HGK: New Measures Final Nail in Coffin for Croatian Congress Tourism

Lauren Simmonds

As Morski writes on the 29th of August, 2020, the unexpectedly good results of the tourist season in July and August unfortunately don’t apply to Croatian congress tourism. Congress organisers and travel agencies have fared terribly during the coronavirus crisis. 

The Croatian congress tourism industry realises its income almost exclusively in the pre- and post-season, which means that in the most intensive period for this industry, the spring months, operations were entirely prohibited, and given the latest measures, the same will happen in once again in autumn.

”Yesterday’s decision of the National Civil Protection Headquarters, which was sent to all health institutions and which postpones the holding of congresses, symposia, workshops, lectures and other forms of professional training for health workers, is actually the final nail in the coffin for Croatian congress tourism,” warned Jasmina Kanas, president of the Croatian Business Tourism Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK).

She claims that gatherings of the medical community make up the majority of all such gatherings in Croatia. “In our organisation, health protocols can be fully respected, and the participants are those who are used to applying much stricter anti-epidemiological measures because their jobs depend on doing so. They can’t be compared to similar public gatherings because this is education with a special emphasis placed on professional development and knowledge exchange where there is no place for entertainment. This is especially true for medical gatherings which, according to a strict codes of ethics, aren’t allowed to engage in entertainment or have it in a very limited scope,” she explained.

However, the HGK Association points out that they aren’t blaming anyone and that everyone understands the current difficult epidemiological situation and the implementation of measures.

”We’re aware that various events are the first target when measures are taken. But we hope that there will be equal understanding on the part of the government, given that our revenues this year are zero kuna as a direct result of these anti-epidemiological measures. So, this year we’re not allowed to earn money on our own and get away from the burden of the state, and we aren’t used to living on help,” continued Kanas, adding that she believes that they cannot be treated in the same manner as others.

“We’ll feel all this for years to come because employee education, team building programmes, incentives and business travel are the first cuts companies make in a recession even without there being a health risk. After the recession back in 2008, the recovery of Croatian congress tourism took almost five years,” added Kanas.

In addition to the measures for jobs that they expect in the same amount of 4,000 kuna, which have so far “kept their heads above water”, this community from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce is proposing additional grants in the amount of, for example, 10 percent of the turnover in 2019 compensated to congress organisers, given the fact that a similar move was made in Denmark. The uncertainty posed by the impossibility of determining when the pandemic will end is greater with the fact that measures to support job preservation are defined from month to month, making it impossible to plan a long-term strategy to overcome this unprecedented crisis. Therefore, they hope that the next decisions made by the Croatian Government will go in the direction of adopting CES measures until April 2021.

The Croatian congress tourism industry and all business travel in general are an extremely important segment of the country’s tourism, but also of the overall Croatian economy because its consumption and long-term stability is a significant generator of inflows to domestic hotels, congress centres, restaurants and transport companies, all of which are among the most affected by this pandemic. The average delegate spends significantly more on professional training than typical tourists do, sometimes up to 5 times more, so the loss of income from this type of tourism is all the more damaging.

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