June 9, 2023 – Taking a closer look at the investment landscape in Croatia.
Croatia is a synonym for breathtaking Adriatic coastline, ten UNESCO heritage sites, historic cities, and great geographical, culinary, and other diversity despite its small size. As such, it is justifiably regarded as a top-tier tourist destination on a global scale. This southeastern European country, however, offers far more than beautiful landscapes and cultural wealth which attract more than ten million tourists a year. In the last few years, Croatia has been gaining enviable prominence as an attractive hub for investment, marked by promising sectoral potential.
Strategically situated at the crossroads of Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean, Croatia’s geopolitical location represents a significant advantage. The country’s proximity and access to key European markets offer a business landscape that can easily cater to over 500 million consumers within the region. This strategic positioning is further augmented by Croatia’s inclusion in the EU, which ensures regulatory consistency and compliance with the EU’s acquis, providing a more predictable business environment.
As we stand at the intersection of global economies witnessing seismic shifts, the key to a resilient investment portfolio lies in its diversification across geographies and sectors. Often, the most rewarding investment destinations are those that are just beginning to reveal their potential. In this context, Croatia emerges as a compelling candidate. A member of the EU since 2013, Croatia offers an intriguing blend of advantages that could catalyze robust investment returns.
This article underlines three highly promising sectors with great potential of growth. It likewise identifies key regions within Croatia that represent compelling investment opportunities in the aforementioned sectors.
- REAL ESTATE
The real estate sector in Croatia is witnessing a significant boom, particularly in coastal regions. Driven by the strong demand for houses, short-term rentals, and luxury properties, investing in Croatian real estate can yield attractive returns. One can see confirmation of the liquidity of investments by the statistics showing a 2% growth of residential real estate prices per quarter.
The average price per 1m2 of housing in Croatia is above 2,000 EUR, with the highest prices being in Dubrovnik-Neretva County (2,843 EUR), Split-Dalmatia County (2,753 EUR), and Istria County (2,559 EUR). Alongside Dubrovnik, Split is the most expensive city in Croatia for purchasing real estate.
In 2022, both apartments and houses in Split experienced a 12% increase in prices in both categories of properties. The average price per square meter for an apartment in Split was 3,495 EUR, while potential buyers had to allocate an average of 3,697 EUR per square meter for a house. Such high prices are indicative of a strong demand for properties and a reflection of a healthy real estate market.
In addition, there are public tenders available for multiple projects with a promising real estate potential. Recently, the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets published a brochure with four interesting projects for which public tender is expected in Q3 (July-September): on the islands of Lastovo and Pelješac, and in Makarska and Pula. For example, on a long stripe of coastline in Pula there is a compact building plot of approx. 28.6ha suitable for high intensity tourism where the construction of a hotel, an apartment complex, and a campsite with a 4–5-star rating is allowed. With the construction area of 16.7ha, there can be up to 1200 beds produced by this project. Knowing that Croatia is a globally renowned top-tier tourist destination with 104,8 million of overnight stays, 88% of which are accounted for by foreign tourists, investments of this type can yield above and beyond marvelous results.
Investing in Croatian real estate is teeming with opportunities for both short-term gains through rental income and long-term appreciation in property values. As such, this sector should be at the top of the foreign investors’ to-explore list.
- NAUTICAL TOURISM
The country’s natural beauty, strategic location, and growing demand for maritime experiences by a steady flow of tourists make Croatia attractive to the eyes of investors interested in nautical tourism. In 2022 alone, nautical tourism marines in Croatia produced a revenue of 132 mil. EUR, 14% more than in 2021. As such, nautical tourism in Croatia is on the rise.
One of the most significant investments in the recent period were the completion of the Phase I of the large nautical-tourism project Katarina Monumenti in Pula, with an investment of 30 mil. EUR in the Marina Polesana Pula nautical tourism harbor, as well as a complete reconstruction of the ACI Marina Rovinj, which was an investment of approximately 20 mil. EUR. Currently, the largest investment is in the construction of a new nautical tourism harbor in Rijeka – the Porto Baroš Marina with a capacity of 230 berths, for which investment funds in the amount of around 48 mil. EUR are available. In the following period, the public tender is expected to be announced for the concession to build the new nautical tourism harbor in Sućuraj on the island of Hvar, with a capacity of 250 berths.
The project involves the construction and economic use of a specialized harbor – the Sućuraj nautical tourism harbor, valued at approximately 13 mil. EUR. The island of Hvar is one of the most attractive destinations on the Adriatic Sea and this project will be of paramount importance for nautical tourism in Croatia. Lastly, one of the above-mentioned four projects for which public tenders are expected includes a large land for tourism development and construction of a nautical tourism port of a surface area of approx. 12 ha. The sea area (aquatorium) with a surface area of approx. 9 ha envisions the construction of a marina with a capacity of up to 400 berths.
All in all, the potential for long-term returns from investments in nautical tourism in Croatia is significant and such an investment offers an exciting opportunity to embrace the country’s maritime treasures.
- RENEWABLE ENERGY
As a country committed to sustainable practices and ecological balance, in accordance with the EU’s stringent environmental and energy regulations, Croatia is evolving as a promising destination for green investments. Renewable energy projects, particularly in solar and wind energy, represent substantial opportunities for investors looking to capitalize on green energy.
Owing to its geographical position, Croatia is one of the most promising European countries vis-à-vis the potential of renewable energies. For example, the abundance of sun makes Croatia well-suited for solar energy projects. Istria County and Split-Dalmatia County have 30 and 40%, respectively, more insulation compared to Munich (Germany), thereby creating 30 to 40% earlier return on investment. Nevertheless, the potential spreads widely across the country as the biggest solar power plant (10 MW) worth around 7 mil. EUR and covering 17,6 hectares, found its place in Međimurje, the northernmost county in Croatia. In addition to the geographical flexibility, investment in solar power plants on average returns within five to seven years, thereby additionally increasing the potential of such an investment.
In terms of wind energy, Croatia has a total of 24 wind farms with around 719 MW of installed wind power capacity (representing around 10% of the country’s electricity generation); 325 wind turbines deliver around 1,788 GWh of electricity per year. The greatest potential is on the Adriatic coast, namely in the following counties: Zadar County, Šibenik-Knin County, Split-Dalmatia County, and Dubrovnik-Neretva County. The village of Korlat is home to the largest wind farm in Croatia – 18 wind turbines, with an installed capacity 3.6 MW each, produce around 170 GWh annually (about 1% of Croatia’s annual electricity consumption/energy for more than 50 000 households).
Recent major investments in the sector speak to its potential and consequential attractiveness. For instance, Switzerland’s largest producer of renewable energy and international leader in energy trading and marketing of solar and wind power, Axpo, concluded the 10-year Power Purchase Agreement in Croatia. The investment in an onshore windfarm in Zadar County will produce enough power for 85,000 household, thereby decreasing the emissions by 78,000 tons of CO2 annually. Furthermore, Athens-based EuroEnergy, a renewable energy subsidiary of Libra Group (NY-based international conglomerate operating in different sectors) has recently announced that it would acquire a 114 MW wind energy development in Udbina, with a total investment being 150 mil. EUR.
Altogether, Croatia’s richness in sources of renewable energy, especially solar and wind energy, and its ongoing green transition, create an ideal combination for a well-returning investment project.
All these investment opportunities, and there are many more to explore, point to one direction. With its unique blend of strategic location, economic diversity, and a plethora of untapped potential, Croatia is a true rising star in the European investment landscape. The country offers a compelling investment proposition for forward-looking investors seeking to expand their global footprint. Moreover, the exploration of investment opportunities within Croatia is not merely about tapping into an emerging European market; it represents a strategic move towards portfolio diversification, risk management, and potential high-growth investment.
While the country is already witnessing an influx of investment across various sectors, its potential is far from exhausted, making it an exciting time to consider investment opportunities in Croatia.
— TEASER – ‘Family Business in Croatia: Sustaining Legacy and Driving Economic Growth’
Check our new TCN section Invest in Croatia for further articles.
If you are looking for investment opportunities in Croatia, please contact [email protected] Subject Invest.