Thursday, 2 September 2021

Job-keeping Grants to Be Paid to Event Industry, Travel Agencies, Night Clubs

ZAGREB, 2 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that job-retention grants of HRK 4,000 per employee for August would remain in place for the catering industry, the event industry, passenger transport, and travel agencies.

The grants will be disbursed in September to the event industry, travel agencies, and nightclubs, he said, recalling the relaxation of the anti-epidemic measures as of 1 September.

All other businesses are more or less going back to normal, he said, adding that in case the need for grants emerges in some other sectors, the authorities will consider the matter.

The shortened working week measure remains in force until the end of this year and covers up to 90% of the wages including contributions, Plenković said.

The government is set to turn from the job-retention to job-creation measures, whereby the employment schemes will be bolstered with HRK 500 million, and in 2022 the allocation for this purpose will be HRK 1.5 billion, he added.

HRK 18 billion for job-retention measures, contributions

The job-retention schemes, including the schemes for salaries and contributions, cost HRK 18 billion, Plenković said.

Nearly every second job was covered by the schemes, or 700,000 out of 1.59 million, and 92% of the companies operating in Croatia were covered.

As a result, there are now 52,000 more employees in Croatia than in the corresponding period of 2020, and 6,000 more than in the corresponding period of 2019, the prime minister said.

Furthermore, there are 9,000 fewer people out of work compared to March 2020, just before the outbreak of the pandemic in Croatia, he added.

 (€1 = HRK 7.5) 

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Thursday, 20 May 2021

Travel Agencies Facing Collapse, Urge Gov't to Help Them

ZAGREB, 20 May 2021 - The UHPA association of travel agencies has called on the government to urgently decide to extend its job-retention scheme and to compensate travel agencies for fixed costs, considering that so far this year they have seen a drop in turnover of more than 90%.

"For six months now we have been negotiating intensively with government officials about a compensation model to help salvage travel agencies. We have the support of Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac and believe it is high time to start with financial assistance for preparation for the season and for the normalisation of activities, as announced by PM Plenković," UHPA president Tomislav Fain said.

He noted that yet another crisis tourist season was about to begin and the only thing travel agencies could count on was the uncertainty of whether the pandemic would continue spreading, whether the epidemiological situation would be kept under control and what tourist movement would be like.

"Apart from job-keeping support, which as a measure of horizontal assistance has been introduced also by other EU countries, Croatia has not secured for private businesses in tourism any grant scheme, which is what other member countries, notably those whose GDP, like Croatia's, relies heavily on tourism, have done," said Fain.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Struggling Croatian Travel Agencies Seek Urgent State Support

December the 9th, 2020 - Croatian travel agencies are struggling in a way that has never been experienced before as a result of the economic woes caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result of that, they are urgently seeking state measures to help them keep their heads above water during this unprecedented and difficult time.

As Novac/Jozo Vrdoljak writes, Croatian travel agencies that have actually managed to do something, engage in some work and as such finally make some money since September now don't have any income whatsoever.

The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies is currently conducting a survey among its members on how their business operations looked during the first eleven months of this extremely challenging pandemic-dominated year. According to the estimates of Tomislav Fain, the president of UHPA, the drop in income for these hard-hit agencies could be between 88 and 92 percent when compared to the same period last year.

UHPA members, of which there are more than 240, generated a total revenue of around three billion kuna last year and employed around 3,000 permanent and 2,800 seasonal workers.

''These are our first projections of the collapse in income and I think that these percentages are a realistic reflection of this situation. This year, we're the most affected activity of all. For some of our Croatian travel agencies, and especially those that specialise in distant markets, the lockdown has gone on ever since March the 1st, 2020. Croatian travel agencies which have managed to succeed in doing something this summer have been without revenue since September, despite being open. As of September the 1st,, we can say that 90 percent of our members have been left without any income, and utility fees, utilities and interest on loans on which a moratorium has been declared are now all due. Some employees, however, continue to receive the rest of their salaries, ie the difference of 4,000 kuna, which is provided by the state as a measure to preserve jobs. We're in negotiations with the Ministry of Tourism and Sport regarding compensation for Croatian travel agencies and travel organisers in order to survive until the beginning of the season,'' explained a concerned Tomislav Fain.

Speaking of bookings for the winter, Fain says there was a hint of optimism back in early October and it was a somewhat promising situation.

''There were inquiries about Advent and skiing, but now there is none or it's negligible at best. We're still optimistic and hope that the epidemiological situation will improve so that we can do something for the winter season. Admittedly, the snow season wasn't ever significant for us in terms of total revenues, but in this situation, anything is a step forward for us. In some surrounding countries, the opening of ski resorts has been announced, but, let's be honest, people from here who ski mostly book directly for those countries,'' noted Fain.

As for the Croatian Government's measures, Fain believes that the economic measures to preserve jobs will last until the beginning of the season.

''At the moment, we don't know whether our first guests will come on May the 1st or June the 1st, but until then we must somehow try to survive. In addition to job preservation measures, Croatian travel agencies need help to at least mitigate and compensate for their losses in the way that other European countries have made sure has happened. I'm thinking of similar measures given to caterers that cover rents and utilities when I say that,'' concluded the president of the Association of Travel Agencies.

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Saturday, 23 May 2020

Croatian Travel Agencies Worry About Life After Government Measures End

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 22nd of May, 2020, so far, as many as 80 percent of clients of Croatian travel agencies have agreed to accept vouchers instead of refunds, and with ''voucher measures'' and the introduction of a moratorium on refunds, agencies are protected with around 200 million kuna, the Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) revealed.

However, the turnover of Croatian tourist agencies is still close to zero, nobody has started entering their branches just yet, even though they have opened again, and the question is how these agencies will survive if the minimum wage measure is not extended.

In addition, due to the general uncertainty, it's more difficult today to find insurance companies that will gladly agree to issue guarantee insurance policies, which is a legal obligation of such agencies. In her open letter, Sonja Lovrentjev, the owner of a Zagreb agency called Obord, which normally organises the travel of preschoolers, warned of these issues.

"Insurers are telling us that they don't want to issue this type of insurance, because the risk is too great, but in the event that Croatian travel agencies issue travel vouchers or sell trips without a valid insurance policy, they operate against what the law prescribes. Therefore, it isn't clear to us whether vouchers can be issued only by those Croatian travel agencies that currently have a valid guarantee policy, and what if, at the time of issuing, the voucher the agency provides has a valid insurance policy, but it ceases to be valid in the new travel period?'' asks a concerned Lovrentjev.

UHPA President Tomislav Fain confirmed that UHPA is aware of the problem of guarantee insurance, and is currently in negotiations with two insurance companies that will issue it, namely Triglav and Adriatic osiguranje.

“Insurance companies are private companies that also need to assess their own risks, but we still managed to agree to continue with these policies, and in addition to the insurance policies, the Act also provides bank guarantees,” explained Fain.

Additionally, Fain is convinced that the Croatian Government will comply with the UHPA's request to extend the minimum wage measure for agencies for more than three months, noting that only those with a drop in turnover of 70 percent will receive compensation. He stated that it was worth remembering that Croatian travel agencies were the first to feel the negative effects of the ongoing coronavirus crisis and will probably be the last to get out of it, too.

"We're aware that due to the possible danger of contracting the infection, it isn't possible to open everything we want to open and that it isn't possible to start working in the way we did before the pandemic struck. We're all aware that there is a period ahead of us in which we will generate very little income, and I'm glad that some of my colleagues had their first groups on day trips to Plitvice Lakes National Park last weekend, which reduced ticket prices encouraged by our letter. In one TV show, we discussed the drop in traffic, and our colleagues from other industries talked about how much traffic fell and for whom it fell, and when it was my turn, I said that we have no traffic, that our turnover is 0.00 kuna,'' concluded Fain.

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Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Vouchers for Unused Trips Approved, Croatian Travel Agencies Pleased

April 8, 2020 - The Croatian Travel Agencies Association is grateful that their proposal to offer travel vouchers has been approved. 

HRTurizam reports that on Tuesday in Parliament, along with a package of other measures aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were also made to the Law on Emergency Tourism Services, which allowed travel agencies to issue vouchers instead of refunding passengers for package arrangements.

"We are grateful to the Ministry of Tourism, the Croatian Government, and the Parliament for accepting our proposals to allow issuing vouchers for unfulfilled travel agreements that should have occurred in these extraordinary circumstances, i.e., after March 1, 2020. The passenger is fully protected as they receive a voucher they can use for another trip or a deferred travel period once the situation calms," said UHPA President Tomislav Fain.

Fain also added that the voucher would be covered by the already arranged bail to protect travel agencies from going bankrupt. 

"The traveler is also entitled to a refund if he or she does not wish to use the previously paid and booked travel, upon expiry of 180 days from the termination date of the special circumstances, and for a full refund within 14 days."

"As members of the European Association of National Travel Agencies and Travel Organizers (ECTAA), we have engaged in negotiations with the European Commission, which has instructed consumers to accept travel delays and vouchers. In communication with ECTAA colleagues from many countries such as France, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland who, in cooperation with their Governments, have also introduced a voucher in some form, we have come to a satisfactory solution and we are very pleased. We are glad that both our Ministry of Tourism and the Government has accepted the proposal and have a strong understanding of the sector, which is in an unprecedentedly difficult situation," said the President of the Association of Travel Agencies, HGK Boris Žgomba, also a member of the Board of Directors of ECTAA.

The agencies, apart from the new bookings and inflow of any funds stalled since February, could not even reach the funds for the already booked trips as the money had already been passed on to others in the package like airlines and hotels.

Most of the same refunds were provided to agencies in the form of deposits, vouchers, time delays and often nothing. In previously applicable provisions of the Act that transposed the EU Directive, travel agencies were in a difficult situation and forced to bear the brunt of the crisis on their own, even before the further escalation in the rest of the economy.

Already in the HGK and UHPA polls in February, 92 percent felt strong and medium adverse effects on long-term business, as school trips, congresses, and business trips stopped, along with restrictions on international travel and guest arrivals from Asia and other focal countries. This impact has only increased over the past month, with the closure of all borders and activities.

Of the 2061 registered travel agency companies and tour operators, 99.3% of them are small or micro-companies, and these losses represent an enormous blow to business, and as often are family businesses, this is directly the income of their entire families.

The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) and the Association of Travel Agencies (UPA HGK) represent the leading professional associations in tourism that represent the interests of over 2000 registered companies for the activity of travel agencies and tour operators and employ nearly 6,500 people.

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Friday, 20 March 2020

Croatian Travel Agencies Introducing Vouchers for Paid Trips

March 20, 2020 - The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies has promised vouchers for travelers during the coronavirus crisis.

Domestic travelers and tourists who have paid for travel through travel agencies that cannot be realized because of the coronavirus pandemic can expect agency vouchers to pay for trips when it passes, UHPA President Tomislav Fain said Thursday for Jutarnji List.

"The money paid for travel is not lost. We plan to start issuing vouchers to travelers for paid arrangements that they will be able to use in the amount of money paid for another trip when all this passes," Fain explains.

He says that this is already done in many European countries, and that travelers need to know that their money has not been left in the account of the travel agency, but has been forwarded to the hotel, airline, carrier and others in the 'linked chain' of the travel offer.

"The working capital of an agency, which is mostly small or medium-sized enterprises, is limited, and the refund to the customer due to stagnating bookings and bans imposed would be fatal for many agencies. Therefore, we offer a solution that should satisfy both parties - enabling travelers to make trips, and to provide agencies with business continuity,” says Fain.

He estimates that the spread of the coronavirus has caused unprecedented disturbances in daily life, in many industries and the economy, including in the travel industry.

“The coronavirus has dealt a heavy blow to the recommendations of the competent institutions to temporarily delay travel until the suspension of regular routes, the closure of borders and the complete ban on travel of any kind," warned Fain.

The consequences are also felt by travelers - individual guests and groups, business people on trips and organized congresses, schoolchildren and their parents, and all others who duly paid for trips that will not be realized now due to force majeure and in extraordinary circumstances, and, understandably, they expect compensation.

"We believe that the time of travel will come again and that we will quickly overcome this crisis and keep our heads up, and until then, it remains for passengers and everyone to abide by the instructions recommended by the Civil Protection Staff," Fain concludes.

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