Friday, 20 November 2020

Tourists Don't Come to Croatia Accidentally, Says HDZ MP

ZAGREB, November 20, 2020 - Member of Parliament Anton Kliman (HDZ) on Friday rejected criticism of tourism boards, saying that tourists do not come to Croatia accidently but as a result of an organised system headed by the Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ), which promotes Croatia in the world.

Tourist boards promote our tourism in the world. Large tourism companies generate the most arrivals through tourist boards, the Croatian Democratic Union MP and former tourism minister said.

He underlined that the good work of some of the tourist boards enabled a good tourism season during the coronavirus.

"Abolishing tourist boards would mean chaos. Small providers on the demanding European or global market cannot compete on their own as no one will recognise them," Kliman said during a debate on amendments to the bill on membership fees in tourist boards.

The amendments foresee a 12% reduction of the membership fee to tourist boards as of 1 January 2021.

Opposition parties in the parliament believe the membership fee reduction is not sufficient and they harshly criticised the system of tourist boards and its membership fees, claiming this is a parallel system that serves as a meal ticket.

Bridge MPs were particularly critical and called for the fees to be abolished.

MP Davor Dretar (Homeland Movement) believes that membership fees to tourist boards should be abolished altogether.

MP Hrvoje Zekanovic (HRAST) claimed that there were thousands of people employed in tourist boards, which were their meal ticket, and they mostly serve as a voting machine.

"They spend tens of millions of kuna a year on official trips around Europe and the world to allegedly attract someone to Croatia but for the most part this money is used for living it up with good meals and drink at the expense of taxpayers," said Zekanovic.

That is a parallel system that the ministry has no control of, said MP Dalija Oreskovic (Centre).

MP Zeljko Lenart (HSS) believes that tourism boards' membership fees should be abolished and that another source of financing tourism boards should be found.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Tourism Professionals from Lika-Senj and Karlovac Counties Optimistic about 2021

November 13, 2020 – Tourism professionals from Lika-Senj and Karlovac counties expressed optimism about next year in their area, but also in Croatia as a whole.

As Hina reports, the panel "What about (corona) tourism in 2021?" was held on Thursday, November 12 2020 as part of the 6th regional forum of family accommodation in Karlovac, which was organized with partners by the Family Tourism Community Section for the Lika-Karlovac region at the chambers of Karlovac and Otočac.

Panelists presented their views on the next tourist year and this year's experiences, which they described as "a good lesson from which much could be learned and prepared for the future."

The owner of the hotel and winery Boškinac from Novalja, Boris Šuljić, rated this year as one of the most challenging in tourism, but also for him as an entrepreneur. However, he added that at the beginning of the spring closing, they managed to keep all employees and use the time to work on the company's progress.

"That's why we had a very successful season this year, but as trends change and regardless of corona, we still have to constantly adjust. I am optimistic about 2021 and I believe that flights, maritime traffic, and car tourism in the full profile will be established to a greater extent," said Suljic.

He also believes that everyone in tourism should be well prepared for next year, and that "the difficult experience from this year should be a guide". He also said that "the most important thing in tourism is to deliver high quality".

"We are already working hard on new dishes and we believe in the classic continuation of our business and a return to the 'old normal'," said Šuljić.

Krešo Rogoz, director of the Croatia Open Land DMC company from Karlovac, is also optimistic for next year, saying that after stopping all plans, they used this year to search for new resources, but also to prepare a different, more individual tourism for smaller groups.

"It's also interesting that we raised prices and thus got smaller groups that accumulated more money. The key is to team up, collect additional content and excellence, and we all hope for a normal spring and base our plans on car tourists," said Rogoz, who believes that it is time to jointly devise how to brand destinations to be even more recognizable in the tourist markets.

The director of the Homeland War Museum in Karlovac, Hrvojka Božić, notes that this year they used digital channels a lot to bring back visitors, which they succeeded in doing, and in the summer months they had about 80 percent of last year's attendance.

They are optimistic about 2021, believing in the power of community collaboration and networking of stakeholders within the destination, as well as in the development of content tailored to individual visitors and smaller groups.

Although they had only 25 percent of last year's overnight stays this year, Rakovica Deputy Mayor Mihovil Bićanić also hopes for a speedy recovery.

"We believe in stabilization in 2021, in which we should additionally focus on domestic tourists and on raising awareness about the offer of continental tourism, in which there is still a lot of room for additional content and strengthening quality," concluded Bićanić.

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Friday, 25 September 2020

Expect Many English Speaking Visitors to Croatia in 2021, says Google

September 25, 2020 - Croatia is the 14th most searched holiday destination in the world for next year. With over 810, 000 searches on Google, the country should expect a big return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021

Aside from the drop in numbers, the country's accessibility and the implementation of epidemiological guidelines, the biggest effect the Coronavirus pandemic had on Croatia's tourist season of 2020 was the change in visitor demographic. The British, Americans, Canadians and Australians largely stayed away. All that looks set to change next year as Google indicates a big return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021.

Over 810, 000 searches have already been made of Croatia as a holiday destination for 2021 on Google, informing that many thousands are already researching or actively planning a trip. Croatia ranked 14th among the most searched for 2021 destinations, trailing slightly behind the likes of Italy, the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand, Spain and Greece.

01-4_gradska_centralna_plaza_makarska_tz_makarska.jpgTheir language mostly absent from beautiful Adriatic beaches in 2020, English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021 look set to return © Croatian National Tourist Board

The good news for the return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021 was published by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The data has been taken from a period starting not before March 2020. This means that all searches took place in full knowledge of the ongoing Coronavirus and epidemiological situation. English speaking visitors are undeterred.

Iva Bahunek, the head of the Croatian Tourist Board in Los Angeles has not had the easiest of tasks since the pandemic began. Her appointment is a relatively recent one. Nevertheless, she has clearly done an excellent job of promoting Croatia as a destination for American tourists in 2021. She confirmed the trends are correct - that US citizens are ready for international travel again - by analysing data from the large American travel insurance company Squaremouth. 65% of all reservations for next year refer to international destinations.

52331947_10157169672643675_7765862747379597312_n.jpgIva Bahunek accepting her Mediterranean Stars Award for outstanding achievement in promoting Mediterranean tourism, awarded at the 6th Mediterranean Tourism Forum in Malta, 2019. She now heads the Croatian Tourist Board in Los Angeles and analysed data which backs up Google's prediction for a return of English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021

Indications from the British market are the same. Total Croatia News recently published an interview with Vedran Meniga, organiser of a music festival site in Sibenik that successfully hosted over 10, 000 festival-goers in summer 2020. Sadly, they were the only ones who braved it. All of the international music festivals that usually take place on the Croatian coast cancelled their 2020 events.

But, some organisers of these festivals have been seen in Croatia over recent weeks, inspecting improvements to the famous The Garden Tisno festival site, which lies at the approach to Murter island. The festival's hugely popular beach stage has had walls removed, its space widened and now looks very well equipped to take on social distancing advice. Music festivals bring tens of thousands of people to Adriatic beaches each summer and the return of the international events will entice English speaking visitors to Croatia in 2021. On the below video you can see Alex Lowes of the Suncebeat Festival and Nick Colgan of The Garden Tisno recently checking out the new layout of the site in preparation for the return of festivals in 2021.

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Friday, 11 September 2020

YTD Tourism Results Better than Expected

ZAGREB, Sept 11, 2020 - In the first eight months of this year, 6.8 million tourists visited Croatia and generated 47.5 million overnight stays, which was at 41% and 53% respectively of last year's levels.

YTD tourism results are better than expected following the outbreak of the coronavirus infection, according to a statement made by Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac and the Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) director Kristijan Stanicic at a news conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Of those 47.5 million overnight stays, the lion's share, 84%, were made in July and August, and in those two months, Croatia registered 5.2 million holidaymakers.

Addressing the news conference, Minister Brnjac thanked the stakeholders and businesses in the tourism sector for those results.

"Clearly, nobody finds this situation easy, however, the sector has shown that it has been well prepared and we thank everyone for these results," she said.

The minister says that the government adopted the right measures in a timely fashion to help keep jobs and liquidity in this industry.

The gradual reopening of the borders paved the way for the arrival of tourists, and the results are better than expected in all types of tourist accommodation, she added.

"Nautical tourism is one of the segments that has fared well, and currently there are about 300 mega-yachts in Croatia. We hope that this good season will continue."

Government assistance schemes for the tourism and hospitality industry will be in effect until the end of this year to help the sector make good preparations for 2021, and the minister recalls that part of the money will be ensured from the European Union's funds.

She announced the preparation of a strategy for sustainable tourism with the engagement of experts in drawing up the document.

About 200,000 tourists currently vacationing

HTZ director Stanicic said that about 200,000 tourists were currently vacationing in Croatia.

He said that HTZ campaigns on social networks had registered hundreds of millions of visits.

Stanicic also commented on some negative campaigns on foreign markets that were unfavorable for Croatia.

We tried to respond to that "with certain positive and fact-based messages," he said.

When asked about the financial effects of the tourist turnover, Stanicic said that one should wait for the end of the year.

The director of the Croatian Association of Tourism (HUT), Veljko Ostojic, said that given the circumstances, the results in the sector were the best possible.

In hotels, overnight stays in the first eight months were at 30.4% of the levels in the corresponding period last year, Ostojic said, warning that the financial effects would be even lower.

Ostojic and the head of the Association of the Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA), Tomislav Fain, agreed that the assistance provided by the government had been essential to keep the sector in motion.

The head of the association of marinas within the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), Sean Lisjak, told the news conference that marinas were satisfied with this year's results.

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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Sunday Shop Closure Proposal: Would Croatian Tourism be Affected?

From social and more basic economic questions to the worry of it potentially damaging Croatian tourism, the country's most precious and strongest economic branch, opinion is divided when it comes to the proposal to restrict shops doing business on Sundays.

As Novac/Adriano Milovan writes on the 4th of February, 2020, not even several rounds of talks by those in the retail industry who gathered at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce have succeeded in establishing a common position on the proposal by Economy Minister Darko Horvat to restrict shops doing business on Sundays.

While some support limiting work on Sundays, there are traders on the other side of the trench who staunchly oppose such an idea. Regardless of the gap between the traders themselves, Horvat is going further forward with his proposal.

It isn't only traders and those working in retail are deeply divided on this issue: a similar division exists among economists who otherwise have little to do with that field. However, most of the economists Novac interviewed felt that such a move would be questionable from the point of view of constitutionality, and that it would have major consequences for both trade, industry and the Croatian economy as a whole.

It should be noted that the Croatian tourism industry, which is by far the country's strongest economic branch, generates one fifth of all Croatian economic activity, and that trade is a significant wheel in the ''cog'' of the Croatian economic mechanism. Furthermore, both Croatian tourism and commerce employ a huge number of people. In other words, as some experts have warned, closing shop doors on Sundays would be a real gamble with the Croatian economy as a whole.

''There are certainly pros and cons to this issue. But as a tourist country, we also need to have our shops open on Sundays. I think that the decision should be made by the employers themselves, with the inspections monitoring whether or not they fulfill their obligations to their workers,'' says Dragutin Ranogajec, president of the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts (HOK).

He added that warnings had already arrived from major shopping centres that restricting or entirely banning work on Sundays would have a negative impact on their businesses. But, as he notes, small shops, which would face lower incomes, would also suffer significant damage.

''Every kuna is very important to them,'' Ranogajec points out.

The big question is also what limiting shops working on Sundays would bring to Croatian tourism, as the majority of Croatia's foreign guests, as Sanda Corak, scientific adviser at the Institute for Tourism, says, are made up of tourists staying in private accommodation and on campsites.

''There is a ban on shops opening on Sundays in other tourist countries. However, if private accommodation prevails in tourism, as is the case with Croatian tourism, then this can be a huge problem because these tourists really need those shops,'' Corak says. They need the shops to remain open much more than people staying in hotels do. She added that Croatia has a relatively small share of guests staying in hotels and those in apartments and camps tend to dominate the Croatian tourism sector.

''Such a measure, in circumstances such as ours, would certainly bring a drop in turnover in shops and in Croatian tourism, or a drop in consumption,'' fears Corak.

Predrag Bejakovic of the Institute of Public Finance also opposes the restriction or prohibition of shops working on Sundays. Bejakovic points out that it would be very difficult to explain why one activity is restricted or prohibited, while others, such as restaurants or cafes, can continue to work smoothly on Sundays. The consequences, he fears, could be even more severe than they may seem at first glance.

''Some of the shops would have to reduce their number of workers due to less traffic. In addition, because of a lower turnover, it's more difficult to expect traders to raise wages. Economic growth would probably slow down a bit, too,'' Bejakovic fears.

He points out that the state prohibits by decree the work of certain activities on certain days. Instead, he says, he should insist that workers are paid fairly on Sundays.

Decisions to ban Sunday trading should not be made without a quality analysis, which is currently lacking, said Zeljko Lovrincevic of the Zagreb Institute of Economics. He added that there is neither a simple nor a unique solution, given that the situation is not only different between countries but also within Croatia itself.

''Such decisions should be left to the local self-government units because the situation in Baranja or Dubrovnik just isn't the same. Local self-government units will be the ones to best evaluate whether shops in their area should be open on Sundays or not,'' says Lovrincevic.

He also warns that Croatia is full of specifics. For example, when making such a decision, the traffic of passengers will have to be taken into account as Croatia is a transit country and the traffic of passengers is strongest on the weekends.

Furthermore, it is important whether customers have alternative "shopping sources": in Croatia, given the shape and proximity of its borders, they have open shops in neighbouring countries, especially in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Therefore, the restriction or ban on work on Sundays could result in an outflow of demand from Croatian customers to surrounding countries.

In other words, our customers could once again be helping to bolster neighbouring countries' economies, at a time when Croatia is finally starting to attract customers from overseas. Finally, there is the question of the moment when such proposals come.

''I think it's better to think about the growth of compensation for forms of work such as work on Sundays than it is to restrict work, especially because we lack the workforce and because Croatian tourism is strong. If one wants to work on Sundays and pay their workers 50 percent or more for that, then one should be allowed to work. It's up to the state to create a framework for work,'' said Lovrincevic, who believes that compensation for working outside regular working hours could be increased.

In the end, he adds, it's a sociological issue. Shopping malls have also become places for people to go and hang out on weekends, so bans in that area could also negatively affect people's habits. Nevertheless, some macroeconomists believe that restricting work on Sundays would not necessarily have a negative impact on the Croatian economy.

''Purchase power doesn't depend on working hours but on income. In Croatia, working on Sundays will not significantly increase the income of these traders, and it has negative consequences in the segment of family and social development. Therefore, my suggestion is not to work on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, with shops open until 10pm on Thursdays,'' concludes Ljubo Jurcic from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb.

A quick look at the arguments from both sides:

1) Reasons against Sunday restrictions on shops:

- The question is whether such a move would even pass the constitutionality test

- Most tourists in Croatia stay in private accommodation and campsites and are connected to shops

- Croatia is a transit country and many who go through it also buy things in its stores, especially on weekends

- Part of the traffic in the stores will flow from Croatia to the neighbouring countries

2) Reasons for Sunday restrictions on shops:

- Shopping in stores does not depend on their opening hours but on people's disposable income

- Trade unions advocate restricting Sunday shops

- Trade is not an activity that must be done on Sundays

- Labour shortages are present in stores as well

For more, follow our business and lifestyle pages.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Tourists Filled Half of Croatian State Budget in 2019's First 9 Months

The Croatian state budget has been half filled by tourist revenue generated by foreigners during the first 9 months of 2019, marking an increase when compared to the first 9 months of 2018. While this marks a considerable increase, the source of the money is worrying indeed.

As Morski writes on the 31st of December, 2019, according to the Croatian National Bank (CNB/HNB), in the first nine months of 2019, foreign tourist revenues amounted to a massive nine billion and 447 million euros in total, representing a nine percent increase, or 769 million euros, over the same period last year.

''This year, we achieved 5 percent more tourist arrivals with an increase of 9 percent. Over the next year, with the introduction of the "Croatian Tourist Card" (Cro card), which we estimate will increase revenues by an additional 1.35 billion kuna, I'm sure that we will lay the groundwork for further enhancing the value of our tourist offer and thereby further emphasise ourselves on the world tourism market,'' said the Minister of Tourism, Gary Cappelli, when announcing the results on 2019's tourism revenue.

In the third quarter, that is, during July, August and September 2019, revenues from foreign tourists amounted to an impressive six billion and 638 million euros, which represents a nine percent increase, or 553 million euros, when compared to the same period last year's revenues of six billion and 85 million euros during that same time period.

It is not bad news that Croatia has enjoyed a steady 9 percent increase, but it is worrying that this is half of the Croatian state budget as a whole, and it has been generated by foreign tourism.

When converted to Croatian kuna, foreign tourists left 71.3 billion kuna in Croatia during the first 9 months of this year, while the total Croatian state budget stands at around 140 billion kuna.

Unfortunately, tourism, despite being Croatia's strongest economic branch, still cannot possibly compete with the production and exports industry. Any stronger influence on tourism development would throw Croatia to its knees, so this self-praise done by Minister Capelli should be taken with a dose of rational reflection and concern.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travel and politics pages for much more.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Croatia - Full of Personal Life: How to be a Tourist?

November the 25th, 2019 - The summer tourist season is long gone. We sold as much of the sea and sun as we possibly could, stripey parasols are safely packed away in garages, and summer seems like it was in a previous life.

A cold wind from Medvednica mountain is pushing the last leaves of autumn along Zagreb's pavements and people are walking just a tiny bit faster, covering their faces with their coats, attempting to hide their frozen cheeks from the harsh wind. Winter in Zagreb is just around the corner, and so is Zagreb's Christmas fair. Next to the good old summer, the biggest Croatian tourist event is just about to start and bring the tourists back!

We have few days left of this brief peaceful time between summer and Advent in Zagreb in which the tourists give us a break and some peace so we can deal with our own problems, drop the fake touristic smile and – just be our grumpy old Croatian selves again!

So, I took the oportunity of this quieter time to write a few words - on how it feels to be a tourist in Croatia, but first let, me write a few words on Regal.

What is ''regal'' you ask? 

When I was a child, every ''decent'' socialist household had a living room with a regal. It was usually placed on the living room wall. It was a huge darkwood cabinet which stretched from floor to ceiling filled with crystal glasses and bone china plates, with a glass front. The glass front had two purposes: a) to keep the dust away from the expensive porcelain plates and crystal glasses b) to make our house guests be aware that we're a nice family who actually has expensive porcelain plates and crystal glasses.

In my house, the regal was treated as a sacred place. The crystal glasses and Grandma's porcelain plates, delicately placed in the regal were only supposed to be brought out into daylight for one occasion: Kad dođu Gosti / When guests arrive.

''Mama, zašto nikad ne pijemo iz ovih čaša? / Mum, why don't we ever drink from these glasses? – I'd ask my mum holding one glass while she was carefully cleaning the glassfront of the regal.

''Ne diraj to! To je za goste! / Don't touch that! That's for the guests!'' mum would say in a dramatic tone of voice and took the crystal glass out of my hand.

Since we did not entertain much and guests were a rare appearance in our household (mum was not very keen on having them over) I pictured these guests like some sort of royality who would appear in front of our house in a carriage with horses. The day the guests would actually arrive, mum would turn into a cleaning dragon, turning the house upside down, giving out orders, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, polishing and finally when everything was spotless, she would tell my father:

''Dodaj mi one kristalne čaše iz regala! / Get me those crystal glasses from the regal!''

''Koje čaše? / Which glasses?'' replied dad, who was cluless about that.

''Pa one za goste, nego koje! / Well, those for the guests! Which ones do you think I mean!'' mum would shout back.

''And please move your socks from the sofa, I asked you a million times! And go and put on that shirt I ironed for you!'' the dragon, also known as mum, would yell.

Tourism is much like the regal from my childhood. You hide away your socks from the sofa, put on your Sunday shirt, open the regal for the crystal glasses – and the party can start.

And how does the tourist season start in Croatia?

April – the beginning

There is one thing you must know about Croats. We're born, raised and live our lives believing that Croatia is the most beautiful country in the world. No offence, we know your countries are pretty as well, but facts are facts. God gave us the sea, the sun, the sound of crickets chirping, and beautiful clean beaches – What more can a tourist possibly want for their dream holiday?

The next logical Croatian thought is – we don't even have to do much about it, we don't have to bring out the crystal glasses to impress our guests! We're simply God-sent to be presented to tourists! Every tourist season in Croatia starts in the same way. You are sitting on your sofa watching the evening news with the usual political charades - parliament discussions on whose grandfather said what in World War II, when suddenly red letters appear on your screen.

BREAKING NEWS – followed by dramatic music in the backround and an excited, slightly nervous host saying: ''We're reporting live from…''

What? What is going on? An earthquake? The prime minister has resigned? An allien invasion? And then they appear on your screen. An older couple from Northern Europe hugging and grinning on Stradun, The main street in Dubrovnik, just blissful with joy and happiness, then they start to tell their story about how they've been visiting Croatia for the last 35 years and it's simply beautiful and the people are beautiful and everything is beautiful. They explain how they never ever want to go anywhere else but Croatia. Ever.

This year I started to suspect that the same couple are shown every year. They're starting to look kind of familiar to me. Your eyes fill with tears, and you are bursting with national pride.You are proud to be a Croat! So, it is true! We do have the best sea! And we do have the best sun! You just want to embrace and hug all those happy joyful tourists in your home and show them the famous Croatian hospitality! You want to bring out the
best crystal glasses and show them what Croatia is really about!

Untill they actually arrive. In June.

June - the arrival – keep the noise down, we're trying to live here!

As it usually happens with those long expected guests for whom you cleaned your entire house, once they're actually there, sipping wine from your best glasses, after an hour or so – you might find them – just a bit annoying.
The same thing happens with the tourists. If you're nervously standing in a packed tram praying to God the driver catches the green light so you can get to work on time, and a bunch of people with confused faces staring at the facades of buildings jump in front of your tram, you'll be slightly annoyed with this whole tourism thing!

''Go home, will you! There's nothing to see here!'' You yell through the tram window.

Just this summer, there was an old lady from Dubrovnik complaining on TV about how they simply cannot stand the dreadful noise from the tourists during the season. They are walking around, talking, laughing in the middle of the night, drinking wine, having fun! Ugh, the nerve of those people!

Errrr… well yes, tourists walk around, talk, laugh, breathe, clank the cutlery while dinning and – all in all – they make noise. You can't exactly turn our touristic slogan into Welcome to Croatia – Please keep the noise down! We are trying to live here!

At this point, I need to say a few words about baba (an affectionate term for grandmother, or older woman).

Tourism with baba

Since Croatia is a Godgiven touristic country, it is only natural that in Croatia, everybody is into tourism. So, you have a wide range of possibilities when visiting Croatia – from superluxurious all-inclusive hotels (if you a have deep pockets) to some less expensive solutions – camping - hostels – apartments... and... baba – standing in a port with a sign saying sobe/rooms in her hands.

The minute you arrive to Hvar port and step off the catamaran, you will spot a dozen babas dressed all in black – holding signs saying ''SOBE'' in their hands and yelling at each other.

First you might think that there is some local protest going on, what with all these women holding signs, pushing each other and yelling.

Because ''SOBE'' doesn't mean anything to you. You see, baba doesn't know any English and she doesn't care to know it either. If you knew a bit of Croatian, you would realise that ''sobe'' is the Croatian word for rooms before they start pulling on your sleeves and shouting: ''Oni su moji! Prva sam ih vidjela! / These are mine, I saw them first!'' and pushing other babas (their competition) away from you.

Before you know what has happened, baba will, (through sign language of some sort) explain to you that she has a beautiful room for 200 kuna, just around the corner. The next thing you know - you're dragging yourself uphill at an angle of 40 degrees up some dusty, narrow, steep island road following baba and looking back at the sea, the beaches and the town centre miles away, fading over the horizon.

It's noon. It's hot. You need water. You are half crawling uphill, with the sun burning your back.

''Where is this place?'' you yell to baba, who is happily hopping along in front of you, satisfied she caught her prey for this week.

''How… much … longer...?'' you gasp to baba with your last breath.

''Tu je, tu je, samo ravno! Ni pola minute! / Oh, its just around the corner! Just half a minute away,'' baba reassures you, like she cares that she doesn't speak English and you don't speak a word of Croatian.

''Evo, tu smo! / Right, we're here!'' baba says while unlocking the doors of the dusty old bedroom filled with 19th century furniture, papers and old books.

''Moj sin tu drži neke papire, valjda vam neće smetati / My son keeps some paper here, I hope you won't mind. To će biti 200 kuna / That will be 200 kuna,'' she says as she holds out her hand.

You're so happy that the endless dusty road is over, that the sun is not burning your skin any more and grateful for that glass of water she gave you, so you give your money to baba and lie down on the bed, raising a huge
dust cloud. But, the story is just beginning… You and baba – partners in crime...

You might have noticed that baba didn't ask for your documents, or even your name. You see, baba doesn't want to know your name, baba doesn't want the state to know that you're staying at her place, because baba does not want to pay taxes.

So, if while staying in baba's dusty living room, a pile of those old papers drops on your head , it's your own fault. Baba will never admit to the local tourist board that you're actually here. She will in fact deny it.

A while ago, I was staying with few of my friends in a little island village with some baba, on the upper floor of her house. She took the money, showed us our room upstairs and went downstairs to mind her own
business. On the first day of our stay there, I wanted to ask where the bus station is. So I went down and knocked on her kitchen window:

''Hello? – This is my first day here, can you please give some information about…''

''Oh, no, Madam, we don't have rooms for guests!'' she replied nervously but firmly, ''I just have some relatives upstairs!''

''Yes, I know, I'm staying in your living room,'' I replied confused.

''No, we don't rent out, I just have a couple of relatives upstairs. My nephews...''

And then it hit me.

For some reason, probably because of my serious face and the reading glasses I was wearing when I knocked on her window, baba thought that I was from the tourist inspection and that some village folks had ratted her out for having illegal guests. After 10 minutes of convincing her that I am indeed living in her living room, I just gave up and became her partner in crime.

Croatia – full of... personal life!

As one of our touristic slogans says – Croatia is full of life. But I'm starting to think some of our tourist workers got that slogan wrong. Let me tell you about the story my good friend experienced this summer. She was visitng the island of Vis with her family. A holiday on a Croatian island is not cheap for a Croatian family. Among other expenses, she decided to pay 500 kuna for a trip with a modern motorboat to the beautiful Blue cave with a
professional tourist guide for an hour and a half.

At least that's what the advertisment said.

When she got to the little port, she spoted a young barefoot unshaved man with a ponytail. He was dressed in a messy white undershirt and army short pants and had an old JNA motorboat.

''Is this the trip to the Blue cave?'' she asked as she approached him.

''Yes, yes, it is,'' the unshaved guy mumbled with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

''Idemo, kasnimo! / Let's move it! We're running late!'' he yelled to the crowd when starting the rusty engine.

''Excuse me, how long is the trip?'' my friend asked.

''An hour and a half, but we can make it in 45 minutes,'' the guy yelled over the sound of the old engine and Thompson song blaring from the old CD player.

''And will we be hearing something about the place?''

The guy sighed and threw the cigarette butt to the sea.

''Gospođo, what is there to say? Enjoy the sun and the sea!''

Apparently the professional tourist guide didn't have too much to say about the Blue cave itself, but one hour and one pack of cigarettes later people did hear a lot about how life on the island is difficult, how toursits are rude and ungrateful and how none of this is worth the money he gets and how next summer he will just f… this whole thing off and go and work with his cousin in Germany.

Tourism is very important in Croatia, you see, until it interferes with your personal life.

So, don't be surprised if you're ever riding in a tourist taxi boat on the island of Hvar and the driver suddenly turns away from his route because at 14:15 he has to collect his neigbour who is going to work. Or if the receptionist gives you the full report on how he isn't feeling too good because his cat had surgery on Tuesday, and his old aunt just slipped and broke her leg so he has to go to the hospital after work.

The customer is always right... Or is he?

The first tourism rule is: The customer is always right. Hm. Until you visit a small family hotel on the Croatian coast, where my aunt and uncle go every year.

The place is run by a guy named Marinko, also known as Buco, his wife Biserka and their son Šime. Now, Buco is busy all day behind the bar or in the kitchen. Šime is busy chasing foreign girls on the riva and Biserka is in charge of everything else. One early and warm August morning, my aunt and uncle were enjoying a nice breakfast on the hotel terrace while Biserka was circling around tables like a seagull, serving guests with a white cloth on her shoulder, smiling gently and chatting with the crowd.

Suddenly, a black Alfa Romeo rushes into a parking infront of the terrace in an attempt to park.

''Hey, you can't park here!'' Biserka yells across the terrace – waving her white cloth to the Italian who stepped out of the car. The italian guy shrugs his shoulders in a ''I don't understand you'' manner.

''You CAN'T PARK HERE! It's private parking! Hotel guests only!'' Biserka is now screaming across the tables – waving with the cloth. The Italian guy exits the car waving his hands, still in the ''I don't understand!'' mode.

''Nema parkiranja! No parking!'' Buco got involved – yelling from behind the bar. ''Nicht parkplatz! Nema parchieggo!''

You could see that Biserka was getting very upset.

''Jeste gluhi? / Are you deaf? Nema parkiranja!''

She made a move towards Italian, but then she spoted all the eyes of her guests on her and remembered the ''customer is always right'' rule. She threw the cloth at his direction and yelled ''Ma idi u…. p….m, park wherever you want! / Oh, go f… yourself! park wherever you want!''

Like I pointed out earlier, we have a wide range of touristic possibilities in Croatia.

If you want to stay in a luxury hotel – fine. If you want to camp under the stars - we have it. If you want to stay illegally in baba's living room – also good. But, when you think about it, all the tourists of the world can be divided in two large groups:

a) tourists who want to be animated:
If you want to be entertained by jumping around the swimming pool while a guy in a clown suit is doing zumba – we have that in Croatia, no problem. But, also, we have a very nice programme for group b) tourists who want to be left alone in the peace and quiet.

If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet with a beer in one hand and good book in another, well, then you're my kind of tourist.You can join me for a holiday any time. You can usually find me sitting on a deck chair in the shade, drinking beer and staring at the sea.

I'm a very nice tourist actually.

I don't make any noise. I don't need to be animated. I'm staying with baba, so I'm no problem to the tax office. I walk on my tip-toes. I never read my book out loud. I don't clank with the clutlery too loudly. So, if you happen to see me on a lonely beach somewhere with my book and a beer, under a huge summer hat, just keep one thing im mind... Please, please don't entertain me!

Just keep the beer cold and the conversation to a minimum, and keep those animated zumba clowns away, please, I have some staring at the sea and blue sky to attend to.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Croatia's Tourism Suffering, How Are Things For Our Competition?

We've talked a lot about how the tourism situation in Croatia this tourist season has been a little off. Very much off, actually. While some report no particular changes, highly popular restaurants in Dubrovnik are being pictured just half full, Jadrolinija ferries are being pictured half empty, bookings are down significantly, and Croatia has quite strangely restricted access to tourism figures. Weird, right?

There are a multitude of reasons why Croatia's 2019 tourist season is a drag, but one of the reasons Croatia needs to get its act together in regard to bringing tourists in and stop relying on old (and accidental) glory is the fact that some of its competition countries in the Mediterranean are recovering, and their prices are usually far, far more attractive than Croatian ones.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 17th of July, 2019, the European Commission for Travel (ETC) expects that the demand for tourism in Europe will remain with an upward trend in 2019, with growth of 3.6 percent.

It isn't only Croatia that has recorded minuses or stagnation this summer, owing to competition countries who returned to the ''tourism game'' in 2019, primarily Turkey, which, with its very low prices, has pulled many tourists away from the likes of Montenegro, Greece, and even from Europe's tourism king - Spain.

Although the European Commission for Travel does continue to provide optimistic forecasts for destinations in Europe in its report for the second quarter, the current situation is causing many to fear the decline in tourist traffic and tourism revenues this year.

The European Commission for Travel's report (ETC) for the second quarter cites expectations that tourism in Europe will remain upward in 2019. A growth rate of 3.6 percent is projected, which is more in line with the annual average from 2008 up until 2018, but is in fact less than last year's growth.

The report states that in the first two quarters of 2019, the Balkan region was the most successful in terms of growth in arrivals, with Montenegro as the record holder with a massive fifty percent increase in the period from January to the end of April, while Turkey experienced such growth at a mere twelve percent. Both Slovenia and Greece recorded significant growth in the first quarter of 2019, both with eight percent growth, and the EC has given a positive forecast for Greece, despite the return of Mediterranean rivals like Turkey.

As is well known, Croatia had six percent more arrivals and three percent more overnight stays in the first six months of this year than it did during the first half of 2018, but for the first time in a few years, there was a significant slump in July.

Namely, in the first twelve days of July 2019, the number of Croatian overnight stays fell by almost five percent, while tourist arrivals dropped by 6.2 percent, according to eVisitor data. The year, however, is still in the surplus, but for the time being, the encouraging percentage figures are drawn entirely from Croatia's successful pre-season, which of course also yields significantly lower tourism revenues than the summer months do.

Optimism hasn't managed to touch on the announcements of Croatia's hoteliers either, a segment in which reservations have dropped during summer so far, and were in the range of three to seven percent in mid-June. On certain portals which have group deals, there are several offers for leading Adriatic hotels and destinations for the end of July, which have been overcrowded over the past three years. Worrying indeed.

Although official figures suggest that the tourist season in neighbouring Montenegro remains at last year's level, those ''from the field'' in Montenegro have warned that the situation is much worse than last year, and that there is a fear that, if this trend continues along with possible unfavourable weather conditions, the season in the popular coastal town of Budva could experience collapse.

The Montenegrin Tourism Association's Petar Ivković, has stated that online sales figures in Montenegro indicate almost forty percent less individual reservations, and that reservations have been booked on the markets of Turkey, Greece, and Egypt.

Ivković agrees that Croatian and Montenegrin tourism are facing a very similar problem - the overgrowth of private accommodation facilities, and has added that only through water consumption and garbage collection calculations in Budva can they mathematically come to the conclusion that Mongenegro's private accommodation is half empty.

Even Greece is experiencing a growing problem of unfair competition in private accommodation, and more and more Greek hoteliers are now expecting a fall in revenue, occupancy, and so prices will have to be lowered in order to fill hotel capacities this summer.

The new Greek government will continue with the tourism policy created by the previous government, and thus facilitate the sector through tax breaks. The new Greek Minister of Tourism of Harry Theocharis has his priorities in order, the first of which is the reduction of the VAT rate from the current 24 percent down to 13 percent for accommodation (with the goal of reaching 11 percent). In addition to the tax breaks, the ministry's agenda is to review resident tax and introduce incentives for the energy renewal of Greek tourist facilities.

The aforementioned Greek ministry will also address the revision of the structure and activities of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO). They are also planning to partner with the private sector to promote and improve the country's brand, and organise the promotion of alternative tourism.

Even the Spanish Tourism Excellence Association (EXCELTUR) confirmed that this summer there has been a slowdown in Spanish tourist traffic, which is currently at 2018's level, with a moderate increase in revenue.

EXCELTUR expects growth of 1.6 percent this summer, down slightly from 2 percent last year. However, in the second quarter of 2019, Spain recorded a decline in tourist traffic in destinations selling just sunshine and sea, unlike Spanish city destinations.

The largest minus have been seen in the traditional beach destinations in Spain, which are more dependent on the demand of foreign tour operators, especially on the Canary islands and in the Balearic islands. Barcelona, ​​Madrid and Valencia have the best forecasts for the rest of the summer. In addition, as vice president of the association José Luis Zoreda explained, the results vary considerably between those destinations and hotels that invested in reconstruction and renovation of their facilities, and those who didn't invest.

Spanish entrepreneurs in tourism are still optimistic according to surveys, and as many as 40.7 percent believe they will increase their sales when compared to last summer. Obviously, Turkey is an absolute hit this year, and in the first five months of the year, it had 11 percent higher turnover than it did last year, with growth expectations of 10 percent year-on-year.

Can Croatia adjust itself accordingly to repair its tourism situation? Only time (and an actual strategy outside of obsessing over eVisitor's figures) will tell.

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

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Slow Season 2019: Crunch Time for Croatian Tourism?

As Novac writes on the 12th of July, 2019, at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), a session of the Tourist business council was held, discussing the current season's situation with tourism and what the expectations for the end of 2019 are.

After several years of growth at unrealistically high rates caused by external factors, the Croatian tourist season of 2019 has so far seen a slight stagnation and a decline that will be felt the most in private accommodation, although the Croatian National Tourist Board's data for the first six months oddly shows the opposite.

''We have to prepare ourselves well for these new circumstances and be prepared to have to fight for each and every guest,'' said Franco Palma at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.

Igor Borojević, head of the Croatian National Tourist Board's market strategy department, attempted to defend the situation and claimed that these rather unimpressive figures for summer 2019 represent only a third of the arrivals, or a quarter of the realised overnight stays, and when it comes to the full season's evaluation, July and August will be crucial, the two months during which Croatia typically realises half of its annual indicators.

Croatian bed capacity increased by four percent, primarily in private accommodation, but when it comes to occupancy, the rates appear to be relatively low. In the last three years, Croatia has got 165,000 new beds, of which 154,000 are in private accommodation facilities, while there has only been very modest growth in the country's hotel accommodation.

''Despite this, hotels have remained the carriers of Croatian tourist traffic during the first half of the year, accounting for 50 percent of arrivals and 39 percent of overnight stays,'' Borojević claimed, adding that 2/3 of the major emission markets grew.

High growth rates have also been achieved with some long-haul markets from outside of Europe, such as from the United States of America, with a 13.7 percent increase, a 41 percent increase has been experienced from China, and a significant 53 percent increase has been seen from Taiwan. The market share in the first half of the year has a 20 percent share in total arrivals and a 10 percent share in overnight stays, with over 80 new airline lines contributing to it.

The Croatian National Tourist Board's figures show that during the first six months of this year, Croatia recorded growth of 6 percent, saw 6.8 million arrivals and 26.2 million overnight stays, marking an increase of 3 percent. This is, apparently, a great achievement with regard to what is frequently being referred to as a very challenging tourist year, accompanied by the recovery of Croatia's traditional competitive markets such as Turkey.

''This points to the strengthening of the Croatian tourist offer during the pre-season,'' noted Dragan Kovačević.

Istria, Kvarner and Split-Dalmatia County are the top destinations, while Dubrovnik, Rovinj and the Croatian capital of Zagreb remain the most visited cities in the country.

Croatian hotels, especially those of a higher category, are expected continue to grow slightly, although prices are 10 to 30 percent more expensive than in Europe's long-time tourism experts, such as Spain and Greece, which could easily push Croatia down in the future.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle and travel pages for much more.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Croatian Camping Sector Has Potential, Yet Season Remains Uncertain

The Croatian camping sector has a lot of potential, but much like with many other things in Croatia, is it really being taken advantage of properly? The short answer is of course, no.

As Marija Crnjak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 11th of July, 2019, a new law should provide for the high-quality planning and preparation of a long-term development strategy in Croatian camps, which should result in the growth of not only quality, but also in the opening up of new, high-quality employment opportunities.

The adoption of the new Law on Tourism Land is of crucial importance for Croatian tourism as it abandons the old model and foresees fifty-year leasing, which offers the ability to release all of the investment potential of the Croatian tourism sector, which is estimated to stand somewhere between three and five billion euros.

If this new law becomes operational and developed, then the Croatian camping sector will finally be able to secure the solid place that it deserves with its remarkable potential - which is to become a leader in the Mediterranean and to position Croatia as a country for camping, as was stated by Adriano Palman, (CCU).

Otherwise, Croatian camping makes up about 25 percent of the total tourist accommodation capacity in Croatia, and in terms of overall quality, it's one of the strongest segments of Croatian tourism according to German ADAC ratings, which results in competitive prices compared to other countries in the Mediterranean.

Poslovni Dnevnik talked to Palman after an unfavourable pre-season in which the heavy amount of rain drove would-be camping tourists away, and at the beginning of a challenging season, which will require a lot of luck and skill to see results anything like those of last year reached again.

What are the results of camps for the first half of this year like, what are the reservations for the rest of the season like? What sort of year do Croatian camps expect?

From the opening until the end of June, campsites cumulatively generated 4.55 million overnight stays, or 1.7 percent less than in the same period last year. It's unfortunate, but it's expected.

Due to the scheduling of school holidays, the first two weeks of July will be worse than those same two weeks were last year, too, from the 1st of July to the 7th of July, for example, cumulative overnight stays were down by 8 percent. The rest of the season will be marked by uncertainty and nobody can really predict the final results of that right now. On the other hand, it should be said that this is the same picture that's coming from all of our Mediterranean competitors, as it reflects certain market events, the return to the market of certain eastern Mediterranean countries, as well as favourable weather opportunities in Northern Europe, the Netherlands, and Germany.

A good weather forecast in the north can contribute to last year's trend when campers in those countries decided to spend their holidays there at home and therefore their camps achieved historical record numbers.

Can you expect to have to cut prices due to the bookings being down?

The average cost of family camping in Croatia (two adults and one child, one night on a plot) is around 38.66 euros, and the European average is 37.56 euros. Compared to other countries, we're ranked sixth in terms of prices, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, and Switzerland are all more expensive than Croatia, and the most expensive is Italy.

We don't think this price is all that high given the level of quality we offer. The same trend is present in the camping sector across the entire Mediterranean, which is also visible in other forms of accommodation in Croatia. Quality facilities, in which there has been investment and an expansion of an offer, as well as increased the quality, are accepted by the market and are well filled, while unfortunately more and more problems occur in the business of facilities where the raising of the prices didn't result in the raising of the quality. Those issues also exist for those who didn't invest enough.

That's why more and more, they are constantly implementing complete reconstructions and renovations that are aimed towards raising the quality of the camps by two or three stars, up to five stars. There were three such complete renovations in the last couple of years, one in Dalmatia, Kvarner, and Istria, and more are planned in the future.

What is the current picture of Croatian campsites like when compared to its competitors?

Croatia has a total of 785 camps, of which 66 are in the category of 4 or 5 stars, and their capacity covers up to 40.5 percent of the total capacity of Croatian camps.

According to the German ADAC, which is the guide to the camps of Europe and still considered the most relevant and complete camp rating system, in 2019, Croatia is ranked second in the European Union behind the Netherlands. In terms of Croatia's direct competition in the Mediterranean, France is the third, Italy is the fifth, and Spain is the seventh.

The average rating of camps in Croatia is 6.31, the Netherlands ranked first with 6.74, and the average rating of camps in Europe is 5.46.

In all the elements of this rating, Croatian camps are better than the European average, and we're the best in terms of commercial and hospitality offers in the camps; we're third in elements of quality, in the number and size of sanitary facilities and pitches within the camp, and the worst position we're in, with fourth place, are the free time, entertainment and swimming offer, ie, the quality and the equipment of beaches, swimming pools and water centres within the camps.

How was the current law a barrier to investment? Because, we can see that there have been investments...

Although the capacity in 4 and 5 star camps has increased by as much as 2.8 times since 2010, when that law was passed, the realizstion of investments was significantly hampered.

A particular problem was highlighted in Croatian camps that had significant areas of so-called ''tourist land''. In those areas, because of the inadequate legal conclusions and the various limitations that were prescribed, investments were planned within a limited range in the areas of the camps where they could be realised, and not at locations where such investments (water centres, etc) from the point of view of the guests and the product concept, would have been ideal.

The new law should provide for the quality planning and preparation of a long-term development strategy in Croatian campsites, which will result in the enrichment of supply and quality growth, as well as the opening of new, high-quality job opportunities.

How does a modern camp look on the global market today? Do Croatian camps use modern technology, and what is their importance in this segment of tourism?

With the coming of the new generation of millennials, our camps are becoming more and more popular, and along with the advancement of technology, their diversity is growing as well. Croatian camps base their quality on the number and quality of the sanitary facilities, their equipment and the size of their plots, the commercial and hospitality offer in the camps, the leisure offer and entertainment, as well as the quality and amenities of the beach and other swimming related offers. Everything further depends on the positioning of the camp itself and the type of guests it wants to attract.

Accordingly, there are two main developmental routes for camps, the first are large camps which have all of the facilities and are positioned as real holiday resorts where a variety of accommodation options are available, from mobile homes to glamping. Other smaller or small family camps, which are, as opposed to the variety of content offered, more oriented to the very hospitable and close relationship with the host and their highlight is the intimate atmosphere inside the camp.

Apart from these two major developmental routines, there are many other features of special positioning and finding the right traveller and market, from the simple form of an adventure camp, camps on islands, near towns, camps for lovers of special interests (horse riding, bird watching, cycling, kayaking...), up to the most glamorous modern glamping camps.

Which is currently the largest investment in Croatian camps, are mobile homes still the biggest hit?

When talking about investments, in recent years, the trend of investment, the majority of which is in mobile home bidding, has changed considerably, and has become more balanced.

In the last two to three years, Croatian camps have been invested in with the aim to equalise and raise the overall offer and content of the facilities to a higher level, thus obtaining a balanced product that corresponds to the camp quality standards in all elements and doesn't have large jumps between the overall quality of the offer and the product. This includes investments in new water centres and swimming pools and beaches (the swimming offer), investments in the context of the wealth and quality of the shopping offer within the camp, entertainment, investments in equipping and increasing the plot areas as basic accommodation units within the camp, and sanitation facilities.

In addition, a new type of accommodation offer has appeared on campsites, which is the luxurious glamping tent, and currently glamping has the highest growth rate in relation to other capacities, and it is predicted that this trend will continue for the next few years.

How do we stand with the range of Croatian campsites that are open all year round?

Contrary to the general belief, compared with just one decade ago, the trend and the possibility of year-round camps in Croatia has been done well, and today we can boast of fourteen camps all over the country, two on the continent, six in Dalmatia, three in Kvarner and three in Istria.

Nowadays, Croatia has a high quality network of camps that provide winter campers with quality round trips between different destinations and parts of the country, and according to the information from these camps, more and more visitors from all over the world recognise this product and position the Croatian camps not only as a seasonal option, but as a year-long option.

Make sure to follow our dedicated travel page for more information on Croatian tourism, Croatian campsites and much more.

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