World Tourism Organisation Secretary-General: Croatia is Success Story

Lauren Simmonds

As Barbara Ban/Novac writes on the 30th of May, 2019, world tourism officials met this Tuesday in Zagreb at the 64th meeting of the World Travel Organisation Commission (UNWTO), which was inaugurated among others by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, a well known Georgian politician and diplomat. This event has now been held for the second time in the Republic of Croatia, and it’s particularly important because Croatia is chairing the commission.

With that, the largest number of delegations to have come to Zagreb arrived – from as many as 44 countries. Pololikashvili has nothing but complete praise for Croatia’s striking tourism success.

”Croatia is a true European tourism success story. Just last year alone, it hosted about 20 million visitors, thanks to its beautiful coastline, rich culture and heritage, and its vibrant cities. Every year, the tourism sector contributes to the Croatian economy with about 10 billion euros and employs a large number of people, including young people. In addition, Croatia has long supported UNWTO.

This is the second time for the Regional Commission for Europe to meet here and it’s wonderful to come back. The meeting in Zagreb focused on the implementation of the UNWTO’s Framework convention on tourism ethics, the goals of which are the establishment of tourism as a driver for sustainable development and the opening up of tourism to all.

Zagreb is also home to the Sustainable Tourism Observatory. It’s part of UNWTO’s global network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories and has an important task. It follows the tourist numbers of the very popular Adriatic coastal region and identifies the ways in which the sector can be managed in a more efficient, sustainable way.

How much is Croatia recognised as a tourist country across the world?

”Croatia is a very popular tourist destination, and it’s understandable why that is so. It’s famous for its coastline, beaches and historic towns. Croatia also offers a diversified tourist offer. The market for sport tourism as well as gastronomy is growing. The growth of these two sectors is really encouraging. For example, gastronomic tourism can play a key role in protecting the state and regional heritage and encourages tourists to visit places other than the main tourist destination-type cities, and thus the economic benefit of tourism is more evenly distributed.”

What are the expectations of tourism this year and what can we expect in the future?

”The latest UNWTO tourist barometer shows that, globally, international tourist arrivals are continuing to grow, currently at a rate of four percent per year. UNWTO expects global international travel arrivals to increase between three and four percent in 2019. Europe is still the most popular tourist destination in the world, although Asia, the Pacific and Africa are growing, within its regions, and beyond them.

We can expect this trend to continue in the coming years. We’ve already exceeded 1.4 billion international arrivals per year and we expect that in a little more than a decade, by 2030, that figure will reach 1.8 billion. But this growth is accompanied by different consumer habits, which determine new ethical patterns of behavior, interest in culture and communities, but also the enormous impact of new technologies, smarter cities and disruptive business practices.”

Given the increasing growth of tourism, one of the biggest problems is the so-called tourist “overproduction”. Do you have any guidelines to resolve this problem?

”Tourism can bring many benefits, but also challenges. This is visible in very popular destinations. Quality management is crucial for the proper management of tourist destinations. This means that the private and public sector must jointly ensure that as many people benefit from tourism as possible and that the satisfaction of visitors isn’t to the detriment of local residents and communities.

It’s encouraging to see that this is happening in Croatia. The extension of the tourist season and the constant efforts to promote the country’s popularisation, and not explicit focus on several locations, are positive steps.”

The fact that the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) meeting having been held in the Croatian capital of Zagreb is important for the further promotion of Croatian tourism on a global scale, and this is undoubtedly considered to be the case for Croatian Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli. He said that this was an opportunity to highlight Croatia’s candidacy for the Executive Council of the organisation where all UNWTO decisions were prepared, which would enable Croatia to create its activities in the world’s top tourist organisation.

We’ve heard that global tourism has been growing for years, regardless of terrorism and unstable political situations. Has Croatia used enough of the opportunities for such trends and what can be expected of this year?

”Our tourism policy is focused on the quality and sustainability of the entire tourist system and the further activation of other economic activities, primarily domestic production in the function of tourism activities, where agriculture is extremely important.

As we’re witnessing, trends are more variable and more challenging. The impacts from the environment include unpredictable socio-economic factors and therefore competitiveness can only be sustained and improved by quality and innovation and a clear tourism policy. We have recently introduced a reform package of tourism laws due to come into force in 2020 which are based on destination management. This means that we’ll run public coordinating functions, from planning and organisation to control, in order to create the prerequisites essential for the development of a destination’s [tourism] product.”

This is an opportunity for Croatia to be the focus of the interest of the cream of the crop of the world tourism scene. How much is Croatia recognised as a tourist country today across the world?

”Croatia is no longer only the land of the sun and the sea, although we can be proud of our resources. Our natural benefits are our great comparative advantage. By putting them in the function of tourism, comparative advantages should be made competitive. Our country is a country of knowledge, innovation, good hosts, diversity and more quality tourist offers in all segments. In addition, the fact is that we’re more attractive to investment also goes in our favour. Last year, we saw almost one billion euros in investment, which means it’s 55 percent more in 2019 than it was in 2016. This year, investments are about one billion and 50 million euros, and already 60 percent of those investments have been realised.”

Which markets have we not yet sufficiently addressed, and what about promotion on distant markets?

”We strive to maintain our tourist demand on our traditional foreign markets such as Germany, Italy, Slovenia and others, but also expand onto new markets, with special attention to distant markets such as the United States, China, Korea, Japan… Each year we note the rise of tourist arrivals from these areas, and this is going beyond the peak months of the tourist season. This has also contributed to the positioning of our program of Croatia as an aviodestination, in which we invested 70 million kuna in two years and this year, we’re connected with 81 destinations in 25 countries across the world. We have a direct line with Korea, soon with the USA, and there’s also a direct link with China.”

Given the continued growth of tourism, one of the biggest problems we face is excessive tourism. Do we have any guidance here in Croatia on how to deal with this problem?

”Excessive tourism growth leaves a negative impact and some countries are bad examples of how mass tourism and sudden growth permanently destroys key resources – the natural basis. Sustainability awareness is very important, and the implementation of the principle of responsible management is crucial to the development of the [type of] tourism we strive for. That’s why we’ve recently included in our progrm, 25 million kuna’s worth of funding for the development of sustainability studies so that residents, tourists and stakeholders of certain destinations know what the capacity limits are.”

Make sure to follow our dedicated business, lifestyle and travel pages for much more on Croatian tourism.


Click here for the original article/interview by Barbara Ban for Novac/Jutarnji


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment