Friday, 11 June 2021

Over €800m Invested in Islands in Last Five Years from State Budget

ZAGREB, 11 June 2021 - More than six billion kuna were invested from national funds into different activities and projects for the islands in the 2016-2020 period, the Regional Development Ministry's State Secretary, Spomenka Đurić, told the Croatian parliament,on Friday.

In addition, projects have been agreed whereby seven billion kuna will be withdrawn from EU funds for the development of Croatian islands, Đurić said while presenting draft amendments to the Islands Act under which the amount of water for island inhabitants at subsidised prices would increase from 45 to 85 cubic metres per year.

The government-sponsored draft amendments also provide for state subsidies covering up to 50% of the cost of transport of the water supplied to individuals and legal entities in communities still without connections to the public water supply network.

This state subsidy covers 4,234 households with more than 7,200 members, and in 2020, HRK 17 million was paid for that purpose, she said.

Croatia has 1,244 islands,  and 45 islands are permanently or temporarily inhabited, with 51 maritime routes, 58 community health centres, 102 primary and 13 high schools, and 23 care homes.

For more news about Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Second Phase of Investment for Lavanda Sunny Hotel in Autumn

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 12th of August, 2020, despite earlier negative projections for the tourism sector due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Valamar opened 21 hotels and resorts and all 15 of its camps in June and July, and the first phase of the investment in Lavanda Sunny hotel by Valamar on the island of Hvar near Stari Grad has been successfully completed.

The successful completion of the investment poured into the Lavanda Sunny hotel was a move which marked the beginning of a wider investment cycle from the Helios Faros facilities in partnership with PBZ Croatia osiguranje, OMF and Valamar Riviera. In the next phase, which is due to take place during the autumn, the company will invest a total of 43 million kuna in the Lavanda Sunny hotel's 179 accommodation units. The Sunny by Valamar brand has taken over the refurbishment of the former Lavanda Hotel, which has a lot to boast of and offer to guests today.

Valamar Riviera says that their guests recognised what there is on offer given the high occupancy of the hotel after the opening on July the 15th, and this investment will, they believe, contribute to the repositioning of higher value added services and the further development of tourism on the wildly popular Central Dalmatian island of Hvar. The Lavanda Sunny hotel stands out with modern rooms, a lobby, a kitchen and restaurant, its aesthetic design, its lifestyle elements of relaxation, an impressive a la carte offer and a new concept for its restaurant and bar.

The hotel also introduced a new IT structure, implemented the HACCP food safety control system and a digital facility management system, as well as the V Health & Safety programme according to health, safety and environmental standards. It seems that while the global pandemic continues to throw proverbial spanners in the works for a great many companies, particularly those in travel and tourism, this company is continuing to go from strength to strength.

For more, follow our dedicated business section.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Pula's Arena Hospitality Group Announces 500 Million Kuna Investment

As Barbara Ban/Novac writes on the 19th of March, 2019, Pula's biggest hotel group, the Arena Hospitality Group announced the continuation of its large investment cycle yesterday, the amount of which will be about half a billion kuna. These are investments in the hotel Brioni (Brijuni) and the apartment resort of Verudela Beach in Pula, the Kažela camp in Medulin, and the doing up of the Art'otel Berlin Kudamm over in Berlin, Germany.

Namely, this Pula hotel company is the only one which owns hotels in Germany and Hungary at the moment. The Arena Hospitality Group recalled that by mid-2017, via a public offer on the Zagreb Stock Exchange, they raised about 750 million kuna to continue their investment cycle.

''We're continuing with our investment cycle, which will be around half a billion kuna from 2018 to 2022. Some of the investments have already been done, some have started, and some are just beginning. Last year we renewed camp Pomer, which became the first glamping site in the country, and we believe it's one of the best in the world. That investment stood at 70 million kuna,'' said the Arena Hospitality Group's Reli Slonim.

With that move, the path to rejuvenating their camps is definitely wide open, which is a sector of theirs which they haven't invested significantly in before last year, as they devoted themselves to raising the quality of their hotels and apartment resorts, as well as their numerous acquisitions in Europe. Part of their facilities are also branded as Park Plaza.

''This year we started with the complete doing up of the Kažela camp in Medulin, and this investment is worth 128 million kuna, which is our biggest investment in the camps. After the completion of the investment, the camp will offer its guests 1,300 spacious places and 164 new luxury mobile homes. In addition, the camp will get a new entrance and reception, new beach bars, and entertainment and sports facilities,'' Arena Hospitality Group's Reli Slonim said.

It is interesting to note that mobile homes in this camp will be made up of ecological and recycled materials, and each of them will be about 40 square metres in size. This will be one of the biggest investments in camps this year in the country, and it should be finished by this [tourist] season.

A member of the management of the Arena Hospitality Group, Manuela Kraljević, also added that along with all of their current investments, they are preparing for the renovation of the Verudela Beach apartment complex too, which will begin in autumn this year. As of now, they have refurbished a ten-unit building, which is an example of how the other apartments will look when finished.

In the tourist resort of Verudela Beach, the plans are to invest about 60 million kuna during the second half of 2019. Ten accommodation units will be upgraded by this season, while the remaining 146 units and 20 villas will be renewed in time for the 2020 summer season. After the completion of the investment, the resort will be under the brand of Arena Hotels & Apartments, Kraljević said.

They also announced the reconstruction of Hotel Brioni, which for the time being, remains the only hotel in Punta Verudela that hasn't been given a ''fresh face''. It is a cult hotel which was built back in the 1970s, primarily for American guests. So far, only two showrooms have been done up, which will be somewhat larger than the existing ones, but this won't change the number of rooms.

''We have decided that we're not going to change the size of this hotel, but we will rebuild it as it is, and the room sizes will be about the same. We will invest 190 million kuna into it, and we'll start doing it up in 2020 after the [tourist] season. The hotel will be finished in one year and [everything] will be completed by 2022,'' Slonim said. In addition to investments in Croatia, this year the Pula hotel group is also renovating its hotel in Berlin, investing the equivalent of 53 million kuna into it. The hotel is located in Berlin's famous Charlottenburg district and is dedicated to the works of the famous pop art artist Andy Warhol. The investment will include a total accommodation capacity of of 152 rooms, as well as all of the other hotel facilities one might expect.

As Luka Cvitan said, the German part of the portfolio is extremely important to the Arena Hospitality Group because it gives them stability and doesn't depend solely on tourism flows in Croatia. Last year, hotels in Germany saw the largest growth, while in Croatia, things unfortunately stagnated somewhat. Business last year amounted to 758 million kuna, and was higher than last year's gain by 30 percent. That is why the Arena Hospitality Group is also thinking about further acquisitions in Belgrade in Serbia, as well as in other countries in the region.

''Also, since we have a portfolio abroad, we can offer our employees full-time employment,'' said Cvitan.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

 

Click here for the original article by Barbara Ban for Novac/Jutarnji

Monday, 18 March 2019

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović Discusses Investment at InvestCro Conference

The InvestCro conference was opened by the editor-in-chief of Poslovni Dnevnik, Vladimir Nišević, who stressed the fact that this project opens up discussions topics that are of great importance to our society.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 18th of March, 2019, the "InvestCro: Investment in (Non) Opportunities in Croatia" conference, whose central theme is rather depressingly inspired by missed opportunities, ie planned investments that have not been realised, as well as obstacles investors encounter and also possible improvements to the arrival and treatment of foreign investors, is being held at the Westin hotel in Zagreb.

This conference is the second in a series of four conferences as part of the all-year-round multimedia project headed by Croatian news and media outlets Večernji list, Poslovni Dnevnik and 24sata entitled "InvestCro: Kako do ulagača" which discusses how investors can be attracted.

The President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, stated that the current results of foreign investments don't match the desired image. She said that lessons should be learned from the mistakes alreayd made to avoid repetition.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said that Croatia was missing out on so-called Greenfield investments and has proposed five specific guidelines to the Croatian Government in order to attempt to tackle that problem.

"The results of direct foreign investment don't match the desired image. In 26 years, 33.5 billion euros has been invested in Croatia, but the problem is that the investments were mostly Brownfield [investments] and focused on ''nontradeable'' sectors. We're missing out on Greenfield investments, investment in the production of goods and services that will create quality jobs and be more export-oriented,'' said the president at the InvestCro conference in Zagreb.

She feels that the direction of development can be directed in the desirable direction if the appropriate lessons learned from the mistakes made are properly taken into consideration. "First of all, I'm thinking of investment woes, the shortage of people involved in attracting investors, the lack of approach planning and coordination," she said.

On their way directly from Pantovčak to the Croatian Government are five key guidelines for the faster and easier growth of investments in Croatia. It is necessary to consolidate the competences of all those responsible for attracting FDI (foreign direct investment) at a single national level, to create an investment attracting strategy aligned with other economic strategies, to focus on new models and soft investment incentives for added value and to constantly create an attractive investment climate.

The five recommendations include the continuation of work on a better overall image of the Republic of Croatia and the promotion of the country as a destination for investment, not just a tourist destination. In this regard, Grabar-Kitarović announced that the working group who deal with branding Croatia will come out with guidelines within a month.

"We decided to do something for our society, as well as for those who will still be here when we're gone. Without healthy investments, we will remain without investors, and for this reason we have just decided to speak [on the subject] through various conferences, just like this one today.

''I hope this conference will contribute to the progress of Croatia,'' Niševic said.

'' the last two years, two-thirds of greenfield investments in the EU took place in just six European countries. I believe that Croatia will raise its rating in 2019 and come over to the side of these six countries, with the help of new laws and a better quality framework for stimulating investment,'' said Minister of Economy Darko Horvat at the InvestCro conference.

"The share of investment in GDP is growing, we're at the average of EU countries. The third quarter in 2018 was, according to current information, optimistic, as there was a 4.9 percent rise. Croatia needs economic growth of five percent. Step by step, we're strengthening competition, there is no instant solution, and changes need to be deeply rooted.

We should help entrepreneurs to retain as much of their own funds as possible for the new investment cycle. We're digitising business and the state, in order to reduce the burden on entrepreneurs. Therefore, I expect growth in production, especially in the private sector. Through the Investment Incentive Act alone we attracted 16 billion kuna, with 12,750 new jobs being planned. We know exactly what kind of educational profile we need, we need to make sure we've got young people who will be employed there. We need a synergistic effect with cities and counties," the minister said, hinting at the need to all be on the same level.

"We want investments with new technologies and added value. Despite the global boom in the digital economy, less than 20 percent of such investments fell into the ICT sector. We are not only looking at the volume, but also the character and type of investment, as well as the quality of jobs which is what our young people who are leaving are looking for abroad. We need a bit of courage and some enthusiasm in order to turn these issues into a chance.

The Ministry of Economy has announced five new tenders, which is an innovation opportunity for domestic entrepreneurs. I'm sure that 303 million euros will be invested in Croatia's investment potential and that this year will end with development,'' concluded Horvat, adding the encouraging fact that this week, the representatives of several Swiss companies are browsing northwestern Croatia and looking for business zones that are ready for them to move part of their business to.

Mladen Fogec, president of the Association of Foreign Investors in Croatia, noted that Croatian pessimism could affect foreign investors very much.

"The rating agencies are constantly positioning us at the end of the second-third on the doing business scale, but they all get their perceptions from talking to our political parties, non-governmental organisations, and we're very inclined to being negative - we have to turn to optimism. When it comes to the perception of corruption... we're not in the best position, but when you ask a person whether or not they bribed someone, the answer is always that they didn't. Please spread optimism because Croatia has a lot of potential. In principle, there's an enormous problem with our mentality, the capacity for change isn't big enough, we're still not ready to start to change, and we're living in the era of digitisation and computerisation,'' Fogec said.

"We've spent far too much time wrestling with the past, we spent an actual minister of economy on Agrokor, and her successor is now spending most of his time trying to deal with Uljanik, which is also grappling with the past. We need to deal with the future. It's good that we have introduced a law on strategic planning. It's not a question of whether foreign investors want to come to Croatia, but whether or not we actually want foreign investors,'' claims Fogec.

He noted that the association he leads didn't issue the so-called ''white book'' for business for 2019 because the problems still remain exactly the same as they were before. "Nothing has changed, or it has changed at a slower rate compared to changes in neighbouring countries, so our latest edition is still valid," he concluded rather sarcastically.

For those of you who understand Croatian, here's a video of what has been said, suggested and discussed at the conference:

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for more on doing business and the overall investment climate in Croatia.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Citizenship for Sale - Could Croatia Reward Wealthy Investors?

Could Croatia soften its laws on the acquisition of citizenship for foreign investors bringing money, jobs and other benefits with them to Croatia? It's a sensitive topic for many, but more and more people in business circles are beginning to believe that this could be one answer to Croatia's increasingly bleak demographic picture.

As Boris Oresic/Novac writes on the 17th of March, 2019, the value of a passport is measured by the number of countries to which its owner can travel without the need for a visa. On the World Passport Index, the Republic of Croatia holds a high ranking of sixteen because the owners of its travel documents enjoy visa-free travel to 169 countries across the world.

According to the latest research by the Swiss agency Henley & Partners, which helps individuals who want to acquire the nationality of a country, the most powerful passports are Japan and Singapore, which allows visa-free access to 189 countries, with Germany coming second with just one number less. Following that come Finland, France, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark.

From year to year, more and more countries abolish visas for Croatian passport holders, making the blue passport with the Croatian coat of arms more and more sought after in general. However, unlike some European countries, the Croatian state has not yet decided on what is considered by many to be a controversial move - selling its citizenship to those who want to pay good money for it and don't pose a risk to national security.

Portugal, Austria, Malta, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria are some of the EU countries which, under varying conditions, do offer such opportunities to foreigners. By selling their passports or permanent residence permits, these countries manage to earn significant income from East Asia, Russia and the Middle East who aren't lacking money and who want EU documents which automatically enable them to move freely and operate in 28 member states, some of which fall into the most powerful countries of the world.

The European Commission doesn't take such a bright view at such practices, and at the end of January it warned EU member states that third-country investors seeking such so-called ''golden passports'' and ''golden visas'' increase the security risk throughout the EU. This criticism is mostly related to Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria, which have the most liberal laws on the matter. For example, Malta charges 650,000 euros for its passport, and the applicant must have possessed 350,000 euros worth of real estate on its territory for five years. Cyprus offers its citizenship to those who invest 2 million euros and have real estate worth more than 500,000 euros. As one of its arguments for deterring the practice of selling citizenship, the European Commission cites the potential problems of Russian capital of suspect origin.

The former government of SDP's Zoran Milanović discussed the idea of major investors being allowed to acquire citizenship back in 2015, but such notions appear to have been quickly given up on and there is no indication, at least at the moment, that these regulations could change significantly. In business circles however, there are plenty of people who think that it's high time that Croatia softens its rigid attitude, because by selling a certain number of passports, it would not have lost anything and could in turn gain many benefits. With the country's demographic image becoming more and more bleak, many believe a softened stance wouldn't hurt.

Globus's interlocutor, who is otherwise very well-versed in this topic, argues that when looking for security and business opportunities, the Croatian passport is most likely to be sought after by businessmen from Asia and Russia.

''The Agency conducts an investigation to make sure the applicant isn't a criminal, that he isn't in political asylum, that he doesn't abuse taxation... Then it's handed over to the country whose official services also do their part before deciding whether or not to comply with the request,'' says Globus's source, adding that this year alone, Croatia has raised its quota for the employment of foreign workers from non-EU countries to as high a figure as 65,000.

''How can we know that there are no criminals among these people? It's hard to believe that some rich man would come to Croatia with the intent of blowing it up with explosives. It's not known that anyone with a Maltese passport is linked to some terrorist attack. Security risks don't exist,'' explains a Croatian entrepreneur who is well acquainted with some very wealthy business people and others who would like to spread their wings, their work and their money into Croatia if they were to gain citizenship.

The number of people who can be granted citizenship can be limited by each country or by set quotas. Globus's source believes that a quota of the first thousand passports offered for sale would be completed within a year to a year and a half. This would mean that 300 million euros would be pumped directly into the state budget, which roughly covers the entire value of Pelješac bridge. Advocates of such ideas believe that several thousand wealthy foreigners would acquire all of the rights and obligations of all other Croatian citizens, and would not undermine the demographic picture of Croatia, which is already as grim as grim can be. Most of them, however, would probably not spend much time here in Croatia, and they would certainly not vote in national elections.

The Ministry of the Interior (MUP) is responsible for all issues related to the acquisition of Croatian citizenship, yet most member states do have rather vague legislation, however difficult it might be to come across, that points to discretionary procedures for naturalisation. In such proceedings, a state may freely grant nationality to a foreigner based on its national interests, that is typically related to outstanding achievements such as those in the field of culture, science or sport, but it can also be equated with economic interest.

There is a legal possibility for a foreign entrepreneur or an investor to acquire Croatian citizenship in a more privileged manner if the competent ministry feels that it is in the interest of the state to grant it. The Ministry of the Interior notes that the process of amendment to the Law on Croatian Citizenship is indeed in progress, but it does not foresee an amendment to Article 12 in order to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship for foreigners who want Croatian nationality purely for investing in Croatia.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and politics pages for more information on doing business and the political and investment climate in Croatia.

 

Click here for the original article by Boris Oresic for Novac/Jutarnji

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

As Investments Fall, is Croatia's Hotel Business Stagnating?

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 12th of March, 2019, Croatia's hotel sector stagnated last year in terms of the number of new rooms and in the sense of the level of entry of foreign hotel brands. A lot of this, but of course not all of it, is because Croatia has deemed it more profitable to build and invest more in private accommodation, an often ''grey'' area of Croatia's tourism industry with much lower taxes and a very poor level of general regulation. The level of major investments in new hotel rooms has fallen significantly, the number of which grew by a mere one percent in one year.

Due to all the above mentioned conditions, the market is still dominated by local investors, quite a few new names have appeared on the scene in the last year, which are still to be properly positioned as hotel brands, according to the annual global report on hotel chains in 22 European countries, "European Chains & Hotels Report 2019" by the Horwath Consulting House HTL. In the Republic of Croatia, more than a quarter of these hotels, more specifically 186 of them, operate under 43 brands in total, of which 22 are local and 21 are international brands.

"High seasonality and an unfavourable environment for investors, especially with [granting the necessary] permits, are the main reason we're in 159th place on the Doing Business list, they're the biggest barriers for foreign investors, who find it difficult to decide on taking risks in developing projects in Croatia, although a few positive examples have occurred on the market which do lead to more optimism,'' stated Siniša Topalović from Horwath's Zagreb-based office.

Horwath's analysis, which is based on the numbers from Real Capital Analytic, only takes into account investments of more than 5 million dollars, reveals that investment in hotels in Croatia is down by as much as 90 percent, from 59 million euro to a mere 7 million euro.

''The growth of hotel brands in 2018 in Croatia (4 percent) should be observed through the proper placement of several local hotel names, and only time will reveal whether or not these names will be branded on the market,'' Topalović explained.

Additionally, although Croatia can be statistically put in a very good position in terms of the number of brands operating here, the market situation shows that the level of activity is lagging behind some countries which are considered to be weaker than Croatia. A good example of that is Serbia and its increasingly popular capital city of Belgrade, which has received 40 new hotels since 2014, with growth in the hotel sector in Belgrade mainly based on foreign investments and globally respected brands such as Crowne Plaza, Radisson Blu and Luxury Collection.

Although the RevPar (revenue per hotel room) rose by an average of 16 percent in Croatia in 2018, this year a slow down is expected, caused primarily by other Mediterranean countries which are recovering from their respective problems to return to the market (this includes longtime tourism kings like Turkey and Tunisia).

The main potential seems to lie outside of the height of the summer season. Along with Serbia, where further growth is expected in the hotel segment, Albania has some great potential for foreign investors, Albania currently has the smallest share of branded hotels per total number of rooms (2 percent), and Montenegro, Croatia's neighbour to the south, also offers investors fairly favourable investment conditions and is very active in encouraging a more luxurious tourist product for the country.

Greece, known for its numerous financial issues, has entered the world's top fifteen tourist destinations despite the country's somewhat infamous ups and downs, with 150 new luxury hotels ''born'' in Greece in 2018, becoming a destination in which more than one in five hotels is in the category of 4 or 5 stars. Last year, the largest amount of investments in hotels went from the United States across the Atlantic to Spain (2.1 billion euro), following came transactions from Israel to the United Kingdom totaling over one billion euro, French investors also invested 951 million euro into the United Kingdom.

Despite all of the potentially (and likely) damning economic risks from Brexit, one of the European continent's most powerful countries, the United Kingdom, had a total of nearly 4 billion euro in investment in its massive hotel business. In 22 countries from the Horwath analysis, there were a total of 146,600 hotels on the market last year with more than six million rooms, with an average of 61 rooms per hotel. The least-branded hotels had Albania, only 12, while France has 3885 hotels in the hotel chain.

Make sure to stay up to date with our dedicated business page for more on investment and doing business in Croatia.

 

Click here for the original article by Marija Crnjak for Poslovni Dnevnik

Sunday, 10 March 2019

''Croats Love Complaining, We Need To Change Our Mentality''

''Croats should be more concerned with the economy, and with the future too, rather than with topics that have failed to be solved over the past twenty years,'' stated Mladen Fogec.

As Ana Blaskovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 10th of March, 2019, you could enter the Olympics and break your own personal record in running, but if you're slower than the others, you'll still come last, this is the creative way in which Mladen Fogec, president of the Association of Foreign Investors in Croatia, described the country's huge problems with its current investment climate.

After a highly successful career in business, Fogec still believes that the biggest problem in Croatia is the mentality of the Croats: the tendency to moan and the reluctance to actually work to change anything.

Mladen Fogec talked about just how it has happened that even today, it still doesn't ''sit'' well with many Croats for investors to make a profit, and just why Uljanik is a notorious example of market economy rejection. Fogec spoke in an interview before the InvestCro investment conference, which is set to be held on March the 18th in Zagreb.

For years, you've been working on the white book of business climate recommendations, but you recently announced that you'll just stick a 2018 sticker on it?

It was a statement through which I wanted to reinforce an impression, but it didn't change the fact that there still weren't enough significant changes in the business environment to need to write a new book. Whoever needs it can get the 2017 issue, we'll just put a 2018 sticker on it.

The government is bragging about tax reductions, less barriers and faster procedures. Do you actually see that out in the field?

We do see it, but nothing is quick enough and it isn't to a great enough extent. If we look at Croatia alone, then yes, they're good moves. However, you could go to the Olympics and run faster than you've ever done before, but if your competition is progressing faster, then it's irrelevant that you've topped your personal record - you're still among the last. It's not a question of whether or not reforms work, the question is whether or not they're efficient. You have to look at the other side of the medal - the situation as it's seen by the entrepreneurs. We should be taking into account when changes are being made more. I believe that in life and politics, there is an important compromise in which sides need to come together, otherwise there will be no progress.

You said the problem is the mentality. Jako Andabak, let's say, says that it isn't uncommon in Dalmatia to have problems with permits for hotels because some local responsible for the permits is wanting to make sure that situation doesn't negatively affect his apartments...

I said the same thing a year ago on a radio show and that wasn't exactly welcomed with sympathies. I'm glad it was repeated by Mr. Andabak because he is Dalmatian and he's doing business there. Looking back at my 30-year career, I think it is a general problem in the state of mind of Croats. We're heavily burdened with the former system, with socialism, to be more specific. It's difficult to accept the market economy, it carries a lot of good but some bad stuff. We'd prefer to take everything that's good from the market economy and at the same time keep everything that's good from socialism as well. Unfortunately, such a utopia doesn't exist. The legacy of the old system is still very present, especially in the part of the state-owned economy, and that isn't small.

A good example is Uljanik, which is largely owned by its workers. They're actually striking against themselves, de facto. There are subsidies which exist in all countries, but if you take up to 30 billion kuna in the shipbuilding industry, each employer has given 23,000 kuna from his pocket, the question is whether [it's wise] to continue subsidising something that creates losses for years? Croatia should be more concerned with the economy, as well as with the future, rather than with topics that have failed to be solved over the past twenty years. I think we should invest in modern technology and industries related to digitisation and information technology, and not shipbuilding which has a very low level of added value.

What would trigger an investment wave?

I think it would help us to begin to change, especially our mentality. Croats like to complain a lot, to latch onto problems that are largely pushed by the media. Good news is just bad news, there's no optimism. One foreign ambassador who recently came to Croatia told me that people came to him with various issues and just complained, complained, and complained some more. It's impossible for everything to be so bad. Surveys from Doing Business or rating agency reports are based largely on perception, similar to the corruption index. The same applies to others, but in more developed countries, society fights for it to be a rule rather than an exception. It's the easiest thing in the world to be loud when being critical, we should turn to optimism in order for foreign investors to see that, too.

Have you noticed a change of attitude towards investors?

Unfortunately, I've got to say no. Indeed, and I have to repeat the words of one of our members saying that it isn't a question of whether foreign investors want to come and invest in Croatia, but whether Croatia actually wants foreign investors. It's still a big problem for us to accept a foreigner who comes here with capital, wants to buy land, build a production plant, and hire a workforce because inevitably we come to those [types of conclusions such as] "he will profit and make money on us." We haven't felt that it's normal and expected that someone who invests earns a profit, naturally, in a transparent manner and in accordance with the laws.

Should politics be focused on the growth of companies, and not on EU funds which only fund 20 percent of investments?

This is the core of the problem: to deter entrepreneurs from all hidden, parafiscal impositions. Their number has been reduced over the past ten years but they're so concentrated so instead of four, you have one, but the load is almost the same. This would have made a significant contribution to the growth of the economy. When things start going that way, someone always says that it's beneficial to large foreign capital. It doesn't matter whether the capital is domestic or foreign; If a company operates in Croatia and pays all of its taxes then it's a Croatian company and whoever actually owns it is of nobody's interest.

The owners of Volvo are Chinese and still we all think that Volvo is a Swedish car, not a Chinese one. That was also the case with the change in personal income tax when the criticism was about [the change] going hand in hand with those with higher wages, and not those who earn less. This is turning that thesis around. Those with low wages have so far not been included in the payment of income tax, nor will they be in the future. Those who have higher incomes and pay relatively more taxes will now pay less, but this isn't giving anything to them, they'll just have to pay less. Then we return to the beginning of the story of the traces of socialism because the wages must be viewed as gross, and tax is an individual category.

What do you say about Minister Horvat's plan to compile a list of the most desirable investors who will visit and have the benefits of investing in the Republic of Croatia presented to them?

There are countless potential investors, but I think this is a good move purely because of the reason that it's proactive. The government shouldn't sit around and wait for someone to come and knock at the door, but go to the investors and say: we're offering you this, that is, come to Croatia. I think that's a good idea.

Why is Croatia so far behind other countries, what is it that they're doing better?

It's because as a society, we're not changing, the capacity for change is not at a sufficient level. I'm not just thinking about the economy [when I say this], that's just a consequence. Recently, in the German-Croatian Chamber of Commerce, we had conversations with companies that had apostrophed (especially those who have production in Croatia) that they don't have enough qualified skilled labour, and that they need longer than a year to teach the students who have completed their secondary vocational education. We're returning to the beginning, back to education and the lack of a dual education system. These students should spend at least half of their education in practice so that they can start work immediately when they come to the real sector. We still have the problem of not changing anything in our curriculum. Now we're talking about history instead of turning to STEM areas, computing and digitisation, the things that are pulling society forward. If we had any chance for... let's say, the auto industry with a large factory to come to us, I'm not sure we'd have 5,000 skilled workers for it. We must start to change in all segments, from education onwards, which once again calls for much greater investment, research and development.

Make sure to stay up to date by following our dedicated business page for more.

 

Click here for the original article/interview in its entirety by Ana Blaskovic for Poslovni Dnevnik

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Split's Jozo Parčina to Invest 40 Million Euro and Employ 150 People?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 7th of March, 2019, well known Split entrepreneur Jozo Parčina, perhaps best known to the wider public as the owner of the beautiful Luxe Hotel in Split, could soon become the owner of the "Kaštela Riviera".

Not even three full years after the launching of bankruptcy proceedings over the defunct Kaštela company, they acquired the conditions for the sale of their property, which is largely under a mortgage, among which the most prized is the hotel "Palace".

The interest in buying was confirmed to Slobodna Dalmacija by Parčina himself, who in the meantime redeemed the receivables of the Austrian HETA agency, a successor to Hypo Bank.

''I have redeemed the HETA receivables because I want to buy a complex in Kaštela, invest 40 million euros in its renovation and upgrading, put the hotel in order and employ 150 people,'' said Parčina when discussing the plans, adding that it would be a four or five-star hotel, and would boast up to 350 rooms.

The renovation refers to the only remaining building, the old "Palace" building with 230 rooms, protected as a cultural monument, and another new building. Since the surface areas of the complex in Kaštel Stari, located on the shore, is about 38,000 square metres in size, a building larger than the existing one will be permitted.

''I'm already in the hotel business. With "Luxe", which has been in operation for ten years, another hotel in Split is being prepared, where works are going to be finished soon, so I'd like to expand this activity by buying a complex in Kaštela,'' added Parčina, who in the meantime has invested in some real estate which he now rents out.

In earlier years, Jozo Parčina was known to the general public as the owner of a company which dealt with various gambling machines located across Dalmatia and Istria, this business was eventually shut down by tax collectors and by the Croatian Government in 2016.

If he succeeds in purchasing the "Kaštela Riviera" property, Parčina estimated that from the moment of everything being ready for work, it would take up to three years for the investment to be realised. Assets will be sold in bankruptcy proceedings through the Financial Agency (FINA) so it's clear that the real estate will go to whoever is willing to pay the most.

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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

German with Croatian Roots Invests in Krapinske Toplice's Bellevue

One of the most famous symbols of Krapinske Toplice has been stood neglected and entirely abandoned for years, but could a young German who is partly of Croatian origin who moved to the area a couple of years ago be the solution this old continental gem needs?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 5th of March, 2019, David Krauss (35) moved to Croatia, more specifically to beautiful Krapinske Toplice in the continental part of the country, just over two years ago. He decided to invest in the renewal of the long abandoned Bellevue and restore its former glory. The technical review has been announced for March the 7th, after which, Zagorje will get a new face in its blossoming tourism story, according to a report from Zagorje portal.

A relatively short (at least by Croatian standards) fifteen months of construction work and two years of preparation of the project saw one of the most famous symbols of Krapinske Toplice, Restaurant Bellevue, get some new life breathed into it and a brand new beginning. A young German of the Croatian Roots, 35 year old David Kraus has been coming to Krapinske Toplice for years to the property once owned by his parents.

"My mother is Croatian and my father is a German, and we always said that we were so sorry that such a beautiful building is collapsing, so I decided to start investing," Krauss told the Zagorje portal, adding that they wanted to give the building a modern twist but remain loyal to the facility's old outlines.

The old facility, due to the very poor condition it has been in for a long time, unfortunately had to be completely demolished, even though that certainly wasn't the original plan. Namely, during construction, the walls they thought they would endure the process began to fail, so the decision to demolish everything for safety reasons was reached. Despite this, some of the old material and clay were preserved to fit into the new facility.

Restaurant Bellevue's investment was realised entirely by the Krauss family alone, and although the young investor didn't want to talk too much about the exact amount he invested, he noted that it was a large figure. He is not sorry for the move, having replaced his life in Germany for that in the beautiful rolling hills of green Zagorje, where he has been living for more than two years. He is also trained and experienced in the hospitality industry and is more than happy to work a job in the profession in which he was educated here in Croatia, too.

"For the time being, we have thirteen employees, mostly made up of the local population, which I think is very important if you're in the hospitality industry because they know the area you're in well, the customs, gastronomy, the people... The capacity is about 150 to 200 places, and we have a large outdoor terrace of almost the same capacity,'' Krauss said, astonished that people had already begun asking about their offer for weddings.

He is particularly pleased about the great reactions to the restoration of Bellevue the local population, with whom he communicates daily, have had. The older people remember that they once went to school right here.

"It's really nice when people tell me that they were once taught here, and now in their older days they intend to come here for a coffee or a beer," he said, pointing out that the project was supported by the municipal government.

When it comes to Bellevue's gastronomic offer, Krauss says the facility will offer dishes made from old Zagorje recipes, but crafted in a somewhat more modern way. They're planning and organising evenings full of live music performances, and access to their facility is specially tailored for the disabled.

"The Toplički pedestrian ring is near us for the people who are on rehabilitation to walk on, so we're glad to be here for when they're walking to come and have a bit of cake and some rest. I think we'll really have something for everyone,'' Krauss, who has always been madly in love with Zagorje, stated.

His only regret is that tourism in Zagorje and Krapinske Toplice is still not yet sufficiently developed, but fortunately, foreign tourists are increasingly recognising it as an interesting and different type of destination.

"Austrians and Slovenes increasingly choose rural tourism as a form of holiday, not just the sea. I'm sure that in a couple of years, our Zagorje will be dominated by such tourism,'' Krauss said, feel optimistic, announcing that the technical review of Bellevue will be on March the 7th, after which the grand opening will take place.

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Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Pula's Arena Hospitality Group to Invest Almost 100 Million Euro by 2022

Pula's Arena Hospitality Group, which refers to itself as one of the most dynamic hospitality groups in Central and Eastern Europe, currently offers a portfolio of 26 owned, co-owned, leased and managed properties with more than 10,000 rooms and accommodation units here in Croatia, as well as in Germany and Hungary.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 5th of March, 2019, the total investments of the Arena Hospitality Group in 2018 and 2019 amount to 447 million kuna in hotels and camps in both the Republic of Croatia and over in Germany, plus the 190 million kuna that the group plans to invest in the reconstruction of the much loved Hotel Brioni (Brijuni). 

This was stated in the presentation of the Arena Hospitality Group's very impressive business results. The company claims it is also now ready for yet more new acquisitions across Central and Eastern Europe. As is already known, through public offers, the group collected a massive 788 million kuna back in 2017, and since then, they have invested on average three times more than before the public offer.

The Arena Hospitality Group is currently operating in the aforementioned three countries, under four brands, including Park Plaza and Art'otel, last year the company earned 758 million kuna in total revenue, an increase of 5.6 percent when compared to their record back in 2017, accompanied by healthy growth in all segments, hotels, tourist resorts and camp sites. In Croatia alone, they experienced handsome revenues of 503.8 million kuna.

After 2018's big investment in Glamping Arena One 99, worth 70 million kuna, this year, an investment of 128 million kuna is planned in Kažela camp, 60 million kuna is the planned amount to invest in Verudela Beach, a tourist resort, which should be completed by the year 2020, when the beginning of the works at Hotel Brioni (Brijuni) are planned. In the reconstruction of Art'otel Berlin Kudamm alone, the company will invest 53 million kuna.

Make sure to stay up to date on investments in Croatia, doing business in Croatia and everything in between by following our dedicated business page.

 

Click here for the original article by Marija Crnjak for Poslovni Dnevnik

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