Is Anyone Having a Record Tourism Season in Croatia? Oh, Yes – Chris from Koda Sail

Total Croatia News

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July 26, 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 Chris from Koda Sail.

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

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And for the second, we head to the sailboats of the Adriatic to find out how Chris Tabone of Koda Sail is enjoying his summer. 

1. Briefly tell us who you are and what you do.

My name is Chris Tabone. Australian from Melbourne, with Maltese heritage. 39 years old, married with a 6-month-old son.

Early life worked as an Art Director in Melbourne until 29. Packed the bags and came to Europe to travel. Got a job as a tour guide with a Youth Travel brand and learned a lot about the Travel Industry. As an older traveller I saw there wasn’t much out there for my age group, so started working on creating something different for the Young Professional age bracket of the late 20s to late 30s. Created Koda Sail back in 2015 and have had much success bringing like-minded travellers to Croatia, and now to Turkey and in 2020 to the Maldives. 
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2. We hear you are having a good season while many are complaining or a poor what. Tell us about that, and what are you doing differently? 

I believe there has been a shift in tourism here in Croatia. The travellers are wanting different things so you have to keep it fresh. I’ve been working in Europe for almost 10 years now and see some companies still doing the same thing I saw them do way back then. 

I’m trying my best not to fall into the trap of just doing what is easy, and try to change things up and add new relevant things to my tours each year. For that reason alone I know my customers know they are going to get the best of what our destinations are offering. Listen to what your customers are wanting and make changes. 
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3. How do you think nautical tourism is developing in general. What are its strengths and what do you think needs to improve?
I think nautical tourism is on its way up, especially in the category of the smaller boats that we are using. 15 years ago it was all about the large cruise liners, but now we live in the Instagram era in which it’s all about finding something smaller and unique. I’m not too sure what the numbers are on the larger cruise ships, but I’ve seen a downfall in the amount of those in ports such as Dubrovnik and Split, but a definite increase in the smaller boats. 

The strengths are the style of travel in general. Passengers are realising that you can see so much in one week and only having to unpack their suitcase once, vs bus/train travel in which there is so much wasted travel time. 

Improvements that I would like to see are at the ports, with them needing to accommodate the number of tourists coming in. 10 years here and I’ve seen nothing change at all. Same struggles for the captains, fighting for positions and docking times. Port fees are on the rise and nothing visibly has changed.  
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4. You also have a sailing operation in Turkey. How do Croatia and Turkey compare as nautical destinations? What does each do best, and what can they learn from each other?
Both Croatia and Turkey are fantastic locations for Sailing trips. They both have beautiful coastlines, with small bays and amazing locations for swim stops throughout the week. The differences are in the style of sailing with Croatia having larger boats and bringing in a lot more tourist numbers. The towns are all alive with locals and many things to see and do, whereas Turkey’s coastline is a bit more rugged and it’s all about the journey. Smaller boats in Turkey make the trips there a bit more intimate. The towns along the Southern coastline are smaller and less accessible which makes them feel a lot more local and cultural for our passengers. 
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What do each do best? I think Croatia has really compensated for what tourists want and have made those changes, whereas Turkey has stuck to what they know and kept everything as is. There is a fine line here where both destinations can learn from each other. 

As great as it is that Croatia has compensated for tourism, I feel that it has lost the charm I first saw here 15 years ago and you see less locals enjoying the towns and some actually avoiding them altogether, whereas in Turkey you can find locals side by side with you, interested in talking and integrating with the tourists. 

I know that in Croatia the ‘party boats’ have really put a sour taste in the mouths of the locals and they don’t wish to integrate with the tourists, which is something I’m totally aware of and have been trying to bring back the level of respect with nicer travellers.  
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5. Are you happy with the direction of Croatian tourism in general? What suggestions do you have to improve it?

Overall I think Croatian tourism is great. I’ve been lucky enough to really get to know the locals and see year after year how tourism has continually changed. It’s a country that has so much to offer for the tourist and the people here are passionate about their home. 

One thing that I think that could be a problem moving forward is the ever-increasing costs. Croatia used to be an affordable destination, whereas now the word is spreading that it’s not as cheap to travel here as it once was. I’m afraid that this becoming a deterrent, and destinations like Greece and Turkey are now becoming those more affordable destinations. Something I’d like to see the government step in on and help the Tourism and Hospitality sectors to keep the tourists coming here.

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6. And, for our sailing readers, a couple of lesser-known places on the Adriatic to check out. 
North of Split is where our tourists need to be. Those that haven’t been there only know about Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split, and without them on the itinerary then those tours would struggle to sell, but more education about the north and I think that will not only impress tourists even more with what Croatia has to offer, but free up those more popular destinations and make them more enjoyable to be in. 
You can connect with Chris via the Koda Sail website
Are you having a record season in Croatian tourism and would like to be featured in this series. Please contact us on [email protected] Subject – Record Season. 



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