Is Croatia’s Tourism Industry Threatened by Stagnation and Collapse?

Lauren Simmonds

A concerning warning from Brussels…

The study is not the official position of the European Commission itself, but the work of the European Commission’s Office for Economic and Financial Affairs.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes on the 30th of March, 2018, despite the undeniable fact that over the last couple of years, due to the overall strengthening of the European economy and the unfortunate hardships suffered by several tourism competitors in the Mediterranean, Croatia has experienced a more than welcome and even more than significant growth in tourist traffic, with 2017 being a record breaker. Despite these achievements, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this positive trend is here to stay permanently.

Croatia’s currently booming tourism industry still relies on the classic ”sun and sea model”, laurels upon which countries like Greece, Spain, and Cyprus have rested for decades, without a variety of offers that would generate much more significant and secure revenue. This ”expansion” of Croatia’s tourism variety would offer more of a safety net, and this includes both the accommodation sector and offering a more stable and wider array of what could be referred to as ”additional content”. The crippling issue of extreme seasonality is a prevailing black cloud hanging above the heads of both private accommodation and large hotels and chains that work with and under tourism groups, this strict seasonal trend is clearly reflected in the economic activities of this industry as a whole.

As a result of these burdensome problems, tourists visiting Croatia tend to spend less than they do or would when spending time in other competitors in the Mediterranean. This country’s tourism development is still very much a crawling infant when compared to the age-old ”kings of tourism” in the West, such as Spain.

The Croatian Government and the decision-makers at both state and local levels should therefore take on the job of tweaking and altering the model which the country’s tourism development follows, according to the results of a study published by the European Commission, Croatian Tourism: More Than Sun and Sea. The study signed by Kristian Orsini and Vukašin Ostojić is mostly based on Croatia’s tourism statistics from back in 2015, and as a source, among other things, the authors quote the results of the research undertaken by the Institute of Tourism’s ”Tomas Summer 2014”, whose results differ significantly from the newer ”Tomas 2017”.

Meanwhile, however, the number of units classified as private accommodation in Croatia has increased considerably, with slower growth recorded in hotel numbers, and tourist traffic continues to focus massively on the Adriatic coast, with far, far weaker infrastructure development on the continent. The authors point out that the study does not represent the official position of the European Commission, but is the work of experts of the EC Office for Economic and Financial Affairs. The authors argue that the average spending of tourists visiting the Republic of Croatia is significantly below the European Union average, and makes up about 70 percent of average consumption in the Mediterranean, mostly due to significantly lower prices, the structure of accommodation and, as mentioned, the classic (and formerly bullet proof) ”sun and sea” tourism model. In addition, the average income per tourist decreases in the circumstances in which the growth in the number of overnight stays exceeds the growth of total tourism income.

This trend has also been noted in other tourism oriented countries such as Cyprus and Spain, and it is particularly pronounced in nearby Greece, but is much more prominent here in Croatia, the authors note.

The authors of the study are concerned that, more than in other, similar Mediterranean countries, Croatia’s increase in tourism revenue has been generated largely by the increase in the number of overnight stays, while actual spending on other facilities is weakening, stagnant or even falling.

“In the long run, all tourist destinations are exposed to the risk of stagnation or collapse, and these risks should not be underestimated in Croatia, although Croatia is currently far away from the point of saturation. Decision makers should generally move away from their tourism addiction, Although the season in Croatia has lengthened somewhat in the last couple of years, the author’s rating continues to be that Croatia has the highest seasonality of all Mediterranean countries, in 2016, more than 75 percent of overnight stays were realised in July, August and September.”

Greece also has a relatively short season, but it lasts from April until October. Due to its problematic high seasonality, Croatia has the highest number seasonal workers of its competitors across the Mediterranean, with seasonal workers making up almost 45 percent of the total number of workers in the tourism industry. Moreover, due to the significantly higher share of accommodation facilities and capacities such as apartments in family/private accommodation and campsites, there is a lower employment rate in tourism than there is in Greece, Spain or Cyprus, where the share of hotel accommodation is considerably higher.

More than 70 percent of hotel beds are located in hotels with 100 or more rooms, with a share of about 30 percent of hotel beds in hotels with more than 250 rooms.

Croatia is ”on top” when compared to other Mediterranean countries taken into consideration by the authors of the study (Cyprus, Malta, Greece and Spain). About 60 percent of Croatia’s hotel capacities consist of two or three star hotels, while in Italy they make up 50 percent, unlike Malta’s two or three star hotels, which make up a mere 30 percent.

Although Croatia boasts what can genuinely be considered as excellent road access to almost everywhere, the authors of the study see the problem in that more than 90 percent of the country’s tourists are traveling by road, which is why huge crowding and pollution are being created and causing significant problems, in addition to that, it would seem that Croatia’s passenger transport sector is in fact rather poorly developed. In the last couple of years, numerous popular airlines have strengthened their presence in Croatia, bus traffic has fallen somewhat, and rail travel is very poorly developed due to poor lines and various other inefficiencies related to it.


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