Friday, 10 July 2020

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

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.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Ministry of Tourism Spokesperson Claims They Have Nothing To Do with CRO Cards

July 3, 2020 - The latest from the Croatian Ministry of Tourism on the CRO cards project. reports that although the CRO card was supposed to launch on July 1, we still do not know which employers ordered it for their workers. Two years after hearing Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli's statements about the CRO cards and that they will provide between 10 and 21 thousand new jobs and up to 11 billion kuna in new investments, the culmination of the project is seen in yesterday's statement by the Ministry of Tourism spokesperson, Sladjana Vignjevic, who told Index that they have nothing to do with the project.

Index writes that Cappelli’s Ministry was asked clear and specific questions: how many employers ordered CRO cards, where were the cards issued, were they ordered by state-owned companies and which, after which they were simply told that the Ministry of Tourism had nothing to do with the project. 

"Cards are issued, and where exactly - we have nothing to do with it. 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," Sladjana Vignjevic told Index.

Index also contacted Hrvatska poštanska banka (HPB), but has not yet received a response.

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli has spoken about CRO cards several times this year. Cappelli said on April 17 that the CRO card would go to print in the next month.

"In June, we can start using it. It's about catering services, accommodation services and agency services. The value is 2,500 kuna, and it is tax-free for employers," Cappelli said.

Then, on April 27, after a video conference of EU tourism ministers on the situation in European tourism, Cappelli said that the CRO card was being prepared.

"The CRO card will be able to be used only in Croatia, HRK 2,500 non-taxable, we will see if we can do something extra in that regard and if additional discounts can be obtained," said Cappelli.

A couple of weeks ago, Cappelli stated that the CRO card will be used from July 1 and that due to the corona, its realization will be somewhat slower.

“But we firmly believe that with the end of the pandemic, this project, as well as the 'A Week's Vacation is Worth It' project will come to life,” Cappelli said on June 10, when he also said the first 30,000 cards had been printed.

Then, on June 14, in Opatija, Cappelli spoke again about the CRO cards. He stated that the possibility of using the CRO card had been extended to private accommodation, package deals and nautical tourism.

“About 40,000 cards are being printed, the first banks have signed a contract and everything starts on July 1,” Cappelli said.

And while it is clear from these statements that the Ministry of Tourism is managing the project, a ministry spokesperson now claims they have nothing to do with it. And doesn't know the answers to these questions.

The only thing that Vignjevic knew specifically was that the public sector is not included, that is, that employees in the public sector will certainly not receive a CRO card. Index reported about this earlier when Labor Minister Josip Aladrovic's attempt to persuade public-sector unions to agree to the payment of recourse on the CRO card instead of cash was refused.

Entrepreneurs also do not want the CRO card, which was confirmed by Hrvoje Bujas, president of the Voice of Entrepreneurs association. His association surveyed entrepreneurs and more than 90 percent of entrepreneurs said they would not give CRO cards to their employees.

Index spoke again with Bujas, who said that they never received an answer from the Ministry of Tourism as to who pays for the CRO card project, nor who ordered 40,000 cards.

"The CRO card has no benefit for either the employer or the worker; there is no idea. If the state, as Slovenia did, put 200 euro on everyone's card, then it would make some sense, and this makes no sense," Bujas said.

Another amazing thing about the CRO cards is the fact that, according to Cappelli's announcements, they were supposed to go into circulation on July 1, and the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies UHP has a meeting on this project at the Ministry of Tourism only next week.

Tomislav Fain, president of UHPA, told Index that they have a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Tourism next week about additional clarifications for CRO cards.

"This is not a bad project, but in this crisis situation, we cannot expect employers to take those cards this year. I would, honestly, be happy if there are employers who will be able to pay it off. If it was a normal situation, I believe a large number of employers would pay the money on the CRO card, but now they certainly won’t," Fain told Index.

A big opponent of the CRO cards is Marin Medak, president of the National Association of Caterers.

"This project is illogical and incomplete. The cost is passed on to the employer, that the employer gives a bonus. We do not support the way it is set. Well, I wonder who will be able to give it to workers, possibly state-owned companies. And yes, already in December we told the Ministry that we are against the project. Then it was arranged that if, for example, a restaurant wants to be included in the project, it must give discounts, so it was not profitable for us," concluded Medak.

So, the conclusion of all this is that the citizens still do not know how much the CRO cards project cost, who will get the 40,000 cards that were printed, and in the end - will anyone get them at all? Index only found out that the Ministry of Tourism, which proudly announced this project, had nothing to do with it.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Cro Cards to Arrive in 2018...How Much will Employees Really Get?

The Cro Card can be used by Croatians on vacation in continental Croatia throughout the year and off-season at sea.