If this year does indeed turn out to be the year of tourism stagnation, it might just speed up the processes that can bring about sustainability and a new growth model to Croatian tourism. Every tourist destination has its own limitations, especially if it doesn’t work on its own transformation in terms of infrastructure, content, and mode of promotion.
As Marija Brnic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 15th of August, 2018, it seems that Croatia, after several booming years of growth, has arrived ever closer to the line after which there is no more growth to which we have become so adapted and even openly boasted about, because the model used that was responsible for such growth has ”had its day”, as they say in England.
While it might seem somewhat startling at first, such information doesn’t necessarily have to be bad news, as it can serve as a tougher motive for modifying the country’s tourism model, and even mark the beginning of transformation about which there has only ever been talk and very little real action.
We’ve seen glimpses of information on how things stand tourism-wise, with the World Cup having taken place in summer believed to be at least partially responsible for there having been considerably less tourists in Croatia at that time. We’re currently waiting on the results of the analysis of this tourist year, but Croatia’s double-digit growth for the third consecutive year cannot realistically be expected, nor would such levels of growth even be beneficial to the existing model, and some towns and destinations on the coast would be, to an extent, harmed.
In any case, we can expect that this year’s statistics show that the country hasn’t moved very much from resting on its old laurels, the sea and the sun, around which Croatia has built at least 80 percent of its tourism products, and upon which its marketing strategy is based. Although things have indeed shifted a little bit over the last four years, perhaps more because of the global trends in travel that then change the habits of the travellers themselves, Croatia is still very much on the radar owing to sunshine and the sea, and most of the country’s tourists are still families with children, and models that meet such needs are of course being developed in almost all coastal destinations.
Each destination on the Adriatic coast is more or less equal, they’re extremely similar and remain without much actual innovation. There are some Adriatic destinations in which tourism development is very poorly monitored, there is no real research, no real projects, no particular vision, public money ends up invested into visitor centres for locations without the tourists to use the facilities. Speaking generally, of course, there is a great deal of forcing tourism development onto destinations where there is no longer such a call for it.
The tourist attractions that do exist aren’t recognised and their promotion sees no real investment. The Tourism Institute’s research has shown that tourists in Croatia are less and less satisfied with the gastronomic offers, the wealth of sporting facilities, the diversity of cultural events, shopping opportunities, cycling trails, and the most dissatisfaction can be found in the complete and utter lack of programs in case of bad weather. Dubrovnik is a prime example of that. While Zagreb has come on leaps and bounds recently and that cannot be denied, what tourists really want and expect from a destination without the sea to fall back on, in continental Croatia, is another step into the unknown entirely.
In the first year of eVisitor’s existence in Croatia, the Croatian Tourist Board utilised the data and found that Croatian tourism was based mainly on families with children, while single travellers were in much smaller numbers, as were couples with adult offspring (empty nesters), then young people from 25 to 34 years old, a group which can, alongside gay couples be part of the DINK (dual icome no kids) category. Seniors, a quickly growing niche who love travelling, were all but totally neglected by Croatia and offers designed for them are less, although we can’t seem to stop banging on and on about how we want to develop health tourism.
Empty nesters travel all year round, they often combine work and holidaying, they’re typically interested in wellness, healthy food, activities, they’re usually ready to spend. Young people mostly have money but have a little less time and are interested in short and content holidays. Outside of the summer heat, and not without good medical care, senior travellers appear to be mainly interested in attractions, good value accommodation and comfort, and tend to travel more in the spring and autumn. None of the aforementioned groups depend on the limitations of school holidays.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for some new Croatian guests as well. If it turns out that this really is the year of stagnation for Croatian tourism, whether that stagnation lies in the number of overnight stays or in actual revenue, it may accelerate the processes that can bring about more sustainability to Croatian tourism, solve the issue of staff fleeing from old seasonal model of fast cash, and help in other, related segments of the economy. There are different ways to achieve this goal, all of which unarguably imply an extension of the season, but in the sense of really looking at the situation, how it can alter, and then achieving good pricing and getting back into a plus.