Why Aren't There More Chinese Tourists Coming to Croatia?

By 15 March 2019

Croatian tourism has everything that Chinese tourists are looking for, ranging from cultural, historical and natural heritage to autochthonous, rich gastronomy, folklore and festivals. More of them are expected to come this year, although problems with the visa regime and the lack of direct flights and guides in the Chinese language do exist, reports Večernji List on March 15, 2019.

This was highlighted at the first regional conference on the Chinese tourism market, sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism and organised by the Zagreb-based consulting company ProConcept and the Singapore-based marketing agency IPPWorld. It brought together local and regional tourist agencies and other professionals working or willing to work with the Chinese market.

"In Croatia, not enough people understand that the Chinese are now the number one nation in the world according to tourist spending. They are not tourists who just like to take a walk or who are looking for low prices and have little to spend. Just the opposite; they spent globally around 300 billion euro last year, and this figure is growing every year, as the standard of living increases, just like the number of Chinese people who have a passport and want to travel also increases,” said ProConcept director Andreja Gazdek.

By 2018, only about six per cent of Chinese citizens had a passport, which means approximately 80 million, and it is expected that by 2020 around 200 million people will have a passport. There are 36 countries in the world which the Chinese can enter without a visa, including Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while in 44 countries a visa can be issued at the border crossings.

"Croatia is not one of these countries. Visas are required which is quite a hindrance,” said Gazdek, who said it was unbelievable that, according to unofficial information, there is only one person at the Croatian embassy in China dealing with visas. "It all takes a long time. Why can’t we hire more people there, so that visas are issued faster?” Gazdek asked.

She added that in the region of Southeast Europe, the Chinese are coming to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and other countries more than to Croatia, mainly because these countries have introduced direct flights. For example, Graz in Austria has such a link, Gazdek said and asked why Zagreb does not have it.

In 2011, there were 11 million travels from China, while in 2018 the number reached more than 160 million. Half of these trips were to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and the rest to other countries, mostly to Europe. One of the problems why so few Chinese tourists are coming to Croatia is the lack of Chinese-language brochures, guides, and menus.

Consultant and tourist agent Ivan Pukšar also believes that Croatia needs to increase its visibility and promotion in the market, while Joanne Chan of IPPWorld said it is imperative to promote Croatia on Chinese social networks, such as WeChat, Weibo and Baidu, which are Chinese equivalents of Facebook and Instagram, which are rarely used in China. Chan believes that all tourist service providers in Croatia should take a more proactive attitude towards Chinese tourists, and Chinese-language mobile apps would also come in handy.

Siniša Malus from the China and South-East Europe Business Association believes that Croatia can expect a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals this year, as well as in the coming years, with the new momentum of friendly diplomatic ties between the two countries. "Tourism and overall economic co-operation with the Chinese market are also growing, and the opening of the Croatian National Tourist Board and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce offices in Shanghai is also beneficial. All this is gaining momentum with the arrival of Chinese investors not just for the construction of Pelješac Bridge, but also for other projects such as the construction of hotels in Krapina and Zadar,” said Malus, adding that the 16 + 1 Summit in April in Dubrovnik will also be beneficial, since it will include representatives of many large Chinese businesses.

Translated from Večernji List.

More news about relations between Croatia and China can be found in the Politics section.