Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Expert Predicts First Tourist Wave in May, Central and Southern Dalmatia with Hardest Recovery

January 26, 2021 – Siniša Topalović, a tourism consultant, spoke for HTV's Studio 4 show about why it is illusory to expect a pre-season, why Central and Southern Dalmatia will have the most challenging recovery, and where the future of Croatian tourism lies.

In the previous years, the media would already have been full of articles about preparing for the tourist season. Croatia has the largest share of tourism revenues in GDP in Europe, which reaches almost 20 percent of GDP and employs 11 percent of people. During the coronavirus crisis, the state still has high expectations, as it is an important source of tax revenue for it. However, tourism workers mostly complain and have black forecasts.

'The further north we go, the better tourism results'

When asked about official estimates that say Croatia could expect 60 percent of the income from tourism realized in 2019 this year, Topalović said that he believes that such an expectation is still too optimistic according to financial criteria.

"Between 60 and 70 percent of the physical traffic, we had in 2019 is achievable this year. If we talked about 70 percent of overnight stays and arrivals, everyone would sign that result at the moment. Still, when we talk realistically about the financial performance, it is probably about 50 to 60 percent of income," says Topalović, tourism consultant at Horwath HTL.

He added that Croatia does not expect an "even" recovery of tourism, but the results will vary geographically.

"As last year showed, the further north we go along the coast, the better our result is. The reason for this is the geographical position of Croatia. We were lucky that Istria, Kvarner, and the northern Dalmatian counties have relatively good access by road, and people took advantage of that. From Split to the south, the Makarska Riviera, and towards Dubrovnik will continue to have a more difficult situation this year, because the air connection will still not recover," explains Topalović.

He assessed the actions of the state during the pandemic as good and timely.

"Essentially, in 2020, the state reacted well in terms of maintaining employment in the tourism sector. Job-saving measures came relatively quickly, halting a potential wave of layoffs in the hotel industry. Both the management and the staff were protected, and there were no excessive losses. If the measures are extended until April, they should be sufficient to preserve the stability of the tourism sector," says Topalović.

'Now is the time to restructure Croatian tourism'

He says the expectation of a wave of tourists during the Easter holidays as in previous years in these conditions is illusory. Easter comes earlier this year, he says, so traditionally, the pre-season would be weak. But with COVID this year, there shouldn't be pre-season at all. The first wave of tourists is expected during May, and more intense from mid-June.

When choosing between quality and quantity, Croatian tourism has always gone in the direction of quantity. In 2020, it turned out to be the wrong direction.

"Last year denied populism, where the state, through tax systems and everything it did or did not do, allowed an uncontrolled increase in private accommodation of medium and lower quality. Those who were thinking a step further with quality accommodation this year scored and ensured their stability," says Topalović.

He added that quality has won this year, regardless of the type of accommodation, and thinks that this is a sign to those who decide and work on legislative frameworks that the state should encourage quality tourism with all its arsenal. Now is the time, he added, to restructure Croatian tourism.

"It's never a good time for us. When we grow, then we don't change anything because everything is good. When there is a crisis, we don't change anything because we need help. The crisis here has shown in which direction the market is going. Croatian tourism has no future if it stays on the concept of a low-budget mass market, which we currently have," explains Siniša Topalović.

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Friday, 25 September 2020

Expect Many English Speaking Visitors to Croatia in 2021, says Google

September 25, 2020 - Croatia is the 14th most searched holiday destination in the world for next year. With over 810, 000 searches on Google, the country should expect a big return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021

Aside from the drop in numbers, the country's accessibility and the implementation of epidemiological guidelines, the biggest effect the Coronavirus pandemic had on Croatia's tourist season of 2020 was the change in visitor demographic. The British, Americans, Canadians and Australians largely stayed away. All that looks set to change next year as Google indicates a big return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021.

Over 810, 000 searches have already been made of Croatia as a holiday destination for 2021 on Google, informing that many thousands are already researching or actively planning a trip. Croatia ranked 14th among the most searched for 2021 destinations, trailing slightly behind the likes of Italy, the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand, Spain and Greece.

01-4_gradska_centralna_plaza_makarska_tz_makarska.jpgTheir language mostly absent from beautiful Adriatic beaches in 2020, English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021 look set to return © Croatian National Tourist Board

The good news for the return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021 was published by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The data has been taken from a period starting not before March 2020. This means that all searches took place in full knowledge of the ongoing Coronavirus and epidemiological situation. English speaking visitors are undeterred.

Iva Bahunek, the head of the Croatian Tourist Board in Los Angeles has not had the easiest of tasks since the pandemic began. Her appointment is a relatively recent one. Nevertheless, she has clearly done an excellent job of promoting Croatia as a destination for American tourists in 2021. She confirmed the trends are correct - that US citizens are ready for international travel again - by analysing data from the large American travel insurance company Squaremouth. 65% of all reservations for next year refer to international destinations.

52331947_10157169672643675_7765862747379597312_n.jpgIva Bahunek accepting her Mediterranean Stars Award for outstanding achievement in promoting Mediterranean tourism, awarded at the 6th Mediterranean Tourism Forum in Malta, 2019. She now heads the Croatian Tourist Board in Los Angeles and analysed data which backs up Google's prediction for a return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021

Indications from the British market are the same. Total Croatia News recently published an interview with Vedran Meniga, organiser of a music festival site in Sibenik that successfully hosted over 10, 000 festival-goers in summer 2020. Sadly, they were the only ones who braved it. All of the international music festivals that usually take place on the Croatian coast cancelled their 2020 events.

But, some organisers of these festivals have been seen in Croatia over recent weeks, inspecting improvements to the famous The Garden Tisno festival site, which lies at the approach to Murter island. The festival's hugely popular beach stage has had walls removed, its space widened and now looks very well equipped to take on social distancing advice. Music festivals bring tens of thousands of people to Adriatic beaches each summer and the return of the international events will entice English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021. On the below video you can see Alex Lowes of the Suncebeat Festival and Nick Colgan of The Garden Tisno recently checking out the new layout of the site in preparation for the return of festivals in 2021.

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