Monday, 4 October 2021

Croatian Winter Tourism in 1990: Full of Life! Tour Rep Interview

October 4, 2021 - As the Adriatic coast slowly prepares for its winter hibernation from tourism, some fascinating insights from a UK tour rep in the 1980s, an era when Croatian winter tourism was very much full of life. Could it be again? 

There was plenty of lively social media debate in response to the latest TCN editorial this weekend - Could Digital Nomad Concepts Solve Croatian Winter Tourism Problem?

While Croatia has excellent tourism numbers in summer, the Adriatic coast almost shuts down in the winter, with an impact not just on its tourism offer, but also the quality of life of local residents. Recent digital nomad concepts such as Nomad Table - inviting digital nomads to meet and interact over dinner - fills a Split restaurant once a week; a meet-up and pitch night in Zagreb provides entertainment for 50 locals, expats and nomads; and the new Digital Nomad Valley Zagreb co-living concept already has over 50 applications in just 5 days for the winter. 

None of these ideas are revolutionary, all are transferrable to mainstream tourism. So is it time to work on a strategic plan for a pilot project on a quality destination such as Split?

Of the many social media reactions, this comment in particular caught my eye. 

Both the Amfora and now Riva in Hvar Town were open all winter plus a few restaurants and cafes looking after mainly American tourists for walking, history and the arts. That was up to 1991.

The comment was made by Martin Gannon, a Brit with his heart in Jelsa on Hvar. Martin worked as Operations Manager for Pilgrim Holidays, which was owned by Yugoslav airline JAT from 1986 to 1991. He told me he was busy with tourists 12 months a year covering Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar, Pula, Zagreb, as well as other destinations in former Yugoslavia.  

And there were plenty of flights. This, in an era before the low-cost flight revolution. Martin kindly agreed to an email interview to tell us more about winter tourism as it once was.

1. Croatian tourism is very seasonal, with the bulk of tourism in the summer months and almost nothing in the winter months. But it was not always the case. You were Operations Manager for Pilgrim Holidays, owned by Yugoslav airline JAT from 1986-91. Tell us about winter tourism back then.

When I began working for Pilgrim Holidays owned at that time by JAT, we had a large fleet of aircraft. Being a self-management company (a type of workers cooperative similar to Waitrose, John Lewis in the UK) it was not an option to shut down services, or have staff on short-term contracts that they only worked in the summer, so ways were found to keep staff employed and aircraft to still operate. Yes services were reduced compared to the summer, but you could still get direct flights from the UK to Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split, with connecting services to Pula and Zadar.

My role was to see how to increase the traffic of visitors from the UK to former Yugoslavia.

At the time Yugotours America was successfully bringing tourists from New York on regular DC10 services via Belgrade and Zagreb, staying in Dubrovnik Split and Hvar.

Tourists also came via UK-based operator Saga Holidays on coach tours from Vienna to Dubrovnik. I worked for Saga Holidays from 1980-1983 guiding coach tours of Americans and British tourists who were senior citizens. 

With a good number of hotels open, I began developing short winter breaks, better known these days as city breaks, Events tourism in the form of conferences for big companies also took place. Surprisingly for a then Socialist country, religious events such as the St Blaise Festival in February in Dubrovnik, and the developing religious destination Medjugorje, were promoted and visited. At the time JAT had a lot of international flights to India, America, China and Australia, so I organised an option to add a few days. So instead of flying on from London via Zagreb or Belgrade straight on to Sydney, you could stay in Split or Dubrovnik for a few days at a cheap rate.

I also began developing health tourism, spas, dental and even a few skiing and adventure holidays, as well as wildlife spotting, especially in early Spring.

2. This was an era before the low-cost airline revolution. Tell us about the off-season flights to the Croatian coast. Who flew where, and how often?

Flight operations were firstly operated in the tourism off-season by Yugoslav Airlines and Inex- Adria (which became Adria). JAT operated mainly to Zagreb and Belgrade from London and Manchester and Glasgow. There were also flights direct to Ljubljana (for skiing) Dubrovnik and Split, as well as plenty of connecting flights to the coast from Belgrade and Zagreb. Inex- Adria operated from Manchester and Gatwick to Ljubljana and Maribor for skiing Holidays.

The other Airline Aviogenex owned by Yugotours operated from Gatwick to a number of Serbian Airports for skiing Holidays as well as charter services for conferences, mainly to Dubrovnik, where 200-300 delegates would be transported, in support of JAT where we could only supply one aircraft.

3. What was the profile of the winter tourist in Croatia? Which nationalities were the biggest visitors? 

The main visitors off-season were Americans, as well as pilgrims for Medjugorje, mostly Irish and Spanish. We also flew in a very large number of Filipinos mainly going to Medjugorje, so we were involved with accommodation and transfers. The Americans were mostly retirees and were interested in history and the arts and food. These would be arranged in groups, and on Hvar Town, the old theatre was used to put performances on in English, from actors from around the then Yugoslavia.

4. Which were the most popular destinations? It is hard to imagine Pula, Split, Dubrovnik and Hvar as 12-month destinations. 

The main destinations were Dubrovnik and Split, with add-ons to Pula and Opatija, as well as Plitvice (though this was mainly in Spring). Unfortunately Croatia is not well known for skiing though it has it, so sales were for Slovenia, and the Serbian resort of Kopaonik for skiing holidays, But these could be offered in two-centre holidays which we did a lot of in those days, a week in the mountains skiing then a few days or longer on the coast.

5. Swimming in winter is only for the diehard in Croatia. What did these tourists do on their winter visits?

The hotels used during the winter had indoor pools, and even some had limited spa facilities, so people would enjoy walking, history, and limited sports activities. The majority of these visitors were more senior and would be enjoying the milder coastal conditions. They would not be staying for a week, but up to 6 weeks or longer, as then it was cheaper to stay in a hotel than paying food and heating bills at home, in the UK or US.

You have to remember this was a socialist time so no one could be unemployed. It was better to operate the hotel at a small loss than have staff off, with the hope that the tourists would buy extra drinks, massages etc to cover the extra costs.

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(Martin Gannon, left, taking a coffee break with his father in Jelsa in the 1980s)

6. Let's take Hvar Town as an example. What was open in terms of hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities?

Hvar Town had the Amfora Hotel open, which had an excellent indoor pool, a medical centre and a specialist health centre for lungs, breathing, and asthma conditions. It also had a sports fitness team, that helped visiting sports teams, such as water polo, football teams in training. And basically anyone who needed advice on sports fitness.

The Slavija Hotel (now Riva) was also open, though mainly for domestic tourism. A few restaurants and cafe bars were open, again most of these were not private, a few were. All museums and theatres were open and fully functioning. Boat excursions of course did not operate in the winter.

7. The Homeland War obviously changed everything. But with such a global boom in tourism 30 years later, why do you think Croatia no longer has the winter tourism it had back in the 1980s? What has changed?

The main reason why Croatia has poor tourism is because of the poor connectivity with flights, but this now has an opportunity to change with Ryanair turning up at Zagreb. But there are still a poor number of domestic flights during the winter. There is also a serious lack of showing the opportunities to visit Croatia off-season, and getting hotels to stay open. And sensible pricing and marketing. It does not need to be a vast number coming, but people who are willing to pay well, and enjoy themselves.

8. We will appoint you as the Croatian Minister of Tourism for this question. Given your experience of tourism back then and the world today, what steps would you take to reintroduce 12-month tourism to Croatia?

Look at marketing Croatia far better, showing its stunning scenery. People now are not looking just for sun and sea; they want something especially in the winter to challenge them, entertain them, enjoy wholesome food and wine and craft beers. These are better to see and visit in the winter than summer when it's almost 40 degrees!!

Many hotels have good sports facilities so get football teams from around Europe over training, as they used to, Water polo teams as well.  A popular sport now is cold water swimming, loads of exciting rivers in Croatia to try this challenge. Yoga holidays healthy food, spas, medical tourism especially dental work, and yes, skiing outside of Zagreb.

Maybe not so much now post-Covid but stlll companies will have conferences, so give them good deals, the delegates will come back themselves with their families when they see how stunning Croatia is. I know this as a fact as I used to rebook delegates onto our summer holidays when at Pilgrim.

Nature tours, environmental trips travelling around by train. Working holidays, helping plant trees in burnt areas. Projects to help rebuild areas damaged by earthquakes, some of these ideas will be for small groups but they are high-value tourists and most importantly will visit again and also tweet, and snapshot what they are up to, getting free publicity.

Interesting stuff, thanks Martin. If anyone else has memories or a contribution of Croatian winter tourism as it once was, then please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Winter Tourism. 

Martin has contributed to TCN before with a really interesting account of tourism restarting after the Homeland War, a different era. Read more in Restarting Croatian Tourism from the UK After the Homeland War: a Travel Agent's Tale.

Monday, 4 October 2021

So Long, Ferragosto! More Italians in Croatia in September Than August

October the 4th, 2021 - Ferragosto is typically ''celebrated'' by Italians in Croatia during the blisteringly hot month of August, and whether or not the coronavirus pandemic has changed this habit, or something else has altered, there were more Italians in Croatia in September this year.

As Novac/Jutarnji/Barbara Ban writes, the Croatian travel company Croatia Luxury Rent recorded an increase the arrivals of Italians in Croatia during the month of September. This is an increase of three percent when compared to August, which they say was one of the most successful months for Croatian tourism in the last few seasons. A turn of events few expected back in spring.

''The causes of such sales results should be sought in more economic and sociological details. First of all, it should be noted that due to economic circumstances, Croatia as a destination has become too expensive for Italians to visit to some extent. That's why they're looking for arrangements outside the prime part of the tourist season, when they are more favourable. Furthermore, Italy is extremely sensitive to the effects of coronavirus due to high mortality in their country at the very beginning of the global pandemic, so the reason for their later arrival in slightly larger numbers on the Adriatic is probably the fact that due to fewer tourists in destinations, there is no greater threat of infection,'' they explained from CLR.

There are very few retirees...

They also presented information on the types of Italians in Croatia this summer, and there were very few retirees to speak of.

''Demographically speaking, the largest percentage of Italians in Croatia since the beginning of the summer season were families with children and travellers of younger age groups, who were looking for isolated accommodation in destinations not far from the most popular tourist centres. There's been a slightly lower percentage of Italian guests of the older age group,'' CLR claims.

Istria and Kvarner

They are also satisfied with this, a small shift, because in the last few years, Italians have been choosing Croatia less and less for their summer holidays.

''As the number of arrivals of guests from this market has been systematically decreasing over more recent seasons, such sales results are in a way, quite the surprise. The Italians who visited Croatia in September chose Istria and Kvarner once again, of which the most sought after destinations were Porec, Rovinj, Umag, Crikvenica and Opatija,'' they concluded.

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

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Could Digital Nomad Concepts Solve Croatian Winter Tourism Problem?

October 2, 2021 - Community,  events, co-living - how concepts for digital nomads can be utilised to improve Croatian winter tourism problem.

Let me start by explaining the background to my perspective on Croatian winter tourism.

Having lived full-time for 13 years on the island of Hvar, I have seen the realities of the seasonality of Croatian tourism closer than most. An idyllic island to live on for sure, but with locals too busy with the season to fully enjoy the summer months, only to then encounter the long and beautiful winter with everything closed and nowhere to go. With so much more to offer than just the sun, sea and the beach, it has always been a mystery to me why Croatia has not been able to develop year-round tourism. 

As a local resident in the winter with every restaurant in the town closed for 5 months of the year, the announcement of ANY event and chance to go and socialise was gratefully accepted by many locals. Something different to break up the daily routine of visits to the cafe, working in the field and walking along the coast. I used to watch the few tourists that did come in the winter months - a time when Hvar, for me at least, was even more beautiful than in the summer - and how lost they looked. With so few places open, it was hard to find a place to eat, things to do, people to meet. 

And it was not just Hvar. Dalmatian coastal towns in winter are a shadow of their summer selves in terms of life. It is the classic chicken and egg story. Lots of businesses want tourists all year, but they could not afford to stay open in the hope that they would show up. Lots of tourists would like to come in the offseason - Sandinavians escape a harsh winter, for example - but there were very poor air connections. And for those who did manage to visit, there was simply no focal point or events to attend, or ways to connect with other tourists. 

But if there was better connectivity, a decent programme with a selection of restaurants and other hospitality services available all year, as well as focal points to meet both locals and other travellers, could some of Croatia's coastal destinations extend their season, even function 12 months a year?

I believe that they could, and I think that various initiatives from the digital nomad community are giving some useful pointers as to how we can address this Croatian winter tourism problem.

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In the winter of 2019, Split-based Saltwater Nomads, one of the first co-working spaces in the city, was having good business from nomads walking in to use their services. But nomads want not only a place to work but a social life as well. Saltwater Nomads teamed up with local restaurants Zinfandel and Brasserie on 7 to offer a weekly concept called Nomad Table. For a fixed price for a 3-course meal, Nomad Table was advertised through nomad and expat social media platforms. It was a total hit, fully booked each week and was becoming an established part of the Split offseason tourism scene, until a certain pandemic disrupted things.

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Last night as the hotel Canopy by Hilton in Zagreb, September's Zagreb Digital Nomad Ambassador, Israeli Nimrod Dean Kuchel, held a Zagreb Meet-Up and Pitch night. it was a simple social evening, open to all and promoted via TCN and some nomad social media groups. A promise of 5 speakers talking about their travel/digital nomad experiences followed by a social evening of chat and networking. 

Around 50 people showed up, a mix of local, expat and nomad. The advertised 5 speakers soon turned into 10, as people in the audience also wanted to share their stories. New friendships were made, new events discovered, with several heading out to Ivanic-Grad today for the Bucijada pumpkin festival. A simple concept with a broad appeal. 

Earlier this week, TCN brought you the story of the first so-called Croatian digital nomad village, Digital Nomad Valley Zadar. This is the first creative use for digital nomad purposes of the plentiful tourism accommodation that is largely unused in the winter months. The concept is simple - offer people a spectacular location, with plenty of facilities including a community and good co-working space, and provide events and things to do. 

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Launched three days ago, Digital Nomad Valley Zadar already has 25 nomads who have signed up to stay when it opens its doors in 8 days on October 10. 

A weekly nomad table in Split, a drinks night with travel stories in Zagreb, and a creative use of a campsite and hotel in the offseason. Nothing revolutionary, and nothing too complicated to organise or replicate. But all a hit, and with applications beyond just digital nomads. 

As I can vouch from my time on Hvar, the benefits of successful Croatian winter tourism would not just be for the tourism sector, but for the population as a whole. If some tourism traffic enabled a few more restaurants to be open, or for some other businesses to be open all year, and if those tourist arrivals meant the addition of events in the winter months, not only would money be coming into the economy, but the quality of life for local people would also improve. 

But how to deal with that chicken and the egg? 

I would try a pilot project in a destination that has the potential to be a year-round destination with plenty of content apart from the sun and the sea.

A destination like Split. 

Ten restaurants, 2-3 hotels, a couple of tour agencies for starters. Use the creative ideas above and adapt them to winter tourism. Perhaps a focus on active tourism or maybe gourmet tourism. Wine tours are not so dependent on the season, for example. Engaging some good winemakers and restaurateurs to come up with a gourmet extravaganza could be a real hit. 

The islands are fabulous to visit at any time of year. Organised tourism in Europe began on Hvar with a focus on its temperate winter climate with the founding of the Hvar Health Society. Get the winemakers, a couple of restaurants, and the activity tourism specialists onboard for each island to offer a limited but quality product that will bring the island to life for its visitors. 

Talk to the airlines. A longer season is in their interests, and if they can have first-mover advantage in making that happen, perhaps that is an additional incentive. With Ryanair now flying to multiple destinations through the winter from Zagreb, would it be too hard/expensive to see what can be done for Split?

A concerted effort and a focused strategy to provide a rich and targeted tourism offer for the pilot programme should not be hard to conceive for a country with over 20% of its GDP coming from tourism, and the rewards from a successful pilot could be substantial, both in terms of quality of life and revenue. If a few progressive entrepreneurs from the private sector can organise things on a small scale as in the examples above, what could be achieved from an official concerted campaign?

For more news and views on Croatian tourism, follow the dedicated TCN section

 

Saturday, 2 October 2021

HRTurizam, Croatian Institute for Tourism in World Top 75 Innovative Organisations for Tourism Policy

October 2, 2021 - International recognition for popular Croatian business portal, HRTurizam.hr and the Croatian Institute for Tourism for their work in innovative tourism policy.

Some well-deserved recognition for our colleagues at busines to business tourism portal HRTurizam.hr, which was one of two Croatian names included in the Apolitical global list of the top 75 most innovative organisations in tourism policy, a list which was published earlier this week. In addition to the hard work of HRTurizam.hr owner and editor Goran Rihelj, the Croatian Institute of  Tourism was also included. 

Apolitical explained more about the criteria to make the list:

"The organisations recognised on this list are public agencies or non-governmental organisations who use policy, programmes, and projects to build creative solutions to challenges. Often these agencies implement solutions that make it easier for governments to leverage private sector speed, technology, scale, and efficiency to accelerate outcomes.

"Most importantly, these agencies demonstrate industry leadership, innovate new approaches, and utilise technology and digitisation to create more accessible and equitable tourism communities in one of three primary areas:

  • Planning for industry recovery during and after the pandemic, including through public health efforts, testing, technology, and other initiatives.
  • Driving long-term sustainable investment that helps maximise economic justice and financial inclusion for tourism communities.
  • Improving destination management through implementation of best practices and governance models, particularly by integrating and respecting global cultures and minimising environmental impact.

"The list was released in partnership with Mastercard and the United Nations World Tourism Organization during UNWTO’s celebration of Global Tourism Day on 27 September 2021."

Here is what they had to say about HRTurizam.hr: 

HrTurizam is the most read business-to-business tourist portal in Croatia. HrTurizam monitors the Croatian tourism sector on a daily basis and actively works on connecting the public and private sectors with the aim of market development, synergy, and positive change. Over 5 years, under the leadership of editor and owner Goran Rihelj, HrTurizam has published over 8,000 professional articles on Croatian tourism. Since 2020, they have been a useful portal for tourism workers, providing all relevant data and news related to COVID-19 and tourism. HrTurizam is also the instigator of various tourism initiatives, such as the “The days of Croatian tourism” and the new tourism stories site.

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And the Institution for Tourism: 

The Institute for Tourism is the only scientific public institute in Croatia specialising in research and consultancy services in tourism. Its expertise is founded upon scientific work, permanent research activities, and the continuous education of its multidisciplinary team. The Institute for Tourism works together with tourism industry players with whom it shares a common goal, which is to achieve a higher level of competitiveness for Croatian tourism. The Institute carries out work that supports sustainable tourism development and management, including research planning, library publishing, and administration of the Scientific Council Management Board. Specialists, such as Research Associate Izidora Marković, serve as subject matter experts for a wide range of topics, including the impacts of tourism on protected areas, development of indicators, and the Croatian Sustainable Tourism Observatory (CROSTO).

Asked to comment on the award, Rihelj had this to say:

"Being among the best in the world is a great honor and privilege, but also an obligation. I would like to thank the professional public, as well as the organizers, who have just included the HrTurizam.hr portal on the list of the world's most innovative organizations in tourism policy 2021. In our tourism there are various challenges in the field, from extending the tourist season, sustainable and strategic development of tourist destinations, the workforce, lack of cooperation and synergies, etc.… But one of the main problems is that we do not have quality dialogue and communication between the private and public sectors. The question is: will we continue to talk for years about the potential and the need for change or will we all move together and we will be that change and it is this potential that has been turned into quality resources? But in order to turn these potentials into resources, I need to start proactively engaging in market development and growth. There must be dialogue and common communication and consensus on common themes and challenges. Our main focus must be on constructive open dialogue, solutions and synergy and cooperation. On that trail was the DayOne concept we were preparing, which unfortunately had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

You can see the complete list of 75 organisations on the official Apolitical website.

For the latest tourism news from Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN section

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac Says Preparation for 2022 Season Has Begun

September the 29th, 2021 - Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac has stated that the preparations for the 2022 tourist season in Croatia are already underway following a remarkably good summer this year, which brought relief and deeper pockets to many working in Croatia's strongest economic branch.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, on the occasion of the World Tourism Day, Croatian Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac met with members of the Council for Recovery and Development of Tourism, and in addition to good results this summer season, they also discussed preparations for the next tourist year, which will hopefully be even more normal than the one we've just enjoyed.

"We expect the continuation of investments in tourism, and we're currently working on 'mapping' counties and all of the projects that are being done in them, what they're planning and so on. The sector is already preparing for the 2022's summer season and we have a good feeling about it,'' said Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac.

She also stated that Croatian tourism exceeded 70 percent of the total turnover from the pre-pandemic, record year of 2019 in September, and the data, ie the highly positive trends from the fiscalisation system in September, were also very encouraging indeed.

She announced that October will be the month of Croatian tourism, which we've written about before, for which various tourism service providers are now applying, with the condition that they give a minimum of a 35 percent discount, which she hopes will be an additional motive for further autumn travel for both Croatian and foreign tourists.

The director of the Croatian Tourist Board (CNTB), Kristjan Stanicic, said similar things, congratulating everyone in the sector on the Day of Tourism and saying that communication in the sector was very good, which also contributed to a good summer season this year.

"All stakeholders [in tourism] are ready to better prepare for 2022, in order to maintain Croatia's position as the safest and highest quality tourist destination in the Mediterranean, which will be emphasised in this promotion," concluded Stanicic.

For more, make sure to check our our dedicated travel section. Fancy visiting during the cooler post-season? Here's why September and October could be right up your alley.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

2021 Croatia Postseason Exceeding Expectations: Hotels Full, Mostly German Tourists

September 29, 2021 - The 2021 Croatia postseason is going better than expected, with around 200,000 tourists in Croatia at the moment.

While the pre-season in Croatia hardly yielded results, the peak season exceeded all expectations, and the post-season finally came to life to surprise us all. 

Last year, tourists fled Croatia in mid-August after Croatia was marked in red due to the increase in the number of new cases, and although the same scenario was repeated this year, it did not have the same effect on tourism as 2020.

As Index.hr has learned, more rooms are in demand in hotels, and although we are about to enter October, there are currently around 200,000 tourists in Croatia.

According to eVisitor, 1.7 million arrivals and 11.3 million overnight stays were made in Croatia so far in September, which is an increase of 239 percent in arrivals and 146 percent in overnight stays compared to the same period last September. Compared to the same period in September 2019, this represents 85 percent of the results in arrivals and 95 percent of the results in overnight stays.

Veljko Ostojić, director of the Croatian Tourism Association (HUT), told Index that hoteliers and camps are very satisfied with the post-season.

"The post-season in hotels and camps was great. What happened with Croatia in the red did not affect our tourism, so there were no booking cancellations. Practically all hotels that worked in August continued to operate in September, and we are lucky with time. So we can all be delighted. And another conclusion of all is that in the postseason, it was confirmed that the higher the quality of the hotel and the more stars, the more sought after and filled it is, which is a message to everyone for the future," Ostojić said to Index.

He states that during the post-season in September, it could be noticed that groups began to return to Croatia, which had been absent for the last year and a half due to the pandemic.

"Organized tourism, be it smaller events, congresses, wine tours, retirement groups, all have adapted to the current situation. If guests or groups have covid-certificates, there are no restrictions on organizing specialized groups," Ostojić added.

Index also spoke with Tomislav Fain, president of the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA). At the beginning of the conversation, he pointed out that the post-season is above all expectations.

"As for the post-season, it is above all expectations, as well as the whole season. Groups, pensioners, school groups, foreigners are returning to us. This has brought great optimism because there are more and more inquiries for next year. When the groups return, retirees, it is easier to breathe because we see that we will do well next pre-season as well. So that is an indicator for us to continue," says Fain.

He emphasized that these groups significantly influence the entire tourism sector, so everyone makes a profit, including bus carriers, travel agencies, guides, restaurants, and hotels.

"When an individual comes with a car, they can only stay in the apartment, but when you have a group, it connects all stakeholders in tourism. And that guest gives traffic to everyone. Everything is moving, especially in the part where they hire guides, buses, and go on excursions. So the whole sector gets an extra boost," Fain told Index.

The director of the Croatian Tourist Board, Kristijan Staničić, also commented on the results. 

"That the season in Croatia is still ongoing is shown by the data on the current number of tourists, so about 200 thousand tourists stay in our country, while last year at this time about 90 thousand of them stayed in the country. Moreover, excellent trends in September show the data by type of accommodation facilities," said Staničić.

He states that about 2.8 million overnight stays have been realized in camps so far in September, an increase of 25 percent compared to the same period in September 2019. In addition, 3.6 million overnight stays were realized in household facilities, which is an increase of 3 percent compared to 2019, while hotels with 2.5 million overnight stays are at a high 80 percent of the results from September 2019.

"We expect good trends to continue in the coming weeks, for the last quarter of this year we already have a fully prepared communication and advertising strategy, so we will soon start implementing a campaign with the working title 'Thank you' on all Croatia Full of Life social networks, which will aim to further promote and highlight Croatia through the positive experiences of tourists who have stayed in our country," commented the director of the Croatian Tourist Board Kristjan Staničić.

He added that they have an autumn campaign on the topic of culture, history, intangible heritage, and eno-gastronomy, i.e., it is an additional promotion of the platform "Croatia Hearts and Crafts", launched by the CNTB in cooperation with Google, while for the domestic market and foreign guests who will stay in Croatia during October, they are preparing the "Croatian Tourism Month" campaign with tourist products and services at reduced and attractive prices.

After an extremely successful peak season, which passed beyond all forecasts for the entire Adriatic and demand was comparable to pre-pandemic 2019, Bluesun Hotels and Resorts recorded excellent results in the postseason, and the largest hotels in the chain remain open almost entirely due to high demand in October.

"Due to the beginning of the school year, the structure of guests changes in September, both in Croatia and in all emitting markets. Also, there is a change in the motive for the arrival of guests. The sea and the sun are no longer their exclusive precondition. These are guests who require much more content, are more active, mobile, and more inclined to explore the destination, the hinterland, and the interior of Croatia. They are much more involved in sports, interested in sights, and more dedicated to themselves, so they also explore local gastronomy and use wellness facilities," said Stjepko Šošić, director of revenue management at Bluesun Hotels & Resorts.

He states that, accordingly, they adjusted the autumn offer with sports, gastronomy, and wellness facilities and packages offered by their hotels and destinations, and through several different marketing and sales activities primarily addressed couples and individuals. He adds that they are the most represented in this period of the season because they want to avoid the biggest crowds and heat and complete the experience in our destinations with numerous additional activities.

He states that, even though the whole of Croatia has been on the red list since the beginning of September, new reservations are still arriving every day, so in some terms, they had to stop selling for the end of September due to lack of capacity.

"Considering that the weather was very nice through September, a large part of the guests extended their stays by a few days compared to the period they initially booked," said Stjepko Šošić.

Currently, Bluesun's nine open hotels (six of them on the Makarska Riviera) and one camp, in addition to the growing number of individual guests, which is a trend that has continued from the peak season to this autumn, are seeing a trend in traditional sports and fitness groups.

"At the end of September and through October, we have numerous MICE (meetings, incentives, congresses, and events) events in our hotels with congress facilities. As a result, MICE is much stronger this fall than expected, and there is a strong demand from the corporate milieu. We are especially pleased with the recovery of this sales segment, which is extremely important to extend the season. These are working meetings and mostly respectable domestic companies from the field of medicine, IT sector, and pharmaceutical industry," said Marija Benjak, head of Bluesun Hotels & Resorts group and MICE sales.

As for the structure of guests by markets, Germany is traditionally the most represented in September, where a third of the total number of guests comes from. Also, already in mid-August, according to Bluesun, reducing the number of guests from the hitherto dominant car destinations is noticeable, and with establishing regular air traffic, the number of guests from the British and Scandinavian markets is growing.

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

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Losinj Sustainable Tourism Project Tested Out, Assessments to Follow

September the 28th, 2021 - Losinj sustainable tourism has been being tested out, and the so-called ''eco standard'' of it will be measured and judged by nobody but independent travellers themselves.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, last week, Losinj hosted a project which showcased the modern simulation of sustainable travel. Six people of different professions, from several Mediterranean countries, had the task to try out and evaluate a carefully designed all-inclusive innovative eco trip called "Rhythm of the senses of the island of Losinj" in the protected area of ​​Cres-Losinj.

This is the main activity of the Mediterranean project INTERREG DestiMED PLUS called "Ecotourism in Mediterranean destinations", which, back at the end of 2019, included the Croatian Institute of Tourism. This Losinj sustainable tourism project has been being prepared for two years now and is taking place in parallel in Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Albania and of course Croatia, and the leading partner is the Italian region of Lazio. The International Association for Nature Conservation (IUCN) and WWF Mediterranean are also involved in the implementation of the project.

The subject of the project is the development of an innovative ecotourism package deal in each of the selected protected areas of project partners, which is created, tested, improved and then adapted to current market needs through the accurate measurement of the environmental sustainability footprint and all other sustainability indicators. The goal is to minimise the negative impacts of tourism on the environment, economy and community, by exact measurement, and not only by declarative, anticipated recommendations.

Specifically, the Losinj sustainable tourism project itinerary was made for smaller groups of 6 to 12 people and lasts for six days. Now, the testers, and in the future tourists, will be staying in family/private accommodation with eco references, and they'll also make the most of the more sustainable transfers provided in the wider Losinj area.

The programme includes an hour of cooking in a family restaurant, a visit to a fragrant garden and a herbarium workshop with local herbs and a tasting room, a visit to the Apoxyomenos Museum as an aspect of local cultural value, kayaking and diving on the island of Orjula, enjoying a glass of local wine, being educated on sustainability at the Blue World Institute, cycling, and a promenade walk along the Path of Vitality and a picnic along the coast.

"The name of ''Rhythm of the senses of the island of Losinj'' was created in the desire to introduce guests to the true island rhythm that Losinj breathes during the rest of the year, when it isn't the peak of the tourist season in summer. The rhythm of the senses alludes to the sheer variety of activities Losinj boasts. With their arrival, tourists extend the season and participate in the conservation of this protected area through responsible behaviour and their consumption of arrangements whose negative impact on the environment and local population is minimised, and income is kept within the local economy of the resident population,'' explained the Institute of Tourism.

The trip which the Losinj sustainable tourism project created was intended for the market of experienced, solvent, environmentally responsible and adventurous middle-aged, English and German-speaking travellers who enjoy a combination of outdoor activities and psychophysical rest, local gastronomy, culture, nature and tradition and interaction with locals through various creative workshops, experiences and visits.

These guests love and seek sustainable more remote, Mediterranean exotic destinations, they typically choose comfort over luxury, and put quality before the price of a tourist service or product. The itinerary of the ecotourism package includes a number of local service providers who have recognised the quality and long-term value of this project, which will be available on the tourism market in the future.

For more, follow our travel section.

Friday, 24 September 2021

Croatian Campsites Perform Excellently in Tourist Numbers in September

September the 24th, 2021 - The height of the summer season in Croatia might well be behind us now, but the post-season remains and it seems that the tourists just keep on coming. Croatian campsites have performed excellently, with both foreign and local guests appearing to have deeper pockets than before.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, this year, Croatian campsites have so far surpassed other segments of tourist accommodation - not only has the cumulative turnover from 2019 been more or less reached, but for the first time in history, Croatian campsites have reached the end of September with a very high level of occupancy.

Although this result can be partly interpreted through these unusual pandemic-induced circumstances, in addition to the longer season for camping, there are several other trends that should continue. These are a significant increase in tourists coming from the Polish and Czech markets, as well as the return of domestic guests camping in cooler weather.

Expectations have been well and truly exceeded...

“Although each accommodation segment has its own role and position on the wider market, we can truly say that Croatian campsites have been stars, and not only this year. With small differences between regions, year-round campsites have managed to reach about 90 percent of the overnight stays they realised back in 2019, which is far better than the plan from the start of the season, which foresaw around 60 to 70 percent of pre-pandemic traffic. We have to keep in mind that we had a really late start to the season, too,'' revealed Adriano Palman, the director of the Croatian Camping Association.

As early as the beginning of June, there were a lot of bookings in Croatian campsites until September, without a lot of last minute bookings, and prices were moving towards the 2019 level. The peak of the summer season, as it did in other segments, went well. Palman stated that those with lower traffic achieved 2.6 times more overnight stays than last year, and those with the best results tripled last year's traffic, which means that the entire segment was extremely successful, with slightly lower traffic in the southernmost Dubrovnik region, otherwise the country's tourist Mecca.

What differs from previous years is the extremely high occupancy levels that Croatian campsites enjoyed through September so far, until last weekend. Only this week have the camps been slowly emptying, and a good forecast for next weekend will surely motivate some to extend things for a few more days. According to statistics from the eVisitor system, Croatian campsites managed to realise a massive 2.3 million overnight stays from September the 1st to the 19th this year (on 324 thousand arrivals), which is as much as 24 percent more than in the record year of 2019 (18 percent more in arrivals).

"We interpret this on the one hand by saying that the season was ''late'', and some of the guests postponed their holidays. In addition, some guests simply wanted to take advantage of the fact that there are no travel restrictions yet and wanted to treat themselves to some camping. In any case, guests from September are important for camps because their primary motive for travelling is not the sun and the sea, although in September it's still quite warm, but instead they want to visit local attractions, eat at restaurants, visit family farms, go to wineries, and go cycling. Such guests contribute more to strengthening the local economy,'' noted Palman.

On top of that, traffic in Croatian campsites on the continent has increased significantly this year as well, despite still being in the coast's shadow. But the fact is that there are more and more of campsites in continental Croatia and that they attract more and more guests, especially locals, who like to visit them throughout the year. There are more and more camps staying open all year round, too.

Although the most numerous guests of the camps are still Germans, Slovenes and Austrians, this year, guests from the Netherlands returned to the fourth place contrary to expectations, and the only ones who significantly failed in this segment are the Italians.

A brand new structure

"We have two markets that have significant growth and a change in the structure of guests, and represent great potential to which we'd like to cater, namely the Poles and the Czechs. These guests have always come to Croatia, but in previous years they were ''simple’''guests, and with a rise in standards, they moved from the south, primarily from the Makarska Riviera, up further north, with increasingly expensive cars and camping equipment,'' revealed Palman.

Also, although in small numbers, the number of Croatia tourists is growing, and they began visiting different places in Croatia when travel was much more restricted, so they're also visiting camps on the Adriatic and in the continental part of the country. Domestic guests, for example, have been filling up mobile homes throughout the past year, using numerous weekend promotions.

For more, check out our travel section.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Enormous Interest for Croatian Tourism Investment, But Issues Remain

September the 18th, 2021 - The interest for Croatian tourism investment has never been more intense as we get a more firm hold on the pandemic, but in the usual Croatian way, multiple issues and obstacles remain.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the interest of investors and hotel brands in Croatian tourism has never been higher, which is partly due to the coronavirus pandemic that has made us delve into other virtues.

Croatia has a great opportunity to develop some new quality projects for Croatian tourism investment from both at home and abroad, it's also an opportunity to restart the country's tourism in much more sustainable direction than we were heading in before the global pandemic struck. Still, the big question is whether Croatia is ready for these investors and their demands and ideas, as well as changes to the value-added tourism model, or whether we will continue to boast about ''having results which are better than those of our competitors'' in the second pandemic-dominated tourist season that actually happened, like many things do in and to Croatia, quite by accident.

Due to this attitude, Croatian tourism could end up very disappointed in 2022, from which a lot is already expected. This could summarise the messages sent in the two days of the ninth edition of the regional conference Adria Hotel Forum by the participants of a series of panels and discussions on the future of tourism after the pandemic and the sustainability of travel, climate change and even seasonality. While it’s not just an investment conference, investment and project development opportunities are always the number one topic.

"It's true that so far we haven't had such a large share of participants from abroad at the AHF, and never before has there been such an interest in the entire region, including Croatia. These are still not huge institutional investors, but regional ones, but that's also a good direction to go in. The level of interest is particularly high for Albania, while Montenegro currently has a problem with political instability, which has made investors cool off a bit.

But while on the one hand investors are very interested, we still aren't really seeing equal interest on the Croatian side, we don't offer them any projects, it's as if we don't even need investment, but we're once again focused on how great we did during the height of the tourist season, and we're busy bragging about being the best in the entire Mediterranean. Just to remind you, Greece conducted a study back in April in which the most optimistic option was to return 70 percent of the flights they saw from 2019, and they returned 72 percent. We've raised our prices this year and we haven't done much at all to make our next season any more stable,'' said Marina Franolic, the regional director of Bench Events, which organises AHF.

Kristian Sustar, the development director of the well known Croatian Uniline agency with many years of experience in hotel management under his belt, agrees that the next tourist season could be a big disappointment for Croatian tourism as a whole.

"Our season lasted only a couple of months, and as much as the numbers were better than we expected, it was full of challenges for all sectors, agency traffic failed to make a come back, hotels were filling up only at the last minute, which means death for price policy. We missed the chance to sit down together and decide how we want to see Croatian tourism in the future, with no one looking at the long term. Next year we're going to have a big disappointment on our hands,'' believes Sustar.

Investors have their own view of things and although they claim that Croatia has changed significantly in the last ten or so years as a destination and as potential target for Croatian tourism investment, there are still very few concrete announcements to speak of. The only currently active developer at this conference was Slovak Ludovit Cernak, a partner in Sitno Holding that works on developing serious tourism and real estate projects on the islands of Ugljan and Hvar, and is full of optimism for Croatian tourism investment.

"Croatia will never be Cannes, but it will be a very important destination, and that's why it is very attractive to investors at the moment. It is no longer seen as a cheap version of Italy or Spain as it was ten years ago, things have changed,'' said Cernak, who claims that Ugljan has a chance to become the Croatian Caribbean.

Opportunities for expansion in Croatia's wider region are also sought by various hotel companies, which are interested in the Adriatic coast, but also in cities such as Zagreb and Belgrade, Bratislava. David Jenkins, the vice president of hotel development at Radisson sees these cities as locations for lifestyle and fashion hotels. Takuya Aoyama from Hyatt said that we shouldn't forget the continental part of Croatia which lies away from the coastline. He was the only one to mention the need to open a hotel in Slavonia, which longs for such projects.

The global coronavirus pandemic has forced hotel companies not only to become much more flexible in contracting with their owners, but also to play around more with products and offers  - digital solutions for things like checking in have accelerated, rooms can now also be turned into workspaces and dining rooms can be exercise rooms. That said, it seems that Croatia still has some way to go before Croatian tourism investment becomes more concrete, interest means very little when nothing is put into place to make investors sign on the dotted line.

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

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Croatian Tourism Ministry Praises 2021's Summer Tourist Season

September the 16th, 2021 - The Croatian Tourism Ministry, headed by Nikolina Brnjac, has praised the truly remarkable height of the summer tourist season which is now behind us. Despite the global pandemic, the sector has done incredibly well compared to last year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, according to data from the Croatian eVisitor system, 55.3 million overnight stays have been realised in Croatia since the beginning of the year, which exceeds the number of overnight stays from the entire pandemic-dominated year of 2020, when 54.4 million overnight stays were realised in twelve whole months.

The Croatian Tourism Ministry has, in that case, every right to beat its chest, especially given the fact that most of Croatia's traditional Mediterranean competition hasn't fared anywhere near as well due to their generally less epidemiological pictures.

Of the total number of overnight stays realised throughout 2021 so far, 46.6 million were realised by foreign tourists, while 8.7 million were realised by domestic tourists. Since the beginning of this year, nine million tourist arrivals have been realised, meaning a massive 1.2 million more tourists have visited Croatia this year than last year, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport announced.

"Given the trends in the travel industry, our goal was to maintain the stability of the tourist system, preserve jobs and the recognition of Croatia as a safe tourist destination. We want to continue with these results and that's why it is important that we all continue to adhere to the epidemiological measures which remain in place. This creates the foundations for next year and the continued development of Croatian tourism.

This year has first of all shown that safety and quality are crucial for people when choosing a holiday destination, and that guests are willing to pay even more if that can be ensured. Ultimately, our desire is to create sustainable tourism in which the focus is not on the number of tourists, but on the level of quality, on tourists who will spend money on as many offers in their destinations and generate more consumption, which will further encourage new investments in tourism,'' said the Minister of Tourism and Sport, Nikolina Brnjac.

So far in 2021, there have been 46 percent more arrivals and 37 percent more overnight stays realised than in the same period last year. Compared to the same period in pre-pandemic, record 2019, 61 percent of arrivals and 72 percent of overnight stays were realised compared to the same period in that year.

More than a million tourists are currently staying in Croatia, most of the foreign tourists are Germans (297,000), Poles (81,000), Slovenes (74,000) and Italians (61,000). Most tourists are currently in Istria County (283,000), Primorje-Gorski kotar County (187,000) and Split-Dalmatia County (184,000).

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

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