Thursday, 14 May 2020

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli Reveals New Slogan for Tourists Coming to Croatia

May 14, 2020 - Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli has revealed a new slogan about where tourists can stop to refuel or buy food on the way to their Croatian destination. reported that the European Commission has recommended the gradual and coordinated lifting of travel restrictions between the Member States or regions within them that have a similar epidemiological situation to save what can be saved from this year's tourist season.

Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli said in the show U Mreži Prvi on HRT that Croatia has very well and precisely prepared measures, in agreement with epidemiologists and associations of tourism workers, and that they have been incorporated into the guidelines of the European Commission.

"We were the first to mention bilateral. Opening borders depends on each individual member state, which will primarily negotiate with its neighbors, so we are talking to several countries, primarily Slovenia," Cappelli said and added that corridors have already been created that are recommended to tourists who come to Croatia, and these recommendations relate to where they can stop, refuel or buy food on the way to their destination.

"We have called this slogan 'From home to the destination'. From the moment they book a stay, they will receive this information," the minister said.

The Head of the Border Administration, Zoran Ničeno, emphasized that a difficult period is behind us in which, according to EU recommendations, we blocked traffic across the state border, which was great for a tourist country like Croatia.

"We have established coordination of police directors of countries in the wider region, namely Croatia, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, BiH and Serbia. We have video conferences every week in which we agree on exactly how the police will react in the new measures, and that refers to border crossings and returns back to the country," Ničeno said, adding that this is very important because each country has its own specifics.

He pointed out that not all measures had been lifted. Every person who enters the country is recorded and their personal data is taken, and they are acquainted with all the epidemiological instructions they receive at the border crossing.

"The borders are not open as before, but entering the country is under great epidemiological control," he stressed, adding that these measures will lead to significant congestion at the borders.

Cappelli also spoke for N1.

"Given the conditions, Croatia could have allowed flows at the border. With some limits. They can enter for a reason, provided we know where they are, what their address is. We have been waiting for EU instructions; our proposals have been implemented. We have hundreds a day, thousands of inquiries to enter Croatia," Cappelli told N1.

Upon returning to the country, Slovenes have to isolate themselves for seven days. The minister says negotiations are underway with Slovenia.

"I think that this will be resolved in the coming days by ministerial meetings, so that we will have a clear situation next week. Our epidemiologists have found each other, both have proposals. It will take 15-20 days to go through all this. It is realistic to expect that at the end of the month, we will have the right tourist flow, and without delay," said Cappelli, who spoke about this with the Slovenian minister.

"He begged me to find solutions. They have 110,000 homeowners and boats in Croatia. I don't see the difference when someone leaves Pozega and Zagreb or Novo mesto in Slovenia; the situation is unique," Cappelli said.

"We started because we have had very precise recommendations for all types of tourism for a month now. I warned that we would have quality, but not rigid measures. We made it known. We proved that we are very ready, maybe more than a lot of countries in the EU," Cappelli said.

He said we could generate up to 30 percent of last year’s revenue this year. Next year, he says, they could be at the level of 2018, and in 2022 the same tourist success could be achieved as in 2019.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli Reveals When Croatian Borders Will Open

As Index writes on the 13th of May, 2020, today, the European Commission will make recommendations on the relative re-opening of national borders within the territory of the European Union. Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli in the A sada Vlada (And now the Government) segment on HRT said that all tourism ministers agreed that there should be a protocol at the EU level, but that one should be aware that not everyone is equal when it comes to respective epidemiological situations.

The border with Slovenia should be opened within a few days.

"We expect a good result to come of the bilateral talks we've been holding with Slovenia over recent days because our epidemiological pictures are similar. With this agreement, Slovenes will no longer have to be quarantined for 14 days when they return to the country," Minister Gari Cappelli stated, adding that Croatia is talking to some other countries about opening borders back up, too.

A significant number of Slovenes are expected.

Minister Gari Cappelli also said that when the protocol with Slovenia is resolved, he expects a large number of Slovenian tourists to arrive in Croatia, especially because 110,000 of them have houses in Croatia.

"I'm sure, if the epidemiological situation is in order, that we'll have the arrival of tourists from Germany on June the 15th, at least those coming by road," the minister said.

He emphasised the fact that Croatia had provoked the EU to hurry up with their recommendations on the most important things, and that was, among other things, movement within the EU's borders.

"At the EU level, we've agreed that borders for third countries will not be opened until June the 15th," he said.
"By the end of the month, we'll have a flow with two or three countries, and by June the 15th, we're planning on having that with Germany and some other countries," he said.

Minister Gari Cappelli said there will be discounts for domestic guests this season.

"In this respect, we've also reduced ticket prices for entry into national parks and many domestic tourists visited them. I hereby invite those who decide on the ticket price for the Dubrovnik walls to reduce those prices, because I think a ticket price of 200 kuna in this situation is just absurd,'' he said, adding that this reduction in prices will spill over to accommodation capacities and further.

He emphasised that the Croatian Government has also started with the CRO card, which may not be in full function this year, but that it remains a long-term project.

"Over recent days, we've been talking about additional things we could put on the CRO card, so if we can agree on all of that with employers, hoteliers and agencies so that whoever has this card gets an extra discount, then it will bring the first results," he said, adding that he hopes to there will be understanding for that.

On the topic of Croatia Airlines...

Minister Gari Cappelli pointed out that it had been agreed that Croatia would build air bridges using Croatia Airlines because the south of Croatia has now been completely cut off without air travel.

"We'll use our own airline, and we can now see just how important it is to us because we can dictate the opening of certain routes ourselves," he said, adding that Croatia Airlines would be "worth its weight in gold".

The minister said that he is aware that the new measures have brought new investments and rules for those in hospitality, as well as hoteliers, but that this is something necessary and, as he says, this is a new normal and a new era has come for all of us.

"As for vouchers, Croatia was among the first in the EU to react to the idea. We gave vouchers for travel agencies that are valid for 180 days and can be used for another destination or if you want to go to the same destination but next year, the value of the vouchers is extended, or, if after 180 days you want a refund, then that refund must be completed within 14 days,'' the minister stressed, adding that this is true for agencies, but work is being done to make this the case for hoteliers and for airlines as well.

Minister Gari Cappelli also said that about 10 percent of the usual workforce had been laid off in tourism. He stressed that this season, Croatia intends to work with the domestic workforce to the maximum.

''We'll make a greater effort to retain domestic workers through various measures because they're one of our greatest values,” Minister Cappelli concluded.

For more, follow our travel page.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli: As of Today, Croatia Breathes Tourism

May 11, 2020 - Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said that a message had been sent to the surrounding countries that Croatia began functioning in tourism again, regardless of all the existing measures.

"It is very clear  - you can come to a hotel, camp, private accommodation, you can eat in restaurants, inside and outside. You can rent a boat and go sailing; marinas are open. Croatia from today breathes tourism," said the minister as a guest on HRT's show Together for Health, as reported by

He added that this week is a trial, which will determine how everything works.

The HGK hoteliers' association predicts that larger hotel companies will open approximately one to two of the possible ten hotels, while the rest are waiting for a complete suspension of operations.

Agencies and hotels took reservations before the coronavirus pandemic - and the money that comes with them. That money was partly spent to prepare for the season and should now be returned. It is about 200-220 million euro.

Minister Cappelli says that we always like to compare ourselves with others, and cites the example of Germany, which rejected the voucher system. They said, "You have to return the money."

In Croatia, amendments to the Law on the Provision of Tourism Services enabled travel agencies to issue value vouchers instead of refunds to passengers for package deals, for 180 days.

"We practically reacted immediately after 15 days. On the one hand, we protected consumers, but also agencies, that in 180 days, they can agree. Now we are talking about vouchers for hoteliers," he said.

When asked who will guarantee this refund and what if the companies themselves will not be able to return it, he answered:

"We did not go to the stage of responsibility as a state and guarantee the return of these funds. These are agencies that have their share of insurance, so I hope that they are covered," the minister replied.

Speaking about the cancellation of reservations, the minister says that May is "completely lost", and for the most part, so is June.

"We calculate revenues between 25 and 30 percent. Last year, with the domestic market, we made somewhere around 20 billion euro. We did all the surveys, i.e., estimates. We did an estimate of 60-90 percent of losses. I think we could do somewhere between 25 and 30 percent. The first three months are not all lost, but a larger part is lost. Although it is only 5 percent of the turnover, it is somewhere around 480 million euro in the first three months. Somewhere around 2.25 billion euros in April, May and June. That part will be practically completely lost. We estimate that in the first six months we lost about 2.2 to 2.4 billion euro. The most important for us are July, August, and September, where 63 percent of the turnover is realized," the minister said.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Croatia Airlines Readies for Slower Summer

May 10, 2020 - As Croatia Airlines readies to resume domestic services within the country from tomorrow, how will this summer look in international travel for the national airline?

Ex Yu Aviation reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Croatia Airlines to downsize some of its operations, which makes us wonder what routes in its international network will return. Because it’s been said that the border with Slovenia should open on June 1,  it’s safe to assume some international services could kick in from then, too. 

While they haven’t announced a date for the resumption of international travel, Croatia Airlines had previously said it has three different plans, depending on how COVID-19 progresses. “Croatia Airlines will be the first carrier to bring tourists to Croatia and enable the country’s connectivity to the world. We will start with domestic operations first. In terms of international flights, we currently have three active strategies, of which each has several sub-strategies, on how to resume services. Routes with healthy point-to-point demand and some transfer traffic will be prioritized,” said Krešimir Mlinar, the airline’s Director for Network and Revenue Management, 

Currently, Croatia Airlines’ only operating international service is to Frankfurt, while this year’s new routes to Zagreb to Sofia and Podgorica have been canceled. Ex Yu Aviation adds that we can expect that seasonal flights from Zagreb to Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and Tel Aviv will also be temporarily suspended, though anything is possible. 

Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said that Croatia Airlines would participate in creating “air bridges” to specific European markets, bringing foreign tourists to the country in the peak summer months. Talks are being held with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Germany. 

The German Federal Tourism Commissioner said that people might be able to travel abroad soon so long as the situation stays under control, and Italy’s Prime Minister shared the same sentiment. French President Emmanuel Macron, however,  did not want to jump to any conclusions until the beginning of June. 

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Gari Cappelli and Slovenia Optimistic about Opening Borders between Two Countries

April 30, 2020 - On Wednesday morning, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli announced that the border with neighboring Slovenia would be the first opened, which is Croatia's second most important market, generating 10% of overnight stays in the country last year.

HRTurizam reports that Slovenes have a great desire to come to the Adriatic, at least according to the current interest of the media. Still, of course, two crucial preconditions must be fulfilled: a satisfactory epidemiological situation and opening the borders.

Otherwise, the epidemiological situation in Slovenia is better than in Croatia, and with 10 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, there are a total of 1,418 patients and 89 deaths.

On the topic of opening the borders, Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli met with Minister of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, Zdravko Počivalsek, Wednesday afternoon.

Croatia and Slovenia have had excellent tourism cooperation for many years, not only because they are presented together to distant markets, but also because guests from Slovenia are one of the most loyal and numerous guests in Croatia, Minister Cappelli said during the meeting, adding:

"We are actively discussing the possibilities of opening borders, as well as ways to secure all the necessary measures and processes for Slovenian citizens to spend their holidays in Croatia. We especially addressed Slovene citizens who own real estate in Croatia and are trying to find solutions for them to come to their property, in compliance with all prescribed epidemiological measures. We have a common desire to initiate mutual tourist flows when circumstances permit, and we also want to find ways to ensure the highest level of health care for Croat and Slovene citizens in the event of a possible tourist exchange."

The ministers also discussed facilitating tourism with the development of travel procedures, which was discussed during a video conference of tourism ministers of EU member states, held earlier this week. They also stressed the importance of strengthening the position of tourism, i.e., the availability of funding for the tourism sector through future EU financial frameworks, as well as in the current situation to maintain the stability of economic operators and jobs in the tourism sector.

"There are approximately 110,000 private properties owned by Slovene citizens in Croatia and it would be appropriate to allow them to visit their summer residences. In Slovenia, we are optimistic about the possibility of at least partially establishing cross-border tourist traffic between our two countries, at least in the late summer and under special health care conditions," said Slovenian Minister Počivalšek, noting that Slovenia and Croatia are traditional tourist and friendly countries and that both nations are good hosts.

According to data from the eVisitor system, in 2019, almost 1.6 million arrivals and almost 11 million overnight stays were generated in Croatia by guests from Slovenia.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Tuesday, 28 April 2020

COVID-19 in Croatia: Gari Cappelli Discusses Summer Travel with EU Tourism Ministers

April 28, 2020 - A video conference including Tourism Ministers of the EU Member States, chaired by Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli, was held as part of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. reports that issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for the tourism sector were discussed at the conference.

Ministers and senior officials from all EU Member States and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton attended the video conference. At the invitation of the Croatian Presidency, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), presented UNWTO initiatives on tourism activation at the conference.

Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said there must be a joint plan at the EU level to tackle the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which would include, among other things, adopting a standard travel protocol and a "COVID-19 passport", which would be valid for all EU countries on the departure and arrival of tourists.

"We must allow as much as we can to open the borders, but with the protocol on how exactly it will be implemented, and we must then respect it all," says Cappelli.

Travel would include road, rail, sea, and air travel, and while insisting on adopting a standard protocol, Cappelli says a cooperation agreement is also possible bilaterally.

Cappelli hopes that by the end of May, at least at the bilateral level, they could agree to open some kind of tourist borders with some countries, with a respectable number of countries already interested. However, the countries must meet the health and safety aspect, where epidemiologists are the main focus.

He says that individual countries have begun to prepare individually, adding that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has already talked to the prime ministers of individual countries, including Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who is interested in opening borders through road or air corridors.

Cappelli notes that in the first proposals of the multiannual European budget until 2027, tourism did not have prominent importance in terms of finances, but after the COVID-19 crisis, it has completely changed. "It is the unique view of all countries that tourism will have to make one big step forward in this budget, as opposed to what was planned," Cappelli says.

He also said that tourism is crucial in saving and strengthening certain European economies, such as the Italian and Spanish ones, which, like Croatia, have a high share of tourism in total GDP.

Cappelli also recalled the Croatian initiative to better position tourism within the EU, presented at the 2018 meeting of tourism ministers in Sofia. The initiative also included the creation of a special fund for tourism, for reasons of potential problems that some countries might have, such as the refugee crisis, floods, and now the coronavirus pandemic.

He points out that support has been obtained for this and that financial and all other mechanisms are put in place in order for tourism to take a different position than it has so far.

At the ministerial meeting, Cappelli pointed out that tourism represents 10 percent of the EU GDP, employs a total of almost 12 percent of employees, and is also the fourth EU export category, with consumption generating more than €400 billion in revenue.

"It is therefore important to encourage the creation of joint solutions for the crisis in the tourism sector caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but also to create programs and plans for combating similar threats in the future. For this reason, I am particularly pleased that the meeting of the European Council members last week agreed on setting up a Recovery Fund, which will target the hardest-hit sectors and geographical parts of Europe," said Cappelli.

In addition to representatives from all EU Member States, the meeting was attended by European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton, as well as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Zurab Pololikashvili.

Breton stressed that emergency measures and resources made available by the Commission should support Member States' efforts to maintain stability in the short and medium-term. He urged the members to take full advantage of them and to provide the opportunities they offer to workers who are most affected by the current situation.

"We will need extraordinary resources to overcome this crisis. We need a new Marshall Plan with a strong EU budget that will accelerate the path to European recovery and a stronger and more resilient Union," Breton said

Pololikashvili called on the Commission to prioritize tourism within the EU's recovery plan.

Cappelli also answered journalists' questions, saying that the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) had developed a marketing program to attract and retain domestic tourists, including a "Cro card". When accommodations open in 15-20 days, Croatia should be ready for foreign but especially domestic tourists, he said.

"We are trying to find as many models as possible to keep everyone who could spend something in Croatia and have them use our benefits and models," says Cappelli, adding that domestic tourists make up about 13 percent of total tourism spending.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Gari Cappelli: Croatian Tourism Will No Longer be the Same

When it comes to the hospitality industry and the closing of restaurants across Croatia, Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli says he feels no guilt.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 21st of April, 2020, Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli explained just how the Republic of Croatia is heading for the upcoming tourist season after the coronavirus epidemic.

"We did most of this last week. Now it's up to the epidemiologists to sit down together and brush it up to the finest detail. We, from the profession, sorted out every detail, and everyone sitting at the table did their bit. However, since this is an impossible situation, everything we plan to do in this way can collapse within 24 hours. However, our goal is to do it all,'' Gari Cappelli told Nova TV.

He said that state bodies are already meeting with Czech secretaries who want to close their borders for a year.

When asked how Croatia will attract guests, Gari Capelli says there is a prepared programme for that. "Next week, the Council of the Tourist Board will give it the green light and we'll be ready when we go into negotiations with any country to invest in PR marketing about things to do with security that are happening in Croatia,'' said the Minister of Tourism.

"You can see the benefit the Civil Protection Headquarters have brought about, the whole epidemiological situation and the people who worked hard [on Croatia's anti-epidemic measures], the Government that listened and did what it needed to. We've been recognised throughout Europe and the world, especially our neighbours, for controlling the situation and being a safe country. That's why people want to come. This is proof that the Government has been able to control the situation,'' Gari Cappelli said.

As touched on above, when it comes to the negative effects on the Croatian hospitality industry and the closing of the country's restaurants, the minister says he feels no guilt about it. "It doesn't matter now who is guilty or not guilty. Today, at the meeting, we addressed all the details of who and what was needed, the epidmeiologists gave us a more detailed explanation of what to do in the food industry,'' Gari Cappelli stated.

When asked about plexiglasses between tables at restaurants, Capelli said that after the epidemic, nothing would be the same again. "That must be made clear. We won't be able to even go onto a tram without a mask,'' the minister said.

He added that his ministry had made several suggestions regarding the hotel industry and how to what extent it would be able to accommodate guests. "We'll take things one step at a time, first, we'll open the facilities and maybe start with 30 percent of these strict measures," he explained.

"Tourism will no longer be what it once was, nor will I lives be what they once were. Things will be different, things will be done more carefully. Unfortunately, we may need to hang out less. Life will change, tourism will change. We'll have to get used to it, and in that direction, we'll work on marketing and all other actions,'' said Gari Cappelli. He pointed out that those in the catering and hospitality industry and all others working in Croatian tourism will be informed in due time of any new decisions and new measures.

When asked what might open first, Gari Cappelli said they are mainly committed to outdoor activities at this moment in time, such as nature parks and campgrounds.

Make sure to follow our dedicated coronavirus section for all you need to know in relation to Croatia.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli on Restarting Businesses, Private Renters, and More

April 19, 2020 - Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli talks about what Croatian tourism can expect this year and the measures in place to save the country's tourism industry. 

Tourism was the first to be hit by the coronavirus crisis. At the moment, everyone's primary goal is to survive. Whether or not there will be tourism, no one dares to forecast at the moment. However, some measures and instructions have been announced to restart business activity. In doing so, expectations are primarily on domestic guests. 

Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli explains further in an interview with Novi List, with excerpts transmitted in English below. 

How will businesses restart when the measures are loosened?

"In the coming week, we will know by sectors what can start first and how. At the moment, we believe that the first tourist traffic can be launched in segments that are actually more isolated, for example, holiday homes, i.e., private accommodation, then accommodation in smaller areas or outside major and urban destinations, and with the right prices, something can certainly be done in nautical tourism. There are also, for example, camps. So anything closer to nature, which still allows for some social distance and reduced contact with other people. However, the basic prerequisite for us is opening internal traffic and the issue of borders, especially for our important auto-destinations. Ultimately, we still have facilities that work like some hotels.

Among other things, we will also propose that in hotels, every third or fourth room would be open to guests. With the guests leaving, they would be left empty for a few days to be cleaned and disinfected according to the recommendations of the epidemiologist. At that time, a part of the rooms that were previously empty would be used; therefore, at any one time, a third or a quarter of the capacity would be available. Basically, there will be a lot of work to be done on security. One of our suggestions will also be to be among the first to open travel agencies where there will certainly be no invasion and I do not see a problem for tourists to enter the space one by one. Or into tourist boards. Also, we need to be aware that when things are up and runnning, there will not be five people at the table, but two, that not every table will be available, but every second or third. These are all suggestions we are putting on paper and are sitting down with epidemiologists to see what can be done and how. The reality is that it will be good to start anything. But I see that the experts have responded positively to this and want to talk about trying to do something at least. In this regard, we will send our proposal to the Government within a few days."

You have been analyzing a drop in traffic of 60, then 75, and in the worst case, more than 90 percent. While there is currently nothing to forecast, what are your reasonable expectations?

"We hold that at the moment, it may be the most realistic drop of 75 percent. So, to be able to accomplish 25 percent or less of last year's activities. I'm not ominous, but as the Prime Minister said, we want to speak very clearly and openly. Therefore, very frankly, if I expect business activity, then I expect it only after August 1, primarily in the domestic market, and it will be good if there are foreign guests at all. Certainly, foreign owners of houses and vessels on the Adriatic will have the most interest, be they Austrians, Slovenes, Germans, Hungarians or Czechs. They will be the first to look to Croatia. Information from the field, specifically from the marinas, indicates that foreign owners gave orders to take their ships out and prepare for navigation as if they were coming to the Adriatic. And maybe something positive can be done with charter people. Namely, the guest comes directly to the marina, to the ship with a car, and does not have to enter any marina at all. But all this clearly depends on other countries and their rules on leaving the country, returning to the country and the like. We cannot influence it, and I have no illusions here."

You have said that this year, the most is expected of local guests if the movement of people is allowed.

"In 2019, we had about 2.2 million arrivals in commercial accommodation with domestic guests, and from these data, it can be seen that the percentage of domestic guests was still negligible - about 12 percent. If we are talking about tourist overnights, we are talking about some 7.3 million commercial overnights of domestic guests. Clearly, in camps, for example, they were small, about four percent, while most were recorded in family accommodation."

What measures are being prepared for local guests? Like the Cro card?

"The Cro card, which is something that we have already prepared in the previous circumstances, will be reprogrammed and we will try to help the domestic market. So, the card is almost ready to be used, say from July. Namely, it is difficult to say that anything will go before that, it is much more realistic to talk about August and September as far as domestic guests are concerned. However, the card will be ready in any case. We will reprogram it so that it can be used in restaurants, hotels, private accommodation as well as agencies. Therefore, agencies will also be able to do certain programs, clearly for Croatia. You can use the Cro card explicitly for payment in Croatia and not for payment abroad."

What is the burden on the tourism sector through the two rounds of government-supported economic assistance measures?

"It is difficult to say how much is on tourism itself, given that it is a horizontal measure covering other activities. For example, if we take the Permanent Seasonal measure, which will continue to go at 3 plus 3 months, we are talking about HRK 11 million in just one month. So, everyone who was supposed to start work on April 1 because their six months at the Institute expired, will get three more months of entitlement, and then probably, if necessary, three more months. There were a lot of questions about job conservation measures. All those employers who made redundancies, and when they saw that the four thousand kuna plus payroll relief was very good, they asked if they could get those people back into employment. We said they could, with people having to get contracts permanently. So, we allowed them to give back to people, which is especially important. Otherwise, virtually all tourism is under job preservation measures because it simply falls more than 50 percent. This is one measure that made the most to save tourism because not only is there no traffic, but we also have a work ban. Among the measures, there are also deferrals of student scholarships for businesses. We continue to pay our share, but hoteliers do not have to now. Then they measure the concession on tourist land in the campsites and others."

A new law defining the issue of tourist land is coming to Parliament for a second reading soon, which is considered much better than the previous one. What does it entail?

"This Law is one of the most important foundations for future investments. If it were not for the corona situation, this would certainly be the most important thing for tourism at this time, given that it addresses the issue of tourist land that no one has been able to solve for decades. It is estimated that, by addressing this issue, we are opening up the possibility of three to five billion kuna in investments. No one believed that we would succeed and that the Law would be passed by May."

The sector also points to the cost-effectiveness coefficient at which some campsites will pay less for tourist land. 

"Let's take, for example, that a camper travels to a camp in Dubrovnik. He will spend one day staying in Istria or Kvarner and the trip alone will cost him more than staying in the northern Adriatic. Istria has 70 percent of the campsites, but that does not mean that we cannot help the development of camping offers in the south. We will also reduce camp fees on the islands, which, in my opinion, is realistic, given how much more it costs a camper to go to an island. We tried to balance these circumstances, but here, very soon, there will be opportunities in the Croatian Parliament to change things. But I think after the first reading, there was a consensus and we were able to find a balance. And again, no one has been able to solve the issue of the co-ownership community so far, nor that no one has paid anything for years, and that if it had been invested, it was not known what was being invested since the land was not from the camp."

What about HBOR lending? How much money is available to loan, how and who can get it?

"This is a measure we are implementing right through the Ministry of Tourism. We had certain funds that we have so far placed through the Competitiveness of the Tourist Economy (KTG) program, for which we have announced a competition every year. This year, HRK 26 million has been secured for this purpose, which this time we will pay to HBOR, thus practically subsidizing the entire interest on the loans. Loans to be distributed are worth HRK 600 million interest-free for up to three years. And if one does not manage to repay the principal in those three years, they have the right to extend the additional two years with a minimum interest rate of 1 to 1.5 percent."

Who will be able to use these loans?

"Small and medium-sized enterprises. So, for example, a small family-run hotel can run into liquidity when it goes back to work after a few months without income, and there is no money to buy groceries and generally supply and pay some obligations. As far as users are concerned, we have been looking at encompassing these, let's just say, medium-sized entrepreneurs. Namely, HAMAG-Bicro gives smaller loans, up to 25,000 euro, so we watched these loans amount to 100,000 euro or more. So we also covered these higher amounts. Small hotels have always been in the gap. With these loans, we wanted to save that part of small hotels, namely, hoteliers used to take out loans at the time, with relatively high-interest rates, and now they are in trouble because they have not been paid back and have no traffic, so we give them a chance to survive. And of course, we will talk about those old credits as well, is there anything that can be rescheduled."

When might these funds be available?

"We will receive requests safely by the end of the month, and if they are of good quality, some will be able to get funds by that deadline."

Renters as individuals are not in this arrangement?

"Private renters can apply for high-quality other credit lines. After all, we also subsidize the reclassification loan we have negotiated with banks. With that, we delayed the categorization by one year. We have written off the residence tax to the renters for six months, delayed the payment of the membership fee because it enters into the General Tax Law and it will be a topic of discussion when discussing para-fiscal levies. The flat-rate income tax for the second quarter was then written off, and the first quarter had to be postponed until March 30."

So, anyone who asked for the delay on March 31 is too late?

"They are late. I know that in some Field Tax Authorities, the interpretation was different, but the last day to report was March 30. Otherwise, as far as the measures are concerned, we will see how the situation will develop further and, if necessary, respond further."

Many will say that family accommodation may be the biggest hit in this situation. While it is difficult to predict anything, what do you expect, how will this segment sustain itself?

"In my opinion, private accommodation, nautical charter, and campsites are something that should be started first. When they decide to come, guests will first and foremost look at security, isolation, and quality. Also, foreigners who will come, that is, if the borders are open, will primarily seek security. Therefore, access to maintenance, or cleaning and disinfection, will be very important, we will have to give additional security to the guest that this apartment or holiday home has been prepared in accordance with the epidemiologist's orders. They will need to have an additional card, that is, a label, a card in two or three languages that the disinfection is really made according to the instructions of the expert services. That card will be in the apartment and we will sign it to guarantee that everything is done right."

In the end, what would you say to tourism workers in these unprecedented circumstances?

"That both public and private sectors are on the same wavelength. Our goal now is primarily to preserve those 'glass legs'. Our goal is to preserve it at least, to keep the system alive, and to try to get there by April or May next year. All that will happen in the meantime is a reward for patience, perseverance and quality and all that we will do in tourism to welcome next year. And I say again, both the public and private sectors are together. I am glad that all associations have recognized that we have done the best we can at this moment. There is still room for nautical charter, there is debate, say, about the extent of maritime concessions. If we find a solution to forgive one part of the obligations, then the charterers pay fewer concessions and have the additional benefit that will be good for them. So, we continue to discuss everything that we may not have elaborated and covered in the two phases."

How much space is left for further relief?

"Even the richer countries than us did not have such measures. We cannot, of course, compare ourselves to superpowers like Germany, but in many measures, we have come very close. And there is still debate about lifting some parafiscal taxes and the like. I can add that right now, it is clear how important it was to stabilize public finances. Having a responsible and quality fiscal and monetary policy has allowed us to make all these measures. And if we were in the eurozone now, we could have substantiated them even better. So patience and health come first. Ultimately, Croatia's health policy is already recognized internationally as one of the most rigid and restrictive in this situation. Likewise, in all TOMAS surveys of our guests' attitudes, nature and safety have always been emphasized as our strengths.

In this case, as well, potential guests will recognize Croatia as a safe country, because of all the countries of the European Union, we have taken the most serious approach to the safety and health protection of both our people and foreigners who found themselves here during the pandemic. After all, we still have foreigners living here in their homes, instead of in their own countries, because they feel safer here. This will now be our advantage, the safety of the public health system that has proven itself in this situation. With, for example, the fact that we are an auto-destination."

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Croatian Tourism Minister: We are Focusing on Domestic Tourism, Lower Prices

April 16, 2020 - Can Croatians save the country's tourism this year? Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli comments on domestic tourism and the Ministry's plan post coronavirus. 

"Domestic tourists cannot save the tourist season in Croatia because their share in total traffic in the last two years has been around 12 percent, but tourism certainly counts on them when coronavirus measures are loosened, which is decided by the Civil Protection Headquarters," Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said Wednesday on

"We always prepared special projects for local tourists. This year should have been 'A Week's Holiday is Worth It' and the Cro card that offered discounts. It had nothing to do with the corona era, because we were preparing these projects long before the pandemic was revealed in the world," Cappelli said, answering questions from reporters.

He announced that the Cro card will now be redefined and certainly try to be used in some way to serve its purpose in Croatia, not only on the coast and in restaurants, but to be used all over the country and for various offers, thus boosting domestic tourist consumption and revenues.

Asked by journalists if tourism prices should be lower this year, which could also attract domestic tourists, if the health situation permits, the minister replied: "Of course the prices will be lower, it will be cheaper."

"It will be cheaper, especially in private accommodation, which will certainly be more important for tourist demand when it comes to looking at being more secluded, better quality and closer access to nature with fewer houses in the surrounding area," said Cappelli, pointing out that they are in a similar position with camps.

In addition, he believes that nautical tourism will come to the fore and that the fact that Croatia is, as he said, 'the country with the most charter vessels in the world', will certainly be important. He also believes that with reasonable prices, it will be more readily available to domestic tourists at certain times.

"If there is tourism activity and the coronavirus situation improves, in private accommodation, nautical charters and camps, I see an opportunity this summer, rather than in some hotel accommodation, which will have to be more strict in receiving guests, as that's where epidemiologists will have a say in how many rooms can be open and the like," Cappelli emphasized.

He also reminded that because it is impossible to realize plans for this year, the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ) has annulled its annual and financial work program, announcing a salary reduction of up to 30% for employees in Zagreb and representative offices, and advised lower levels of the tourist board system to do the same.

Asked how Croatian tourism is preparing for the measures to be lifted and the possible reopening of hospitality facilities, the minister said that this depends primarily on the decisions of the epidemiological service and the National Headquarters, but also that they have "some plans if something happens tomorrow."

"We have plans for marketing activities in case the measures are loosened and facilities can open, and yesterday we gave the task to HTZ to prepare proposals within 14 days if, for example, tourists from Austria or another country close to us want to come and could visit us. We will definitely try to take advantage of this proximity and the possibility of getting there by car and highway. So, if we see the borders starting to open or something similar, we will be ready for marketing activities in these markets within 14 days," Cappelli announced.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli on What Awaits Croatia in 2020

April 6, 2020 - Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli talks about what awaits Croatian tourism in 2020. 

In the past few days, the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people in the country have been hooked on the Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian Government in anticipation of financial assistance and relief that will make it easier for them to survive the (non) tourist business year.

Because, apart from the fact that, in Croatia, every fifth kuna comes from tourism spending, the country has about one hundred thousand employees in the sector, and another 108 thousand families engaged in family rentals. There are also some fifty thousand who earn their salaries in the hospitality industry, and who knows how many other services that are directly or indirectly related to the profits from tourism.

All of them are on the same side in the tourist supply and demand chain in Croatia. Because not only is the season a success for tourist workers, but every hairdresser is hoping for a good season, because if their clients do not make money, they will not get their hair done. The same goes for the butcher, the furniture dealer, the pedicurist, the friend who pays the mobile operator, the carpenters, the souvenir and car salespeople, and the colleague who works at the bank.

With this thinking in mind, and while preparing for another fruitful tourist year, which began well with bookings, the news of the coronavirus pandemic threatened tourism for the first time since the war.

There is still no answer to the uncertainty that hit us one month ago, and we can’t say what this year's tourist season holds - or if it will be held at all. 

Thus, Slobodna Dalmacija interviewed Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli to find out more.

The international travel market is completely dead. What information and estimates on the duration of the crisis do you receive from our representatives and partners abroad, how long could it last?

“We are in contact with our seventeen representative offices of the Croatian National Tourist Board all the time, and we receive reports daily. We are also involved in international tourism organizations, with several videoconferences. As the World Tourism Organization has announced, the expected decline globally is 30 percent.

We know how important tourism is for many national economies, and the coronavirus pandemic has directly impacted the tourism sector. Travels from China dropped sharply in January and February, expanding to the rest of the world in February and March. The tourism economy is now stalled in many countries around the world and is likely to remain so until at least the middle of this year.

Restrictive measures are in place, and even when tourism supply chains start functioning again, the recovery will take some time, given the interconnected effects of the economic and health crisis and the gradual lifting of travel restrictions. This will have great consequences for many national economies."

There is an ongoing cancellation of arrivals even for the main season or bookings postponed to 2021. Do you think that the Croatian Government's measures will enable the tourism sector to survive this business year?

“It is currently understood that bookings have stopped and bookings for the following period are canceled. We must also look at it from the point of view of safety and health protection, and not primarily through the loss of tourist traffic. At this point, long-term assessments are difficult to determine, given the unanticipated course of the coronavirus pandemic development.

The package of measures of the Croatian Government for the economy is worth tens of billions of kuna, and the measures apply to all departments that need intervention in this situation. A large part of the measures relates to the preservation of liquidity and the preservation of jobs.

We are aware of the fact that the tourism sector has been significantly affected by this pandemic and, therefore, we have hastened to devise and adopt measures that we believe will help overcome this challenging period. It is important to note that the Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian Government will continue to take short, medium and long-term measures to minimize the effects and impact of the current situation on tourism and other economic segments."

What are the specific measures of the Croatian Government intended explicitly for tourism and how much will it help the sector?

“Measures include, among other things, securing loans for liquidity and working capital, introducing a moratorium on credit obligations, and establishing a new financial instrument, COVID-19 Loans, for working capital for small and medium-sized enterprises. The Ministry of Tourism introduced a deferral of payment of the tourist tax as part of the Government's measures, while the Ministry of Finance made it possible to defer the payment of a flat-rate income tax through amendments to the General Tax Law.

In addition, the payment of the concession fee on tourist land co-owned by the Republic of Croatia is postponed to mitigate the first financial impact on the tourism sector."

What is the overall financial burden on the sector through the most important measures?

“The relief from the tourist tax is estimated at HRK 164 million, while the exemption from paying the variable part of the concession fee will relieve the tourism sector by about HRK 15 million. Furthermore, within the measures of the Ministry of Labor and the Pension System, the duration of the “permanent season” measure is extended so that seasonal workers receiving off-season benefits do not lose their jobs.

To extend this measure, the state will provide HRK 11.5 million, and the measure includes about five thousand permanent seasonal workers in tourism and agriculture."

At this time of crisis, a public pandemic sometimes gives the impression that tourism is being marginalized over some other industries that are being touted as more important. Is that correct?

“Tourism is a sector that accounts for almost 20 percent of Croatia's GDP and, in addition, is a horizontal industry that provides revenue and jobs to a number of related industries. Therefore, together with other sectors in the Croatian Government, we will find the right balance of measures for all sectors affected by the current crisis, and tourism will certainly receive the deserved place and the help it needs to overcome the current state and the period that follows after the crisis."

Are you satisfied with the cooperation of professional tourism associations with the Ministry and how do you communicate during this crisis?

“In such crises, frequent interaction between the public and private sectors is needed to act promptly. I believe that the entire tourism sector supports the efforts made so far to overcome the economic and other challenges as effectively as possible.

We are continually receiving valuable suggestions for overcoming this situation by various professional associations active in the tourism sector, and we are constantly reviewing and trying to incorporate the legislative changes and economic measures of the Croatian Government, which will be adopted in several circles."

What would you say to family renters who have already mentioned in a survey that they lost about 50k in this year and fear the losses will be much higher?

“Household accommodation accounts for the largest share of the Croatian tourism accommodation offer and, therefore, private renters are essential stakeholders in our sector. I believe that a lot of them have lately lent themselves to invest in increasing quality and expanding their supply. With the turnover and revenues we have generated in recent years, such an investment has been logical and sustainable

However, in times of financial crises such as this one certainly is, the tourism sector is always one of the first to suffer, but experience has also shown that it is among the first to recover. Moreover, tourism is said to be the driver of economic development after the crisis. Therefore, we have abolished the payment of half the amount of the annual lump sum of tourist tax for basic beds and the whole amount of lump sum for extra beds to the persons providing catering services in households and on farms.

In addition, the Croatian Government will do everything possible to free the sector of all benefits, to provide a moratorium on loan repayments, etc., so that private accommodation will be that generator of growth after these troubles."

In the current situation, many think about the time after the pandemic, and the solution is seen in domestic tourism. How realistic is this in a position where half a million employees in the country are at minimum wage?

"Croatia, headed by the Civil Protection Headquarters, manages the emerging health situation well and, despite a further increase in the number of patients, the spread of the infection is under control, which means that we have prepared better than many European countries.

I believe that Croatia is still a safe country, and I believe that, after the health crisis and the gradual loosening of restrictions on work and movement, Croats will be able to spend at least part of their holidays at sea or in the continental part of our country.

As for their consumption, it is difficult to predict how much it will be. This will depend on the scale of the latest economic crisis we are currently in, and it is very difficult to estimate how long it will take."

Will the government encourage vouchers or otherwise promote domestic travel and the recovery of the sector after the pandemic?

“We have prepared projects such as the already widely known Croatian Tourist Card (CRO card) and the action "A Week Off is Worth It", which, unfortunately, was put to rest due to the coronavirus pandemic. All the necessary remodeling for both projects aimed at stimulating domestic tourist consumption has been completed, and I believe we will be able to use them to encourage domestic travel after the normal tourist flows are restored.

In addition, the amendments to the Law on the Provision of Tourism Services gave the Minister the power to regulate in the circumstances of special circumstances. Thus, this means terminating travel contracts in a package arrangement in such a way that tourist agencies may offer vouchers to be secured insurance policy, instead of refunding for unrealized travel."

Do you think that the position of Croatia and the fact that we are an easy-to-reach destination by car will be our trump card in the recovery of tourism?

“I still sincerely hope that we can make up at least part of the tourist season. If so, if the situation calms down, the rest of the tourist year will be marked by "last-minute" trips. In such a scenario, it will certainly help us to be close to our most significant markets. But in addition, our reputation and recognition that we have built in recent years will also help us, and it is primarily about hospitality, safety, quality and nature conservation."

The Croatian National Tourist Board system is financed almost exclusively by membership fees and tourist tax, which will not be paid in the next 3 + 3 months. Many tourist boards are already empty accounts. How will they be helped to survive without a basic income?

“Given the measures adopted by the Croatian Government to assist the economy, which partly relate to the delays in paying tourist membership fees and tourist fees, we have taken certain steps and arrangements with the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development regarding securing funds for the liquidity of the tourist boards system.

HBOR will enable the monitoring of legal entities under the program Sustainable Current Assets through commercial banks. In preparing the new measures, HBOR will take care of the tourist boards and include them in the eligible legal entities for financing under the Risk Sharing Model together with commercial banks, as well as for potential direct funding."

The responsibility to lend to the tourist boards will lie with the presidents of the tourist boards, i.e., the prefects, mayors, counties?

“Amendments to the Law on Tourist Boards and Promotion of Croatian Tourism, adopted at a cabinet session Thursday, enabled higher financial borrowing by tourist boards in times of special circumstances, and Tourist Board presidents will decide on the amount they need to borrow to maintain work.

Amendments to the same Act also gave the Minister the power to determine by an ordinance an amount that could be used for the salary costs of employees in the tourist board, which had hitherto been limited to 40 percent of income."

If you were a casual tourist worker currently without traffic and income, what would you say to Minister Cappelli at this point, what is the most important thing to do?

“The most important thing is to ensure the retention of jobs and the liquidity of companies and trades in the tourism sector so that they can resume work as soon as possible after the crisis. In addition, it takes a lot of patience, concern for the health of everyone in the sector, and the conviction that we will emerge even stronger from this situation, with new experiences to overcome difficulties."

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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