Monday, 8 November 2021

Kvarner Full of Health Tourism Opportunity, as CIHT 2021 Shines

November 8, 2021 - Arguably the leading health tourism conference in the region exceeds expectations once again, and the opportunities are numerous for Kvarner Full of Health at CIHT 2021.

Full disclosure - I love everything about the Crikvenica International Health Tourism (CIHT) conference, and I rate it as the very best of all the (many) conferences I have attended in Croatia over the years.

Medical tourism is not a niche I would normally associate myself with. In fact, until the dynamo that is Ognjen Bagatin of the award-winning Bagatin Clinic introduced me to the sector a few years ago, I didn't even realise that Croatia had a quality medical tourism sector. 

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And then I went to CIHT 2018, met this lady, and life was never the same again. 

There were tears of admiration and of envy from the largely Croatian health tourism sector audience as Sherene Azli, the charismatic CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, explained in detail how Malaysia had taken its medical tourism industry from nothing to about $2 billion dollars through a hugely successful public/private partnership and a hashtag that would never catch on in Croatia sadly - #TogetherWeWin. You can read Lessons from Malaysia in Croatia: MHTC CEO Sherene Azli on Health Tourism.

Nine months later, sporting a Varteks suit, I found myself in the rather surreal position of accepting an award in Kuala Lumpur at the inaugural Medical Travel Media Awards in August 2019. 

The thing was, however, that Sherene was far from being the only world-class speaker on the stage in Crikvenica. At CIHT 2018, I also interviewed Keith Pollard, Editor of International Medical Travel Journal, as well as branding experr, Ilan Geva from the USA - Croatian Medical Tourism: Great Potential, Collaborate or Die Says Ilan Geva.

I had no idea that the topic of medical tourism could be so interesting, or full of so much (yes, the P word again in Croatian tourism) potential. I was hooked. 

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Over the years, CIHT has consistently thought out of the box, bringing different viewpoints, not all of which are focused 100% on health tourism. Global tourism expert Doug Lansky was the star of the show two years ago with Lessons for Croatia: Successful Tourism by Doug Lansky at CIHT 2019.

Added to the fact that CIHT is superbly run and has a great social aspect to it, and little wonder that it is the first conference I look out for. October 6-7, 2022 are already in my diary for CIHT 2022. 

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And this year's event brought so much brain food, and the timing of so of its presentations was timely indeed. I could go on for hours but here are some key points which tie in to developing Croatia's untapped opportunities. 

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One of the great initiatives in the medical tourism sector has been the Medical Tourism Task Force, as part of the American Croatian Professionals Association (ACAP). Cleveland has a very strong Croatian connection with medical tourism, most notably in the form of the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Tomislav Mihaljevic. Ognjen Bagatin has done a phenomenal job over the years strengthening that relationship, and ACAP's Jeana Havidich flew in to address the conference to update the conference on progress being made to attract the target audience od 1.2 million Croatian diaspora.

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Jeana was followed by our favourite Dutch wannabe tomato-grower, Jan de Jong. Best-known for his successful push to bring a digital nomad visa to Croatia, Jan gave a  great presentation on Croatia, the Land of Opportunity and his version of Living the Croatian Dream. Jan has really developed as a public speaker since I first heard him at Business Cafe International in Zagreb a couple of years ago. And his positivity is infectious, and it is slowly dripfeeding into the Croatian mindset of many local people. 

And then I made my first big connection of the day - a wonderful opportunity.  

Until now, the focus has been on trying to attract foreign patients to come to  Croatia for treatment. But now there is another opportunity, far bigger than the 1.2 million diaspora in the USA - the remote worker. 

Due to the efforts of Jan and many others, Croatia is starting to attract a significant number of digital nomads and remote workers. We are at the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of a journey, and this - at least in my opinion - is the biggest opportunity Croatia has to develop its tourism sustainably. 

The big difference between the diaspora and remote worker in terms of targeting is that the remote worker is already coming here for an extended period. They are choosing Croatia for the lifestyle, excellent WiFi, safety, nature, authentic experiences, food and drink, accessibility and affordability. The majority do not even know that Croatia has a world-class medical tourism industry. Imagine if they were educated on the potential (an overview here) - one more great reason to choose Croatia for the next office. 

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I was beginning to think that CIHT organisers Alfred and Vladimir were organising presentations just for me. One of the initiatives I am involved with is to restart winter tourism on the Croatian coast. Did you know, for example, about the following number of international routes connected with winter flights: Dubrovnik (2), Split (6 - 2 different countries), Banja Luka (14 - 8 countries), Nis, Serbia (12 - 7 countries), Thessaloniki (80 - 23 countries), Bari (76 - 18 countries), Alicante (167 - 24 countries), Venice (75 - 26 countries). Read more in Wow! Comparing Split, Dubrovnik Winter Flights to ExYu, Mediterranean Competition.

Velimir Sonje, CEO of Croatian startup ETF Airways (which flies all over Europe but not in Croatia) gave a great presentation on Croatian Tourism and Airlines: a Missed Opportunity. Lots of thought-provoking stuff that I will be exploring in greater detail with Velimir over a beer in Zagreb soon.  

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Next up was another hero of mine, achieving incredible things and promoting both Croatia and its healthy lifestyle internationally. Vladomir Miholjevic has done so much to put Croatia on the global cycling map, from bringing his Bahrain Merida (as it was then) to Hvar for winter training for several years, to organising the fabulous CRO Race, an event that was beamed all over the globe. 

And then I realised what it is that I love about CIHT - it is a place where Croatian world-class excellence is celebrated by real people who are doing not talking. 

And connecting, to make a better eco-system for all. 

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And then came the presentation that blew my mind, as Maria Antonietta Princivalle from BookingsMed gave a fascinating overview of the outbound Italian medical tourism market. According to Maria, Croatia has an excellent medical tourism reputation in Italy, both in terms of price and quality. And the Italian market brings significant revenue to the clinics of Istria and Kvarner. 

But how much of an opportunity is Croatia missing out on with this captive market - great reputation, proximity, no language barrier?

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Some 550,000 Italian patients go abroad each year for thermal cures, some driving as far as Prague.

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Some 350,000 cross the border each year for aesthetic treatment, as far away as Thailand and Brazil.  

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Back to Croatian excellence. Next up, Branimir Blajic, who gave a fascinating presentation of the case study of Sveti Martin in promoting local producers and their local products.

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This is SUCH an obvious one for Croatia to develop, with its rich network of small producers of high-quality produce. Blajic showed how it could be done, and TCN will soon be reporting from Medjimurje on this excellent initiative, as well as exploring how we can expand its scope. 

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And no CIHT conference would be complete without the visionary legendica, Vlasta Brozicevic of Teme Selce, who gave an inspiring presentation entitled Game Changer in Health and Wellbeing Holistic Solutions. 

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It is a sign of the growing relevance and excellence of CIHT that medical tourism professionals of the quality of Mario Skugor, of Cleveland Clinic, flew in for the conference. It was great to see full two-day attendance from the Zagreb Tourist Board and the medical tourism department of the Ministry of Tourism, as well as the Ministry of Health. It was, however, a little disappointing (although not surprising) that the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, aka the Croatian National Tourist Board, could not make the 2-hour journey from Zagreb when others had made such an effort, only joining remotely. 

An outstanding two days, with great networking and new opportunities. There seems to be a renewed momentum within the Croatian medical tourism industry. And as one can see from the above, the opportunities are plentiful. 

CIHT 2022 will take place on October 6-7, 2022 - it promises to be quite a 10-year party. 

To learn more about the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster and its excellent work, visit the official website

Read more - 'The Healing Garden of Europe': Kvarner Health Cluster's Vladimir Mozetic Interview.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

All Croatian Medical Tourism Roads Lead to Crikvenica with CIHT 2021

October 23, 2021 - The enormous potential of the Croatian medical tourism industry will once more be the focus next month, as global experts assemble for the annual Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference, CIHT 2021. 

After reporting on the news about Croatia for a number of years now, certain things begin to follow a pattern. 

I always report on the Za Krizen procession in Jelsa just before Easter, for example, and there is always a visit to Advent in Zagreb. And early November is reserved for one of my favourite - and impressive - conferences in Croatia, the Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference, or CIHT 2021. 

It has a special place in my heart as it was the catalyst for probably the most unlikeliest stories of my writing career a couple of years ago, as my wife and I found ourselves on a plane to Malaysia where I picked up an award for best online international feature as the inaugural Medical Travel Media Awards in Kuala Lumpur. 

Crikvenica and Malaysia may seem an unlikely combination, and I would have agreed with that had I not met one of the most energetic promoters of all things Croatia, Ognjen Bagatin. 

Co-owner of the hugely successful Bagatin Clinic, Ognjen was passionate about the promotion of the medical tourism industry and realising its potential. 

When I met him, I had no idea that Croatia even had a medical tourism industry. Within 10 minutes of meeting him, I was wondering why the whole world didn't know about the excellence on offer in Croatian clinics, and at very competitive prices. 

It did not take me long to learn that the biggest brand in Croatian medical tourism globally - with the possible execption of Bagatin Clinic at St Catherine's Specialty Hospital - was not in fact Croatia itself, but something called the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster. This was an alliance of interested stakeholders in the medical tourism industry who were doing fantastic work bringing patients for treatment in a number of specialist medical fields, from dentistry to physiotherapy. 

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The highlight of the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster's calendar was an annual conference called CIHT (Crikvenica International Health Tourism conference). Ognjen encouraged me to participate where he promised a great conference with some outstanding presentations and people to interview. 

I was stunned by the high-quality of the international experts who had all made the journey to the Crikvenica Riviera for this health conference out of season in November. Keynote speakers I got to interview included Keith Pollard, Editor-in-Chief of the International Medical Travel Journal, Ilan Geva from the USA, a leading medical tourism (and other) branding specialist, and Sherene Azli, the charismatic CEO of the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council. 

Sherene's presentation was one of the finest I have seen at every conference, and little did I know it, but that interview started a chain of events which would have me on that plan to Kuala Lumpur less than a year later. 

A year later, I was back in Crikvenica, this time also as a (terrible) conference speaker, sharing the podium with medical tourism experts who had flown in from leading establishmnents such as Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. 

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The Crikvenica was a hit, and a significant player in the global medical tourism calendar. And after the horrors of the 2020 pandemic, I shall once more be making my way down to the Crikvenica Riviera early next month, to take part in CIHT 2021. 

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After a brief (ok, not so brief) COVID interruption last year, Croatian medical tourism is back, and with some very useful additions to the story. The massive expansion of Ryanair (40 destinations for Zagreb alone by next summer) is opening up affordable Croatian medical tourism to more countries and destinations than ever before. 

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Another welcome trend is the rise in the remote work culture. Croatia is enjoying considerable success in its digital nomad story, and the excellent services of the medical tourism industry should be inserted into that initiative, to the benefit of all sides. 

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CIHT 2021 once more has a very strong lineup, and anyone interested in the medical tourism industry will find a night for them at this year's event. You can see the programme of the two-day event above, and you can get more details and register on the official website

I can't promise you a trip to Malaysia if you do attend, but it is definitely one of the best organised, most social, and content-rich conferences on the Croatian conference scene. 

 

Thursday, 14 October 2021

CIHT Conference to Gather International Health Tourism Experts in Crikvenica

October 14, 2021 - The region's most influential health tourism conference, the Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference (CIHT Conference), will be held on November 4 and 5, 2021, for the ninth year in a row at the Hotel Katarina in Selce.

The organizers are the Crikvenica Tourist Board and the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster. This year in a hybrid edition, the conference is traditionally held in English and will bring together world-renowned experts in the fields of health, tourism, marketing, and education, to review the latest trends in health tourism, exchange experiences, and find new ways to communicate in these pandemic times, reports T.portal.

"Although this year COVID-19 fills newspaper columns and front pages of portals, in our environment, the need for health services and health tourism, in general, does not cease, and Kvarner and Crikvenica have much to offer everyone who needs recovery, rich sea air, and mild climate. Business conditions and promotions fully take on solutions and views on the settings and development of a diverse tourist offer, especially health tourism. Distinguished speakers will share their knowledge and experience," said Dr. Vladimir Mozetič, president of the Kvarner Health Tourism Cluster, which will be attended by, among others, Dr. Mario Škugor, endocrinologist and director of education of the prestigious American Clinic Cleveland, Velimir Šonje, economic analyst, and many others.

Over the years, CIHT has hosted excellent experts from all over the world who, with the amount of knowledge and experience, make a valuable asset in further progress and promotion of health and health tourism in the region. This year's ninth CIHT conference continues to contribute to applying current theoretical knowledge and trends in practice, emphasizing the strategic importance of the development of health tourism in Croatia with an efficient connection to foreign and domestic markets. Along with top lecturers, the conference's priority is the best possible quality of content that abounds in interesting, educational, innovative, and current topics and workshops.

The director of the Crikvenica Tourist Board, Marijana Biondić, and the leader of the CIHT conference pointed out that she is incredibly proud of another edition of the conference, which will be the best so far:

"This tourist year has confirmed the position and importance of Kvarner as a favorite EU destination. Safe, reliable, with an increasingly high-quality offer of accommodation and experiences, the Crikvenica Riviera is in full swing, and health tourism has the opportunity to lead this trend."

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 1 October 2021

CRO Race 4th Stage: Olav Kooij Wins from Zadar to Crikvenica

October 1, 2021 - Dutchman Olav Kooij, a member of Jumbo-Visma, won the CRO Race 4th stage from Zadar to Crikvenica (197 kilometers), while Norwegian Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X) is the new leader in the overall standings.

Dutchman Olav Kooij, a member of the Jumbo-Visma team, won the CRO Race 4th stage from Zadar to Crikvenica. In 2nd was Australian cyclist Kaden Groves, and 3rd Croatian rider Josip Rumac (Androni Giocattoli), reports HRT.

After a massive fall that happened about a kilometer before the finish line, Rumac found himself in a great position, leading the race with very few cyclists behind him. However, the Croatian cyclist did not manage to last until the end and was overtaken by Kooij and Groves in the final meters.

This is the second stage victory for Kooij, who confirmed himself as the best sprinter at this year's CRO Race in Crikvenica. He also celebrated on Wednesday in Otočac after the second stage.

Skaarseth took the lead in the overall standings thanks to a three-second bonus he won during his first passing goal in Crikvenica. With that, he equaled the leading Belgian Milan Menten (Bingoal) in terms of time, but due to better placements in the stages, he took over the red shirt. Rumac jumped to fourth place in the overall standings with just eight seconds behind Skaartseth.

Very soon after the start of the stage, a group of seven cyclists was formed with Poles Marceli Boguslawski (HRE Mazowsze Serce Polski) and Szymon Rekita (Voster ATS Team), German Tom Lindner (P&S Metalltechnik), Slovenian Žiga Horvat (Adria Mobil), Italian Nicolo Buratti ( Friuli), Austrian Felix Ritzinger (WSA KTM Graz) and Australian Felix James Meo (Vorarlberg). The advantage of the leading six grew to almost six minutes, and on the first ascent of the day on Ćaćići, Rekita stood out and won the mountain goal ahead of Lindner and Ritzinger.

Rekita's solo ride ended 67 kilometers before the finish line when he was reached by the rest of the group. As the advantage over the peloton was rapidly decreasing, about 50 kilometers before the finish it, new attacks followed. The first was Lindner, who therefore won the first passing goal in Senj, then he was joined by Boguslawski, who was the fastest at the second passing goal in Novi Vinodolski.

Skaarseth won important bonus seconds ahead of compatriot and teammate Torstein Train, while Dutchman Mick van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma) was third.

During the final lap around Crikvenica, cyclists have the second ascent of the day to Dramalj, which Traen passed first, thus increasing the advantage in the fight for the green jersey they will wear in the fifth stage, which is scheduled for Saturday from Rabac to Opatija (137.5 kilometers).

CRO Race remaining stages:

October 2, 5th stage: Rabac / Labin - Opatija (137.5 km)

October 3, 6th stage: Samobor - Zagreb (156.5 km)

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

To learn more about sport in Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Crikvenica Tourist Board Discount Card for Private Renters Introduced

September 18, 2021 - The Crikvenica Tourist Board discount card for private renters is a new way to encourage the consumption of products and services for accommodation facilities.

To encourage consumption in the City of Crikvenica, the Crikvenica Tourist Board launched a project this year - a special card for renters reports HRTurizam.

This card allows private renters, with economic partners involved in the project, to use various benefits and discounts on products and services in arranging and equipping their accommodation facilities and preparing facilities for the tourist season.

“The goal of the project is to connect local business people and private renters, which will result in increased consumption in our city. Furthermore, considering the significant share of private accommodation in the total overnight stays on the Crikvenica Riviera, in this way we together contribute to increasing the quality of the tourist offer," point out the Crikvenica Tourist Board.

The card can be taken over by all citizens holding the Decision on the approval for the provision of household catering services in the Crikvenica area (registered private accommodation renters), which are registered in the eVisitor system.

The Crikvenica Tourist Board also invites all crafts and companies engaged in economic activities, offering products and services for construction, arrangement, and equipment of tourist accommodation facilities and preparation of facilities for the tourist season to contact the Tourist Board to join as project partners.

There are currently over 20 partners offering discounts to renters who have renters cards. Thus, landlords can take advantage of various discounts such as a 10% discount on curtains and decorative fabrics, a 12% discount on air conditioning services, a 10% discount on all services to clean and wash yards, terraces, facades, swimming pools, and all household washes, etc.

This is an exciting and commendable project of the Crikvenica Tourist Board, mainly because it is an additional motive to legalize landlords. 

For more on lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

HRK 17.5 Million Set Aside From State Budget To Upgrade Ports in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County

ZAGREB, 11 March, 2021 - Several contracts, worth 17.5 million kuna, for reconstruction of seaports and waterfronts in the broader Rijeka area were signed on Thursday by Sea and Transport Minister Oleg Butković and local authorities.

The contracts envisaging the upgrade of ports on the islands of Krk, Rab and Lošinj as well as the coastal cities of Bakar, Mošćenička Draga, Novi Vinodolski, Crikvenica and Kraljevica are part of the Croatian Coast Renaissance project in which two billion kuna has been invested to date, and the lion's share of this amount has been ensured from EU funds.

Minister Butković said today that investments in seaport infrastructure would continue.

(€1 = HRK 7.582776)

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

CIHT 2020: 8th Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference in a Completely New Setting!

October 20, 2020 - One of Croatia's most important medical tourism conferences, CIHT 2020, will go ahead next month, albeit in a very different format.  

The Crikvenica International Health Tourism Conference will be held for the eighth time in a row, on the 12th and 13th of November 2020, in a virtual form. Due to the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, this conference, which was traditionally organized on the Crikvenica Riviera, will change its concept and move to a completely online environment, it will be completely free of charge and the participants will be able to attend via new CIHT mobile app.

In order to present world trends and European experiences in health tourism, its marketing opportunities, as well as to present the achievements of Croatia and the best examples from practice, this two-day conference will host national and foreign experts in health, tourism, and marketing. The speakers who confirmed their participation are Keith Pollard, Csilla Mezösi, Irving Stackpole, Laszlo Puczko, Elizabeth Ziemba, Jeana Havidich, Michaela Kehrer, Ilan Geva, as well as Velimir Srića and Miroslav Varga. On this prestigious list of speakers is also Ph.D. Ivan Đikić, MD, who, from the position of his profession and his own experience, will cover the complex topic of the impact of the virus on health tourism. These experts are of great importance, not only for the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County but also for the entire Republic of Croatia. Moreover, these are experts who participate as speakers in numerous eminent world health and tourism conferences and cooperate with the largest companies in this field.

In addition to the presentations by top experts, the CIHT Conference offers the opportunity to create business contacts and partnerships, exchange experiences, and arrange concrete collaborations. The priority in the organization of the CIHT conference is, first of all, the quality of the content through which the participants can gain new knowledge that they will later apply in their daily work. This year's CIHT conference continues to contribute to the application of current theoretical knowledge and trends in practice, emphasizing the strategic importance of the development of health tourism. Given that we are in the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 8th CIHT Conference is especially needed.

You can follow everything about the 8th CIHT Conference on its official website ciht.com.hr, as well as on the Facebook profile CIHT Conference Crikvenica Croatia. Highlights of last year's event are in the video below.

For more on the Croatian medical tourism story, follow the dedicated TCN section

Saturday, 15 August 2020

August Looking Good, But Crisis Will Interrupt Jadran's Investment Cycle

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes on the 14th of August, 2020, in the first seven months of 2020, the hotel company Jadran from Crikvenica reached 53 percent of last year's turnover in the same period. Given the current state of booking, and in the event that there are no major "shocks", Jadran's management expects that the company's annual realisation will amount to more than 60 percent of last year's turnover.

This is obviously the result of Jadran's investment cycle, although the President of the Adriatic Management Board Goran Fabris notes that it must not be forgotten that this is a very difficult tourist season, which in other words means that the overall results will be significantly worse than expected at the beginning of the year. According to Fabris, this will inevitably lead to a slowdown in the investment cycle.

However, in spite of the unfavourable tourist season accompanied by the enforced epidemiological measures, with intensive preparations and completed investments, the company did very well in July. This privatised company, majority owned by the pension funds PBZ CO and Erste Plavi, has been waking up more and more over the last three years due to an investment cycle, meaning that all renovated accommodation facilities - especially those with three or four stars - have better results than last year. Such an example is the Esplanade Hotel (39 rooms) in Crikvenica, which is an investment from back in 2017, before the company's privatisation and its new investment cycle.

This year is also the first in which investments made since Jadran was privatised are starting to return, and the data on the share of Croatian guests is very interesting, as it showed that they are more significant than initially expected, not only in Crikvenica, but also in Baska. When it comes to the structure of guests, Jadran says that along with Croats, the most numerous guests are Austrians, Germans, Slovenes, Czechs and Hungarians, but the share of Slovenes and Croats is 15 percent higher than it was during previous years.

For more on Croatian companies, follow our business page.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Crikvenica's Jadran Achieves 78% of July 2019's Revenue in July 2020

Despite a generally dire prognosis owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many Croatian companies actually ended up doing unexpectedly well in July. The Crikvenica-based Jadran is one of them.

As Novac/Andrea Koscec writes on the 8th of August, 2020, the tourism company Jadran d.d. from Crikvenica managed to generate an encouraging 78 percent of the revenue it earned back in July 2019 last month In the first seven months of this year, Jadran's total operating revenues reached 53 percent of last year's turnover during that same period, the travel company stated yesterday.

This result is all the more valuable, they pointed out, given the fact that the Esplanade Hotel was the first open facility in Crikvenica only from May the 29th, when the epidemiological situation in Croatia enabled the continuation of tourism and hospitality/catering facilities. All accommodation facilities managed by Jadran d.d., in addition to the three smaller facilities, the Zagreb, International and Delfin hotels, are currently in full function, boasting a total of 141 rooms.

In addition to hotels and camps owned by the company, Jadran d.d. is also managing three new hotels - Lisanj, Noemia in Baska Voda and the Garden Palace Resort in Umag. All of these facilities, with a total of 343 rooms and high-class four-star apartments, opened their doors to guests during June and July.

"Despite the coronavirus epidemic and all of the restrictive measures that were enforced, we at Jadran have been intensively preparing for this year's tourist season, believing that at least in July, August and September we will manage to record a period of visits and financial results," Jadran's Goran Fabris explained: "In these circumstances, we completed our investments and works to raise the level of our category of accommodation and related activities, which allowed us to exceed more than three quarters of last year's result in that period in July."

"We still have a good occupancy level and I believe that this year's season will be much better than the forecasts that were made in the spring at the time when the coronavirus crisis was at its worst,'' stated Goran Fabris of Jadran.

For more, follow our business section.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Croatian-made French Fry Vending Machine Opens On Crikvenica Beach

July 29, 2020 - A first in the world of French fries as Croatian company Surf'n'Fries debuts its new French Fry Vending Machine at Monty's Dog Beach in Crikvenica

A first in the world of French fries today as Croatian company Surf'n'Fries debuted the pilot of their new French Fry Vending Machine at Monty's Dog Beach in Crikvenica. Now hunger needn't call a halt to the good time your dog and kids are having by the sea; you can get fresh, hot French fries in 35 seconds.

“We started working on it three years ago,” says Andrija Čolak, whose Surf'n'Fries fast food outlet has franchises in four continents. “Automation is key to the food industry, so we thought the ultimate step would be to go to vending machines. So, we collaborated with a Croatian company called Integra and managed to make this pilot.”

“We chose this beach because it's close to our home and we can easily check on it,” says Čolak, who also runs a consultancy firm in Rijeka, the city where he co-founded the well known Kisha umbrella brand. “Also because this beach is very famous and it has a beach bar for dogs. It's a popular place. We adjusted the design and graphics of the machine so it would fit in alongside the beach bar.”

As this first machine is the pilot, it's options are limited to salt and ketchup. But Andrija's vision extends much further. “In the future we plan to add more sauces and probably chicken nuggets as well,” he told TCN from the sun-soaked first day in Crikvenica. “We'll work at this location until the end of the season. After that, the plan is to test it at the main bus station in Zagreb. It has a lot of potential; shopping malls, airports, in particular venues which operate 24 hours.”

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“Vending machines are having a bit of a renaissance because you can now connect them to the internet,” reckons Andrija. “That has all sorts of implications for stock ordering and the customer experience. You could use facial recognition to recognise returning customers, ask them if they want the same again or even offer rewards.”

TCN isn't quite sure it wants recognising as a regular indulger in French fries, but if we're in Crikvenica this summer you can count on us sneaking a sample of Surf'n'Fries from the French Fry Vending Machine on Monty's Dog Beach.

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