Biggest Continental Croatian Tourism Project in Uncertain Race

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the Thermal Riviera with Olympic, outdoor and indoor pools and a water park, relying on sustainable energy sources and geothermal sources, is a large sports and tourism project from Bjelovar worth 250 million kuna in a high stage of completion, and is one of the projects that already fully meet the principles. funding criteria from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO).

However, to make sure that their project, which should give economic impetus to the whole region, can count on this unique opportunity, Bjelovar is eagerly awaiting detailed criteria for funding from the aforementioned NPOO.

This joins the rest of the tourism sector, which is concerned that the criteria will not be known in time, and there will be little time left to implement tenders and contract projects, all of which need to be done in 2022.

If we don’t hurry up, the Croatian tourism sector could be left without a good part of the total of 2.2 billion euros that could be obtained through this EU programme by 2026, the sector has been warning recently.

When it comes to such large thermal riviera projects, which have a slow return on investment but strong potential for development, European Union sources are almost the only solution, as neighbouring and nearby countries such as Austria, Slovenia and Hungary have been convinced of.

On Wednesday, Bjelovar Mayor Dario Hrebak talked to government representatives about the future of this, the largest Croatian continental tourism project, and the criteria for obtaining money from the NPOO, during their visit at a session of the Bjelovar City Council on the occasion of Bjelovar City Day. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stated that the spa project is especially important.

“The project related to geothermal sources for tourism, which you’re applying for in the context of financing the development of tourism from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, is especially important. The message you sent us that the project is ready, I think we must adequately note and take into account,” said the Prime Minister.

However, it has been unofficially learned that the problem could be the size of the project itself, which is also one of the criteria that should be defined by the end of the second quarter of next year at the very latest. Whether smaller projects will be financed is reportedly a criterion that still applies, although Minister of Tourism and Sport Nikolina Brnjac recently said that large projects will be used to drive the development of the local economy.

In principle, it has been defined that in addition to the two basic criteria in tourism, sustainability and digitalisation, projects in a high stage of completion are also required, but this should also define whether it is at the  building permit stage, or at some earlier stage of completion.

“Our project has been completed, we expect to obtain our building permit in a month and a half, we’ve resolved the land, energy, environmental study. We’ve built a well for the swimming pools, another one is being built with a water temperature of 70 degrees Celsius that can be used for heating, and we have a perfect location near the new motorway. In cooperation with leading consultants, we have a feasibility study that showed that this project is very necessary and unique,” said Mayor Hrebak.

Namely, the project of the Bjelovar spa, which initially came with a mere third of the cost of this big project, and was planned to be financed by the City, was expanded encouraged by the announcements of the NPOO programme, and after the need for the Olympic pool was expressed by Croatian water polo and swimming federations, it gained even more significance, because nothing like that existd at all in that part of Croatia.

For more information on continental Croatian tourism projects, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.


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