fee on PET packaging of 0.07 euros, which is reflected on products such as mineral water and juices," states Lidl.

Fuel price

They further note that gasoline and diesel are cheaper in Slovenia, which makes a difference in the logistics costs for the delivery of goods. At the same time, they note that Croatia is geographically significantly larger than Slovenia. "It is demanding in terms of transportation due to the specific geographical shape, and the logistics also include islands, which is an additional challenge," they state in the press release.

"Some of the factors that led to global disturbances are the prices of raw materials, the availability of goods, the rise in logistics prices, the rise in electricity and gas prices and general costs such as maintenance, the impact of the war in Ukraine and, consequently, high inflation. The retail prices of certain products rose in line with the growth of purchase prices and other factors that influenced movements in global markets, " they state.

"We would like to emphasize here that we did not blindly transfer the increase in the input prices of our suppliers to our customers but corrected the prices with extreme care and concern, precisely so that we would not allow our customers to feel the full weight of the inflationary pressure that appeared," it is further stated in Lidl Croatia's explanation.

They also claim that Lidl Croatia did not increase prices during the switch to the euro.

"Prices of products from Lidl's regular range have been converted from kuna to euros according to the rules of mathematical rounding (without unjustified price increases) in favor of the customer. Also, to confirm a transparent relationship with customers, Lidl has joined the Code of Ethics, which determines how business entities act for a reliable and transparent introduction of the euro to create trust and a safe environment for consumers. Within the scope of the inspections so far, no unjustified price increases have been found in Lidl Croatia," they said.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

How to Beat Croatian Bureaucracy: Proven Method

January 11, 2023 - Is it possible to beat Croatian bureaucracy? An impossible task, but there is an approach which brings the occasional win. 

Croatian bureaucracy is legendary, but can it be beaten? There are various ways to approach it, including the right mindset, as I explained in my recent series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years - read more in 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 3. Bureaucracy and Mindset

But there is also one proven method - also available to locals - which can make Croatian bureaucracy a lot easier. And, as is usually the case in this magnificent but flawed country, it is a solution which was born out of necessity and creativity. 

Croats are legendary at finding practical solutions for impossible situations, as they constantly find ways to deal with the absurdity of the bureaucratic jungle which engulfs them. 

As I explain in the video below, it all started back in 2010, when the Internet stopped working at home, and I was told that it would be a week until the engineer could come and take a look - a lifetime for a blogger who relies on connectivity to spam the Internet. 

An appeal on Facebook for a Croatian solution prompted a suggestion by private message, which resulted in a little trick which has great results. And you don't have to be a fat foreigner to try it - local friends have done so with success.

Here's the latest from the Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel - have you subscribed yet? How to Beat Croatian Bureaucracy: Proven Method.

If, like me, you have a mild obsession with Croatian bureaucracy, you might want to check out our series, Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Story

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia & Balkan Expert YouTube channel.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Wednesday, 11 January 2023

First Time for Everything: Croatian Police Officer Joins Serbian Army

January 11, 2023 - Pursuant to Article 112 of the Law on the Police, the 21-year-old Croatian police officer in question was dismissed from service by decision, and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him for a serious breach of official duty.

As Poslovni reports, before he returned to Croatia, the Croatian police were aware of the case of a 21-year-old Croatian police officer from the Vukovar-Srijem area who was removed from service on November 7, 2022, because he accepted the call of the Serbian Army without informing his superior.

The Police Administration (PU) of Vukovar-Srijem reminds that a 21-year-old Vukovar-Srijem police officer, who was assigned to the Tovarnik border police station and has dual citizenship, made contact with representatives of the Serbian Army on the territory of the Republic of Serbia by accepting an invitation to enroll in military records of the Republic of Serbia, without notifying his superior.

"The fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had this information even before the aforementioned police officer returned to the Republic of Croatia confirms the prompt reaction of the security system in the Republic of Croatia," they state from the PU of Vukovar-Srijem.

Pursuant to Article 112 of the Law on the Police, the 21-year-old was dismissed from service by decision, and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him for a serious breach of official duty.

The Vukovar-Srijem police also explain that the condition for admission to the police is Croatian citizenship, while nationality is not a legal requirement for admission to the police, nor is it a category that is a decisive factor in the recruitment process.

Any other action would be contrary to the provision of Article 9 of the Act on the Suppression of Discrimination, which expressly states that discrimination in all its forms is prohibited, the police state with the conclusion that a person with dual citizenship can be an employee of the Ministry of the Interior, that is, they can pass a security check that is necessary for performing police work, of course, if all other legal requirements are met.

According to the information available to the ministry, this is the only case in which a Croatian police officer responded to a call from the army of another country to be registered in the military records of that country.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated News section.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Croatian Doctors Simultaneously Transplant Heart and Liver

January 11, 2023 - Incredible success of Croatian doctors from KBC Zagreb - a few days ago, they transplanted a man's heart and liver simultaneously.

As Index writes, Hrvoje Gašparović, head of the Clinic for Cardiac Surgery at KBC Zagreb, commented on the venture for Nova TV. More than 30 people participated in the operation, and the patient is recovering very well.

"Heart transplantation, liver transplantation, in fact, transplantation of all solid organs, is always a race against time. There is a rigid time frame within which the transplantation procedure must be started and completed. When we disconnect the heart from circulation, we usually disconnect it in another country so that we would re-incorporate it into circulation in the Republic of Croatia. We want to do that within four hours. Sometimes we lose more than two hours just for transportation," explained Gašparović.

A complex operation

He pointed out that it is a complex procedure in which four surgical teams participate, which must be carefully coordinated to perform the transplant in the correct sequence.

"The heart transplant happens first, after which the colleagues from abdominal surgery continued the operation and successfully performed their part of the liver transplant," Gašparović pointed out.

Professor Gašparović's team transplanted lungs to a child for the first time in Croatia. "Lung transplantation is a program that has been stable for the past few years," he said, adding that the child received the lungs of an adult.

106 transplants last year

He pointed out that a total of 106 solid organ transplants were performed last year - 27 heart transplants, 26 liver transplants, 43 kidney transplants, and 10 lung transplants.

"It is a comprehensive transplant program that we can be proud of. Transplantation of solid organs in this country is the backbone of our medicine. Hats off to everyone participating, including our transplant coordinators from the Ministry. It is difficult to count all the people who participate in this process", he concluded.

"Regarding the transplantation of solid organs, especially hearts, we are extremely good at the global level. For example, everyone remembers that in 2018 Croatia beat England 2:1, but not many people know that Croatia beat that same England, and Germany too, 9:3 in the number of transplants we do per million inhabitants. Therefore, we have nothing to be ashamed of," said Gašparović.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

How to Croatia - Croatian LGBTIQ+ Rights, Laws and Organisations

January the 11th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, I'll take you through the topic of Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights, as well as laws, amendments, and the steps the country has taken as an EU, Eurozone and Schengen member state to align its domestic laws with those of the wider bloc.

Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights have expanded considerably over more recent years, with Gay Pride parades and associated events now generally taking place without much incident, which wasn’t the case at all several years ago. The Croatian Constitution defines marriage as being the union between a man and a woman, and this was determined by a referendum held back in November 2013. While this effectively prohibits same-sex marriage, the status of same-sex relationships in Croatia became formally recognised by the state much earlier (2003) and the introduction of the Life Partnership Act saw same-sex couples entitled to almost all of the rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples in 2014.

With all this being said and looking half decent on paper, LGBTIQ+ individuals in Croatia still unfortunately have to deal with various challenges that heterosexual individuals don’t, both in a legal and social sense.

A brief history of Croatian LGBTIQ rights

After the Republic of Croatia became recognised as an independent state back during the early 1990s, there wasn’t any advancement in gay rights until the early 2000s when a centre-left coalition took power from the conservative, Christian democratic HDZ party. The coalition passed the aforementioned same-sex union law in 2003, giving full, legal recognition to same-sex relationships. This was an enormous breakthrough by Croatian standards, and it didn’t pass without quite some earthquakes (proverbial ones, of course).

Several laws and directives prohibiting any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and self expression have also been introduced over the years. These include a penal code recognising hate crime based on gender identity.

When it comes to the protection of individuals other than gay men and lesbians who also fall under the LGBTIQ+ umbrella, the laws become more difficult to follow, and it does leave one scratching their head quite a lot. Gender transition is absolutely legal in Croatia and the law also allows for a person to change their name and all of the paperwork which would follow such a move. This law includes transgender persons who haven’t undergone gender affirmation surgery yet, or perhaps don’t plan to at all, which is a huge step. The rights of intersex people, however, have not yet been given legal protection in any way.

Constitutional amendments

With considerable help from the Catholic Church, a controversial lobby group called ‘U ime obitelji’ (In the name of the family) ran a very visible campaign against same-sex marriage during the year Croatia joined the EU (2013) in which, among other things, they called for a referendum to introduce changes to the national constitution. The changes they proposed would constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which I touched on above.

The outcome of that referendum was 65.87% of voters supporting the change to the constitution, and 33.51% opposing it. It is worth noting, however, that voter turnout was less than 40%, leading many civil rights groups, particularly those very focused on LGBTIQ+ issues, to point to the issue of the turnout threshold.

Croatia’s Life Partnership Act

Regardless of the aforementioned (and very fraught) campaign by U ime obitelji and its results, the following year, the Croatian Government went ahead and introduced the Life Partnership Act. This established registered civil partnerships, which saw same-sex couples granted equal rights to those of married heterosexual couples. One notable exception was that they wouldn't be given the same adoption rights heterosexual couples enjoy, which may have seemed a bridge too far to the powers that be and has been a burning topic on a regular basis, especially over more recent years.

It has, all in all, been a mixed back indeed. But to say there hasn’t been a very marked shift since Croatia’s European Union membership would be a lie. A left-green coalition entered the Croatian Parliament for the first time in 2020, a great number of its members were from various different civil rights groups, and the coalition very openly supports Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights.

Pride events

The first Pride march happened in the City of Zagreb way back in 2002, taking a very profound place in modern Croatian history as the first high-profile LGBTIQ event ever in what was then a relatively new country. It had just 300 participants, and despite clear government support, they were met with verbal abuse and attempts at violence from homophobic crowds who had gathered on the streets solely to taunt and threaten those taking part. It is an enormous understatement to say that this, the first of many Pride events to hit Zagreb’s streets, did not go well. Despite the atmosphere, Pride continued every June in the Croatian capital, getting more and more public support and reporting less and less incidents with each and every passing year.

2011 rolled around, just two years before Croatia joined the EU, and Pride took to Croatia’s second biggest city - Split. Pride in Dalmatia’s largest city unfortunately ended in physical violence, with attackers significantly outnumbering the event’s actual attendees. The media and general public condemned the Croatian Government and the police for failing to adequately protect those marching from the homophobic crowds. A march of support was held in Rijeka, known as a very progressive city, that very same year.

The terrible events in Split marked a turning point for LGBTIQ+ activism across Croatia. While what happened never should have, it didn’t occur in vain as it prompted more public discussions on this issue which was deemed taboo in Croatia for a very long time than ever before. Shocked by the homophobic attacks on attendees, people who had once been passive bystanders at such events became active allies, determined to never be lumped in with people who would seek to harm others for simply wanting acceptance and to live their own lives how they so wish. More and more well known faces began attending Pride marches and speaking up for the LGBTIQ+ community.

Held just one week after Split Pride, Zagreb Pride in 2011 became the biggest Pride march up until that point. The event had grown considerably from its initial 300 marchers, it was promoted and backed by the media, as well as by some celebrities and Croatian politicians, and remarkably, it took place without any violence.

Then came 2013, the year Croatia joined the EU, and just before it, that year’s Zagreb Pride event. Many people who would otherwise have been passive bystanders grateful to not be affected by this issue readily joined it to express their opposition to the outcome of the referendum of November 2013 regarding the definition of marriage. With 15,000 participants marching and showing public support for LGBTIQ+ rights, it continues to be the biggest Pride event ever held in Croatia.

Croatian LGBTIQ+ organisations

There are a number of organisations dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of various members of the LGBTIQ+ community all across Croatia. LGBTIQ+ centres exist in the large cities of Zagreb, Split and Rijeka. 

The City of Zagreb is home to initiatives such as Zagreb Pride, Iskorak, Kontra, LGBTIQ Initiative AUT, qSPORT and the recently initiated Ponosni Zagreb (Proud Zagreb). Trans Aid protects the rights of trans, intersex and gender-variant persons. Dugine obitelji (Rainbow families) is primarily made up of LGBTIQ parents and those who wish to become parents.

Split Pride is known for their original approach to activism which includes amusing and sarcasm-filled videos uncovering, for example, the absurdity of mainstream reactions to the pride events. QueerANarchive works on developing the queer discourse in and around Split. 

Rijeka is, as I mentioned, known for its progressive stances surrounding a whole host of social issues, and it is no coincidence that one of Croatia’s oldest LGBTIQ+ organisations, LORI, comes from here.

LGBTIQ+ tourism in Croatia

A bit of research placed Croatia as 39th on the list of 150 world's most popular countries for LGBTIQ+ travel. While Croatia may not have a particular strategy for attracting LGBTIQ+ tourists as such, some 200,000 of them visit the country for touristic purposes each and every year.

Given the fact the country heavily relies on tourism as its source of income, with tourism being the strongest economic branch by far, the sentiment of the general public towards LGBTIQ+ individuals is a little more relaxed when it comes to tourists than it is when it comes to the locals. This isn’t necessarily to say that busy tourist destinations full of various nationalities and accommodation providers are more LGBTIQ+-friendly, they’re simply less concerned about who they provide their services to than they are about making their profit.

Renting out accommodation as a same-sex couple should generally not be a problem at all. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is 100% illegal in Croatia. There were unfortunate cases of private landlords refusing to rent their properties to same-sex couples, and they got ripped apart for it by the media and nearly sank their only flow of income into the ground. Being homophobic and caring what others do in their bedrooms isn’t really the best business move in 21st century Europe.

Which destinations are the most welcoming to LGBTIQ+ tourists?

Rijeka is hailed as the most open city in Croatia and has been for a very long time. It is home to a very diverse range of people, and many more progressive people from other places across the country move to live there precisely because it appears, at least in some aspects, to be a step or two ahead of other cities. One of Croatia’s key port cities, the home of the torpedo (no, really) has always had a reputation of being a vibrant and diverse place despite its largely industrial past. The city’s slogan for the Rijeka – European Capital of Culture 2020 project was ‘Port of Diversity’ for a very good reason. Kvarner, the region in which Rijeka is located, and nearby Istria are both traditionally known as the most tolerant parts of Croatia, with most parts of Dalmatia still lagging behind.

The island of Rab, which markets itself as the ‘island of happy people’, lies in the very north of Dalmatia and is considered to be one of the first openly gay-friendly destinations in Croatia, holding the title since the 1980s, when it certainly wasn’t a popular thing to proclaim, however quietly. In 2011, this island which is known for its beaches officially became the first place in all of the Republic of Croatia to very openly promote itself as a gay-friendly tourist destination.

I mentioned that Dalmatia is still lagging in this area, and while that is true if you were to compare it with the likes of Rijeka and Kvarner, the City of Split is becoming increasingly open to different types of visitors. Dubrovnik is also among the most accepting destinations. Back in 2020, the first gay music festival was to be held at the world-famous Zrće beach on the island of Pag. It wasn’t homophobes who threw a spanner in the works in this case, but a global pandemic.

Public displays of affection and things to note

Gay is very much OK in Croatia on paper, and as time goes on, this is the case more and more in reality, too, but it is always best to exercise your judgement and pay attention to your surroundings. Major cities, especially the Zagreb, Kvarner and Istria areas, are generally more open, as is Dubrovnik in the extreme south. However, public displays of affection are still not common – even among the local LGBTIQ+ population, who are usually discreet when it comes to this. There are homophobes and hostile, ignorant people all over the world, and Croatia is unfortunately no exception.

If you’re planning to see some selos (villages), travel to more rural areas or head off the beaten path to some less frequented locations, have your wits about you and don’t engage in PDA too much. 

If you do end up being faced with any sort of homophobic abuse, be it verbal or otherwise, do not hesitate to contact the local police. You’ll more than likely find more of an alliance than you might expect. This is especially the case if it comes from an accommodation provider. Report them.

To sum this article up, I've watched Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights over the last few years absolutely blossom. The vast majority of people in Croatia have no issue with what other people do. It wouldn’t be true to say that Croatia is at the level of certain other European countries such as the UK or Germany when it comes to acceptance levels, after all, this is a Catholic country with many people still identifying as religious, but it has certainly come on leaps and bounds, and that is likely to continue to be the trajectory.

For more on living in and moving to Croatia, as well as tips and tricks to avoid the crowds and save a kuna euro or two when it comes to things like renting cars, driving and hopping on the ferry during summer, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

How Much Cash Did WRC Croatia Rally 2022 Bring to the Country?

January the 10th, 2023 - When looking at Croatian tourism, we're constantly focused on three months during the summer season and very little else. What about more niche events? The WRC Croatia Rally 2022 gave the country a considerable sum of cash.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the WRC Croatia Rally 2022 brought over 105 million euros to Croatian tourism, with more than 310,000 spectators following the speed tests carried out on Croatian roads, 170,000 overnight stays were generated, and a third of the spectators came from abroad, according to an expert study of the impact of this event created by the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zagreb.

The WRC Croatia Rally 2022 as such confirmed its status as a rather unique regional event, given that a third of the visitors came from Central, Western and Southeastern European countries, Oliver Kesar, professor from the Department of Tourism at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Economics, pointed out at today's presentation of the study.

"First of all, we're talking about a mega sports spectacle, the effects of which the Republic of Croatia has not had before with any sporting, cultural or any other form of event. The results of the 2022 study showed that this project is both economically and socially sustainable and that Croatia should continue to host the WRC," said Kesar.

The WRC Croatia Rally 2022 also resulted in a great level of media interest, 400 media representatives arrived in Croatia, and the average consumption per spectator of the Croatia Rally is higher than the average, amounting to 263 euros, while total budget revenues exceed 12 million euros. The majority of visitors from outside Croatia came from neighbouring Slovenia and Hungary, as well as from other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Romania, the UK, Finland, Norway, Belgium and others, and they benefited local service providers in Varazdin, Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Karlovac and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties, as well as those located here in the City of Zagreb.

The Croatian Government has supported and continues to support the race with three million euros for the years 2022, 2023 and 2024. The World Rally Championship is set return to Croatia for the third time this year and will be held from April the 20th to the 23rd.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated news section.

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