Saturday, 8 January 2022

Croatian Festive Tourism Numbers Allows for Dose of Optimism

January the 8th, 2022 - Croatian festive tourism numbers have allowed the country a little optimism for what might be to come this tourist season when the warmer months roll around. Let's have a look at the numbers.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian festive tourism numbers are promising, as they signal that Croatia had three times more tourist traffic than it did the year before, but it is still a quarter less than before the pandemic, according to statistics released by the Croatian National Tourist Board. In the period from December the 24th, 2021 to January the 6th, 2022, we had 144 thousand arrivals and 424 thousand overnight stays, which is 190 percent more in overnight stays than last winter.

Most overnight stays on the coast were realised in Istria, Kvarner and in Split-Dalmatia County, while on the continent most overnight stays were realised in Zagreb, Krapina-Zagorje and Medjimurje counties. Looking at individual destinations, most overnight stays were in Zagreb, Opatija, Rovinj, Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar, while most overnight stays, looking at markets, were realised by domestic guests, followed by the Austrians, Slovenes and Germans.

"The Croatian festive tourism numbers are optimistic and confirm the market position of our country as a quality and well-prepared destination. Numerous Croatian cities such as Opatija, Dubrovnik, Split, Osijek or Zagreb had prepared interesting content that could be enjoyed in compliance with all of the current epidemiological measures,'' said the director of the Croatian Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic. The CNTB has a target of 90 percent of guests from pre-pandemic 2019 for this year.

Observing the tourist traffic down on the coast, during the Christmas and New Year period in the Adriatic counties there were 91 thousand arrivals and 298 thousand overnight stays, while on the continent, together with the City of Zagreb, there were 54 thousand arrivals and 126 thousand overnight stays.

"Over the Christmas and New Year period, we've recorded excellent results, which will certainly contribute to the overall positive impact of tourism on final revenues in 2021, as well as on the entire Croatian economy. This year, our focus is on a year-round, sustainable tourist offer, but also to maintain the image of a safe destination that we built last year. That is why it's crucial to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, because the 2022 tourist year will also take place in the circumstances of a pandemic and I'd like to appeal for the additional responsibility of the entire tourism sector,'' concluded Minister of Tourism and Sport, Nikolina Brnjac.

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Tourist Board Expects Good Croatian 2022 Tourist Season, Higher Wages

January the 6th, 2022 - The Croatian 2022 tourist season has some excellent expectations attached to it as we slowly but surely begin to emerge from the public health crisis the globe has been plunged into since the spring of 2020.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, although it doesn't expect tourist traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023, the Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB) is entering the new year with optimistic expectations of continued traffic growth after the remarkably successful 2021 summer season.

On the wings of optimism, they plan to increase revenues this year, especially from tourist/sojourn tax, as well as increase expenditures for their own salaries. The biggest novelty this year, however, will be the new Strategic Marketing Plan, which is set to go down in history with the famous slogan "Croatia Full of Life/Hrvatska puna zivota" and the entire communication strategy that accompanies it.

All this can be taken quite clearly from the recently adopted CNTB Annual Work Plan for 2022. Even if we fail to achieve the results from 2019 this year, the CNTB expects that the high satisfaction of guests who visited various Croatian destinations last year, good value for money and confidence in Croatia's safety measures will position the country among the top destinations in southern Europe and the Mediterranean as a whole.

The Croatian 2022 tourist season is even expected to reach 90 percent of pre-pandemic 2019's tourist traffic. The focus will be on markets from which Croatia can be driven to, as well as European aviation markets such as Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Russia as more distant markets are recovering much more slowly than European countries are.

This could be further aggravated by the further increase in overall costs for carriers, and consequently airline tickets. Similar problems also await tour operators and agencies.

The growth of tourist traffic in 2022 will also bring higher revenues to the CNTB, primarily from tourist/sojourn tax, the amount of which should increase by as much as 40 percent this year compared to the previous rebalance. The total revenues of the CNTB for 2022 are planned in the amount of 311.4 million kuna, which is 6.3 percent more than in last year's supplementary budget.

Of this, 91.3 million kuna relates to revenues for special funds, the Fund for Underdeveloped Tourism Areas and the Fund for Associated Tourist Boards, while the CNTB plans to generate revenues in the amount of 220 million kuna by the end of 2022.

The plan is also to increase the total revenue from the tourist/sojourn tax by 40 percent when compared to the supplementary budget for 2021, ie the planned revenue in the amount of 114 million kuna. Membership fees should remain the same as in they were in supplementary budget last year, standing at around 31 million kuna, and the plan is to generate 49 million kuna in revenues from the state budget (about 4 percent more than last year).

As such, the implementation of the new Ordinance on salaries, allowances and compensations is planned, which will come before the Tourist Council for a final decision. Although this is not stated specifically, it is to be assumed that the aforementioned ordinance will increase salaries in the CNTB which were reduced during the pandemic, because higher wage expenditures are planned, from 17 million kuna of expenditures in the previous (2021) supplementary budget to 18.7 million kuna in the plans for 2022.

The drafting of the Strategic Marketing and Operational Plan of Croatian Tourism for the period 2022 to 2026 (SMOPHT) will cost around 3.5 million kuna.

According to the CNTB's current work plan, the new SMOPHT will define a new visual identity and communication concept for the promotion and presentation of Croatia as a tourist destination for the Croatian 2022 tourist season, and until the adoption of a new umbrella form of communication, the guidelines of the "Full of Life" communication concept will continue to be used.

Following the adoption of SMOPHT, which will provide strategic guidance, a new advertising umbrella communication concept for the next few years will be created in collaboration with various marketing agencies. The new communication concept will be used to promote the umbrella brand of Croatian tourism at all levels.

An international tender will be launched to select highly specialised agencies to then be selected to develop a new umbrella communication concept, a new logo, brand architecture, photo and video production and an implementation manual. The planned deadline for the preparation of the tender and implementation is autumn 2022, according to the plan. Therefore, the slogan "Full of Life" will continue to be used for almost a year, although its abolition was talked about back in 2017, when the then Minister Gary Cappelli announced a change in the slogan, claiming that it never came to life on the market. "Full of Life" was introduced back in 2015 during the term of Darko Lorencin, replacing the slogan "The Mediterranean as it once was/Mediteran kakav je nekad bio".

When it comes to the promotion of the country ready for the Croatian 2022 tourist season across foreign markets, the CNTB plans to initiate the procedure of opening representative offices in Spain and Ukraine in the second half of the year, if financial opportunities are created and allow for that. Further investment in the domestic market is also planned.

With the aim of developing and stimulating domestic demand outside the summer season, the CNTB still plans to conduct three major campaigns right here the domestic market, the Croatian Tourism Month campaign, the Experience Domestic Campaign, Explore Rural Croatia, and the Croatian Tourist Card Promotion Campaign. On top of that, the all but totally forgotten Croatian Tourist Card promotion will be revived.

The campaign for the promotion of the aforementioned Croatian Tourist Card aims to raise awareness of the benefits of using the card by Croatian employers, as well as to acquaint end users with the opportunities and benefits that this card provides, they explained from the CNTB when discussing the Croatian 2022 tourist season.

For more, check out our travel section.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Ina Rodin Starts IR Global Consultants, Aims to Bring Luxury to Croatia

January the 5th, 2022 - Ina Rodin had two mandates within the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ), and she's now returned back to the private sector, having kicked things off with the launch of IR Global Consultants, with which she aims to bring a touch of luxury to Croatia.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, after two terms and seven years holding the position of director of the Croatian National Tourist Board across the pond in the United States, Ina Rodin has taken to entrepreneurship.

Over recent days in New York, she founded a company called IR Global Consultants and a brand called Convene Hospitality, and she will provide consulting services in the tourism and travel industry.

As Ina Rodin revealed, her future work will continue to include the promotion of the Republic of Croatia, and she plans to pay special attention to strengthening the luxury tourism segment, including working on a greater presence of strong luxury hotel brands across Croatia. This former HTZ Office director was especially praised in the sector for the significant results she achieved during her two terms, and the successful positioning of Croatia as an increasingly desirable destination for American tourists.

During her tenure, Ina Rodin, among other things, developed a strong collaboration with Virtuos, a leading American and global luxury tourism group, which awarded her as Ambassador of the Year at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas back in 2017.

In addition, Ina Rodin recently received the "Tourist Oscar" in sunny Miami, a silver award won by the Croatian National Tourist Board in the category of the best European tourist organisation, while Croatia won a bronze medal in the category of the best destination in the entire Mediterranean.

This is the second time that Croatia has been awarded the Tourism Oscar, the first time taking place in New York back in pre-pandemic 2019.

“In our sector, what I'll do is called 'representation' services. In fact, it will be like classic consulting, combining supply and demand, plus strengthening the image of the American market through the placement of stories and products in the media. I'm going to try to capitalise on everything I learned during my two terms in America, but also partially return to the consulting business for hotels, which I was in before I went to the US,'' explained Rodin.

The United States is the most promising distant market for Croatia

For Ina Rodin, leaving HTZ doesn't have to mean leaving America, which she currently considers the most ''potent'' and promising distant emitting market for Croatian tourism.

"America has the most potential for Croatian tourism than all other distant markets and the promotion of the country should definitely be even more present there, especially since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, as it will take several more years before the normalisation of relations and tourist traffic with China and the whole of Asia begins. This past summer, with the introduction of direct flights to Croatia from the United States, it turned out that this potential was recognised by American companies, which took the opportunity, because Croatia was one of the few countries that allowed Americans to travel back then. However, our openness and interest should be cashed in in the coming years, so I will work on further cooperation with the airlines,'' explained Ina Rodin, who, in addition to the US market, also plans to pay special attention to nearby Canada. That market has been rather neglected so far, although it has great potential, she believes.

Canada in focus

"This market is very interesting to us for several reasons. First of all, Croatia has a strong diaspora in Canada, and partly because we have good infrastructure, there are direct flights. So there is already some relationship there. In addition, Toronto is one of the largest bases, it has the most good travel agents who sell not only to Canadian, but also to American clients. I'm especially interested in this segment of luxury tourism, because there are a lot of agents in Canada who belong to either Virtuos or Travel Leaders, and these are the leading consortia for luxury tourism,'' she noted.

Of course, Croatia still has a lot of work to do when it comes to building a luxury product that interests both American and Canadian guests, which can be "twisted" in this supply and demand chain that already exists. Rodin therefore plans to capitalise on his current relationship with Virtuoso, by helping Croatian companies and hotel companies become part of that same Virtuoso "family" or some other similar consortium.

Virtuoso is already present in Croatia, there are two DMCs that are members of Virtuoso in Croatia, as well as seven hotels. In 2021, Virtuoso gained four more Croatian brands, Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, Ikador Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa Icici, Maslina Resort Hvar and Villa Korta Katarina & Winery.

One step further...

"But we don't want to just stop there, the more hotels we get, the greater the opportunity we have to satisfy this segment of guests, who are looking for special facilities provided only by Virtuoso hotels. However, it should be borne in mind that the offer of luxury products in Croatia is still quite limited, not everyone is ready to host this profile of guests.

These are guests who spend a lot of money on various services, exclusively staying in 4 and 5 star hotels. At the same time, it's no longer so important to them that they have to stay in well-known hotel chains, such as the Hilton or Marriott, which was the case with previous generations of travellers.

This is especially true for those Americans who have already travelled to and around Europe, they are experienced travellers who are looking for local experiences, boutique hotels, and local brands aren't excluded,'' explained Rodin.

However, it would be great for Croatia to turn to some more serious hotel brands with a luxury portfolio that are present in the world, to put Croatia on the map of luxury tourism. The guests she's talking about would like to have brands in Croatia such as Aman, One & Only, Capella, Six Senses, Rosewood.

Although Croatia may not yet have reached the level of prices that would be profitable for the entry of some of these luxury brands, if we had any of these hotels, the destination would have more of a punch to pack,'' concluded Ina Rodin, who plans to work on such projects here in Croatia.

For more, check out our business section.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Croatian Plava Laguna Strengthening Brand, Change for Hotels Coming

January the 2nd, 2022 - The Croatian Plava Laguna company is going to be spending 2022 strengthening its brand, and there is quite the change coming to its hotels.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, as of this brand new year, the facilities operating under the Croatian Plava Laguna brand in Umag will no longer operate under the brand of the Spanish Melia, instead, all of the the facilities of the company will be repositioned under the brand and name Plava Laguna, the company recently reported.

As has since been learned from the Croatian Plava Laguna company, this will not mean a complete ''break up'' with the well known Spanish hotel chain, as their cooperation is set to continue according to the new model, which includes only sales being carried out through the Melia channel.

“After Plava Laguna's rebranding back in 2018, the company is continuing to strengthen the brand. As such, from the 1st of January, 2022, we're going to be moving the current Sol and Melia facilities from Umag to put them under the Croatian Plava Laguna brand. This means that from the beginning of 2022, all facilities in Umag with Melia and Sol in their names will officially operate under the brand and name exclusively under Plava Laguna,'' it was explained in their company announcement.

As is already known, the Croatian Plava Laguna inherited the contract with Melia from Istraturist, which the Luksic group purchased way back in 2014 from Zagrebacka banka.

Zagrebacka banka initially joined Istraturist in 1996 after the transformation of the company, and two years later, Melia Hotels International was hired for sales and operations to apply international standards to their tourism services. This remained Melia's only engagement in all of the Republic of Croatia. Plava Laguna then launched the new brand into business in 2018, as a completion of the merger of Umag's Istraturist.

"With this merger, one of the largest tourist companies in all of Croatia was created, which manages four resorts (Park, Plava, Zelena and Stella Maris), as well as nine camps, which operate on the market under the brand ''Istracamping'' by Plava Laguna. Thus, Plava Laguna will enter 2022's summer tourist season with a unique portfolio under its belt, which will enable the strong standardisation of processes and activities, as well as the creation of new and unique Plava Laguna products and services,'' the company pointed out.

For more, check out our dedicated business section.

Friday, 31 December 2021

10,000 Tourists in Istria During Christmas and New Year Holidays

December 31, 2021 - About 10,000 tourists in Istria County will celebrate the New Year in fifteen open hotels and two camps on the Istrian peninsula. The Istria County Tourist Board reveals that this is a 3x increase in guests compared to last year. 

"Almost ten thousand guests are currently vacationing in Istria, which is three times more than last year when 3,750 guests stayed during the Christmas and New Year holidays, but twice less than the record 2019 when 21,500 tourists stayed in our county," says Istria County Tourist Board director Denis Ivošević, as reported by HRT.

He adds that he is satisfied with the number of guests because "if the epidemiological situation allows it, it is the announcement of a good tourist year in 2022."

During December, 105,000 tourists stayed in Istria, which is 27 percent less than two years ago when there were 142,166.

Most guests stay in Poreč and Rovinj, with domestic tourists in the lead, followed by guests from Slovenia, Germany, Austria, and Italy. According to the Istria County Tourist Board, most guests stay in hotels, almost 60 percent.

Arena Hospitality Group reports that during the winter months, including New Year's Eve, they opened the Park Plaza Belvedere hotel in Medulin and the Arena Grand Kažela camp in Medulin. They expect about a thousand guests who will stay two to three days. Their guests are mainly from Austria and Slovenia, and this year, they noticed increased interest from domestic guests.

Following the epidemiological situation and prescribed measures, Valamar will organize a unique holiday program for guests of its hotels and camps, such as live music and DJ performances, in facilities that operate during the Christmas and New Year periods.

During December and the holiday season in Rovinj, Maistra's Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, Lone, Adriatic, Eden, Amarin, then Pineta, apartments Riva and camping Porto Sole in Vrsar were opened.

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Croats, Germans and Slovenes Make Up Croatian Christmas Tourism Numbers

December the 28th, 2021 - Croatian Christmas tourism figures have been dominated by Croatian tourists exploring the rest of the country, Slovenian visitors and of course, the always faithful Germans.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, along with the Slovenes and Germans, Croats exploring their own country have so far been the most numerous guests staying across the Republic of Croatia during the Christmas and New Year holidays, according to the latest sales statistics of Croatia Luxury Rent.

In terms of Croatian Christmas tourism numbers, these are followed by Austrians, Italians, Hungarians, Poles and Serbs, and in addition to the above markets, guests from France, Switzerland and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina are also quite numerous in the country at this moment in time.

As they announced, they are especially happy that the number of domestic guests is systematically growing from year to year and that "Croats along with Germans and Slovenes will make up the largest number of guests who will stay in Croatia over 2021's festive period.''

"Croatian guests topped the list of the most numerous guests during last year's festive period, which was to be expected due to the situation and the events caused by the coronavirus pandemic at the time. This festive season, due to somewhat more liberal measures and the possibility of crossing borders much more easily, the situation has changed somewhat, so, along with the Croats, German tourists are the most numerous in CLR accommodation units, while the Slovenes are in third place,'' they explained when looking at their Croatian Christmas tourism figures.

This year's sale of festive tourism arrangements has given rise to a very specific situation according to which, according to them, Central Dalmatia has almost equated the percentage of the number of arrangements sold up north in Istria. However, in the last ten days, things have returned to their earlier standards.

"Istria is at the top with an almost 45 percent share in the total number of reservations sold, followed by Dalmatia and the islands with 29 percent, Kvarner with 18 percent, and the continental part of the country, which accounts for 8 percent,'' according to the CLR.

For more, check out our dedicated travel section.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Could Sustainable Croatian Tourism Branding Result in More Luxury?

December the 20th, 2021 - Could sustainable Croatian tourism branding be the key to encouraging more luxury tourism? As all things renewable become more and more mainstream, it seems that new opportunities lie in way for the country so well known for damaging mass tourism and counting overnight stays.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, renewable energy sources, energy and water savings, green procurement, local food, food waste reduction, sorting and recycling, hazardous chemicals-free business operations… There are many criteria that are entering the fast-growing trend of sustainable tourism, and they're more or less applied worldwide.

Along with national governments and public institutions, sustainability has become the goal of every serious company that plans to increase its competitiveness in the coming period. In parallel with the introduction of sustainable solutions, more and more attention is being paid to branding sustainable products and services, which will bring them better recognition and market positioning, and many Croatian players have woken up and are very much involved in this race in addition to global enterprises.

Sustainable Croatian tourism branding could finally result in year-round work and less seasonal influences on the domestic economy.

''Eco green hotels'' is the name of a new brand launched back in November by the National Association of Family and Small Hotels, with the aim of responding to the growing needs of modern travellers for environmentally friendly accommodation. This is a hotel segment that already meets sustainability goals in part because most facilities decide to work all year round.

Depending on the level of implementation of green and sustainable solutions, hotels will receive a silver, gold or platinum label, and the first step in this ambitious task is to educate more than 200 members of the association that has already started.

''After the training session, there will be a cycle of investments that will last at least two years, so Croatia could have the first eco-green family and small hotels as early as 2023. Green business has become a necessity not only because of our conscious guests' demands for environmentally friendly accommodation, but for savings for hoteliers themselves. What is also extremely important is that in this way, we'll be able to give our contribution to the decarbonisation of the planet,'' pointed out Sime Klaric, President of the National Association of Family and Small Hotels.

Among large Croatian hotel companies, Valamar Riviera was the first to make a more serious investment in its first eco resort in beautiful Stari Grad on the Central Dalmatian island of Hvar, with the creation of a totally new brand - Nature resort. Nature resort is the new Valamar concept of a fully sustainable eco-resort positioned primarily for family holidays. The construction of the resort will be achieved by respecting the highest standards of green building, which includes using only environmentally friendly materials with minimal impact on the environment, the use of renewable energy sources and a high level of energy efficiency.

The Valamar Nature resort on the island of Hvar is the first tourist project that will use prefabricated buildings and modular construction designed according to Valamar accommodation quality standards. The concept is inspired by nature and sustainable design, meaning that the architecture of the resort will fit well into the natural environment of the island in terms of the the design of the buildings, while the interior design is being dealt with by signed by local designers and artists using local traditions, looks and materials.

Construction will be carried out in in two phases

Felled trees will be used in landscaping, and each felled tree will be replaced with newly planted ones. Great emphasis will be placed on the offer of local food and groceries produced right there on the island, while digitalisation will eliminate the use of paper throughout the hotel. The project is planned to be built in two phases throughout 2022 and 2023, and in order to realise all of these green initiatives to their absolute full potential and realise all aspects of sustainable resort development, there is a plan in place to apply for green EU funds for the project.

Helios Faros' business development plan assumes investments in the total amount of around 800 million kuna in sustainable high value-added tourism that will have a positive impact on the economic growth of the island. By the year 2025, the reconstruction and construction of three hotels and resorts of categories 4 * and 5 * with a total capacity of 700 accommodation units is planned.

Quartz Inn Hotels, a new European hotel brand for independent sustainable hotels that recently presented itself at the WTM fair in London, is also seriously counting on Croatian facilities in its future portfolio, and their plan is to expand to at least 100 hotels across Europe. Quartz Inn Hotels Ltd was founded by Spaniard Ignacio Merino and Dutchman Alexander Zawadzki, who both have extensive experience in the hotel industry as well as in online travel agencies and travel startups under their belts. Sustainable Croatian tourism branding could be very possible with such an initiative taking hold in the country.

“We're the first sustainable hotel brand for stand-alone hotels in Europe, and our goal is to connect sustainable accommodation from across all European countries, while preserving the authenticity of each facility. We focus on sustainability, we help hotels become more ''green'' and in that way we're working to create a more sustainable tourism industry. By joining our brand, hotels gain more visibility internationally, which leads to higher revenue and more direct bookings,'' said Ignacio Merino when explaining the basic principles of the business idea created in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which came about partly as a result of the crisis itself.

"Independent hotels have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and they simply don't have the same means as larger chains have at their disposal to try to overcome the situation. We talked to many of them and decided to form a community that will support them. Through our partners, we provide them with the latest technology to manage things for them, covering all commercial areas, such as OTA distribution, connectivity, marketing, online reputation, online signups, resales, booking and revenue management, to optimise their hotel prices and maximise their benefits,'' he explained. In addition, they offer their members a free hotel academy for hoteliers and staff. In addition to hotels, guesthouses and holiday villas are also welcome.

They currently have dozens of contracts signed across Europe, and plan to conclude next year with at least 100 facilities within the chain. Their main goals are to reduce energy and water consumption and eliminate disposable plastic in rooms, while encouraging sustainable eating habits and contributing to the preservation of the local culture and economy.

Sustainable Croatian tourism branding could lead to a far better situation each and every year when it comes to arrivals from across the globe. Currently trapped by the ''sunshine and sea'' label which expires after about three months annually despite multiple attempts to extend the tourist season and expand what the country can offer. The coronavirus pandemic might just be the reset button for sustainable Croatian tourism branding and lead to a far better way of doing things than simply sitting back, counting the overnight stays on the eVisitor platform and rubbing our hands.

For more, check out our travel section.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

HTZ Aims To Make 2022 Turnover Amount to 90% of 2019 Tourism Turnover

ZAGREB, 18 Dec, 2021- The Croatian Tourism Board's (HTZ) revenue in 2022 is expected to amount to HRK 311 million, 9% more than in 2021, and it will focus all its activities to further enhance Croatia's status as the most desirable and safest Mediterranean destination and ensure 90% of the tourism turnover of 2019. 

This was said by HTZ director Kristjan Staničić, who also noted that these goals are to be achieved by intensive marketing activities and PR campaigns, designed to suit individual markets.

Promotional campaigns will focus on boating and cycling tourism, gastronomy and wine tourism, natural attractions and active and medical tourism, he stressed in an interview with Hina.

In 2022 the HTZ's activities will focus, apart from the national market, on the traditionally close, neighbouring markets like Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy and others. As for remote markets, emphasis will be put on the US market.

Next year the HTZ plans to open new offices, including in Ukraine and Spain. Also planned for next year is a new strategic marketing and operational plan as a long-term framework defining communication strategies and guidelines for affirming Croatia as a high-quality destination, Staničić said.

Epidemiological situation, clear protocols, quality products

Asked about the coronavirus pandemic and the related restrictions, which also affect the travel sector, and about plans for 2022 in that regard, Staničić said that all goals set can be achieved, on the condition the epidemiological situation is favourable and there are clear protocols for cross-border travel and a high level of health protection in destinations, with a sufficient number of testing centres, as well as quality and attractive tourism products.

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Friday, 17 December 2021

Ever Been to a Party Where the Host is Suing You?

December 17, 2021 - Ever been to a party where the host is suing you? A foreign perspective of the annual Days of Croatian Tourism - aka Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation - conference, which reveals a lot about the way tourism in Croatia is run. 

I am not sure how to describe the annual late-season event known as Days of Croatian Tourism, which usually takes place in October at the end of the season, bringing together the great and the not so good of the official tourism bodies. The event almost always takes place on the coast in one of Croatia's top destinations (unless someone annoyingly pushes for it to be held in Slavonia, as happened in 2019).  The programme consists of a few (but not many) presentations (usually high-quality international speakers and topics) which are barely attended, nice hotels (which are full of tourism workers), dinners and cocktail parties, which are VERY well attended, and an evening of awards and self-congratulations broadcast live on national televsion. 

I find the event addictive and unmissable, as you can learn SO much about the realities of Croatian tourism from the way it is run, and who attends what.

And it is the only event I can think of where I learn about a new tourist 'destination' each year, as seemingly the most obscure village in Croatia will win a self-congratulatory award for something. 

Hardly anyone attends the actual quality presentations - why would you when there is coffee in the sun to be enjoyed - but I try and attend every one, as they are very instructive - for example Croatia Travel Trends for USA Market: Al Merschen Presentation on Hvar at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation in 2018. 

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For me personally, I find the event a strange one to be at. Apparently, I am seen by some as a divisive figure in Croatian tourism, and nowhere is this more in evidence than at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation, which is co-organised by the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism, The Croatian Chamber of Economy, HRT television, and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, according to the official website.  

I will never forget entering the courtyard of Eltz Palace in Vukovar to the welcome drink at DCS-C 2019 (photo above), where I enjoyed the same three reactions I had encountered in Hvar Town the previous year. Many looked away to avoid me altogether, some who appreciated our work came to say hi, and a sizable group of official tourism workers who are normally very friendly and supportive looked the other way to avoid any contact in front of prying eyes. I am totally fine with that, and I don't judge. I have lived in Croatia long enough to know how things work. 

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The Gala Awards night is unmissable, and it gives you an inkling of what a North Korean party convention must be like. So much self-congratulation and bombastic statements. Here is my favourite of the lot, from the legend that was Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli, who declared to the adoring faithful that...

Croatian is the best tourist destination in Europe! 

Huge cheers on this incredible success which was based on nothing more than the minister making up a soundbite. And while everyone else was cheering, I only caught sight of one other person prepared to make eye contact with me and mouth

What the F...?

Such things are normal at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation. 

This year's event was announced late, very late. So late in fact that by the time it hit the official website (or at least very soon after), there were no places left. COVID measures were the reason, of course, but a number of hotels expressed their frustration to me that they were not even informed that the event was taking place until it was too late to apply. The only way to go was as an accredited journalist. 

I hesitated. 

This year's event was the other side of Dubrovnik, but I knew that I would be able to have some very productive meetings all in the same place with potential partners for our CROMADS project. But given that I was currently being sued by the Kings, who were one of the hosts of the event, how unpleasant would the reception be this time?

I decided to apply. Not surprisingly, there was no reply. 

When there was no reply the next day (the event was 4 days away) and no answer to my calls, I made a couple of phone calls and pulled in a favour and was told that of course I was welcome to come and that the Croatian National Tourist Board would be contacting me to confirm. And I did get an email from the official event email. It went like this:

Dear Sir,

you have already been put on the list to participate or otherwise you would have been notified. Registration is closed only for other participants and not media representatives.

I see. Welcoming official Croatian hospitality at its finest.

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The programme was much more limited this year, but I decided to attend the seminars, especially as the first panel had some interesting speakers from TUI Nordic, easyJet Holidays, and Expedia. The theme of winter tourism in Split was an ongoing discussion on TCN. I doubted that I would be allowed to ask a question, but perhaps I could mingle with the speakers afterwards. 

As usual, the number of attendees was minimal. There was actually lots of space in the front row, so I placed myself there, so as to give myself a better position in the event of opportunities for questions.  

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It was a fascinating panel, or at least I thought so. I found myself inadvertently sitting next to the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, who spent most of the time on his phone before walking out of the panel halfway through.  

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All this gave me an opportunity to ask questions after all. Nobody else had anything to ask, and so I got to ask a couple of questions on winter tourism. 

That led to some interesting discussions at DCS-C, which led to more discussions and the formulation of a plan.  

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That plan resulted in this week's TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable at CHOPS Grill in Split, a high-energy event which was attended by (among others), the Mayor of Split, State Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Split and Central Dalmatia Tourist Board directors, Split Airport, the Croatian Chamber of Economy, GMs of 5-star hotels, as well as tourism consultants and representatives from the hotel, hostel, restaurant and MICE sector. You can read more about it in Reflections on the First TCN Split Winter Tourism Roundtable

A positive initiative between the public and private sector. We all meet again next month.

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I should point out that this lack of attendance listening to international experts who have been flown in at great cost is a normal thing at Croatian conferences. 

I pointed this out at the 2019 Croatia 365 conference in 2019. Above you see what they want you to see - the official photos from the opening session which accompany the press release. 

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And this is the reality during the second session and the rest of the conference (Photo copyright Annoying Fat Blogger, the beneficiary of two ongoing SLAPP lawsuits). Read more in Creativity, Best Practices & Absenteeism at Croatia 365 Conference in Zagreb.

It was time to go the 2021 DCS-C first-day cocktail party. With a couple of pints in the system, I was ready to be the pariah in the room, knowing I could count on at least 3 people in the room if everyone turned their backs on me. It is poor form to socialise with a chap being sued by the host, after all. 

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The first person I saw in the room was State Secretary for Tourism, Tonci Glavina (who also made an immense contribution to our Split roundtable this week), and he greeted me warmly, saying that Minister Brnjac wanted to say hello. 

And she did, and was very friendly. I let her get back to her duties, and I look forward to meeting her shortly to discuss certain initiatives by TCN, such as the Vukovar Card

I was very grateful for her support, and it was part of something interesting in that room. The number of people turning their backs on me this year was signiicantly less than before. Indeed, there were some tourist board directors I have never been able to speak to who came over to say hi and learn more about the CROMADS project.

Have you seen the CROMADS promo video yet?

Or the presentation of the CROMADS platform at VIP Day at Digital Nomad Week based in Bali last week? A new, sustainable approach to Croatian tourism, based on authentic experiences all over Croatia, 365 days a year.  

The level of support for the CROMADS platform at DCS-C was highly encouraging, both in words and financial commitments. But the other thing I noticed as I walked around the room talking to people is how little regard the national tourist board is held in these days by official tourism workers. A lot of people think that when I am criticising Croatian tourism bodies, I am attacking them all. I am not at all. The main focus of my criticism is the institution which is suing me - the Croatian National Tourist Board. To go to this year's event and hear not one good word said about the work they do (and plenty of complaints) tells its own story. 

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Next year, I plan to start a new series on TCN called The Emperor's New Clothes: the Truth about the Croatian National Tourist Board. Some of the stuff I am learning is really quite extraordinary. It will probably result in more SLAPP lawsuits, but as I have the Legendica Extraordinaire, Croatia's leading media lawyer Vanja Juric on my side and providing me with excellent legal advice (including this article), I am not worried about those any more. 

And Vanja is also putting my lawsuits to good use. Here she is as a guest lecturer at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb recently, talking about the joys of representing journalists, publishers and fat bloggers. I did feel a little bit proud that she is using what one journalist called 'the biggest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board' to good use as a case study. 

You can follow our legal journey in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit here. The latest installment, Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Substitute Lawyer Miraculously Appears! is truly epic.

See you at Days of Croatian Self-Congratulation 2022! 

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Croatian Tourism Investments Fall by Over 60%, State Should Step In

December the 8th, 2021 - A decline in tourism, and as such Croatian tourism investments, can more or less explain almost the entire decline in GDP. A massive 8.1% decline back in 2020 was certainly not what anyone needed, or could have ever imagined coul happen after the record year of 2019.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the overall decline of GDP in Croatia back in pandemic-dominated 2020 can be explained by the decline in tourism, the most affected industry that has led to a decline across all related sectors, while at least 4.5-5 percent of total GDP growth in 2021 can be attributed to the subsequent recovery of tourist traffic.

This shows the exceptional importance of tourism for the Croatian economy, but despite a significant increase in tourist traffic this year, the situation remains dramatic as the crisis has caused a sharp drop in Croatian tourism investments and the recovery will not be spontaneous without additional investment incentives from the state.

Analyst Velimir Sonje warned about precisely that, presenting his research on the connection between tourism and the pandemic recently at the Congress of Hoteliers, organised by the Croatian Hotel Employers' Association (UPUHH).

“Croatian tourism investments and its activity is in a sharp decline of 60-66 percent when compared to 2019 and the duration of such a situation threatens to weaken the positive development effects of tourism, such as a proven contribution to alleviating emigration from Croatia. We got the impression that after this season, which was short, but successful, that everything would be fine and that we're finally returning to normal. But a spontaneous recovery won't happen unless there is a strong recovery in investment soon. This requires investment incentives, and investors' expectations are focused on the new Law on Investment Promotion and the implementation of a new regional aid map,'' explained Sonje, whose research is based on the results of a survey among the ten largest hotel companies in the country, with total revenues of 5 billion kuna recorded back in 2019.

"Paradoxically, despite the fact that tourism is crucial for economic recovery, the European Commission has allocated only 5 percent of the total amount from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan to this sector," concluded Sonje.

The Director of the Croatian Tourism Association, Veljko Ostojic, pointed out the four biggest challenges that the hotel business will face in 2022. With the return on investment, after the 2021 season in which Croatia had the best tourism results in the Mediterranean and Europe, the biggest challenge in preparation next year will be the sheer lack of qualified personnel, an issue present in the sector throughout Europe at the moment.

"In Croatia, it isn't only a question of engaging domestic workers, but also a faster and more flexible administration in hiring foreign workers. The second most important issue will be the continuation of investments in quality, without which Croatia will not be competitive in relation to other Mediterranean countries in particular. There will be an important contribution of money for NPOO projects, but also the legislative framework, primarily addressing the issue of tourist land. We're in intensive talks with the Ministry of Construction and State Property and I believe that in the coming weeks we'll be able to find solutions that will enable investments and generate significant revenues to the state budget,'' believes Ostojic.

The fourth important factor will be the unfolding epidemiological situation, which is still a challenge and a trigger for the majority choosing a holiday destination, but Croatia and the sector have done a great job in the last two years, so there are no severe worries. Hoteliers also point out the important challenge that inflation and the situation with supply chains will pose in financial operations.

"It will be a very big challenge that we won't be able to mitigate through rising prices and many will not be left for investment. Without the help of the state, through the Law on Investment Promotion and similar solutions, we cannot expect the recovery of the investment power of the tourism sector,'' warned Popovic.

For more, check out our business section.

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