Is Anyone Having a Record Tourism Season in Croatia? Oh, Yes - Vanja from Adriatic Travel Collection

By 31 July 2019

July 31, 2019 - As the Ministry of Tourism restricts access to the transparent and award-winning eVisitor statistics system and last available statistics pointing to another record season, many destinations are reporting the exact opposite. So is anyone having a record season in Croatia? Meet Vanja Jelic Stjepovic from Adriatic Travel Collection.

A few days ago, I posted on my Facebook wall that I was looking for any tourism businesses who were indeed having a record season to be featured on TCN. Although it is the peak season and people were busy, I was expecting a few replies. I have received just two replies, which you can read below (the offer is still open, details at the bottom of this article). The first interview I did with Ante Lacman of Hvar Tours caused plenty of discussion in certain circles. This was followed by a success story from the sailboats - Chris Tabone from Koda Sail.

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Next up, a really brilliant interview for the luxury tourism sector based in Dubrovnik, Vanja Jelic from Adriatic Travel Collection.

Tell us a bit about your business and what you do.

Located in the heart of Dubrovnik, one of the treasures of Croatia, Adriatic Travel Collection boasts more than 15 years of in-country experience crafting high-quality, bespoke itineraries from family tours to romantic escapes, ensuring seamless and memorable journeys. We provide complete incoming services to respectable clients from all over the world. However, I must stress that our main market is the Northern American Luxury Market.  With our extensive local destination knowledge, we help our clients discover the Adriatic’s extraordinary places. The destinations in our portfolio are as diverse as the geography that defines them - from the hilltop towns and country estates of Istria to the fishing ports and island villages of Dalmatia - reflecting singular lifestyles where history, nature, food and wine take precedence.

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Our core business are the individuals and small groups where we can really pay attention to every single detail during their trip and sometimes the list of details can be really long, trust me. 

Delicious food, charming hotels, stunning architecture, great nature, scenic landscapes, friendly people and a multitude of history and culture await them. They will relax in carefully selected hotels that are centrally located and offer the best service. Meet our local guides, who have been living in their cities their whole lives and know each corner, and who will show them all the hidden gems of the real Croatia. As we are a small team, we have invested in technology, so all our savvy clients have a mobile-friendly app with their itineraries with them. These apps allow us to communicate with the clients on a non-stop basis which makes them feel secure and in good hands. 

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Lots of people are complaining about a terrible season - how is it for you?

This season has been great for us, actually our best season so far. Next one should be even better. As the planning for our trips starts way before the new year, by the time it was only January we felt snowed under emails for 2019 season trips. 

Luxury travel still tries to be planned ahead of time, in order to secure the best rooms with the best views, best local guides and tables for two in the most acknowledged Croatian restaurants. However the trend of last-minute bookings has affected luxury travel too, but by building long-lasting relationships on the ground, we pull together those itineraries in the same way as we pull the long-planned ones too. In the end, it is all about those relationships. No matter how hard we planned and how much time we invested in a booking, in the end, the clients see our guides and drivers and skippers who are delivering magic to them. Those are the people we should be investing in, they are the best ambassadors of Croatia. 

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Furthermore, it also helps that we are all born and raised in Croatia and we know the people or we know the people who know the people. Our clients like to feel special, so when the cook comes out and says hello in the best Dubrovnik restaurant, it means a lot to them. Agents we work with are top-end luxury travel advisors in North America and they claim Croatia is on fire. Even it looks to us that we are overcrowded and that everybody knows about Croatia, the luxury travel market is still evolving and has huge potential, which is growing from year to year. We try to pamper both our agents and their clients while in the country to the maximum level so both of them feel completely secure in the knowledge that this is the best trip of a lifetime. Our biggest compliments are the referral bookings that we are getting as the clients are just raving about about the services, country experiences they had on their trips.

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What services, in particular, are proving popular?

In our world, the most popular services are the most private, tailor-made itineraries created for each specific need of our clients. They are all different and come with a different set of expectations.¸ Working exclusively with travel professionals, we as travel “composers” apply true artistry in creating custom private journeys, shore excursions, and yacht and gullet charters.

With our guidance and assistance, travellers can learn more, go further, and get closer to the highlights of our amazing country. Our programs include private custom museum visits, UNESCO World Heritage Sites expert sightseeing, cookery classes on country estates, wine and olive oil tours, truffle-hunting, oyster harvesting, private sailing and yachting trips, heli rides, romantic dinners, private opera concerts, nature and city walks, first-class restaurant reservations etc.

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Our clients have a short time to discover Croatia which is mostly 7 to 10 days. Within the prescribed time frame they do want to see it all, as for the majority of them this is the first time in Croatia. We need to know their preferences and fit them to make the most memorable experience. 

Out of all the programs that we deliver I would like to stress out 2 which have proved to be the most popular ones as are covering the most and are best for 1st in Croatia. 

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The best of Adriatic

There is no better way to experience Croatia than by private motor yacht, exploring the most expansive Mediterranean coastline, spending a night in different ports such as Hvar, Brac or Korcula. There are over a thousand Croatian islands waiting to be discovered. The small towns and ports, gently rolling hills, spectacular beaches and coves, lush vineyards, and vibrant nightlife make it the perfect island getaway. If you add a couple of nights in Split beforehand and end in Dubrovnik, this certainly makes a trip to remember. Our local supplier is investing in their portfolio so the number of exclusive yachts is increasing. Adriatic Travel Collection has exclusive charter options with the flexibility to opt for a 3, 5 or 7-day private cruise starting in either Split or Dubrovnik.

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Highlights of Croatia is our second GO TO program especially popular in the pre and postseason when the swimming is not the priority for the trip, where our clients try to sense the best of Croatia. In just a week, with plenty of elegance, they will discover major highlights of our amazing country starting in Zagreb, Plitvice, Split, and Dubrovnik. They will walk the upper town of Zagreb, hike around the Plitvice lakes to escape the crowds, go to afternoon visit to Diocletian Palace followed by a great dinner in one of the local places, have private oyster tasting on the islet in front of Ston, have an early morning Stradun walk, then around the city walls.

And indulge in as much as they can from our culture. 

You can learn more about these itineraries here.

Why do you think so many people are complaining?

I have personally been in travel since 2004 starting back in Atlas when this was still a major Croatia DMC, working my way through Abercrombie and Kent, which is the most luxurious tour operator in the world, to starting my own business in 2012 and I'm really sick and tired of the statistics. Actually wrong statistics that prove nothing but the number of people who came to Croatia. I am also tired of people who always complain. They have to start changing their offer, finding their niche. 80’s tourism is in the past and the majority are still offering just that, sun and sea. It is actually that simple. 

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Are you happy with the direction of Croatian tourism? What would you improve?

As I specialize in luxury travel this is the only segment I will be talking about and as in every aspect, there is still huge room for improvement. We strongly miss the big hotel brand names that stand behind their level of service and have their loyal customers. The luxury marinas are also heavily missed. I am just afraid that we have lost the opportunity while our neighbors took advantage. We should make it easier for foreign investments. 

On the other hand, there are some very positive stories, such as Stories, the Croatian luxury hotel brand, where the small local properties are trying to position themselves on the market and are doing a great job. You have some small properties that are fully booked for months in advance. Instagram is raving about them. 

Furthermore, even though it sounds a cliché, we need to figure out how to do year-round tourism. Italy does not have just a summer season, right? And yet we share the same climate and culture... so it just about us then how to position it. We need to get more flights in the winter season. The new American Airlines direct flight is for sure something positive, let's hope in 2020 it will be longer.

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To learn more about Adriatic Travel Collection and their services, check out the official website.

Are you having a record season in Croatian tourism and would like to be featured in this series. Please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject - Record Season.