Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Tourism Ministry Grants €2.07m to 307 Travel Agencies Hit by Coronavirus Crisis

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - The Tourism and Sports Ministry has approved HRK 15.55 million in aid to help 307 travel agencies across Croatia hit by the coronavirus crisis to normalise their current operations.

The grants range from HRK 6,460 to HRK 566,600 and the ministry has noted that the recipients will have to spend the funds for the purpose intended and submit a final report on the funds spent by 31 January 2022.

(€1 = HRK 7.474887)

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Wednesday, 25 August 2021

YTD Financial Indicators Give Rise to Hope That Tourism Season Can Be Great

ZAGREB, 25 Aug, 2021 - Overnight stay numbers so far this year show that they have reached 74% of tourist nights in the corresponding period of 2019, whereas the value of the fiscalised receipts indicates even a better performance of the tourist sector, Minister Nikolina Brnjac has told Hina.

The year-to-date value of the fiscalised receipts in tourism-related economic activities has reached 79% of those receipts in 2019.

The minister admits that it is still too early to forecast the fiscal effects of this year's tourism season.

The comprehensive report on the revenues from the tourist trade can be expected upon the release of the relevant report by the Croatian National Bank on the spending of foreign holiday-makers in the third quarter of 2021, and the central bank provides the general public with those numbers at the end of the year.

The data collected by e-visitor system show that so far this year, there have been 9.8 million guests who have generated 61.3 million overnight stays, thus reaching 64% and 74% of the visitor numbers and tourist night numbers in 2019.

So far in August alone, there have been 3.4 million visitors and 24.1 million overnight stays, 87% and 92% of the results in the corresponding period in 2019.

Concerning the value of fiscalised receipts in the tourism-related activities, it stands at 14.9 billion kuna, or 79% of the value registered in the corresponding period of 2019 when Croatia's tourism sets new records.

In August, fiscalised receipts' value overtakes 2019

For instance, from 1 to 17 August  the value of fiscalised receipts reached nearly four billion kuna, or 20% more than in the same period of 2019, Brnjac said.

The value of the fiscalised receipts from 1 July to 17 August outperformed the corresponding period in 2019 by 9%, the minister said.

She said that the bookings for the remainder of the year also gave rise to optimism.

"We are striving for keeping Croatia's status of the Mediterranean country with the most favourable epidemiological situation," she said, among other things.

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Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Croatian Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac Visits Bavaria to Discuss Tourism Cooperation

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - Croatian Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac met with Bavaria's Deputy Premier and Minister of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy, Hubert Aiwanger, in Munich on Monday to discuss ways of increasing cooperation in the tourism sector.

Brnjac said that Croatia and Bavaria would continue exchanging experience and best practice in the digitalisation of tourism services and the development of cultural and rural tourism, her ministry announced in a press release.

"Croatia and Bavaria put emphasis on the development of sustainable tourism, and their cooperation in many areas of common interest has been going on for about 50 years within the Bavarian-Croatian Commission," Brnjac said.

She noted that half of German tourists visiting Croatia come from Bavaria, which is why it is very important for Croatia to convey the information on the activities that are being undertaken so that Croatia is recognised as a pleasant and safe destination.

Bavaria supports Croatia's Schengen membership bid

Aiwanger said there was a lot of space for cooperation between Croatia and Bavaria in the tourism sector, emphasising that Bavaria supported Croatia's accession to the Schengen area next year as an important precondition for facilitating movement of tourists.

The working meeting was also attended by the deputy president of the ADAC motoring association for tourism and finance, Karlheinz Jungbeck.

Brnjac and Jungbeck discussed preparations for the summer tourist season as well as expectations and plans for future development. Brnjac said that the cooperation with ADAC, which has 22 million members, ensured the greater visibility of Croatia on the German market, adding that today's meeting set a framework for future institutional cooperation.

According to ADAC, there is a growing interest in visiting Croatia, notably in the camping segment. This year ADAC included 134 Croatian campsites on its list of the best European campsites, the same number as in 2019, and 13 of the campsites were rated as ADAC Superplatz 2021.

About 42,000 Germans are currently vacationing in Croatia, mostly in Istria. Last year German tourists generated 1.6 million arrivals and 12.7 overnight stays, which was 60 percent of overnight stays made in 2019 when a record 21.2 million overnight stays were generated by German visitors. Last year, the 12.7 million overnight stays made by German tourists accounted for 23 percent of total overnight stays in Croatia.

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Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Tourism Minister Nikolina Brnjac: We Are Working On Clear Criteria For Entry Into Croatia

ZAGREB, 31 March, 2021 - Tourism and Sports Minister Nikolina Brnjac said on Wednesday that clear entry criteria for Croatia were being prepared according to European Commission recommendations for travel across borders, which will probably be - recovered from COVID-19, vaccination or a PCR or antigen test.

Asked by reporters ahead of an inner cabinet meeting what she thinks of the measures by the national COVID response team and how the deteriorated epidemiological situation is being reflected on tourism and bookings, Minister Brnjac said that as soon as the European Commission released its draft recommendations on travel restrictions, Croatia immediately started working on clear criteria for entry into Croatia.

The Commission recently proposed a regulation on creating a Digital Green Certificate which should enable safe travel within the European Union during the pandemic. The certificate should be proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.

Brnjac added that this requires technical preparations which are already being worked on in the Interior Ministry and the Croatian Institute for Public Health so that, as soon as the regulation enters into force, it can be integrated in the system.

That is important because of the epidemiological situation, which is why at the end of 2020 we launched safe protocols and the "Safe stay in Croatia" label, she said.

"We have previously warned that the most important thing is for Croatia to be in the 'green' zone and we asked local tourist boards to recommend testing stations for tourists... We need to achieve flow of both tourists and tests," said Brnjac.

Asked how the current situation is being reflected on bookings, Brnjac said that she is in constant contact with partners on the markets and that there has been an increase in enquiries, mostly about whether Croatia is in the "green" and about the vaccination of tourism workers which, she added, could be conducted in May and June as "vaccines are coming."

"There are fewer bookings than in previous years, even for Easter, but more are expected... from the end of May and in June, for which there is more interest by tourists, and that is why we should have the best epidemiological situation possible," she said. 

Asked about aid for travel agencies which are required to refund deposits for cancelled travel arrangements, yet don't have the funds to do so, Brnjac said "they can get loans and return what they owe, with state guarantees for up to 100 per cent of the loans that are earmarked for SMEs and 90% for (those earmarked for) large companies."

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Friday, 12 March 2021

Tourism Minister And Public Health Director Tell Tourist Board Directors Preparation Important For Season

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - The tourism season requires good preparation by the sector and destinations, including setting up VOVID testing stations, inoculating workers in tourism and ensuring safety protocols at border crossings, Minister of Tourism Nikolina Brnjac said on Friday, meeting with directors of regional tourist boards.

During the video conference, which was also attended by the head of the Croatian Institute for Public Health, Krunoslav Capak, he spoke of the current situation with the pandemic and touched on so-called green passports which should represent a health document facilitating crossing borders.

He explained that the certificate would contain information on inoculation against, recovering from and being tested for COVID-19, which should ensure a balanced procedure in EU member states regarding conditions to cross borders.

Capak underscored that an agreement had been reached at the EU level on acceptable fast antigen tests, however most member states, including Croatia, still require a PCR test in order to cross the border.

He said that tourist boards would be issued with information on how to obtain a licence to conduct tests and on issuing credible certificates of testing, the ministry said in a press release.

The ministry underscored that it expects tourist boards to submit their proposals for testing stations for tourists in individual counties in coordination with regional public health institutes.

A list of testing stations will then be advertised on the www.safestayincroatia.hr web site.

Both Capak and Brnjac underlined the importance of inoculation in the tourism sector because workers in the sector generate a lot of contacts and are the first contact point with tourists.

"Inoculation in the tourism sector is an important message of additional safety and responsibility in that sector, which contributes to better positioning Croatia as a safe destination," underscored Brnjac.

"We hope that we will reach an agreement soon on how to facilitate travel for tourists," said Brnjac, referring to tourists from countries outside the EU.

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Monday, 1 February 2021

Tourism Ministry Announces Campaign for 'Safe Stay in Croatia' Label

February 1, 2021 – The Ministry of Tourism and Sport will launch a campaign for the "Safe Stay in Croatia" label in mid-February, which will show tourists that Croatia applies health and safety protocols during the coronavirus pandemic.

After announcing that the Ministry was preparing a "Safe travel" label for the upcoming tourist season, Minister of Tourism and Sports Nikolina Brnjac confirmed today that they would start the campaign in mid-February.

Tourism must show adaptability and responsibility

As Hina reports, apart from tourist entities for which this label is intended, airlines, gas stations, various tourist facilities, cultural and natural attractions will also use it. The protocols will be harmonized with the recommendations of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ). It will also include a sticker with a QR code that can be displayed in a visible place. As part of the promotion, a special website will also be launched.

The Ministry will assign and keep the labels free of charge and monitor their application with associations.

"In addition to the application of these protocols, important preconditions for achieving tourist results are a favorable epidemiological situation, a sufficient level of vaccination, and the perception of destination security. Croatia was recognized for that last year. We will continue to work on it in 2021. Due to the pandemic, the tourism sector will again have to show creativity, adaptability, responsibility, and cooperation," said the Minister.

Adherence to global standardized health protocols

Noting that the introduction of these labels is an important wheel in branding Croatia as a safe destination, the Minister expects that by Easter, it will contribute to the promotion, recalling that it is essential to continue to adhere to epidemiological recommendations and measures.

insurance-1991277_1280.jpg

 

Source: Pixabay

The labels are a national upgrade of last year's "Safe Travel" labels of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to make it easier to identify destinations and companies that adhere to global standardized health and hygiene protocols. The Croatian Ministry of Tourism and Sport immediately got involved. Harmonization of safety protocols for restaurants, hotels, family farms, holiday homes, beaches, marinas, boats, travel agencies, rent-a-car, tourist guides was one of the first tasks of the Council for the Repair and Development of Tourism.

Slow vaccine distribution not in favor of tourism trends

Minister Brnjac said that the vaccine is excellent news for tourism. Vaccination of tourism workers, for which about 70 percent of them are interested in Croatia, will play an important role in tourism promotion and results.

She says the slow distribution of vaccines and vaccinations, the new strain of the virus, and the growing number of infections in Europe and the world, are not in favor of tourism trends. It is necessary to open borders and overcome the psychological barrier of fear to travel again. It is encouraging that the EU insists on an agreement on the quantity and dynamics of vaccine delivery.

"We hope that in Croatia, as in other EU member states, a good initial vaccination rate will continue. Given the current situation with the vaccine at the EU level, Croatia's position is to insist on talks with pharmaceutical companies on the agreed quantity and dynamics of vaccine delivery," adds Brnjac.

Among other things, Croatia is in contact with representatives of other EU member states. At the moment, all EU member states want to speed up vaccination.

coronavirus-5185259_1280.jpg

Source: Pixabay

Regarding the introduction of measures for tourist arrivals and border crossings, the Minister recalls that EU leaders agreed to work on a standardized form of evidence of vaccination in compliance with EU data protection regulations. This certificate would, for the time being, be used exclusively for medical purposes.

"For crossing Croatia's border, a negative PCR test result not older than 48 hours should be presented, or PCR testing should be performed immediately upon arrival (at one's own expense), with the obligation of self-isolation until a negative result. If it is impossible to test, a self-isolation measure will last for ten days. Further measures will be subject to the course of the epidemiological situation in Croatia, but also specific markets," said the Minister.

Croatia recommended destination for 2021

In the current situation, the Minister considers it's good that the people from foreign markets are eager to travel. It's even better that Croatia is mentioned as a desirable destination, thanks to the proximity to many markets and good transport links, especially road.

"This year, we expect a distinct 'last-minute' demand and demand for safe, fast, and easily accessible destinations, as well as accommodation that provides additional security such as holiday homes, on boats, in camps, and staying outdoors in nature. There are expectations from domestic tourists, who can be a driver of tourism, as well as from the cooperation with the European Association of Travel Agencies and Tour Operators (ECTAA), according to which Croatia in 2021 has the status of a selected and recommended destination," says the Minister.

She believes that a favorable epidemiological situation will be maintained in Croatia with the adherence to the measures. The tourism sector is ready to prove its responsibility and provide a safe stay this year as well. Through cooperation, knowledge, and experience, Croatia will continue to position itself as a desirable destination for foreign and domestic tourists.

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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy Until 2030 to be Drawn Up

ZAGREB, November 26, 2020 - The Tourism Ministry is launching the drafting of a sustainable tourism strategy until 2030 and a 2021-27 national sustainable tourism development plan as long-term frameworks for tourism development, Minister Nikolina Brnjac said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The drafting of a new strategy is in line with the government's programme and the Competitive and Innovative Economy strategic goal in the draft national development strategy until 2030.

A strategic environmental impact estimate will be drawn up for the first time as part of the strategy, Brnjac said.

According to the ministry, the strategy, the plan and the estimate are expected to be drawn up by the end of 2021 and the aim is for the strategy to be coherent with other sectors' public policies.

"We have embarked on the creation of strategic frameworks so as to focus our activities as well as possible on the sustainability and development of the tourism sector, and the common goal of all actors should be the positioning of Croatia as a high quality, safe and, according to economic criteria, increasingly successful destination," said Brnjac.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Tonči Glavina from Ministry of Tourism: We're seeing Increased Numbers of Tourists!

June 2, 2020 - Tonči Glavina, a State Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, gave an interview to Slobodna Dalmacija about the hottest topic in Croatia these days: tourist season 2020.

Hrvoje Prnjak talked to Mr. Glavina, who has personally, both face to face and on social media, kept in contact with everyone who wanted to know more about Croatian tourism. He has welcomed questions posted by the renters and anyone else participating in this vital sector of the Croatian economy, which is taking a hit because of the pandemic.

Slobodna first asked Mr. Glavina about the fact that only three months ago, it seemed that we would have another record-breaking season, and just a month after that, the season appeared to be lost entirely. Where are we now, which segments can be expected to produce some positive numbers? 

Mr. Glavina explains that the Ministry is aware that the results in 2020 will be far from the results from 2019, which has set many records for Croatian tourism. He adds that they are making arrangements for the guests to arrive from some of the most important markets, and they believe that, if the epidemiological situation continues to be favorable, Croatian tourism will be able to achieve around 30 percent of last year's results. 

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the entire world is facing the "new normal" which, among other things, includes strict social distancing, which will encourage guests to seek out tourist offers providing some isolation, such as vacation houses or boat rentals. As the epidemiological situation changes, hopefully for the better, I believe that the other forms of the tourist offer will be able to achieve satisfying results. 

Next, the journalist asked Mr. Glavina about the gradual "opening" of the Croatian borders to foreign nationals, where Croatia was among the countries that re-opened first. What countries can we expect to see in the next wave of re-opening? 

In 2020 we've seen 400,000 arrivals by the foreign tourists, and they've had 1.4 million overnight stays. That's an 80% reduction compared to last year, which was expected. However, since May, when we've started the re-opening, we see the increased arrivals of tourists to Croatia, and around 20 thousand overnight stays each day. As can be expected, most of them are arriving from the countries in our region: Slovenia, Austria, Germany. Croatia has relieved restrictions for foreign guests arriving from 10 countries that find themselves in a similar epidemiological situation. We wanted to be able to control the arrival of tourists, which is why we decided to open gradually. Our first priority is to prevent the creation of some type of hot-spot, which would take us a few steps back, and we definitely don't want that. 

We want to make sure our guests, everyone working in tourism and everyone else in Croatia is as safe as possible. In addition to that, we want our guests to be able to enter Croatia without problems, that's why we decided to go down the digital and innovative route (which is our goal all the time) and create an online application which is meant to allow for a faster border crossing and reduction of waiting periods. 

Tourist companies saw their entire business grind to a halt literally overnight. What have you done to help those companies survive, as it is unclear how many of them will be able to recover in this year? 

To help the various companies deal with the special circumstances, the Ministry of Tourism has reduced the amounts for the tourist memberships, which saved those companies 26 million kunas. Also, all of the private renters and family farms that also provide accommodation were released from paying the tourist taxes in the first six months of this year, which saved them 154 million kunas. The variable portion of the concessions for camps, around hotels, and in tourist villages has been reduced to one kuna, which saved another 15 million kunas. 

It was vital for us to help keep tourist companies liquid, so we invested 25 million kunas in helping them pay for interest for loans taken with the HBOR (Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development). That allowed businesses with problems to get more than 600 million kunas of loans. 

It is evident that this year's results will depend on the re-establishment of international flights. When do you expect the situation to get normalized?  

Some of the destinations in Croatia depend on the flights. However, it is important to highlight that we are quite close to some of our principal markets, which makes it easier for them to drive to Croatia, which gives us an advantage when compared to our Mediterranean competition. The air traffic is beginning to normalize, although everyone understands that the flights will be quite different than what we're used to. In Split Airport, they expect things to normalize partially after mid-June. It's realistic to expect 180 lines to be operating then, and it's crucial to maintain good relations with the national company, Croatia Airlines, which has connected us to Europe almost without a break with their Zagreb-Frankfurt flight, and flights from Zagreb to Split and Dubrovnik. 

The journalist touched upon some of the changes to the laws in the area of tourism, which happened during this government term. He asked Mr. Tonči Glavina which of those changes he considered to be the most important, and which of them will stay in the future. 

The packet of the tourism laws which have been implemented this year will allow for the almost complete transformation of the tourist system. The activities of the tourist boards will follow the modern trends of how tourist boards function elsewhere. We've modernized the system according to the circumstances, as the destination management has become the guiding principle for tourism management in the modern world. We are adjusting and directing the system to improve the competitiveness of the Croatian system in the next ten years. 

The introduction of the new Fund for the Joint Tourist Boards is especially important, as it will encourage the formation of tourist boards for several local administration units, which will reduce costs. We're very proud that the system of tourist boards already recognized that, and they've started joining each other, and I believe we can reduce their number by about 20-30 percent, or 60 to 80 tourist boards in total. 

In addition to the changes in the tourism laws, I need to highlight another decision by this government, which is to reduce the VAT in the hospitality sector to 13 percent, which included food deliveries for the first time. I believe that in our next term, we'll create the conditions to reduce the VAT in tourism further, and create other savings in the tourism sector - and our tax policies and breaks already helped them save a billion kuna.

EU has various funds and financial mechanisms - but no Fund for Tourism Recovery. What would that mean for everyone in the tourism business in Croatia, and who could count on it?

Tourism accounts for 10 percent of the EU GDP, employs almost 12 percent of the total number of people working in the EU, and generates over 400 billion euros of income. It's clear that we need to find joint European solutions for stopping the crisis in the tourism sector, but also to create programs and plans to halt similar threats in the future. Croatian Ministry of Tourism has, two years ago, way before the corona-crisis, started the initiative to establish the Fund for Tourism on the EU level, financed for years and used in crises like this, or in times of natural disasters, terrorism or in similar circumstances. We weren't really understood then, but when the crisis hit during the Croatian presidency of the EU, we were able to achieve a high level of consensus within the EU. I find that to be a great victory for Croatia, showing how to manage the tourist policies both nationally, but also on the European level as well. The recently-presented EU plan for the economic recovery has 10 billion euros earmarked for Croatia, which shows the importance of Croatian membership in the EU and how much the EU can help us recover. 

The Ministry of Tourism has gotten the money needed to fund the Competence Centres from the EU funds. What are those Centres?

The financing of the regional competence centers in the tourism and hospitality sector, in the amount of 500 million kunas for the infrastructure, curriculum, and other activities, is undoubtedly one of the most significant investments in the future of Croatian tourism. It is a solution for the future, which will help us deal with the problem of not enough workers in tourism in the next several years. I believe this project starts the new age for human resources in tourism, benefiting the employees who will be educated at the highest level, following the modern trends, but also helping the employers, who will get highly trained people with practical experience working for them.

The interview concluded with Mr. Tonči Glavina explaining that the six regional centers have been established, and the tourism and hospitality school in Split has received 74 million kunas, which is the most significant individual amount awarded. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Promotional Project "A Week Worth of Rest" Starts in Croatia

The Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian Tourist Board are starting the program "Tjedan odmora vrijedan” (translates to English as "a week worth of rest"; the phrase rhymes in Croatian).

The goal of the project is to increase the interest of the people of Croatia for domestic travel, as well as increase the level of tourist activity in Croatia outside of the high-season summer months. The target audience are the tourists in Croatia, with the aim of encouraging them to engage in more tourist activities before and after the high tourist season.

This project will help all of the citizens of Croatia to get to know and visit different parts of our country, provide as much as 50 percent in discounts for them for various tourist products, including acommodation, transportation, entry fees to various sites, events...

The "Week Worth of Rest" project would take place twice a year, in October and March, and hrturizam.hr has unofficially found that the first one should take place in October of this year, in the period of October the 17th until the 27th.

The Ministry and the Croatian Tourist Board will invite all of the businesses which are tourist-related to participate and offer discounts during the week. All of the offers they prepare will be listed on the www.tjedanodmoravrijedan.hr, which is still not active but is owned by HTZ. The first public presentation of the project is expected to happen during July.

One question that will probably be raised related to this project is what happened to the somewhat glamorously announced project of the so-called "Cro Cards"?

Most people don't even remember that idea, which suggested giving the people who live in Croatia a type of a credit card where their employers could give them their bonuses which wouldn't be taxed and could only be spent in Croatia.

It has been a while since it was initially proposed, and it seemed that it was not really going anywhere, but in April of this year, Minister Cappelli said that the project needs to be worked on more. One of the obvious problems with the idea of the Cro Card as it is usually described, is that the EU doesn't really appreciate such ideas, in order to protect the single market of the Union.

So, we'll have to wait and see what will come of those projects, but it's safe to say that the Week Worth of Rest project might serve as a great incentive for continental tourism in Croatia, if people take it seriously and adopt a proactive attitude towards it. 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

''Business Model of Croatian Tourism is Unsustainable''

As Lea Balenovic/Iva Grubisa/Novac writes on the 17th of April, 2019, Croatian tourism's current business model is unsustainable and has some serious challenges, according to Emanuel Tutek, a partner at the Horwath HTL consulting house, who stated this at the very beginning of a conference on the challenges of the Croatian tourism sector at Edward Bernays High School, the co-organiser of which was Jutarnji list.

Since 19 percent of Croatian GDP comes either directly or indirectly from tourism, the unsustainability of the system is a more serious issue, he added.

''First of all, our tourism is an extremely seasonal sector and as much as 86 percent of all tourism activities in Croatia take place during the summer months. It's also problematic that 96 per cent of these activities are realised on the coast and in Zagreb. In translation, this means that we have plenty of room for progress and the development of our tourist offer across the rest of Croatia, as well as the extension of the season. We are well below the European average. For example, if we compare just the peak of the tourist season, ie July and August, there is 10 to 20 times more of a burden on the area and the residents in Croatia than there is in other European countries. Just remember how some of the destinations and beaches look in July or August,'' warned Tutek.

He also added that Croatia has plenty of room for progress and development in the quality of the accommodation it provides. The Croatian hotels that, as Tutek says, are the pearl of Croatia's hospitality, are very much losing the battle with the hotel industry in the rest of Europe, and the alarm that should be enough to wake the country up is also the fact that the revenue made from tourists' overnight stays in Croatia is less every year.

In addition to this, Croatian tourism is feeling the country's ongoing demographic crisis bite hard, and has a human resource problem as a consequence. This is, as was explained by Tutek, actually a global problem. However, since the international labour market is far more competitive than the Croatian one is, foreign countries are filling their gaps with Croatian workers. Croatia is, unfortunately, at an unimpressive 100 of 138 countries in the world according to the labour market competitiveness index. An even more concerning piece of information shared by the Horwath HTL consultant was that Croatia is the last and second to last in the world on the ladder of attracting and retaining workers.

''We have no solution. The answers to this can't just be some lump sums and other initiatives, we need something more fundamental,'' he warned. One of the negative factors in each case is the uncompetitive average salary. In nearby Austria, for example, in the hotel sector, wages are about 122 percent higher. Still, the hotel industry here in Croatia has experienced a great discrepancy in numbers, and they have therefore begun to increase employee salaries for the last two summer seasons, which has been a fruitful decision. With the rise in salaries and expenses, revenue also grew.

In addition to the inadequate management of human resources, huge problems are also created by the Croatian tax policy. Property tax, Tutek said, practically doesn't exist in Croatia. ''We're the champions of how good private landlords have it. Croatia is a tax oasis,'' he claims.

''We want to be competitive, but there are a number of things that we're not even close to, not even in the wider environment. VAT reduction is certainly important, and there is also the question of consistent policies. It is important for us to have a perception of what will happen in the future at some point, but if the policies constantly change then we can't have a stable business,'' said Sanjin Šolić of the Lošinj hotel group Jadranka.

Davor Lukšić, President of the Lukšić Croatia Group, agreed with him, pointing out that Croatia's 25 percent VAT rate is very high, and even with a rate of 13 percent there would still be room for progress. "We have to remain competitive, especially now when other destinations in the Mediterranean are making a come back," Lukšić added.

But if one was to as Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli, the problem of the high VAT rate is one of the easiest problems to solve in the Croatian tourism industry. The minister claims that the Croatian Government could lower the VAT rate with one decree, bringing it down to 10 or 13 percent, and such a decision is in the government's plans for the beginning of next year.

''We have a problem with having five-star hotels in two star destinations. First of all, we have to start improving the quality of the destination and spend the whole year measuring what's happening and only after a few years will we see whether both residents and tourists are happy, as well as service providers and the environment. If everyone is more or less happy, then it makes sense to invest in a four or five-star hotel,'' stated Minister Cappelli, adding that in Croatia, it often happens that investments are made in luxurious hotels first, but not in the development of the destination in which it is located.

"Well, we have cases where five-star hotels don't have sewage systems but septic tanks," he said. The minister also referred to the initial lecture by Emanuel Tutek about the key challenges facing Croatian tourism. He agreed that there was always room for progress, but he also pointed out that he was tracking the figures daily and that he couldn't bring himself to agree with all the alarming warnings about the unsustainability of Croatian tourism.

''We're a strange people, two years ago there were no tourists and they wanted to get rid of me, now there are a lot of tourists, and they want to get rid of me again, the projections of what's to come in two years keep coming in, and they're already that I'm shaking in my chair,'' said Cappelli, adding that Croatia is spending what it earns and has therefore finally got an investment rating.

''Now the pressure on public finances is being relieved and the taxes on the economy can be reduced slowly,'' he said.

If the Croatian tourism association is asked for their opinion on the matter, this is last chance saloon for this tax relief to actually become a reality. Namely, it is anticipated that hotels could reduce the volume of their investments by as much as thirty percent over the next three to four years. ''We want to warn the government that it must not let that happen. We have to invest, but we expect that the government to create measures to encourage that and not just put us off,'' said Jadranka's Sanjin Šolić.

Dubrovnik has experienced not only growth in terms of tourism but also the improvement of infrastructure in recent years, Lukšić believes. However, despite the wild popularity of this particular southern Croatian city, it has multiple problems during the winter season.

''In the last two years, we have extended the [tourist] season and the so called ''congress season'' has helped a lot. But we all have to sit around the table and design a strategy for the winter season, which is actually the only problem,'' Lukšić said, arousing a grin from Šolić, who, having being on an island, has much bigger problems.

''It's easy for Dubrovnik. Imagine how it is for us to extend the season! You need to get to the island, the bridge is a problem, the bura is a problem, everything is a problem. We're less competitive than our colleagues on the mainland whichever way you turn. The Chinese, the Koreans, whoever comes to Croatia, lands in Zagreb, goes to Plitvice, Split and Dubrovnik, nobody comes to us,'' complained Sanjin Šolić.

That is why his team sat down together at the table and decided to turn to health tourism for which Lošinj has natural resources, a strategy and a future, said Šolić. Another solution for the development of island tourism is golf. Therefore, a location permit is currently being sought for the construction of a golf course with eighteen holes, with which will be a hotel and villa that will have a total of 800 beds.

''These are the two routes we have on Lošinj. People don't play golf in July and August because its too hot. During November, December, January, February and March, the weather is wonderful and we'll fill our capacities that way,'' he noted.

Emanuel Tutek welcomed this discrepancy in Croatia's tourism development strategies at various locations.

''Not all destinations are suffering the same issues. In Dubrovnik, there is a problem with excessive demand, and the quality of the offer needs to be worked on to reduce the number of tourists. In Istria, the offer should be increased. This has, for example, been done in Maistra. Nobody thought it would pay off to build a five-star hotel in Rovinj, but after the construction of the hotel, the rest of the sector was accompanied by the arrival of tourists and the development of the destination.

However, in addition to the respective issues destinations face in Croatia, the eternal problem facing the entire Croatian tourism sector is labour and wages.

''Salaries are a problem, they're still a base for attracting workers,'' said Tutek, agreeing with the CEO of Jadranka, but as he said, it's difficult to increase salaries because there isn't enough revenue.

"When the minister sorts us out with less taxes, I'll give the rest of it in salaries," he stated.

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Click here for the original article by Lea Balenovic and Iva Grubisa for Novac/Jutarnji

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