Sunday, 27 March 2022

Most Numerous Croatian Easter Guests From Nearby Countries

March the 27th, 2022 - The most numerous Croatian Easter guests so far are coming from nearby and neighbouring countries, and this figure also includes Croatian residents visiting other parts of the country themselves.

We recently wrote about the Croatian 2022 pre-season not turning out (at least so far) quite how predictions and expectations seemed not so long ago. With private accommodation owners worrying about the state of affairs on the run up to summer, luxury travel agencies have a slightly different picture.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the number of reservations made by Croatian guests is systematically growing from year to year, meaning that for the upcoming Easter break, Croats and residents of Croatia, along with Germans and Slovenes, will make up the largest number of guests, as was reported by one travel agency for luxury accommodation - Croatia Luxury Rent.

According to their current sales statistics, Germans lead the percentage of total bookings with a share of 23%, followed by the neighbouring Slovenes with 19%, Czechs with 13%, then Austrians with 12%, and Croats with 11% of the share. However, the Czech market is experiencing the biggest growth compared to the otherwise key emitting markets, meaning that the Czechs will be at the very top in terms of Croatian Easter tourism numbers for 2022.

The largest number of guests who have booked their accommodation on the Adriatic and partly in the interior/continental part of the country during the Easter holidays are coming from the emitting markets of Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Austria.

In addition to these markets, the total share is completed by the Italians, Hungarians, Slovaks and Serbs, while a significantly smaller percentage will be made up by visitors from France, Switzerland and neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At the top of the list of the most numerous guests during last year's Easter holidays were Croatian guests, which was to be expected due to the events caused by the coronavirus pandemic at the time. This year's sale of Easter holiday arrangements has produced, as they say, an interesting situation according to which Central Dalmatia is systematically growing, much like it did last year, in terms of the number of reservations made, meaning that it is closer to Istria and Kvarner, which were otherwise very well known for Croatian Easter tourism.

This form of growth trend began to gain momentum during last year's post-season, but continued with a surprising jump during the Christmas and New Year holidays: Central Dalmatia at one point was on par with the number of reservations made up in Istria. Further development confirmed the unquestionability of Istria's popularity, which took the expected lead during the last ten days before the holidays, in other words, things returned to their earlier standards.

Looking at the current regional division of the number of reservations, Istria is rather unsurprisingly at the top with 41% share, followed by Dalmatia and the islands with 30%, Kvarner with 19%, and the mainland and the far south, which accounts for the remaining 10%. It's worth noting that the type of technology that encourages and improves tourism has significantly raised the level of service quality, meaning that renters are more or less forced to continuously invest in their accommodation, follow current trends and expand aspects of their offer that will allow them to stand out more and be recognised.

For more on Croatian Easter tourism, check out our travel section.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Renters Worried, Croatian 2022 Pre-Season Worse Than Expected

March the 26th, 2022 - Renters have become concerned and are biting their nails at the fact that the Croatian 2022 pre-season isn't quite what was expected as yet. Could hopes for Easter tourism be dashed?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to local Zadar portal Zadarski.hr, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Croatia will likely have much fewer guests over the Easter period than we had hoped.

''It’s hard to say how much fewer people there will be than expected, but I'm hearing that these days, the cancellations of some larger groups who had Easter reservations are slowly trickling in. Personally, I had a lot of reservations in April and May, but everything in April ended up being cancelled. Everything is changing from day to day,'' said Martina Nimac Kalcina, president of the Family Tourism Association at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), when asked about the potential number of tourists we could expect in Dalmatia over Easter.

Since February the 24th and the beginning of the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, everything has changed. Until then, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport confirmed, the dynamics of reservations and announcements for the main part of the tourist year were at a record level, such as what was experienced back in pre-pandemic 2019, and in some segments even ten percent better. The current geopolitical situation related to Ukraine, rising energy prices and inflation have somewhat affected tourism news, but it is good, the ministry said, that reservations haven't stopped entirely. The same has been being said by the president of the Family Tourism Association at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.

"The situation isn't as catastrophic as the pandemic caused it to be, but the war in Ukraine has slowed down reservations a lot. The Croatian 2022 pre-season is incomparably worse than it should have been. Everything started out well after the New Year, and then, literally from the first bombing of Ukraine, it slowed down sharply. On the same day, inquiries stopped arriving and after a few days they started reappearing, but very slowly. There have been no cancellations for large numbers of people, but there are for the Croatian 2022 pre-season.

Those cancellations have been coming from everywhere - from America, most of them from Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia… Some Americans are still planning to come here, but there are very few of them, incomparably fewer than they should be, because Croatia's position on the map of Europe looks close to Ukraine and Russia,'' said Nimac Kalcina, noting that unlike private accommodation, which is already feeling the effects of the war in Ukraine, there have been cancellations in the case of cruises so far.

However, she believes that the main tourist season will be very good if the situation with the war in Ukraine doesn't escalate.

"I hope that our season will be full, there are reservations, new ones are still coming in. Renters who have more attractive facilities shouldn't be worried, but it's a question of people's length of stay, the Croatian 2022 pre-season, the post-season… All cards are now on the table… Because as people's travel dates approach and the situation in Ukraine fails to calm down, tourists simply cancel their reservations. It's understandable that people postpone making decisions about holiday dates because they can see that the situation isn't changing. An additional problem is that the war brings even higher inflation,'' said Nimac Kalcina in an interview with Zadarski.hr.

"Nothing drastic is happening here," said Bojan Milicevic, a spokesman for the Le Meridien Lav hotel in Podstrana near Split, adding that there had been "some very minor cancellations, several small groups directly linked to the Ukrainian and Russian markets." The only noticeable drop has been the booking of individual guests from distant destinations such as America. However, they aren't expecting any major problems from the European markets at the Le Meridien Lav hotel, provided, of course, that the war situation doesn't escalate.

"We don't have any cancellations from any European guests. Things look pretty good to us when it comes to the state of reservations being made. Of course, the Americans are our pretty strong guest segment that we need to keep an eye on. But, in general, our picture looks good thanks to regular guests from Scandinavia and Western Europe, who, along with the Americans, are our most numerous guests. We'll see. It should be borne in mind that a lot has changed, as have booking trends, once Americans planned trips a year in advance. The coronavirus pandemic has changed all that, now it is no longer the case,'' Milicevic concluded.

For more, check out our travel section.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Croatian Tourism Companies Learning From Mistakes as Easter Approaches

March the 21st, 2022 - Have Croatian tourism companies finally begun to engage in a little self-reflection and started learning from their past mistakes following the last two unprecedented years dominated by a global pandemic and now a war in Europe? It seems so, and just in time for Easter.

As Novac/Jutarnji/Barbara Ban writes, the currently great uncertainty all over Europe over the war raging in Ukraine has slowed bookings down, but that doesn’t mean the summer season this year will be bad. Moreover, the latest global analyses presented this week at the Berlin Tourism Fair ITB show that the demand for holidays and travel is higher than last year and of course higher than it was back during 2020, and that tourist traffic across Europe this year will be at 90 percent of what was recorded back in pre-pandemic 2019.

The Germans, the British, the Americans and the Dutch will more than likely travel the most. Croatian tourism companies and some of the largest hoteliers in the country are sticking to this idea, noting that due to the situation currently playing out in Eastern Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, booking has been slowed down, but there have been no cancellations. They have already started hiring staff earlier so that they don't have the same dire situation with the workforce as they did last year, and now there are struggles for every worker. They raised salaries by 15 percent, and for some deficient occupations, by up to 50 percent.

No cancellations

Marina Cvitic from the Trade Union of Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia, says that they are preparing for the upcoming tourist season as if it would be a normal one, especially in the more northern part of the Adriatic, since it is a destination many people drive to.

''Regarding the war in Ukraine, for now, no one is too worried when it comes to booking. It's true when they say that booking has slowed down for now, however, there are no cancellations and that's good. It's obvious that last minute bookings will be even more pronounced this year. That's why employment started going very well in March because everyone is preparing for Easter, which is just around the corner now.

Employers in Croatian tourism companies don't want the same situation that happened last year to happen again, when chaos ensued due to high levels of caution when hiring in the peak season. Just by looking at the media and the Croatian tourism companies in the network, it's clear that there are issues being experienced by companies in the labour market. Every fifteen days or so, companies advertise and repeat the conditions under which workers will be employed. From this it can be concluded that they haven't yet secured a sufficient number of employees for the peak tourist season. Although the agreed wage increases for this year are more significant than in the years before the pandemic when the maximum increase was 2 - 4 percent, and during the pandemic wages stagnated, due to the impact of inflation reaching a record 6.3 percent, wages will not significantly affect the standard of the workers. Despite the fact that in most companies, the price of labour has been agreed upon and despite the fact that costs are rising for companies too, I'm afraid that employers will have to tighten their belts further during the season if they want to work it all and settle for less profit than what they're used to,'' Cvitic pointed out.

Old mistakes

She added employers in Croatian tourism companies and the overall hospitality industry could pay a high price for repeating tired old mistakes. She explained that, except for the last two pandemic-dominated years, all Croatian tourism companies have achieved very good results, had a profits reaching the millions and that the owners "pulled out" that money through dividends and that investments were made in raising the quality of facilities and new acquisitions.

''There was money for everything, but not for the workers. Not to mention that there was no higher employment for an indefinite period of time at all. On the contrary, the number of full-time employees only decreased as older workers retired by natural outflow. Not to mention that incentive severance pay has stimulated older but still able-bodied workers to leave companies. In such conditions, our experienced tourism workers, and even full-time workers, who are highly valued, left Croatia and unfortunately, although we warned of it, nobody was worried about that,'' Cvitic added.

She explained that now the situation is completely different and that after two years of the pandemic, Croatian tourism companies have drastically lower profits, the results are much weaker than they were before the pandemic, and salary increases and other material rights being offered to employees as a lure are much higher.

''So, now that there isn't much money, much more is being allocated for workers than was allocated when there was room to do so. On the other hand, employees are now aware of their roles and often set conditions they never thought of before, such as their desire for two days off a week, one-shift work, and, of course, unions now see the opportunity and are trying to direct wage policy, as well,'' Cvitic stated.

Salary increases

She noted that this year's salary increase is up to 15 percent, and for some deficient occupations, that increase rises up to as much as 50 percent, and that the maximum non-taxable amounts are planned for the amount of 5,000 kuna. There is also free food, a tax-free Christmas bonus of 3,000 kuna and a gift of 600 kuna.

If employers had treated their workers like that ten years ago, if they'd hired workers for an indefinite period of time as they do now, if they'd hired permanent seasonal workers as they do now, if they'd rewarded seasonal workers even after the season was over as they are doing now, we wouldn't be experiencing any of the issues we now are. With all the increases in wages and income, they would have a Croatian workforce that is of better quality, but also cheaper, and there would be no need to try to import foreign workers,'' Cvitic believes.

She believes that the situation we experienced during the last summer season will not be repeated, when due to the lack of workers, some Croatian tourism companies, hotels and restaurants didn't even bother to open their doors.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Business Survival in Question Without Croatian Tourism Sector Wage Increase

March the 10th, 2022 - Without an increase in Croatian tourism sector employee wages, the very existence of some companies and businesses could well be called into question, especially following two years of coronavirus-induced stagnation.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, after two years of stagnation in the material rights of workers in the Croatian tourism sector, this year, all major domestic tourism companies have decided to make a significant step forward in increasing the material rights of their workers.

Valamar, Plava Laguna, Aminess, Maistra, Jadran and LRH will all pay their employees the maximum non-taxable amount as allowed by current tax regulations, and their salary increase will be from 5.5 to as much as 50 percent for certain jobs.

The main reason is the chronic shortage of workers who began to threaten the survival of this sort of business, as was pointed out by the unions in the Croatian tourism sector. Although the unions welcomed the decisions of these employers in the announcements that have been being made over recent days, they still made sure to note that they were forced to take this route, and it isn't because of some deep desire to do so.

They also noted that last year, due to the uncertain tourist season until the summer arrived, accompanied by a lack of workers, workers' rights were violated on a large scale.

The unions and the inspections were biting their nails often because that year was difficult for everyone, but this year there will be no procrastination, Marina Cvitic, president of the Trade Unions of Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia, explained.

"We do need to be honest and say that this increase in wages is primarily the result of the situation on the labour market. From 2010 to 2019, salaries increased from 2 to a maximum of 4 percent. At that time, all companies operating within the Croatian tourism sector achieved very good results with a profit of millions, acquisitions were made, investments were made in facilities, there was money for everything except the employees. As such, there was no major employment for an indefinite period, on the contrary, the number of permanently employed workers only decreased as the elderly retired,'' recalled Marina Cvitic.

All this drove these workers out of Croatia, not only seasonal workers, but also permanent, very high quality workers. At the time when the migration of workers within the EU was made possible, many workers emigrated.

"At the end of last year alone, it could be sensed that employers intended to be much more generous this year compared to the years before the pandemic. So today we have a situation in which companies within the Croatian tourism sector have poorer results than they did before the pandemic, and yet employee salary increases and other material rights are much higher. The attitude towards workers in most companies has changed significantly. Back at the end of 2021, the number of workers on permanent contracts increased significantly. The number of permanent seasonal workers who are allowed to have an employment relationship and certain incomes throughout the year has also increased.

As a rule, a contract is no longer concluded with seasonal workers for a month or two, but for a longer period of time. One-time non-taxable awards are usually given in the most intense seasonal months,'' explained Cvitic.

The union attributes a significant role to itself in creating this wage policy, including an initiative to provide free meals to local workers, and to make adjustments to transportation fees. However, violations of workers' rights are still almost normal among small employers.

For more, check out our business section.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Opatija Tourism Breaking Records Set Back in Pre-Pandemic 2019!

March the 9th, 2022 - The beautiful town of Opatija which is situated along Kvarner's dramatic coastline is breaking records it set back in pre-pandemic 2019, offering a more than encouraging insight into Croatian tourism recovery as a whole. Opatija tourism figures certainly don't have much to complain about so far in 2022 as we move forward.

Opatija tourism numbers are looking excellent for the month of February 2022, and this beautiful town which boasts stunning Austro-Hungarian architecture, beautiful views and an ease of connectivity to many places across the rest of the country, including Rijeka and Zagreb, looks as if it has a promising tourist year ahead of it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, after a record January, Opatija tourism only continued to record excellent figures during the month of February according to data obtained by the Opatija Tourist Board.

In the spirit of Valentine's Day and as a town that is undoubtedly romantic, Opatija tourism did very well. Opatija, sometimes referred to as Abbazia in Italian, attracted an impressive 14,413 guests who realised an even better number of 34,108 overnight stays, thus surpassing the pre-pandemic 2019 result. In February 2022, there was an increase of 11 percent in the number of overnight stays in Opatija, while compared to last year, this growth is at a very encouraging 141 percent.

The most numerous guests making up these Opatija tourism numbers were guests from the rest of Croatia, followed by tourists from Slovenia, Austria, the United States of America, Italy and Germany.

Back in February, Opatija's guests most often chose hotels for their holidays, and 86 percent of the total number of overnight stays registered were spent in hotel accommodation, with 12 percent being recorded in private accommodation.

For the second month in a row, Opatija was the most visited destination in all of the gorgeous Northern Adriatic region of Kvarner and among the most visited in all of Croatia.

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Jadran Crikvenica Investments to Result in Welcome Employee Pay Rise

March 6th, 2022 - Jadran Crikvenica investments which have been being pumped into this hotel company will now finally result in pay rises for employees.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the company Jadran Crikvenica will increase its staff salaries by 12 percent from April the 1st this year, as was agreed between the social partners of the Trade Unions of Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia and STUH with that company's administration.

In addition, workers in hotel operations for the most intensive period of the season, ie from June the 1st to September the 30th, will have their net salaries increased by six percent, and all workers for the months of June, July and August will be paid an additional bonus of 1,000 kuna per month, or, depending on how well the season goes, payment is possible for September as well. The move follows intensive Jadran Crikvenica investments.

Recognising the concerning continuous increase in fuel prices, it was agreed to increase the transport fees, and in addition to workers with a contract of indefinite duration, the right to additional health insurance, which includes an annual preventive systematic examination (with any needed treatment), will now be exercised by permanent seasonal workers. as well as workers with an employment contract lasting one year or more.

Depending on the course of the season and the results achieved, by the end of the year, Jadran Crikvenica investments will result in additional sums of cash being paid out, such as Christmas bonuses, holiday pay, kids' bonuses and so on.

As was pointed out in a recent announcement from the Trade Union, with such an increase in salaries and other agreed material rights of workers, Jadran d.d. Crikvenica has approached the salary amount of workers in major tourism companies across the Republic of Croatia, after years of stagnation due to bankruptcy and a period of recovery after bankruptcy, when the greater focus was primarily placed on investment in facilities and less in staff.

"If it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic, we're convinced that workers' salaries and working conditions would be even better. At SIKD, we're satisfied with the agreement reached, especially due to the new circumstances which have arisen in Europe. We expect that the tourist season will be good, and we believe that this is just the beginning of a step forward in a significant increase in wages and other material rights, and that the Jadran Crikvenica has finally become a recognisable and desirable company, not only for tourists but also for workers,'' they said from the union.

For more, check out our business section.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Zagreb February Tourism Continues to Record Positive Trend Seen in 2022

March the 4th, 2022 - Zagreb February tourism is continuing the positive trend seen so far this year which makes a very pleasant change when compared to what we've been seeing over the last two years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to the Zagreb Tourist Board (TZGZ), the Croatian capital recorded 137 percent more arrivals and 105 percent more overnight stays in February than it did back in pandemic-dominated February 2021, during which many countries were still in lockdown and severe restrictions on travel were in force.

Luckily for Zagreb February tourism for 2022, an impressive total of 45,082 arrivals and 104,104 overnight stays were registered, and, in addition to Croatian guests, most overnight stays were made by guests from: Russia, Italy, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. In February, there were 31,337 overnight stays realised by Croatian tourists, which is an increase of 35 percent when compared to February last year, and foreign guests realised 72,767 overnight stays, an increase of 164 percent. Out of the total number of arrivals, 16,231 (representing growth of 43 percent) and foreign tourists 28,851 (representing growth of 277 percent).

On that occasion, Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, said: "We're pleased that February has continued the upward trend and that we are, in total, during the first two months of 2022 at 90 percent of the amount of overnight stays realised during the same period back in 2019. In real terms, in January and February, we recorded 87,915 arrivals and 211,307 overnight stays, which is an increase of 155 percent in arrivals and 119 percent in overnight stays when compared to the first two months of 2021.

We're also seeing a gradual recovery in business, the so-called MICE segment. Namely, based on the data collected during 2021, the Zagreb Tourist Board recorded a total of 664 business meetings, which is an increase of 28 percent more meetings than in 2020. In addition, we're pleased with two recent independent studies where our city has achieved great results compared to other European and global cities. One is the Ovo Network survey, according to which Zagreb ranks fourth as a destination for families with children (https://bit.ly/3Mdj3TH), and the other is the Holidu.co.uk survey (https://bit.ly/3pubpLc ) according to which Zagreb is in tenth place as the safest city to travel to for women.''

While Zagreb February tourism numbers are of course worth celebrating, we can't forget to mention the horrendous situation taking place in Ukraine as a result of the unjustified Russian invasion of that country around a week ago. The Zagreb Tourist Board has compiled all the information on the reception of Ukrainian refugees in the area of ​​the City of Zagreb on its website. The information is available in Ukrainian, English and Croatian, and it summarises instructions on accepting and assisting Ukrainians who have been forced to leave their homes.

For more, check out our travel section.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

War in Ukraine Slows Down Travel Bookings in Split-Dalmatia County by 50%

March 3, 2022 - Travel bookings in Split-Dalmatia County have slowed down by almost 50% so far due to the war in Ukraine. 

After the tourist market began to recover from the corona crisis, some six hundred kilometers from Croatia, Russia invaded Ukraine. 

This will certainly affect guests coming from the Ukrainian and Russian markets. After all, Russian planes can no longer fly in most European countries, including Croatia. But what about the others? For now, it’s hard to say, but Dalmaciija Danas reveals that there could be a reduction in tourist arrivals from distant markets.

The Minister of Tourism and Sports, Nikolina Brnjac, held a coordination meeting with representatives of the largest hotel groups in Croatia. In addition, the possibilities of accommodating refugees from war-torn Ukraine were discussed.

The impact of this crisis on current bookings from the most important markets was also discussed at the meeting. A statement from the Ministry states that bookings are in a slight decline, but it is still good, and it is difficult to talk about estimates in this situation.

"We had already started the preparatory activities for this tourist year before these unpleasant events, and we will adjust them following the further development of this difficult situation, which we all hope will be completed as soon as possible," Brnjac concluded and added that promotional activities on the Russian market have been completely suspended.

Ukrainian tourists recorded 145,568 arrivals, and 857,482 overnight stays in Croatia last year, while Russian tourists achieved 145,592 arrivals and 800,979 overnight stays in 2021. 

The Split-Dalmatia County Tourist Board explained that the war in Ukraine slowed down tourist reservations by almost 50 percent, adding that only six days had passed since the war began, so it was too early to say from which markets the decline was most significant.

“During the pandemic, people learned how to behave in emergencies, so 'last-minute bookings' have become a common way of doing business in tourism. This means that if the war ends and the situation stabilizes, reservations will return very soon; that is, tourism will return to normal," the Tourist Board said. 

Alijana Vukšić, director of the Split Tourist Board, said that the events in Ukraine would undoubtedly have consequences for the tourism sector.

"Especially when it comes to tourist traffic from distant markets in which travelers view Europe as a whole. How much impact it will leave on tourist traffic between European countries depends on the further course of events," she told Slobodna Dalmacija and added:

"Last year, more than ten thousand tourist arrivals were made by Russians in Split and more than six thousand tourist arrivals from Ukraine. However, it is difficult at this moment to predict the return of tourists from the mentioned markets because it will depend exclusively on the geopolitical situation, which we hope will stabilize as soon as possible," the director concluded. 

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

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Ukraine Situation Brings New Period Of Uncertainty, Croatian Tourism Association Says

ZAGREB, 24 Feb 2022 - Croatian Tourism Association director Veljko Ostojić said on Thursday that after two years of the pandemic, the latest events in Ukraine brought another period of insecurity and uncertainty.

Any war situation, regardless of the vicinity, deters from travel, he told Hina, adding that at the moment it is impossible to predict how the Russia-Ukraine crisis will impact Croatia's tourism.

He said one could expect bookings on the main markets to slow down in the days ahead, but is confident in last-minute bookings as in the last two years.

Croatia's big advantage is that it's predominantly an auto destination and very safe, which will be important in preparing for the summer season, Ostojić said.

The Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ), which has an office in Moscow covering Ukraine as well, told Hina that next week more would be known about the impact of Russia's attack on Ukraine on travel from the two countries. The Tourism Ministry concurred.

According to HTZ data, 145,000 Russians visited Croatia in 2021, generating 800,000 nights, respectively 94% and 80% of the figures registered in 2019, a record year for Croatia's tourism.

Ukrainians generated 146,000 arrivals and 857,000 nights, respectively 4% and 2% more than in 2019.

This year to date 2,000 Ukrainians visited Croatia, generating 12,000 nights, up 47% and 53% on the year respectively.

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

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Plan to Lessen Crowds in Busy Croatian Tourist Destinations Looks Promising

February the 24th, 2022 - A plan to bring down the sometimes insufferable crowds in busy Croatian tourist destinations is currently in the works as hopes for a good summer and an even better epidemiological picture this year grow.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, busy Croatian tourist destinations that want to reduce tourist crowds and make life easier for residents and visitors alike will soon have a so-called ''heat map'' or destination control panel, a tool that measures the concentration of tourists in a particular place in real time.

The tool was developed as part of a European project in which the Croatian Institute of Tourism is also participating, and last summer it was tested out by the very busy cities of Venice, Bari, Ferrara, Sibenik and, unsurprisingly when it comes to crowding issues - the City of Dubrovnik.

Cameras and sensors

“Tourist movement data is made available in real time thanks to the cameras and sensors installed exclusively for this purpose in each of the partner cities. The collected data provides an opportunity for users of the destination control panel, such as local authorities, tourist boards, etc., to make short-term forecasts of tourist movements, and accordingly make appropriate decisions that directly affect the relief of city centres and cultural heritage sites, redirecting tourists to less visited parts of a given city,'' the Institute of Tourism explained.

The heat map to control busy Croatian tourist destinations is one of the tools developed within the Interreg project S.LI.DES. (Smart strategies for sustainable tourism in Lively cultural DEStinations), which is being implemented until June this year with a budget of 2.5 million euros attached to it.

The project holder is the Ca ’Foscari University of Venice, and the Institute of Tourism is one of the ten partners in the project. In addition to the system for monitoring the movement of tourists, the project has developed a prototype system for analysing various aspects of heritage management, those related to identifying the potential of intangible cultural heritage in various destinations.

According to the Institute, based on the results collected during the pilot actions, the partner cities will plan a joint strategy aimed at encouraging the sustainable development of urban spaces. All of the project's results will be made publicly available and applicable in other interested tourist destinations, especially destinations that struggle with the problem of excessive tourism and congestion in city cores during the high tourism season.

A series of innovative events

Dino Karadjole, the director of the Sibenik Tourist Board, explained how the pilot project was carried out. “The pilot conducted in Sibenik in the summer of 2021 was organised through eight Thursdays in July and August. We had a number of various innovative events where we promoted tangible and intangible cultural heritage, workshops, screenings of a short film, a guided tour called ''Stories from Sibenik's cuisine'', trade fairs and art evenings.

On top of that, we tried out giving some of the partner institutions, such as the Museum of the City of Sibenik and the interpretation centre of the Cathedral of St. James, free admission,'' explained Dino Karadjole.

Through the ''control destination board'' in Sibenik, they then tested the concentration of tourists and locals in a certain period of time on Thursday compared to another day of the week, and compared the differences between a day full of content and activities compared to everyday life on another ordinary day. They were especially interested in whether the existence of the content in the time interval from 18:00 to 21:00 would increase the number of visitors, or motivate them to come to the city a little earlier than usual.

The results of counting tourists using four different camera counters really showed that there was an increase in the number of tourists in that period and that the cameras recorded an increase. Karadjole pointed out that there is a good basis for further research and application of a smart control panel for informed resource management and planning assistance, especially when it comes to notoriously busy Croatian tourist destinations.

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

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