Croatian Congress Tourism Makes Excellent Post-Pandemic Return

By 2 October 2022

October the 2nd, 2022 - Croatian congress tourism is making an absolutely solid post-pandemic return after two years of uncertainty, instability and a worrying lack of traffic and income.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, much like the regular holiday tourism segment, the Croatian congress tourism segment seems set to return to almost full extent this autumn, after more than two years of decline and stagnation due to the global coronavirus pandemic. National and regional events have both returned to the levels we saw back during the record year of 2019, despite the fact that European and international congresses are still lagging behind.

A hybrid model for this is still being implemented, because it also enables organisers to earn extra money. In addition to Croatian congress tourism, sport tourism is also returning, which traditionally fills up the hotels and destinations outside of the harshly hot summer season, and the "last minute" booking trend still applies to all of them.

However, as in any business, the biggest challenge in this segment is spiralling inflation, which could also affect the quality of events quite easily.

"After an extremely demanding couple of years, we've returned to the old-normal, and although there's still a dose of caution, in the event industry, we've learned to adapt to the situation and have developed new products or solutions for events held during the pandemic. That said, just when the prices on the market, from equipment rental to hall rental and catering, have stabilised and moved away from dumping, a new danger has come in the form of price increases and inflation. There will be events, that's for sure. We can see this from the state of our reservations, and from our competitors, agencies, hotel halls, and other service providers. The question is whether the quality will be maintained, how much things will end up costing, and who will pay for it," warned Iva Saric, project manager and producer at PROteam, which deals with the organisation, production and implementation of events.

It has also been learned from various hotel companies that after a very active September, October and part of November are also very well booked, depending on the destination, and events have made a return to the City of Zagreb as well. Valamar Riviera's business segment this year in the destinations of Dubrovnik and Porec has started to recover well and is catching up with those recorded back in 2019. At the same time, the autumn part of the season is much richer in events than the spring part typically is.

"The trends are as we expected, there's been slight increase in the corporate segment and a distinct 'last minute' trend of inquiries and the eventual realisation of events. Among the more significant business gatherings, we can single out the recently concluded Fusion Technology Symposium in Dubrovnik SOFT 2022 with almost 1,000 participants organised by the Rudjer Boskovic Institute, as well as several larger corporate events throughout the month of October. In Porec this autumn, we're expecting four major conferences in the fields of pharmacy, science and education, each numbering several hundred participants", they revealed from Valamar.

Maistra also point out that national and regional events have returned to the levels of 2019, but events such as European and world congresses, which require longer preparation and a large number of international flights, are not yet at the pre-pandemic level. The most important events this autumn for Maistra are the Weekend Media Festival (Rovinj), which was held last weekend, followed by Reboot Develop in Dubrovnik and the Lions Europa Forum in Zagreb.

"All three destinations, especially Rovinj and Dubrovnik, recorded a notable result in the Croatian congress tourism segment of sales throughout 2022. We expect the continuation of positive trends in 2023 as well, which we base on the current state of our bookings and enquiries," Maistra stated, Revenues from Croatian congress tourism in Aminess facilities this year are even higher than the revenue they achieved in that segment back in 2019.

"We realised the most business events in facilities in Novigrad in Istria. This year, when it comes to Croatian congress tourism, there's been a characteristic trend of last-minute inquiries emerging, which have been much more frequent than they were back during previous years. We mostly organised business conferences and team building sessions for up to 200 people. Our Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel should definitely be highlighted here, which additionally enriched the congress offer of Aminess, but also of Makarska in general. This 5* hotel was already quickly recognised in the first year of its operation by both local and foreign clients, who chose Aminess Khalani Beach Hotel as the location at which to hold important business events. The trend of growth in the number of business events should continue in the next year. Therefore, as part of our facilities that offer a congress offer, we can once again expect good business results in the segment of business gatherings,'' they said from Aminess.

Larger congresses and conferences are returning to the City of Zagreb as well, and with them the traffic in hotels, which traditionally sees autumn marked out for MICE guests (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions). Hotels within the Hilton group almost never have free time, and events take place even on weekends, Josipa Jutt Ferlan, Cluster General Manager at Hilton Zagreb and director of Zagreb City Hotels, explained.

"They aren't even called hybrid events anymore, but on-site events. Reservations are still coming in at the last minute, and those who do make reservations for the future are asking to be accommodated in the event of an escalation of the coronavirus pandemic," said Jutt Ferlan, adding that even the prices aren't being questioned, as they have risen within reasonable limits, which was necessary due to higher costs and ongoing inflationary pressures.

Zagreb's Hotel Dubrovnik is also fully returning to the results they enjoyed from business people back in 2019, hotel director Antonio Piantanida confirmed.

"After a weaker spring, demand in this segment has exploded now, we have very good occupancy rates and results that will bring us back to pre-pandemic numbers, unless something significant happens on a global level. The market has finally woken up, it has definitely been shown that people aren't satisfied with just online meetings if they aren't forced to do so, people do want to come together in person and meet, chat, and network through personal contact,'' said Piantanida, noting that the summer also went very well, with the return of American tourists in addition to European ones.

For more on Croatian congress tourism, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.